February 18, 2015

Relatively large update today due to my inability to get around to posting Fiction Graveyard on Mondays. Ha. So I might be moving updates around in the days to come — I’m starting back to work on Friday and while at first I’ll only be working a few days a week, I can’t guarantee how long it it’ll be before I’m back full-time at work, but I’ll adjust accordingly as we go.

Also apologies for the sporadic nature of this update — I was about halfway through posting the Graveyard chapters when I had to do an emergency baby-sitting gig. Sisters, man. Ha.

fictionSo your graveyard updates include new chapters for Shadows and Poisonous Dreams and one complete abandoned story, Fumbling Towards Perfection. It has only a prologue and a chapter, after which I abandoned it.

Next week, I’ll be posting the last chapters of Shadows, so I’ll post the only scene for Chapter 16 I wrote as well as an outline for how I had originally envisioned finishing that version of the story.

The PD #1 updates are still one chapter at a time, I haven’t finished cleaning up the chapters yet.

Graveyard Updates
Fumbling Towards Perfection: Prologue, Chapter 1
Poisonous Dreams: Chapter 3
Shadows: Chapters 10-12

I’m also adding Chapter 19 for The Best Thing. I really really love this chapter–the majority of it was not in my bestthingoriginal outline, particularly the Sonny and Courtney material and then the Jason and Elizabeth scene, but I’m so happy about how it worked out.

I still haven’t gotten around to updating the music page or events calendar. Oy with my life. I will do that tomorrow when I update the The Best Thing’s ebook, which got lost in the mess of baby-sitting for half the day without warning.

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

So little time
Try to understand that I’m
Trying to make a move just to stay in the game
I try to stay awake and remember my name
But everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel the same 

Everybody’s Changing, Keane

Saturday, July 16, 2005

New York City, Upper West Side, Matthews Penthouse: Living Room

Courtney watched as her brother prowled her spacious living room, peering out the windows over her lovely view of Central Park.

Something was not quite right with Sonny.

And not in the way it had not been right for months, for years. Something new was wrong. Which really summed up Courtney’s entire relationship with her enigmatic older brother.

He had come into her life when she was already fully grown, a surprise to a young woman only seeking out her absentee father. And part of Courtney had been elated—she had known other girls with older brothers in Atlantic City—these brothers usually took their sister’s sides, drove them around, and kept the worst of the boys from annoying them.

Courtney had always wanted an older brother.

But Sonny had not been the older brother of her dreams, and now nearly four years later, she still wasn’t entirely sure how well she knew him.

“Thanks for letting me stay,” Sonny said, turning to her, his dark eyes flat. “I know it was short notice—I just didn’t want my name showing up on any hotel registries.”

“It’s fine.” Courtney sipped her water and then set it on the side table. “Carly called asking me why you were here.”

“What’d you tell her?”

“The truth,” she replied. “I didn’t know. But Sonny, I promise you, I would have said the same thing if I knew the reason why. If you wanted Carly to know why you were here, she would. It’s not my place to tell her.”

Sonny frowned at her, darkly silhouetted against the otherwise bright July sun beaming into through the windows. “You two are friends. Aren’t you?”

“Because it’s easier.” Courtney pursed her lips. “Being away from her, I started to remember why Carly and I didn’t get along when I first met her.” She hesitated. “And I’m finally being honest with myself as to why I decided she and I should be friends in the first place.”


It wasn’t her best moment, but Courtney had long ago decided that pretending she hadn’t done the things she’d done served no purpose. “I—yeah. I was running from all the things that went wrong with AJ. And Jason felt safe. I wanted him. I didn’t know how to make that happen.”

Sonny sank into an armchair. “I knew it would be a mistake.” He scrubbed a hand over his mouth. “You and I were never really close, Courtney. Even when you were with Jason, but it never felt right to me.”

“It never felt right to either of us,” she murmured. She perched at the edge of her sofa. “Which is why it only worked for as long as it did because there was always something more important going on around us and honestly, Jason didn’t have the time to realize it.” She leaned forward. “Sonny, you can talk to me. You’re right. We’ve never been close, but that doesn’t have to be the way it is forever.”

Sonny stood again, restless. He started to pace. “What do you think of Evie? Of Jason and Evie, and that business with Sam?”

Courtney leaned back against the sofa and crossed her legs. “I think Jason sacrificed himself to protect the boys. Carly threatened to walk away again, to start that horror show all over again, and in the deepest part of Jason’s heart, he still loves Michael as his own. He couldn’t put him through that again.” She lifted a shoulder. “So he lied.”

Sonny’s shoulders slumped as he stood with his back to her. “I didn’t want you to be hurt by all of that, Courtney. I was—I was glad you packed up and left.”

“I always knew once the divorce was final, I would need to leave Port Charles. Two failed marriages in two years, Sonny. I needed to be somewhere else.” She folded her hands in her lap. “So Jason lied. I was never sure how much you knew then.”

“Jason started it on his own.” Sonny turned to her. “But I continued it. I thought it served a purpose. I couldn’t have Sam and Evie in my life. Not with Carly around. Not if I wanted my boys, too. I couldn’t have it all.” He closed his eyes. “And I told myself over and over again that it would be okay. Jason would be good to Sam and Evie—”

“I knew for months, Sonny. Maybe—maybe at first, I wondered if Jason had slept with Sam to get her away from you. But I didn’t really believe that. The timing never worked. For all the damage Jason and I did to one another—I never worried about him being unfaithful to me.” She sighed. “Well, unless Elizabeth had given him an opening. If it had been Elizabeth, I would have believed it. But not Sam.”

“They’re engaged,” Sonny murmured. “Just this last week.”

Courtney took that news in, and waited for the pang. Waited for the sadness. But she felt nothing. Just a wistful longing for the friendship she had once shared with her co-worker before Courtney had sabotaged it. And a lingering feeling that some things couldn’t be denied.

“Good.” Courtney rose to her feet. “He and I were an aberration, Sonny. A detour. All roads always led back to her, Sonny. I saw it then, and I see it now. I hope he’s happy. That’s all I want for him.”

“And I accused him of helping Sam to trick me,” Sonny murmured. “Of stealing my daughter.”

Courtney closed her eyes and rubbed her temple. “Sonny—”

“I didn’t—I didn’t know I would say it until it was out there. And—” Sonny met her eyes, now a bit wild. “It keeps happening, Courtney. Every time I see him, I have this urge to wrap my hands around his neck for stealing Evie from me. For having the family I want. God.” He pressed his lips together and swallowed. “And I feel those things even though I know they’re not true. He started the situation with Sam and Evie, but I—I kept it going. I made the choice.”

“Sonny…” Courtney approached him, her hands slightly lifted. “I know maybe you don’t want to hear this, but you need to talk to someone—”

He laughed then, a bitter, dark, and twisted sound that held no humor at all. “You’re not the first. Jason told me the only way I could be in Evie’s life is if I talked to someone. I wanted to kill him for it.”

She swallowed. “Sonny—”

“I mean, I thought, how dare he give me ultimatums—he’d be nothing without me—” But Sonny shook his head. “Then Elizabeth came to me.”

She sighed. All roads would always lead to Elizabeth. “And she said the same thing?”

“She reminded me how we met.” Sonny started to pace again, but he was calmer now. “And she talked about who I was to her once. She told me I was kind, compassionate…” He shook his head. “I don’t see it, but she does. And-and I thought maybe if—maybe if Elizabeth saw it, it wasn’t crazy to think I could find it.” He looked at her. “She was a little sister to me before I met you, Courtney. I looked out for her, kept her safe. I knew what she meant to Jason once upon a time. And I did my best by her.”

And Courtney told herself that his words didn’t mean she herself had been replaced by Elizabeth. In fact, the opposite seemed to be true. Because Courtney could probably pinpoint the time when it changed—when Sonny had an actual sister to look after.

Courtney had replaced Elizabeth briefly for Sonny and Jason, but she’d been a misshapen puzzle piece that didn’t fit.

“And now?”

“Now I attack her when I see her because I know what she means to Jason.” Sonny wiped his hands across the back of his mouth. “Because he has her unconditional love and support. Because she’s a wonderful mother who will love Evie the way I can’t. The way Sam can’t. The way Carly doesn’t understand. Because I’m jealous that Jason walked away from her all those times and there she is, again. Her heart open, her hands out. Why the hell does he deserve that and I get Carly?”

Courtney sighed. “Sonny—”

“But I can’t control myself anymore.” Sonny crossed again to the windows. “The words, the feelings, the way I look at Jason—I can’t stop it. I try not to. I try to remember how Jason has always been there for me, and I can do it. Until he’s been in the room. But now I just—” He broke off. “I’m here to talk to someone. To see if maybe—I don’t know. Maybe I’m depressed. Maybe I’m crazy.”

Courtney bit her lip. “I’m glad you’re here to talk to someone, Sonny. And I’m glad you came to me.” She took his hand in hers. “Maybe we don’t know each other as well as we thought we did, but you know what?” She waited for him to meet her eyes. “In all the world, you’re the only person who belongs to me. And I belong to you. That’s what siblings should be. A person to whom you can open up to, show all the ugly parts of yourself and know that somehow, they love you anyway.”

She gently kissed his cheek. “When we knew each other before, I didn’t see the gift I was getting. And maybe you didn’t know what to do with another sister. But I want to be part of your family, Sonny. And I want to see you through this. Because that kind and compassionate man Elizabeth thought she knew once upon a time? I can see him in there.”

She gripped her brother’s shoulder. “Don’t let him be lost forever, Sonny. You’re—you’re my only brother. And I need you.”

Sonny dipped his head and rested his forehead against her shoulder, and just for a moment…

Courtney Matthews was the strong one.

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Audrey slid into a seat across from Jax. “I’m so glad you agreed to meet with me, Mr. Jacks.”

“Please.” The blond Australian held up a hand with a brilliant grin. “Jax. I was intrigued by your call, Mrs. Hardy.”

Audrey waited as Georgie came over to take their drink orders before moving into her pitch. “You may have heard the gossip that my granddaughter is getting married—”

“To Jason Morgan.” Jax nodded, but his smile dimmed a bit. “It’s been making the rounds. Bobbie Spencer is a vociferous supporter of the match.”

And clearly Jax wasn’t, but that wasn’t Audrey’s problem. She was a woman on a mission. “Well, I am pleased my granddaughter has finally chosen someone who treats her right. I’d like to throw them an engagement party.”

Jax nodded. “That sounds nice, but I’m not sure how I can help—”

“Well, I thought Club 101 might be a good venue, and I was under the impression you owned it.” George returned with his coffee and her tea. “So I wanted—”

“I signed papers about three months ago, finalizing the sale.” Jax stirred some sugar into the black coffee. “I invested in it with Carly Corinthos during the period she was divorced from Sonny, and then bought her out when she went back to him. I didn’t want to be in business with him—”

“Completely understandable—”

“But I’ve been moving out of the night club business,” Jax continued. “It’s not really my area, you see. And Carly recently offered to buy it from me, to add to The Cellar.” He nodded towards the door. “Here Carly comes now.”

“Oh, ah…” Audrey twisted as Jax gestured for Carly, who had just entered through the doors of Kelly and approached them with an annoyed look. “I don’t—”

“Mrs. Hardy is looking to throw an engagement party at 101,” Jax told Carly. “With your friendship with Jason, this actually works better, doesn’t it?”

Carly pursed her lips and considered Audrey, who almost squirmed. She did not want to engage in business with Carly Corinthos, but Jax had placed her in a delicate position.

Audrey might not be privy to all the details concerning Jason’s relationship with Sonny and Carly, but she did not want to rock the boat by pulling out of the idea in front of Carly.

“Ah, I suppose it does,” Audrey murmured.

Carly pulled out a chair and sat. “I don’t much care for Elizabeth, but it’s something I can do for Jason.” Her dark eyes were expressionless. “I’ll have my assistant call you to set it up. She handles most of the direct business at 101 while I deal with The Cellar.”

“All right.” Audrey gave her number to Carly. “Ah, thanks, Carly.”

“No problem.”

The blonde woman stood and disappeared into the back. Jax grinned at Audrey. “That was lucky, her coming in just then, eh?”

“You have no idea.” Audrey sipped her tea and hoped she hadn’t just engineered the end of the world.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth emerged from the back office, her face scrunched up in annoyance. “I have to cry defeat.” She tossed the papers at Jason who was reading on the sofa. “I have no idea what these say.”

Jason set his coffee on the table and reached for the discarded sheets. “I told you.”

“And so did my brother and Nikolas.” Elizabeth sat on the sofa and listened to the squeals and laughter coming from the playroom upstairs where Nora, Cam, and Evie were playing. “At least someone is having fun.”

“You should ask Nikolas for a lawyer to represent you.” Jason sat up and started to put the papers back in order. “Your agent isn’t much help.”

“He got me into this.” Elizabeth rubbed her eyes. “Maybe this is a bad time to be thinking about going into business, but I know the Jerome Gallery. It’s not quite as prestigious as the Harris, but it’s launched so many careers. The owner has a fantastic eye for new talent and it would be…” She twisted her fingers. “I liked to the idea about an art school attached to it, about a place for low income students who can’t afford more instruction—”

“I know.” Jason set the papers on the table. “I can put you in touch with Bernie, but you might prefer someone who’s a bit more familiar with this type of business.” He looked at her. “And if you’re thinking about putting off your career because of Sonny or the wedding—”

“I have two small children at home, Jason.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I’m getting married. It’s all I can do carve out time to spend in the studio every day, but thank God for Nora. I take back everything I ever said about nannies. She’s fantastic. I just—”

“Don’t want another thing taking you away from Cam. And Evie.” Jason drew her to his side. “I get it. But you were excited when your agent called yesterday. We can make it work. I mean, could you move your studio to the gallery? Work out of there?”

“Maybe.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I don’t know. I guess, I don’t know, it’s happening so fast, Jason.” She twisted her engagement ring. “I don’t need money now, which is all I really wanted from my art—to have the opportunity to do something I love that would let me support my son. But with you and the money from the first show, that’s not a problem. Now I might partner in a gallery, be involved in a charitable foundation for art education—”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” He kissed her forehead. “But if you want it, we’ll find a way.” His cell phone chirped then and he frowned at the incoming call.

He lifted his arm away from her and hit the talk button. “Sonny?”

“Jason, I—I’m in New York. Until Tuesday.”

“New York?” Jason stood. “Is—is it about Courtney?”

“No, no.” Sonny’s voice faded a bit. “It’s…I’ll be back Tuesday.”

The line went silent. Jason lifted the phone from his ear and just stared at it.

“Jason?” Elizabeth sat up, her legs tucked underneath her. “What’s—what’s going on? Is Sonny okay?”

“He’s in New York. Until Tuesday.” He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “I haven’t seen him since Tuesday, since I told him about the engagement. Haven’t talked to him either. But now he’s in New York.” He exhaled slowly. “I don’t—I don’t know what’s going on.”

She bit her lip. “Jason. I—I went to talk to him.”

Jason looked at her, at her uncertain eyes. “To Sonny?” he asked, even though clearly that’s who she meant. “Why?”

“Because you—because of what we talked about.” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “Because I wanted to see if Sonny could get better. If he could—I don’t think I made it worse, Jason. He seemed okay when I was there. Not quite his old self, but he was somewhere in there.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Jason sat next to her. “Elizabeth—”

“Because I—” She bit her lip. “If I had told you before I went, you would have asked me not to. And after—I just didn’t know if it had done any good. But I told him he should talk to someone. Anyone. That it had helped me. Emily and I—we’ve been trying to figure out what might be wrong with Sonny.”

And now his sister was involved. “Elizabeth—”

“Emily asked a friend at the hospital about some of Sonny’s symptoms, about the way he flips without warning. About the mood swings, and the things he says. The things the two of us have personally seen, and Lainey said it might be bipolar disorder.”

Jason frowned. “Okay, so?”

“Well, I asked Lainey the best way to talk to someone who might be suffering from it,” Elizabeth said. “Because we thought maybe Sonny would see what we had—the argument you’d had with him already—as a challenge. And it was the wrong way to do that, we know that now. Because it might have made Sonny dig in his heels, and-and increase the paranoia that sometimes accompanies it.”

“So what should we have done?” Jason asked, his ire fading. “Is there a better way?”

“I told him about my therapy,” Elizabeth replied. “About the way I felt when I went to California. How much I felt like a failure—how looking back at what happened with Ric, with Zander, and Lucky made me feel worthless and stupid—”

“Elizabeth—” Jason closed his eyes, realizing she had ripped herself open for Sonny. “You didn’t have—”

“How I couldn’t understand the things I had done, the way I had acted—” Elizabeth continued. “Because Sonny needed to know that he wasn’t alone. He needed to feel like I was with him, you know? Like I could really understand what it felt like to be in that kind of darkness. I told him how much I loved him, how I remembered the night at the garage when he caught me and gave me something to hold onto—”

She stopped, dipped her head. “Are you mad at me?”

“Mad?” Jason repeated. “Are you kidding me? Elizabeth. The way Sonny has treated you—the way he’s acted towards you—and then you tore open a vein in front of him just so he could—so maybe he’d get some help?” Her generosity stunned him.

“I wasn’t lying to him when I told him I understood the way he felt.” Elizabeth leaned towards him. “I told you once, when Ric was shot—that it should be been you. I said that to you, Jason. And I pulled a gun on you—”

“Hey—” Because her voice was thick now, and tears were spilling from her eyes, Jason roughly pulled her to him, across his lap so he could hold her. Make it stop. “Don’t. That’s not important now—”

“The horrible things I did and said to you, Jason…you gave me another chance. You let me back in even though I hadn’t done anything to deserve that—of course I could forgive Sonny. It’s not him saying those things. I mean, yeah, it is, but it comes from this dark place inside him and he can’t—can’t control it…” Her eyes were closed. “But I could. A-And I did them anyway—”

“Stop it.” Jason brushed her hair away from her face, both hands framing the line of her jaw. “Stop it. I love you. None of that matters to me.”


“Elizabeth.” He exhaled slowly and tucked her into his embrace. “Maybe you should talk to this friend of Emily’s. You-you said your therapist in California helped. Maybe—maybe you stopped seeing her too soon.”

The fingers of her left hand were clutching at the dark blue fabric of his t-shirt, the diamond catching flashes of the sunlight. “Jason—”

“Because I forgave you for those things a long time ago. Maybe even as soon as they happened. Because you forgave me for the bomb in your studio, for being kidnapped—”

“That’s different.” She sniffled. “You didn’t do those things—”

“No, but I answered my phone every time Sonny and Carly called. And I lied to you to protect Sonny’s peace of mind.” He rested his chin in her dark hair. “And instead of working things out with you, instead of proving to you what you meant to me, I took the easy way out. I started seeing someone who didn’t ask much of me. I walked away from you, Elizabeth, and straight to Courtney. And you’re not holding that against me.”

“I walked away from you first,” she murmured. “And I slept with Zander.”

“We could spend the rest of our lives cataloging all the things we’ve done to each other,” Jason told her. “All the times we almost took the next step and didn’t. All the ways we’ve hurt each other. But none of that matters to me now.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. “You took another chance on me, Elizabeth. And I took one on you. Does the rest of it matter compared to what we have now?”

She was quiet for a long moment. “No. No. But—” She raised her head from his shoulder and gently ran her fingers through his hair, her nails lightly scraping his skin. “But maybe you’re right. I should talk to someone. I didn’t…I still have a lot of guilt bottled up inside. And I want to come to terms with it. I have to forgive myself. You were right that night at Jake’s. It’s not enough to know why I did them or not to do them again.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I have to forgive myself.” She was silent again. “Do you think Sonny went to New York to talk to someone?”

“Maybe.” He brushed his lips against hers. “But thank you. For trying to help him. Maybe it worked.”

And maybe it would—if Elizabeth was right about the best way to approach Sonny. If he had seen just a small piece of the guilt she struggled with all the time, the misery she still fought through—maybe Sonny had felt a sense of kinship with her.

And maybe they could pull this back from the fire after all.

This entry is part 13 of 17 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Shadows #1

“Mrs. Morgan?” Carly repeated. “Did I miss the ceremony?”

“Yeah, it was lovely, Carly,” Elizabeth panted. “Flowers, cake–best of all, you weren’t there. Can we concentrate on this right now?”

Jason glared at Carly and belatedly, the blonde remembered that this was supposed to be a hideout for Elizabeth and of course the locals would think he was her husband with all the time he was spending here.

“Sorry, I just can’t believe you got married and didn’t invite me,” Carly grumbled. “Is she close?”

“Another push should do it,” Paige remarked.

Michael hopped from foot to foot outside Elizabeth’s bedroom door. At first, he’d been worried about the sounds coming from the room but Jason had come out briefly to assure him that all was well.

He sure hoped so, anyway. He liked having Elizabeth around and it was going to be so cool when his cousin was born. He’d have both Morgan and Andi to look after, to boss around when they got older.

After what seemed like his whole life, the door finally opened and his mother stood there with a funny smile on her face. “Michael, there’s someone you can meet now.”

He dashed into the room and found Elizabeth propped up against the headboard, exhausted but smiling. A bundle was perched in her arms and Jason was at her side, his hand around her shoulders as if to keep her propped up.

“Michael, meet Alexandria Audrey,” Elizabeth said quietly. Michael went to the other side of the bed and climbed up beside her. “Andi, this is your cousin Michael.”

“Wow, I can’t believe how tiny she is,” Michael said. “I mean, Morgan’s small, but she’s really small.”

Paige packed up her things and hoisted her bag over her shoulder. “They make a nice picture, don’t they?” she asked Carly.

“I suppose,” Carly sighed. “She’s not good enough for him.”

“No one ever thinks anyone is good enough for their brother,” Paige remarked. “I know that from experience. I’m gonna go. I’ll be back tomorrow to check on them both but Mr. Morgan has all the instructions for care.”

“Thanks for everything,” Carly said. “We’ll call if we need anything.”

“Her fingers are so small, too,” Michael said. “Look at her little fingernails.” He looked up at Elizabeth. “Why’s she so red?”

Elizabeth laughed shakily and closed her eyes, feeling the adrenaline start to fade from her body. Jason took Andi in his arms and gestured for Michael to follow him. “Let’s let get Andi cleaned up and put her down for a nap. Then we can come in here and help Elizabeth to another bed so she can sleep.”

“A nap?” Michael wrinkled his nose. “She just got here, why’s she wanna sleep more?”

“Because babies like to get all the energy they can so they can grow up to be kids that never have to sleep,” Carly directed as she hustled the three out of the room. She turned to Elizabeth. “Is there anything I can get you?”

“She just assumed we were married, Carly,” Elizabeth murmured. “He’s here so much and I’m pregnant and it was easier than explaining why I was really here.”

“It’s okay,” Carly sighed. She perched on the edge of the bed. “I might as well get used to the idea now. Whether I like it or not, you’re part of this family now. You and your daughter. You matter to Jason, which means you matter to me. I never liked you, Elizabeth,” she said bluntly. “I’m not entirely sure that’ll ever change.”

“Well, I never liked you either Carly,” Elizabeth said with a faint smile. “I’m not entirely sure that’ll change.”

“But I respect Jason and I respect his choices. I didn’t always, but I do now. He has been the best friend a girl could ask for and I know you and I just want the best for him. He seems to think that’s you.” Carly shrugged. “So, I just want you to know that I’m going to work on accepting that.”

“Carly…” Elizabeth shook her head. “Jason and I haven’t made any decisions…”

“Maybe not officially, but you know better. You might need the words to define it and I can understand that but in Jason’s heart and his head, the decisions have been made and I don’t even need to ask you if that’s true for you, too.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “No, I guess you don’t.”

“I always wanted a little girl,” Carly confessed quietly. She looked at Elizabeth. “I love my boys, but I wanted a daughter so I could give her all the things I never had growing up. So I could teach her love and compassion so she wouldn’t have to go searching for it.”

“Well, it’s not like it won’t ever happen for you,” Elizabeth said. “But in the meantime, I’m sure that Michael would love if you felt like Andi was your niece.” Her lips twisted in a wry smile. “I think every kid needs someone who loves like you do–without any boundaries or regards for polite behavior.”

“Well, that’s certainly true,” Carly stood. “I think we’ve just had a whole day of and night of civilized conversation. I don’t know about you but I think that’s more than enough for me.”

“Carly…I love Jason just as much as you do and I’ll do my best to make him happy.”

“You’d better,” Carly nodded, “or there won’t be a place on this planet you can hide from me.”

“Carly,” Jason scowled as he returned to the room, sans the baby and Michael. “I thought you were going to be nice.”

“Relax,” Carly patted his shoulder. “The muffin and I came to an understanding.” She straightened her shoulders. “Now, I think I’ll go check in on Morgan and then go see my niece.”

“Niece?” Jason questioned but Carly waved him off and disappeared towards the nursery. “Niece?” he repeated to Elizabeth.

“You don’t think Andi deserves an Aunt Carly?” Elizabeth asked as she started to get out of the bed. Jason stopped her and then lifted her into his arms.

“I don’t think anyone deserves an Aunt Carly,” Jason remarked dryly. “Let’s get you settled in the other room.”

“You don’t have to carry me,” Elizabeth mumbled, clasping her hands around his neck.

“You’re tired and this is faster.”

“Does she look like anyone?” Michael questioned. He looked up at his mother than back into the bassinet at his new cousin. “They’re always saying Morgan looks like you and I look like Grandma Bobbie.”

“She has Elizabeth’s features, I guess,” Carly said. “That hair color, I think it’s Zander’s though.” She tucked the little lacy blanket in more tightly around Andi’s body. “She and Morgan are going to grow up together. It’s a little weird to think about.”

“It’s awesome,” Michael said enthusiastically. “I can’t wait until they’re old to do the stuff I tell them to.”

Carly rolled her eyes. “Yeah, there’s no doubt you’re my kid. I remember when you were this small.” She looked away. “You were sick when you were born, I was so scared we’d lose you.”

“But I’m here, so it’s okay.” Michael slid onto the bed in the room and looked up at his mother. “Sonny said he regretted adopting me. Do you ever regret having me, Mom?”

“Never,” Carly promised. “You are my everything.” She sat next to him on the bed. “I did a lot of stupid things before you were born and maybe one day I’ll tell you about them but of all things I’ve done in my life, having you and Morgan will always be the best.” She hugged and kissed the top of his head.

Back in Port Charles, DA Ric Lansing was working on a case and trying to avoid thinking about the impending divorce. He would fight it, he already knew that but it was offensive to him that Elizabeth would divorce him for doing exactly what they’d agreed on. And besides, she would have understood about Sam.

“We’ve had a break on the Smith case,” Mac Scorpio strode in without knocking. “We found a pipe in the wreckage of the hotel–it has dried blood and brain matter–it’s down at the lab for testing but I think we’ve found our murder weapon.”

This entry is part 12 of 17 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Shadows #1

When Jason’s car pulled into the driveway, Michael was standing on the porch with Elizabeth behind him, her hand on his shoulder. “I bet Morgan’s grown a whole inch in the last month,” Michael said, bouncing back and forth on his heels. “He grows really fast.”

“I know what you mean.” Elizabeth squeezed his shoulder. “I remember when you were no bigger your brother and now look at you.”

“It’s gonna be so cool having everyone here,” Michael continued. “My whole family, all in one place with no yelling or throwing stuff.”

Carly pushed open the door and Michael flew down the steps to launch himself at her. “Mr. Man!” she wrapped him in a tight bear hug.

Jason got out of his side and went into the backseat to unstrap Morgan. He lifted the baby in his arms and went over to Carly and Michael. “Let’s get you guys in the house and then Michael and I can come get the bags.”

As Carly came up the stairs, an arm wrapped possessively around her son’s shoulders, she slid her sunglasses up. “Elizabeth.”

“Carly.” Elizabeth shifted. “I’m glad you’re finally here,” she said after a long pause. “Michael’s been chattering on about inviting you here practically since day one.”

“Yeah?” Carly brightened and grinned down at her son. “Missed me, did you?”

“Totally,” Michael said. He tugged on Carly’s hand. “Come see my room!”

Carly followed Michael inside but Elizabeth waited for Jason and Morgan. “He was so small in April,” Elizabeth said as she followed them in.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen him as much as I’d like with everything that’s going on.” Jason set Morgan in the playpen and turned to her. “You all right with Carly while Michael and I unload the car?”

“I doubt we can get into much trouble in fifteen minutes,” Elizabeth remarked

“Maybe you can’t,” Carly said from behind them. “But I can get into serious trouble in less time than that.” She touched Michael’s shoulder. “Go help Jason unload the car and Elizabeth and I will get caught up.”

Michael darted out the door and Jason gave Carly one last look of warning before following him.

“Good God, what does he think I’m going to do?” Carly rolled her eyes and planted her hands on her hips. “If I got into as much trouble as Jason seems to think I’m capable of…” she shook her head and focused on Elizabeth. “Michael’s been talking about how great it is to have his family in one place and he can’t wait until his new cousin is born.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “He thinks of Andi as his cousin, I hope you don’t remind.”

“Of course not.” Carly shrugged and wandered over to the windows to peer out at her son and his guardian. “Michael’s been happier and doing better in school in the last three months than he has his whole life. I know a lot of that is Jason’s doing but I won’t ignore that you’ve had your own influence on him as well.” She eyed her old nemesis. “For example, when you first came here and Michael had just been kicked out Sonny’s…I know you were there for him and I know what you mean to him, to Jason.”

Elizabeth flushed. “Carly–”

“Michael is my number one priority. Both my sons are.” Carly paused and took a deep breath. “And Jason’s right up there with them. If there’s anyone in my life that deserves to be happy and get exactly what he wants, it’s Jason.”

“I agree,” Elizabeth said softly.

“There’s nothing that’s going to take Michael from Jason this time,” Carly continued. “There are no lies, no threats to his guardianship. He is Michael’s…” she fumbled for the right word.

“He’s his father,” Elizabeth supplied. “In every way that really matters and I’m glad that nothing can change that this time.”

“Good. I’m glad you understand that because a lot of women wouldn’t. They would resent a child that shares no blood with him and neither of them deserves that. I’m glad that you can understand and appreciate that.” Carly folded her arms. “So, when are you due?”

“Any day actually,” Elizabeth said. She touched her abdomen and sighed. “I just hope it all goes well.”

“Has Jason arranged for any drugs?” Carly asked. The door opened before Elizabeth could answer. She turned to Jason who was carrying three suitcases over the threshold. “Have you arranged for any drugs for the delivery?” she demanded of him.

He frowned. “What?”

“C’mon, Jason, this is heavy!” Michael complained from behind his guardian as he lugged yet another of Carly’s suitcases up the stairs. “Don’t stop in the doorway!”

Jason moved aside to let Michael enter. “What drugs?” he asked.

“For the labor,” Carly clarified. “Epidural, pain meds, stuff so Elizabeth doesn’t break your hand.”

“The pain is really that bad?” Elizabeth swallowed hard.

“It’s not my favorite way to pass the time,” Carly shrugged. “So?” she prompted Jason.

“The doctor said he’d arrange for all that.” Jason started down the hall towards Carly’s bedroom. “I’ll give him a call to confirm it.”

“Drugs are bad,” Michael said as he passed his mother and Elizabeth. “That’s what Mr. Mackey always says.”

“Yeah, just wait until you have to push a watermelon through a lemon,” Carly muttered. She went off to examine her new room.

Elizabeth sighed and sank onto the sofa, watching Morgan chew on the ear of a stuffed rabbit. In a matter of days, she might be holding her little girl in her arms. She touched her tummy and closed her eyes.

Jason entered the room and saw her sitting there–her eyes closed, her hand clutching at her middle and immediately assumed the worse. “What’s wrong?” he demanded. In two quick strides, he knelt at her side and looked at her, panicked. “Is it the baby?”

Elizabeth shook her head and opened her eyes, smiling. “No, no. I was just thinking about what it would be like to hold Alexandria for the first time. She’ll be here any day now and I just…” she exhaled slowly. “I almost can’t wait anymore.”

“Oh.” Jason sat back on his heels. “I just–I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she reached out and took his hand. “Jason…I just want to thank you–”

He shook his head, not wanting to hear her gratitude. “You would have done the same for me,” he cut in.

“No…that’s not what I was going to thank you for,” Elizabeth told him. “Thank you, for being here with me, especially these last few weeks. I was feeling sorry for myself before you and Michael came, thinking about the lonely life I had to look forward to before you gave me the courage to file for divorce. When I go home, it won’t be to a marriage that makes me miserable but to a family that means more to me than anything in the world.” She touched his cheek. “Thank you, Jason, for being one of the people that I trust more than anyone else.”

He wasn’t sure what to say to that and he could tell she wasn’t expecting an answer. Instead, he sat next to her on the sofa and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She tucked herself into his side and fell asleep, her breath warm on his neck.

Carly came into the room to ask about something but went unnoticed at the entrance to the living room. She watched Jason tenderly tuck Elizabeth’s hair behind her ear and kiss her forehead. She backed away and went to her room, uncomfortable with the idea that she may have been wrong about Elizabeth all along.

By the time Michael set the table for dinner, Carly and Morgan were all settled in the guest rooms. Jason had cooked a simple dinner and had been trying to talk Elizabeth into taking an early night.

“I had a nap this afternoon,” Elizabeth complained as she lowered herself into one of the chairs. “I’ll go to sleep when I’m tired.” She rubbed her lower back and fidgeted in the chair.

“Leave her alone,” Carly said. “Did you call the doctor?”

Jason nodded. “He’ll have the whole range available but if you want an epidural,” he told Elizabeth who grimaced, “you have to call him in as soon as the labor pains start.”

“So, Michael tells me you’re going to name her Andi,” Carly remarked as she spooned some potatoes onto her plate. “That’s a cute name.”

“It’s short for Alexandria.” Elizabeth shifted again. “Alexandria Audrey.” She reached for the plate of chicken but Jason beat her to it and shifted some pieces onto her plate.

Carly nodded. “For Zander,” she said softly. “That’s real nice.”

“I know it might seem hypocritical…” Elizabeth shrugged uncomfortably. She sipped her water and grimaced a little, reaching to rub her lower back again.

“I don’t think so at all,” Carly remarked. She glanced at Michael but he was seeming engrossed in building a mashed potato fort. “Zander was good friend to me too at one time. And speaking as a mother, I can understand doing whatever it takes to protect your children.”

“I think anyone who knows you knows the lengths you’re willing to go for your kids,” Elizabeth replied. She fidgeted again and this time when her hand strayed to rub her lower back, Carly focused on it.

“Has it been hurting more than usual today?” Carly asked.

Eliabeth hesitated and thought about it. “I guess,” she shrugged. “Why?”

“What’s wrong?” Jason asked. His worried eyes fixed on Elizabeth. “Are you in pain?” he demanded.

“Chill, Daddy,” Carly quipped. “Because labor pains usually start as lower back aches. I think you’d better call the doctor–just to be on the safe side.”

Michael perked up. “Liz is having the baby?” he demanded with glee. “It’s about time!”

Jason leapt up from the table and went to the phone hanging on the wall by the refrigerator. Carly smirked at his unusual demeanor as she helped the bewildered mother-to-be out of her chair. “Let’s go set you up in the bedroom,” she said. “It’s going to be a long night.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “You’ll stay with me right?” she asked Carly. “Because I don’t think I can do this alone.”

“Can I watch, can I watch?” Michael danced after them. “Pretty please?”

“Absolutely not,” Carly remarked. She pushed Elizabeth’s bedroom door open and pushed her towards the bed. “Go watch cartoons, okay? We’ll call you if we need you.”

“Aww…that’s not fair,” Michael grumbled. He left the room and Carly helped Elizabeth change into a nightgown.

“You’re awfully calm about this,” Elizabeth remarked suspiciously as Carly propped a pillow behind Elizabeth’s head.

“It’s always easy to be calm when everything’s going right,” Carly shrugged. “You had a healthy pregnancy, you’re in good physical shape, the doctor is on their way and you caught the labor pains early enough to get an epidural. It shouldn’t be that difficult at all.

Carly would wish she could take those words back six hours later as Elizabeth’s contractions were slamming into each other one after the other and the epidural had long since worn off. Her hair was soaked and shoved off her forehead and she was clutching Jason’s hand so tightly he thought he felt the bones crack.

Carly twisted her fingers together as she stood at the foot of the bed with Elizabeth’s doctor. Maybe she’d tempted the fates by saying Elizabeth would have a relatively easy delivery. Since when had women from Port Charles had an easy time of any thing?

“Should it be taking this long?” she hissed.

Dr. Paige Huma glanced up at her nervous companion. “It can take more than twenty-four hours sometimes.” She leaned back and reached into her bag for a bottle of pills. “Crush two of these into a fine power and put it into a glass of water for her to drink. It’s the only kind of meds I can give her right now.”

Carly rushed from the room to carry out her task and stopped only to assure Michael that everything was going okay. She wasn’t sure if he believed her but then again, she wasn’t sure she believed herself.

“Nothing’s wrong with my baby, right?” Elizabeth managed to gasp out between pains. She gripped Jason’s hand harder but the only outward indication of his own pain was a slight tick of a muscle in his jaw.

“Nothing at all,” Paige replied with a bright smile. “Some labors take longer than others.”

“But she’s in so much pain,” Jason said. “Is this normal?”

“Sure is,” Paige said cheerfully. “Shouldn’t be too much longer though, Mrs. Morgan. The baby is finally crowning so let’s give it one more push, okay?”

Carly stopped in the doorway. “Mrs. Morgan?” she demanded.

This entry is part 11 of 17 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Shadows #1

Later, after Michael was asleep for the night and Jason had called Alexis to begin the process, he sat down with Elizabeth in the kitchen while she ate one of her late-night craving snacks–pickle and peanut butter sandwiches.

“Michael’s been making noises about wanting Carly to visit,” he told her.

Elizabeth frowned and set her sandwich on her plate. “Is that…a good idea?” she asked. “I mean, you know Carly more than I do but I just…with everything she’s going through with Sonny…”

“It’s part of the reason I’m bring it up,” Jason remarked quietly. “Losing custody of Michael was hard even when she saw how much it meant to him. She’s been scared of losing him since the day he was born and now it’s almost as if she has.”

Elizabeth peeled the crust from her sandwich and nibbled on it absently. Since the day she’d arrived in Port Charles, she’d heard about Caroline Benson Corinthos. She’d heard stories of how the blonde had ruined Bobbie’s life, stories of her feud with Robin Scorpio, tales of her many plans that had gone awry. Carly had always been someone on the peripheral edges of Elizabeth’s life but since the birth of her friendship with Jason, the two women had been thrown into each other’s spheres more often than they would like.

Elizabeth would never understand why Jason put up with Carly but she was Michael’s mother and Michael always spoke highly of his mother and if there was one thing Elizabeth could say about Carly with any certainty–it was that she loved her boys. Her agreement not to fight Jason for custody spoke volumes.

This trip to Spain was to have been her escape from Port Charles but she realized this house was turning into more. This place was no longer just her haven but Jason and Michael’s too. They came here when life back home became too stressful. They came here when they wanted some time to just be.

This place had healed something in Elizabeth that she hadn’t even realized was still wounded. How could she deny Carly that opportunity?

“If you think that Carly spending part of the summer here is a good idea, then I trust your judgment,” Elizabeth answered. “I think it would be good for Michael to spend some time with his mother away from Port Charles and the stress of the custody battle and the divorce.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Thank you,” he replied. “I don’t know how long she’d be here but it’s good…it’s good that you’re okay with this. It means a lot to me.”

Elizabeth reached out and covered Jason’s hand. “Michael is important to me,” she told him. “You are important to me. I want to do anything I can to help you. To support you.” Her smile twisted. “Even if it is asking Carly to visit on purpose.”

Jason sat back and resolved to call Carly in the morning. “Michael got straight A’s for the year,” he said after a moment, unable to control the smile that stretched across his face. “He wanted to surprise you with his report card.”

“That’s wonderful but I’m not surprised you know. He’s so smart.” Elizabeth bit into her sandwich. ”

“There was this conference at the end of the year,” Jason continued, “and his teacher wanted to tell me that she’d never seen a student improve so fast. Michael missed so much time during the beginning of the year that he almost failed but once he came to live with me, his work turned around, his attendance was up, he was behaving perfectly–she told me that he was one of the brightest and most well-adjusted boy she’d ever taught and that living with me was the best thing that could have happened to him.”

Elizabeth grinned. “I could have told you that,” she teased. “In fact, I think I did.”

“I know…” Jason shrugged and looked away. “It’s different hearing that from someone who had real contact with Michael before the divorce and saw him everyday, someone who can really see the difference. It’s like…” he hesitated. “Validation.”

Elizabeth nodded. “I think that I’ve never seen Michael as happy as he’s been these last few months. When he used to come into Kelly’s with Leticia, he’d be kind of withdrawn and silent but he’s just bursting with energy and enthusiasm and he’s starting to really act like every other eight year old I know. He’s talked about being an archaeologist one week and a circus performer the next.” She propped her chin on her fist and smiled at him. “You’re a wonderful father, Jason, but I’ve always–” she stopped abruptly and set her hand on her abdomen. “Whoa.”

“What’s wrong?” Jason stiffened and then stood. “Is it the baby? Elizabeth–”

She reached for his hand to press it against her tummy. “Can you feel her?” she asked. “She’s kicking like a soccer player tonight and she just delivered a solid one to my ribs, that’s all.”

He felt the press of something against his hand, almost like a bubble. Almost in awe, he knelt down and waited for the movement again. “Does she do this often?”

“More often now than before,” Elizabeth answered. She closed her eyes and smiled. “It’s getting close, Jason. I can just…I can just feel it. It’s going to happen soon. I can’t wait to hold her.”

“It’s hard to believe that this time next year, she’ll be here.” Jason shook his head. “I’ve never…I’ve never felt this before. Carly wasn’t around during this stage and things were just tense at that point. And when she was pregnant with Michael, she wasn’t…really into the motherhood thing. She just knew she didn’t want anyone taking her baby away.” He stared at Elizabeth’s tummy, fascinated by the kicking. “It’s just…incredible to me that there’s this whole life waiting to start.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Elizabeth said softly. “I’m so happy that I get to share this with you, that you’ll be one of the first people to meet my daughter.” Her eyes were soft and wet with tears as she touched his cheek, caressing the skin with her fingertips.

Jason covered her hand with his and closed his eyes. “So am I,” he murmured. His eyes opened and met hers. Almost in slow motion, he drew closer to her, never breaking the contact.

Her lips were softer than he remembered, her breath tickled his lips just before he kissed her. And he heard the small gasp of surprise before she melted under his mouth. She curled her fingers in his hair and pressed closer.

When Jason pulled away moments later, her cheeks were flushed and her still closed–a smile on her face. “Should I apologize?” he asked softly.

Her eyes opened, revealing the slightly dazed look in them. “No.” Elizabeth licked her lips and shook her head, a smile spreading across her face. “No.”

Carly was lukewarm about the idea of visiting the house in Spain. She still had her reservations about spending time with Elizabeth or the amount of time that Elizabeth spent with her son but she wanted to be with Michael and she wanted her boys to be together so she agreed to fly in.

Jason was glad she’d decided to come. The atmosphere in the house had changed since that early June night when he’d kissed Elizabeth in the kitchen. It was tense somehow–not in a bad way but in a way that made Jason all too aware of the fact that she was pregnant and not in the position to really pursue anything.

Their discussions were different–they no longer had the tone of tentative friendship and support but of something…more. She spoke about the night she’d left the penthouse and the reasons she’d remarried Ric. He told her about Courtney and the way things really were at home living across from Sonny.

“Why don’t you just move?” Elizabeth asked towards the end of June as they sat on the back porch and kept an eye on Michael building a sand castle on the beach.

“Because it’s familiar,” Jason replied. “I don’t want to push Michael into making any more changes than he has to right now.” He stared at his hands for a moment before meeting her eyes. “But if I’m honest with myself, I want Sonny to be the guy he used to be.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Elizabeth murmured. “Maybe he just needs time and space away from…” she stopped and flushed.

“Carly?” Jason finished. “Maybe. I wish Michael hadn’t had had to go through this.” He focused on Michael in the distance. “Spending time with his mother and Morgan will be good for him.”

“I suppose.” Elizabeth leaned her head on Jason’s shoulder and closed her eyes. “It might be okay having Carly around. I mean, with my due date approaching so quickly, I suppose it would be helpful to have someone around who’s been through it twice.”

“Are you scared?” Jason asked, squeezing her shoulder.

“A little,” Elizabeth admitted. “I want this so much but I think about what I know Carly went through with Morgan and with Michael…” she sighed. “And when Alexis had Kristina…when I think about those things, I do get scared.” She bit her lip and looked up at him. “There’s a hospital nearby isn’t there?”

“It’s a twenty minute drive to one,” Jason said hesitantly. “When I arranged for this place, I didn’t realize you’d be here so long. We can move somewhere closer–”

“No, no–” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, I shouldn’t be worried. Everything has been normal, there’s no reason to panic and move house. I want Lexie born here. I just…I’m looking on the bright side of Carly’s visit,” she said, followed by weak laughter.

“I’ll leave it up to you,” Jason said. “But if you’d feel better closer to the hospital, just let me know.”

“I will.” Elizabeth squeezed his knee and struggled to her feet. “I’m going to go take a nap–what time do you have to pick Carly up at the airport tomorrow?”

“Early.” Jason stood and crossed to railing, leaning against it as he kept one eye on Michael and the other on Elizabeth. “I’m leaving Michael here so you’re not alone, okay?”

“Mm…okay.” Elizabeth kissed his cheek before disappearing inside.

Carly stepped out of the customs, pushing Morgan in his stroller. Max was behind her with her luggage cart. She stopped in front of Jason and slid her sunglasses over her eyes. “Where’s Michael?” she asked immediately.

“Hey, Carly,” Jason greeted. He nodded at Max “Michael’s at home with Elizabeth. She’s too close to her due date to be left completely alone. Besides, I thought it would be better if we…talked before you and Elizabeth saw each other.”

Carly sighed impatiently and pushed the stroller towards the ext. “I’m going to play nice with her, you don’t have to worry.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about…though that is a good point,” Jason said as he followed her. “Look, Elizabeth is close to her due date and the most recent pregnancies she’s been around haven’t always ended well–including her first one.”

Carly sighed and slid her sunglasses back up. “So she’s a little scared, huh?” She pursed her lips and nodded. “Can’t blame her. I had two really bad experiences, we’ve both had miscarriages…” she sighed. “So I guess you want me to play more than nice with her, huh?”

“I would appreciate it if you could possibly be more than nice to her,” Jason confirmed. “I might even go as far as to suggest that you be supportive. She’s having her baby without any of her family or friends present and I don’t want her to be scared.” He stopped at the car and unlocked the trunk. “She means a lot to Michael and you know what she means to me. This is important to me, Carly.”

“Okay,” Carly agreed. “I mean, it’s not going to be easy because the muffin and I don’t get along living in the same town. I can’t guarantee things won’t be any easier in the same house but I will give it my best shot.” She held out her hand, her pinky finger sticking out. “I pinky swear.”

Jason looked at her oddly but wrapped his own pinky around hers. Whatever it took.

After Carly had waved goodbye to Max–who was headed back to Port Charles–and she’d strapped into Jason’s car, she asked, “Did you tell her?”

Jason started the engine. “No.” He backed out of the parking lot.

“Why not?” Carly asked. “She’s emotionally vulnerable right now, you know. It’s perfect.”

Jason glanced at her, annoyed. “It’s exactly why I’m not telling her. She just filed for divorce, Carly. And she’s got enough going on without me…telling her that.” He shifted in his seat. “Anyway, it’s too soon for that. We’re…we’re getting back on track, Carly. Don’t try to help, okay?”


“Don’t try to help,” Jason repeated firmly. “I know you. You’d want to make it better faster and you’d concoct a plan–and you’d mean well, I know you would. But it never ends well, Carly and you know why?”

“Because I don’t think my plans out,” Carly muttered. She folded her arms and glared at him. “I’ll have you know that I can make them work when it counts.”

“Uh huh.” Jason glanced at her again. “Name one time.”

“I wanted to seduce Tony away from my mother and ruin her life,” Carly pointed out. She frowned. “I suppose one could argue my plans work when I’m actually setting out to ruin someone’s life.”

“Yeah, so don’t help.”

“Fine,” Carly slumped back in her seat. “But if I have to watch you two tip toe around each other for another five years, so help me God…”

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Fumbling Towards Perfection

When Jason Morgan stepped inside his sister’s room at the rehab center, he immediately ducked as a plate crashed over his head.

“It’s not that bad,” Emily assured her roommate, not having seen her brother enter the room. Her attention was completely on her best friend. Elizabeth grabbed the tray that had once held her lunch off her lap and started to hurl it in the same direction as the plate when she noticed Jason in the doorway.

“Who are you?” Elizabeth demanded, lowering the tray back to her lap.

Emily glanced over and squealed. “Jason!”

“Hey, kid.” He sat in the chair next to her hospital bed before glancing at her roommate. “Did I interrupt something?”

“Just another one of Beth’s tantrums,” Emily replied cheerfully. “Jason, this is Elizabeth Webber, my best friend and Beth, this is Jason Morgan, my brother.”

“I kind of caught that,” Elizabeth remarked dryly. She started searching her among her sheets.

“What’re you looking for?” Emily asked.

“The call button. I have to go to therapy,” Elizabeth muttered.

“Oh don’t worry about that, Jason’ll help you into the chair,” Emily replied. “Right?”

“Sure,” Jason said standing. He crossed to her bed. “What do you need?”

“My chair’s in the corner,” Elizabeth said dully. He pushed it out and then reached to lift the petite young woman into his arms before lowering her into her wheelchair. She was light—almost too light, he thought.

“Thanks.” She looked to Emily. “I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”

“But your session is an hour.”

“Twenty minutes,” Elizabeth repeated as she wheeled herself towards the door. When she was gone, Jason turned to his sister with a quizzical expression.

“Her therapy isn’t going well,” Emily told her brother. “She never stays—there’s never any point.”

“Oh.” He sat back down. “What was wrong with her today? With the plate and tray?”

Emily’s face lit up. “I can wiggle my toes.” She yanked the sheet up and she demonstrated.

Jason grinned and hugged her. “That’s great!” When he sat back down, he frowned a little. “What does have to do with Elizabeth?”

“Oh. It…it just depresses her I guess,” Emily sighed. “The therapists have really stopped concentrating on helping her regain the use of her legs and are trying to teach her to you know…live as a paralyzed person.” Emily shrugged. “I don’t think that’s what’s really bothering her.”


Emily sighed. “She’s been here a year longer than I have and her parents and family never come to see her. And my family and friends are always in and out, you know? I love her to death, but I always try to time visits for when she’s in therapy or something. I don’t want shove my family in her face.” She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled at her brother brilliantly. “So, how long are you here? And why didn’t you call?”

“I wanted to surprise you,” Jason told her. “And I rented an apartment in town. Monica came to see me before I left Port Charles to visit and mentioned that they’d be tied up most of the summer with the hospital and she wanted to know if I could extend my visit.”

“So wait, you’re here all summer?” Emily squealed. “This is the absolute freaking best. Patients can’t leave unless a relative or a friend goes with them and has transportation and all that. I mean, it’s not prison but I can’t drive and the therapists are trying to convince Beth to get a license for handicapped people but as you can imagine, that’s not going so well, so now you can get us out of here.”

“I’d be glad to take you guys anywhere you want to go.” Jason suppressed a smile. “But I’m also here on coffee business. Sonny is investing in a warehouse here and I’m going to oversee that.”

“What, are you going national or something?” Emily asked. “Oh, whatever, I don’t even care. I’m just so psyched that you’re here. Now I can even get sprung out overnight and stuff.”

He laughed. “I’m glad to see a year here hasn’t broken your spirit or anything.”

“Oh, please. I’ve got Beth, Zander flies down once a month–which is as much as he’ll let Sonny pay for. Lucky, Nikolas and Grace came for two weeks last month. Barely a week goes by without someone from the family finding an excuse to come out here.” Emily shrugged. “I see everyone more than when I lived at home.”

“So your therapy’s going well?” Jason asked. “They think you’ll make a full recovery?”

Emily nodded. “Now that I can wiggle my toes and even move my legs from side to side, I get to start the more extensive therapy. It’s more exhausting but it’ll be so worth it.” She sighed and cast a glance at one of the many pictures that decorated her nightstand. She and Elizabeth were seated at the edge of the outdoor pool of the clinic, each in bikinis, their legs dangling in the water as part of their exercise routine. They had their arms around each other’s shoulders and were smiling into the camera. “I just wish Beth were doing better.”

“She shouldn’t make you feel guilty,” Jason chastised. “It’s not your fault she’s not recovering.”

“Oh, no, no, that’s not what was happening before,” Emily explained, her words coming out so fast, they were almost jumbled together. “Our therapist was in just before you got here. He gave us the new therapy schedule and well, Beth was curious about why they were different. You see, up until now, we’ve had mostly the same kinds of exercises and that’s when she got the news her parents had okayed a change in treatment.”

Jason frowned. “I thought you guys were the same age–why would her parents get a say in something like that?”

“They still pay her bills here,” Emily explained, “so management defers to them. And they don’t think she’s got any hope, you know? So they okayed the change to start giving her classes on being able to live on her on and survive in a wheelchair. And even before that, the counselors and therapists were pushing her to learn those things and I guess finding out her parents had lost hope just upset her even more.”

“And that thing about twenty minutes?” Jason asked.

“Elizabeth is going to refuse to do the new type of therapy. She still wants to try and get better and she says until they put her back on the old schedule, she won’t do therapy.”

“Stubborn girl huh?”

Emily laughed. “You have no idea.”

“Come on, Webber.”

Elizabeth glared at Summer Holloway. The tall statuesque blonde had been her main therapist since her arrival two years ago and she was more than familiar with her most difficult patient’s tantrums.

“No,” Elizabeth said stubbornly.

Summer sighed and leaned against one of the balance beams in the clinic’s gym. “Look, honey, I know it’s difficult to accept the idea of being paralyzed for the rest of your life–”

“I’m just not recovering as fast as you guys think I should be,” Elizabeth accused. “You’re tired of my slow progress and want me out of here. That’s why you’re shoving all this down my throat.”

“Slow progress.” Summer drew the words out slowly and sighed. “Liz, you haven’t made any progress in the two years you’ve been here. You can’t wiggle your toes, you can’t move your leg even a centimeter.”

Elizabeth’s eyes burned with tears. “I can still do this. Not everyone recovers so fast.”

“No,” Summer allowed. “But most of the progress people make are in the first year and well, the management thinks we’ve given you enough time to show improvement. That’s why they went over your head to change the therapy.”

“You’re supposed to be on my side!” Elizabeth retorted.

“I am on your side and this is the best thing for you.” Summer patted Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Come on, we’ll study to get you a new license–I’m sure your parents will spring for a suitable car. And we can tackle moving around an apartment in a wheelchair–getting up and down stairs, in and out of bed, cooking for yourself. It’s a whole new challenge–”

“I don’t want to be paralyzed for the rest of my life!” Elizabeth spat out. “And you can’t make me do this.”

“Liz, if you don’t start cooperating with this, the people in charge here are going to petition to have you released,” Summer informed her. “You’ll be sent back to your parents in San Diego and I know you have your heart set on following Emily back to her hometown.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “You can’t make me accept this. I–I’m not permanently paralyzed. I–I can’t be.”

“There are all kinds of new treatments coming out all the time,” Summer tried to assure her. “New surgeries, new kinds of therapies. We just want to prepare you to live until they become available.”

“You don’t understand,” Elizabeth said shaking her head not even trying to stop the tears from sliding down her cheeks. “My parents will wait until I learn all this stuff, they’ll take me out of here and put me in some apartment back home and I won’t have my diploma, no skills–no job, no way to even pay or go to college. I’ll be living off of them and they’re not going to pay for more treatment.”

Summer sighed. “You don’t know that. They’ve paid for two years so far–”

“Because there’s still a shot I can recover and they can wash their hands of me and now you had to go and tell them there’s no hope. You’re sentencing me a horrible kind of prison.” Elizabeth’s voice broke. “Please, don’t do this.”

Summer took a deep breath, forcing herself to speak over the sudden lump in her throat. She knew what Elizabeth was talking about was true–it was hardly the first case of a wealthy kid shipped off to a clinic and than forced to live a life to their parents’ will. “Liz, this came down from above. And just so we’re clear, I fought this because you honestly want to improve. I know that about you. But I was overruled.”

“I want to go back to my room,” Elizabeth said painfully. She gripped the sides of her chair and started to wheel herself towards the door.

“Liz, come on–” Summer’s words fell on deaf ears as the brunette moved through the open doors and started down the hall.

She saw Emily’s brother walking down the halls towards her and she slowed her movements. “What are you doing down in this area?” she asked, a little confused. “Em doesn’t have a session today.”

“No,” Jason agreed, “but I’m spring her for dinner and a movie and she wanted to me see if you wanted to go.”

She hesitated. She hadn’t been out of this place in ages–not since Emily’s parents took her out for her birthday three months ago. But all she really wanted to do was go back to her room and curl up the best she could to cry herself to sleep.

“No.” Elizabeth started to roll herself past him and heard his footsteps as he turned his body and started to walk next to her.

“So, it was less than twenty minutes,” Jason found himself saying.

Elizabeth let out a frustrated breath. “I thought I could talk some sense into my therapist but no dice. So I’m going to be labeled non cooperative and probably shipped back to California.” She all but punched the button for the elevator.

“Would it just make more sense to go along with the therapy and hope something changes?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, well, let’s see you sit in a damn chair all day without being able to even walk to damn bathroom or dress yourself without help.” She rolled her chair into the car and bit down on her tongue to keep from going on. This was Emily’s brother–one of her favorite family members. So far, she’d avoided pissing off Emily’s family and friends and out of love for the only family Elizabeth even felt like she had anymore…she wasn’t going to do alienate them.

“I’m sorry,” she said after a minute. “I…I’m not exactly a sunshine kind of person on my best days but you managed to show up on a very…very bad one.”

“Emily told me…she told me that your parents changed your treatment.”

Elizabeth’s lips twisted into an ugly smile. “Yeah. I knew from the start that they didn’t think I could recover. They only shipped me here to tell their rich friends they were doing something for their poor…poor daughter.” Her voice was bitter with a hard edge to it. “They used to yell at me at the hospital after the accident like it was my fault Josh happened to come to the intersection the same time some stupid drunk driver came along and killed him–” her voice broke then and she stopped talking abruptly.

The doors slid open before he could find the words to respond to that and she took off the down the hall–as fast she could move the chair.

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Fumbling Towards Perfection

Emily Bowen-Quartermaine was eighteen when she arrived at the Douglas-Radford Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. She’d broken her back in a bus accident in her hometown of Port Charles, New York and was at the clinic to regain the use of her legs.

She was a bright and bubbly young woman with big friendly brown eyes and bone straight chestnut hair. She was put on the second floor in room eighteen, in hopes that her perky disposition would rub off on her roommate.

Elizabeth Webber was seventeen when she’d arrived at the clinic the year before. She’d been in a car accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. Her parents had shipped her off to the clinic, hoping that their revolutionary therapy would work wonders on her. They kept her there, but never visited. They paid her bills, but never called.

And Elizabeth Webber still hadn’t regained the ability to wiggle her toes much less walk.

In the six months they were roommates, Emily’s personality didn’t exactly rub off on her bitter roommate, but somehow she managed to befriend the other woman. Some of the nurses were surprised when they held wheelchair races in the hallway after visiting hours had passed. They became inseparable, much to the chagrin of the some of the staff.

They looked remarkably alike from their delicate and petite builds to their dark brown hair. Emily was taller and more slender than the other woman, but in the wheelchair, you couldn’t tell. Elizabeth had dark sapphire blue eyes that had the ability to be warm and inviting, but few managed to see that.

They stayed up to all hours of the night, talking about everything and anything. Emily told her new friend all about the people back home. Her crazy family that she’d been adopted into after her birth mother died of cancer. How they manipulated and backstabbed each other to get what they wanted, but when the chips were down, they rallied around one another and protected each other. She told Elizabeth about her childhood best friend, Lucky Spencer and his perfect girlfriend, Grace Hardy. How they’d met when Lucky was infatuated with Grace’s older sister, Faith but eventually Lucky opened his eyes and fallen in love. She talked about Nikolas Cassadine, her one-time crush and how she didn’t think his new girlfriend Gia Campbell right for her. She confided to her new friend about her ex-boyfriend Juan Santiago and the current love of her life, Zander Smith. She talked about her siblings, AJ and Jason and how much she adored her brothers and how close they were to her. She was sorry that AJ and Jason didn’t get along better, but circumstances were a little strange where they were concerned.

And in return, Elizabeth told her about her wealthy family, based in San Diego, California. Her father, a lawyer who’d been cheating on her mother for decades. Her mother who was content to be oblivious and create the so-called perfect home and be the perfect wife. She told Emily about her siblings, Sarah and Steven who were almost like their parents it was scary. She told Emily that her boyfriend Josh had been killed in the car accident and that she no longer kept in touch with the people she’d once known.

In between therapy sessions and late-night confessions, they discovered a mutual love for hot chocolate and indulged their sweet tooth whenever they could. They both did their best to irritate every nurse on the floor and managed to charm half the boys into falling in love with them.

Somehow, Elizabeth Webber and Emily Bowen-Quartermaine found their kindred spirits in each other and formed a friendship that rivaled any other. Elizabeth constantly spoke of being released one day and never looking back, but she secretly knew that she’d never leave Emily behind and Emily always talked about the two of them moving to Port Charles together and getting an apartment.

Plans were made, therapy sessions were suffered through and cups of hot chocolate were shared. Life was simply as perfect as two paralyzed young women could hope for.

And then Elizabeth Webber met Emily’s older brother, Jason Morgan.

And everything changed in a heartbeat.

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Poisonous Dreams #1

It was the first time she’d smiled.

Barely three days after she married Jason, Elizabeth stood in front of her mirror, her hand over abdomen. She could feel the skin being drawn tightly and when she raised her t-shirt and stood sideways, she could see a slight bulge.

“Laura Audrey,” she murmured. She giggled. “Or are you Lucas Steven?”

She closed her eyes and tried to image her child. A little girl with her porcelain skin, her dark hair and when a fantasy image of her daughter’s eyes flashed through her brain, Elizabeth jerked her eyes open and was startled to see Jason in the mirror’s reflection. He was standing in the open doorway.

“I thought you were at the warehouse,” she said, letting her shirt fall back in place. She turned towards him.

“Johnny called. Something came up with his sister and he can’t take you to the doctor’s.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m taking you.”

Alarmed, she shook her head. “I’ll just ask Max or Francis,” she murmured. “It’s fine—”

“Max is out with Carly and Francis is in Puerto Rico.” Jason shrugged. “I’m already here anyway.”

She bit her lip. She was supposed to be having her first ultrasound today. Now would not be a good time for him to go to her prenatal appointment. She took a deep breath. He could just wait outside in the waiting room.

“Okay,” Elizabeth replied. “We’d better go then.”

They found themselves sitting in the obstetrician’s waiting room twenty minutes later. Elizabeth was flipping through some pamphlets while Jason sat next to her in silence.

He cleared his throat. “Have you thought about names?” he asked. He cursed under his breath when the question was out. So much for staying distanced from her and this baby.

Elizabeth shifted and clutched the locket in one of her hands. “Yeah. Actually, I—I’ve decided on Laura Audrey and Lucas Steven.”

Jason grimaced. “You’d name him after Luke?”

Elizabeth had to laugh at the look on Jason’s face. “Luke has been great to me,” she replied. “He’s been more of a father to me than my own.” She looked down. “I-my father actually called a few days ago. Seems he checked up on you and he wanted to congratulate me on landing such a wealthy husband.” She shook her head and sighed. “If he shows up, can you tell the guards to tell him to go hell?”

“Your father’s an ass,” Jason muttered.

“Elizabeth Morgan,” the receptionist called. “Dr. Banks will see you now.” Elizabeth stood while Jason remained seated. “Oh, your husband’s more than welcome to go in with you, Mrs. Morgan.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. Mrs. Morgan. She wasn’t sure she’d never get used to hearing that.

She turned to Jason. He was staring at his feet, not looking at her at all. “I—”

“I’ll just wait out here,” he said quietly.

She shook her head. “No,” she told him. “Come in with me. I-I’m having an ultrasound and I don’t—” she hesitated. “I don’t want to do it alone.”

He was on his feet instantly. “Sure.”

“I’m such a schmuck,” she muttered under her breath.

“Good morning, Miss Webber,” Dr. Banks said, a large smile on her face. She indicated the seats in front of her desk. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s Morgan, now isn’t?”

Elizabeth flushed and sat down. “Yes, it is.” She waited for Jason to sit next to her. “Dr. Banks, this is my—” she glanced at him as she said it. “My husband, Jason. Jason, this is Dr. Banks.”

Jason nodded at the doctor, who smiled at him. “It’s always nice to see fathers involved in the prenatal care.”

Elizabeth bit her lip and looked away.

“Well, anyway, Mrs. Morgan,” the doctor continued. “How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” she admitted. “The morning sickness has been a little hard to handle. Not really fond of vomiting in the morning and in the afternoon.” She frowned. “Why do they call it morning sickness if it occurs more than just in the morning?”

Dr. Banks laughed. “Your queasiness will subside and your appetite will return within the next month.”

“That’s good to hear,” Elizabeth answered.

“Okay, so, are you two ready to see your baby?” she asked cheerfully as she stood. Elizabeth winced at the referral of Jason as the father but reassured herself that from now on she would make a more concentrated effort to keep Jason and her pregnancy separate.

Dr. Banks showed them to a small examining room and directed Elizabeth to lay on the table. Jason uncomfortably stood next to her as she got comfortable on the table.

The doctor wheeled the ultrasound over to Elizabeth and lifted her soft blue t-shirt. “Oh, look, you’re showing!”

Immediately Jason looked at his wife’s stomach and sure enough, there was a slight bulge. His hand twitched at his side but he forced himself to keep from feeling it. This was not his child and he couldn’t let himself think any differently.

“I noticed it this morning,” Elizabeth said. She moved her own hand over her abdomen. “Is it normal? I mean, am I showing enough?”

“You’re fine,” Dr. Banks assured her. “Once you begin showing, it goes so quickly. In a few weeks, you might start feel some fluttering, that’ll be your baby.” She smiled and reached for the clear gel to spread on her stomach. “This will be cold so be warned.”

Elizabeth jumped a little at the chilly sensation. She smiled nervously as the doctor began the ultrasound. “How does she look?”

Dr. Banks peered at the image on the screen. “Everything looks fine.” She moved slightly and looked to Jason. “I’m sorry, I was blocking your view, Mr. Morgan.”

Jason glanced at the screen and looked away. “I can’t really see it anyway.”

Elizabeth bit her lip and looked at the screen. She looked back at Jason and took his hand in hers. Schmuck, she told herself again as she directed his hand towards the screen. “That’s the heartbeat, right?” she asked Dr. Banks.

The doctor nodded. “Good strong and healthy heartbeat, Mrs. Morgan.” She smiled at the couple. “The head’s right there, two little arms and legs.” She watched as Elizabeth moved Jason’s hand according to her words.

“If the baby would turn a bit, we might be able to take a guess at whether you should be decorating in blue or pink.”

“You can tell this early?” Jason found himself asking curiously.

“Well, we wouldn’t know for absolute sure until the twentieth week,” Dr. Banks replied. “But I said we can take a guess.” She smiled at him. “I’m usually not wrong.”

“So, do I have a Laura or a Luke?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes sparkling. Dr. Banks frowned at the use of the single pronoun rather than the plural but shrugged it off. Until today, her patient had remained absolutely mum on the subject of the father and she’d be surprised to learn Elizabeth had married at all.

“Well.” Dr. Banks hesitated, peered at the screen for a few more moments. “Ah, there well, in my professional opinion, you’ve got yourselves a little girl.”

“A girl,” Elizabeth breathed. She looked at Jason, excitedly. “Did you hear that?”

“Now, I’m not positive,” Dr. Banks reminded her. “And I’ll want you to have another ultrasound next month. Don’t forget to schedule your amniocentesis in late September. But as of right now, Mrs. Morgan, you’ve got a perfectly healthy baby girl. Everything is developing nicely and on schedule. We’ll make another appointment for two weeks from now.”

Dr. Banks stood. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she told them as she left the room.

The image was frozen on the screen and Elizabeth could hardly stop staring at it. “That’s my baby,” she murmured. Her hand was still holding Jason’s and she clutched at it, excited. “Can you see her?” she asked. She used her free to hand to gesture towards the screen.

With Dr. Banks’ help, Jason had been able to make out some of the baby, but now that the image was just a still image, he was once again having trouble. “I could before, but she’s not moving.”

“That’s her head,” Elizabeth told him, pointing. She’d all but forgotten her resolve to keep Jason separate from the pregnancy. She was too excited. Until today, the baby had been an abstract idea in her mind, just morning sickness and some doctor’s appointments. Now, Laura Audrey—she frowned. Would her daughter be a Webber or a Morgan now that Elizabeth had changed her name?

“What else?” Jason asked, rousing Elizabeth from her thoughts.

She shook her head a little, trying to dispel her thoughts. “There’s her arms,” she continued. “And her legs.”

Her tone was considerably different from when she started, causing him to frown. “What’s wrong?”

“I was just thinking about everything,” she murmured. “If—if we’re still—you know, married when Laura’s born—” she bit her lip and glanced up at him. “Since my last name is Morgan now, will her name be Morgan too?”

Jason exhaled slowly. He’d forgotten that Sonny had insisted Elizabeth change her name after the wedding. “Probably,” he told her. “But you can always change it afterward—”

She bit her lip and looked down, finally realizing she was still holding his hand. It was his left hand, the one with the wedding band. “She’s probably better off with your name, I mean. Safer and all.”

“Right,” Jason replied, quietly. “She’d have the same protection as any of my children would.”

Elizabeth glanced up at him. God, she wished he was the father. If only things were different. But maybe…maybe it wasn’t too late. “Jason, I—”

“I’m sorry it took so long,” Dr. Banks chirped. She took her seat again and used a towel to wipe Elizabeth’s abdomen. “Would you like a picture of the baby, to take home and show everyone?”

“Sure,” Elizabeth said, eagerly.

The doctor turned back to the machine and pressed a few buttons. “Next time, bring a videotape and we can record it.” She took the picture out of the printer and handed it to Elizabeth. “There you go.”

“Thanks, Dr. Banks.”

“Well, just make an appointment with Nicole out front and you’re free to go. It was good to meet you, Mr. Morgan. I hope you’ll return soon.” She smiled again. “I’ll see you in two weeks, Mrs. Morgan.”
Elizabeth was quiet when they entered the penthouse. She was cradling her ultrasound picture in her hands and had been staring at it since the moment the doctor had given it to her.

Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Elizabeth, there’s something we need to talk about.”

She nodded absently. “I need to call Luke and tell him. He’ll be so excited. I want him to be Laura’s godfather. And Emily, oh, and Lucky.”


She glanced up at him. “Yeah?”

“About what the doctor said—”

She bit her lip. “Jason, it really meant a lot to me to have someone there with me today. It was the first time that I saw the baby…and I’m glad I wasn’t alone, but—”

“I mean about the decorating,” Jason hurried to interrupt, not wanting to hear her talk about not wanting him at her doctor’s appointments anymore. “Emily mentioned it the other day and I thought maybe the other guest room would work…for the nursery.”

She looked at him skeptically. “Jason, I—”

“I know we both don’t expect to still be…married when she’s born,” Jason cut in. “But it’s better to be prepared, right?”

“I guess so,” Elizabeth said slowly. “But I can’t afford—” She stopped. “And I’m not accepting anything else from you or Sonny. It just wouldn’t be right.”

He hesitated. “Would you consider it a gift from me…to Laura?”

How could she argue with that?

“Okay,” she agreed. “Jason, for what’s worth, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” she told him. “I know this hasn’t been easy, but it means a lot to me.”

Jason shrugged. “I’d so the same for anyone…” he gave her a tremulous smile. “Who mattered to me.”

“You matter to me, too,” she said softly. She tilted her face up a little to look at him. “You always have.”

He brushed her hair out of her eyes, letting his thumb linger on her cheekbone. “Elizabeth…”

He was going to kiss her, she could see it in his eyes. Her lips parted, she licked her lips in anticipation. She’d wanted this for so long

He ignored the ringing of the phone as he drew her closer to him. Just before their lips touched, the answering machine clicked on and Courtney’s voice filled the room.

“Jason, are you there? It’s me. You haven’t called me lately. What are you doing?”

Her face paled and she stepped away. “I need to go…call Emily,” she said softly.

“Wait a second—” he said, almost desperately.

“This—” she shook her head. “This would have been a mistake,” she said in a broken whisper. She turned and took the stairs two at a time, disappearing onto the second floor.

He stared after her for a moment before slamming his fist on the desk and swearing under his breath.

Emily wasn’t home. Neither was Luke, Lucky or even Zander. She needed someone to talk to. Now. Before she went back downstairs and faced Jason again.

She hugged her knees to her chest and took deep breaths, trying to calm her breathing. She couldn’t be putting herself through this. She had enough stress, just thinking about Ric and where he might be.

She picked the phone up again and dialed a different number.


“Nikolas?” Elizabeth licked her lips and wrapped her hand around the locket. “It’s me.”

“Hey, Liz,” Nikolas replied. “Are you okay?”

“I” She could feel the lump in her throat forming. “God, Nikolas, I don’t even know if I can talk to you about this.”

Stung, Nikolas didn’t answer for a few moments. He’d been a rotten friend to her in the last year or so, and he’d been trying to make up for it. “Elizabeth, you know you can tell me anything.”

“I thought—I thought I was over this,” she whispered. The tears began streaking down her cheeks. “I thought I was passed it, that I could do this and it wouldn’t matter.”

“What wouldn’t matter?” Nikolas asked, encouragingly. He could do this. If she wanted to vent about Morgan, he could do it with an objective ear. She didn’t need someone to bemoan his many shortcomings. For better or worse, Elizabeth was married to him.

“How I feel” Elizabeth hesitated, remembering who she was talking to. “Nikolas—I”

“I promise I won’t do the lecture,” Nikolas said immediately. “I won’t say it if it’s not what you want to hear.”

“Nikolas, I love him,” she said quietly. “I love him more now I think. I wish—I wish that this baby was his. I wish it with every breath I take.”

Nikolas exhaled slowly. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I can just listen if you want.”

“We were at the ultrasound today. He wasn’t supposed to go but something came up and then I just told myself he could wait outside. But then the receptionist said your husband can come too—Nikolas, I didn’t want the first time I saw my baby to be myself. I’m always alone. I just wanted to feel different for once.” She stopped and took a deep shuddering breath. “And the doctor was pointing out the arms and legs and her little head and I found myself falling back into the pattern helping Jason to understand what we were seeing. And then the doctor told me I was having a girl and she left, and I—we almost kissed downstairs, Nikolas.”

Nikolas blinked, even though he couldn’t see her. He shifted the phone from one to ear to the other and sat up at his desk. “What?”

“We were downstairs and I was thanking him for everything and he said that he’d do the same for anyone who mattered to him, and God, Nikolas I was just so grateful that I still mattered, how pathetic is that? I told him that he still mattered and suddenly we were just standing so close I could feel his breath and we—he was leaning towards me, I was waiting—”

Nikolas took a deep breath and rubbed his eyebrows. “What happened?” he asked quietly.

“The answering machine clicked on,” she said bitterly. “It was Courtney.”

He inhaled sharply. “Oh.”

“I felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water in my face. I told him it would have been a mistake and I left. God, Nikolas, how stupid can I be?”

“You’re not stupid, Elizabeth,” Nikolas said firmly. He took a deep breath. He could do this. “You’re in love. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.”

She was crying now, openly and hard. “I know, but why does it feel like I’m dying inside?”

“Because you’re in love and unfortunately real love is always going to hurt. That’s how you know it’s real.”

“So what am I supposed to do?” she asked softly.

“Wait out,” Nikolas advised. “Everything is weird right now. You just got married, and with the baby and Ricyou can’t deal with much more, Elizabeth. Just wait it out.”

“Nikolas, thanks—it means a lot that you were willing to listen about this,” she told him. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too.” Nikolas smiled suddenly. “Did you say you were having a girl?”

Elizabeth wiped her eyes. “Yeah. The doctor’s not positive but it looks that way. Why—why don’t we meet for lunch tomorrow? I’ll call Lucky and Emily. I’ll show you the ultrasound picture. It’ll be like old times.”

“Kelly’s, noon?” Nikolas suggested.

“Sounds perfect.” She managed a watery smile. “I’ll see you then.”

Jason was gone when Elizabeth went downstairs later. He left a hastily scribbled note on his desk for her. Elizabeth, had to go out on business. We need to talk.

She stared at it for a few moments, touched that he thought of leaving a note and then feeling stupid for feeling touched in the first place.

The door opened and she turned. “Sonny,” she said in a flat voice.

“Elizabeth—” Sonny hesitated. “Is Jason here?”

“You know he’s not here,” she remarked. She set the note back down and started digging through the drawer that Jason said she could put things in. She fished out her pregnancy journal and started flipping through it.

“You’re right,” Sonny replied. “I did know that. I need to speak with you.”

She arched an eyebrow. “What do you want this time Sonny? To marry Johnny for even extra protection?”

Sonny tried to smile but failed. “I know I’ve been asking for a lot—”

“I know, I know. You just want the baby to be safe,” Elizabeth muttered. She sighed. “And Sonny, I appreciate everything you’ve done. And what Jason’s done. It means a lot to me.”

“I’m glad,” Sonny said. “Because what I’m about to suggest could be the most important thing.”

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “What?” she asked.

“I want you to let Jason adopt the baby,” Sonny said without any other preamble.

She stared at him for a moment and started to laugh. “You’re crazy right? Because I know you did not just suggest I let Jason adopt another man’s baby? Do you even remember what losing Michael did to him?” she demanded harshly.

Sonny sighed. “I know. I know what this could cost him in the long run. But your child needs more protection than we can give.”

Her heart skipped a beat and she licked her lips. “What do you mean?” she asked fearfully. She took a step toward him. “Have you heard about Ric? Has he been in contact?”

“We’ve heard some rumblings,” Sonny said quietly. “From our side. Some of them aren’t thrilled with protecting Ric Lansing’s child.”

Her face paled. “What.what does that mean?”

“It means that they don’t see this as your child, they will see this is as his child. And they don’t want to chance the child growing into another Ric Lansing.”

“They don’t want to chance it?” she cried. “What the hell is that? I thought you said that by marrying Jason, we would be safe!”

“I know, I know.” Sonny ran his hands through his hair. “This is killing me, Elizabeth. I promised you that I would protect you.”

She forced herself to calm down and take a deep breath. “Okay, just give it to me straight. Worst-case scenario. If I don’t let Jason adopt her, what could happen?”

“They would see the child as a threat. Boy or girl.” Sonny squeezed his eyes shut. “And it will be dealt with like all threats.”

“They would kill my innocent little girl because her father happens to be a monster?” Elizabeth demanded.

Sonny exhaled slowly. “Yeah. They would.”

This entry is part 2 of 18 in the series All We Are

What happens when all your dreams are lying on the ground
Do you pick up the pieces all around
And if the world should fall apart hold on to what you know
Take your chances turn around and go

Chapter One, Lifehouse 

Greystone Manor: Living Room

Jason stepped into the room to find Sonny sipping a glass of water and perusing some paperwork on the sofa. His friend rose to his feet. “Hey. You didn’t sound good on the phone.”

Jason hesitated but nodded. “Yeah, a situation has come up. I-I think I know to handle it, but I’m going to need you.”

“Sure.” Sonny waved him forward. “What’s up? Did Elizabeth get those results back?”

He wished that were the only thing to worry about, but for the first time in several weeks, the possibility of becoming a father was much further down the list.

“Ah, not yet. Next Friday.” Jason waited. “Elizabeth was suspended from the hospital—the DA’s office has initiated an investigation into the theft of Oxycotin, and Lucky’s stash was traced back to the hospital.”

Sonny’s face tightened. “Little punk. How many times is he going to wreck her life before she gets it?” He shook his head. “I still remember having to hide her while they were faking her death.” He sighed. “So what’s the plan? We can find a dealer to blame it on—”

“I wish it were that simple.” Jason crossed the room just to have something to do. “Ric’s going after her. It’s personal to him, you know.”

“Talk about people wrecking your life,” Sonny muttered. “He does complicate it—” He paused. “But Ric wouldn’t put Elizabeth in jail. He’s threatening her. It’s for leverage.”

“Yeah. He’s empaneling a grand jury to investigate me, and he wants her to testify.”

Sonny lowered himself back to the sofa and rubbed his chin. “Well. That’s a different tactic.” He squinted. “What’s he looking to get out of it?”

“I don’t know.” Jason sat in the arm chair adjacent to the sofa. “But, Christ, Sonny, it could be any number of things. Just think of the things Elizabeth doesn’t even know that she knows. She helped me track down Manny Ruiz. She knows I’m the one who pushed him from the roof.”

“Not to mention the night Moreno was killed,” Sonny murmured. “Still an open case, you know. And she knows you were there. Maybe not the specifics but they could put it together with dates. Then she was kidnapped by Roscoe’s men. Was around during Luis, and then Lorenzo the next summer. I don’t know, Jason. It’s a lot of little things that could just put the nail in the coffin with whatever else Ric can dig up.”

“I told her to testify,” Jason said after a minute. He stared at his hands. “Ric is threatening her livelihood but he also went after Cameron. Said he’d try to get him moved to foster care once she was in jail.” His chest tightened. “Ric doesn’t even know she’s pregnant. If she were in jail—”

“It’s not even an option.” Sonny leaned forward. “Of course Elizabeth isn’t going to jail, but there are ways around this, Jason. I could set her up somewhere. Get her out of PC—”

“And she’d never be able to come back. She’d have to leave her family, her job, her friends.” He dipped his head. “I can’t—she’s pregnant, Sonny. The baby—”

“I see the problem. I don’t relish sending her away either.” Sonny leaned back. “But you’ve already thought of the second option, haven’t you? The one that keeps her close, but unable to testify.”

“She wanted to find another way,” Jason said. “She’d never go for disappearing. And…short of putting her through a trial and buying the jury in hopes to secure am acquittal, I don’t know if anything else could work.”

“With a history of miscarriage,” Sonny said slowly, “anything we can do to lessen pressure, keep her blood pressure down, is a good idea. She’s had, what, two?”

Jason raised his eyes. “Two? I just—the one with Ric, but—”

“I forgot.” Sonny sighed. “You were sick and lost your memory. She was going to be a surrogate for Courtney and Jax. Last year, about this time. She was in a car accident with Jax and lost the baby.” He exhaled slowly. “Not sure if it would affect future pregnancies, but I—”

“I—I didn’t know.” Restless, Jason pushed himself to his feet. “She works too hard, Sonny. I wish she’d let me take care of her.”

“Well, if she goes for your option, you’ll have your chance. Have you spoken to Diane?”

“Yeah. I just came from her office.” Jason sighed. “She says it’s tricky. Most judges won’t challenge spousal privilege because it’s problematic on the stand. Every question and answer has to be weighed to be sure it falls under the exception. It leads to mistrials, which costs money to deal with. So she thinks it’ll protect Elizabeth from subpoena.”

“Well, that’s good. Can we make these other charges go away? To ensure her safety? I’d hate for you guys to do this and find out while you’re protected, she’s still under fire.”

“Diane doesn’t think Ric’s serious about the charges.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “That he’s not interested in torturing Elizabeth if there’s nothing to be gained. To be sure, she’ll motion to keep him from any case dealing with me or Elizabeth.”

“And another prosecutor is less likely to see Elizabeth as good leverage. So Diane can protect Elizabeth, and marriage protects you.” Sonny nodded. “Seems like a win-win situation.”

“She could still get Elizabeth off on these charges,” Jason said. “I mean, Ric could be disqualified just because of his past relationship to Elizabeth.”

“But she could still be subpoenaed against you,” Sonny said. “Do you think Elizabeth would be happy about this? Ric is just using these charges to show Elizabeth he’s got the power. He doesn’t need them.”

“That’s the worst thing. He went after her because he could, because of my relationship to her.” Jason shook his head. “To punish her. How can I ask her to do this when I could protect her without it?”

“For the same reasons you’re not wild about sending her away. She’s likely having your child, and I’m sure she’d like you to be in the kid’s life.” Sonny hesitated. “Look, I get why it’s complicated. You’re still in love with Sam, she’s still married to Lucky. But you guys get along well enough—”

“Sam has nothing to do with this,” Jason said. “We’ve been…over for months.” And she’d slept with Ric. He had tried to forget it, tried to tell himself that it hadn’t technically been a betrayal.

But it had felt that way.

And there had been that night with Elizabeth.

“Okay,” Sonny drawled. “So what’s the problem? You know Elizabeth will agree if you lay it out for her like this. She’ll have security while she’s pregnant.” He waited a moment. “Or is it the idea of asking Elizabeth to marry you under these circumstances?”

“She’d have to get a divorce in the Dominican Republic and figure out how to get Lucky to sign the paperwork, or New York won’t recognize it which would invalidate the privilege.” Jason rubbed his eyes. “She’s had two bad marriages, and I’m supposed to ask her to marry me for my own protection? What does she get out of it?”

“For starters, a husband who won’t cheat on her, won’t hold her children over her head as leverage, won’t feed her birth control pills—Christ, Jason, you’re the better choice on every level. Those two idiots claimed to love her, but they sure as hell didn’t cherish her.” Sonny got to his feet. “Maybe you give Elizabeth the options. She can make her own choices, Jason.”

“Yeah.” Jason exhaled slowly. “You’re right.”

“Let me know how it works out. You’ll be in the DR, it’s just hop over to the island.” Sonny slapped him on the shoulder. “You should have the ceremony there. I can put something together, make it look good. For appearances.”

“I’ll let you know.” Jason sighed. “I’ll let Diane know she can draw up the paperwork. If Elizabeth agrees, then I want to put it in motion as soon as possible. She…has until Friday to make her decision or Ric will have her arrested.” He paused. “And she gets the paternity results back the same day.”

“It’ll be a big day,” Sonny said. “Go call Diane and see if you can rustle yourself up a bride.”

Patrick’s Apartment: Living Room

Elizabeth stepped hesitantly into Patrick’s living room, Robin’s phone and car keys in her hands. “Hey.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to see you.” Robin joined her and Patrick at the door. “I was so worried, Elizabeth—”

“It’s okay.” She set them on the desk. “I’m sorry. I just—”

“The charges are bullshit,” Patrick spat. “And I told Epiphany that. I’ll tell anyone who asks, and if I see that little piece of shit husband of yours, I’ll rip him apart.”

“With those precious hands?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes burning. God, what a good friend he’d turned out to be. “I’m touched.”

“I’d hire someone,” Patrick said. “But I’d take the first punch for satisfaction. Have you called a lawyer?”

“Is that why you wanted to talk to Jason?” Robin asked. “So he could get Diane for you?” But her eyes were confused.

“It’s more…complicated than that,” Elizabeth offered. “I wish I could tell you more. I know Jason will find a way to make this go away. I just want to do my job and raise my kids in peace.”

Robin nodded and put a hand on Patrick’s arm. “Well, I’m sure Jason will handle it—”

“Can I hire him?” Patrick asked. “Because that sounds like a terrific idea. Let’s do that. I think he’d pound Ric and Lucky into small little pieces—”

“We’re very blood thirsty tonight,” Robin cut in. “Liz, just remember—when you can tell me more, I’m here.” She bit her lip. “Or Emily—”

“Emily is Lucky’s best friend.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her waist. “And she encouraged me to give Lucky another chance, to wait until his rehab was done. So did my grandmother and Nikolas.” She closed her eyes. “I wish I hadn’t listened. If I had filed for divorce, if I had walked away from him, maybe it wouldn’t be believable that I stole those drugs. But I stayed. I kept my child in that home.”

“Elizabeth, this is going to work out,” Robin said. She elbowed Patrick in the rib. “Tell her.”

“It’s going to go away.  I don’t much like Jason Morgan, but if he’s half as loyal to you as you are to him, then it’ll be fine.” He pouted. “What is it with the women in this town and that man? I’m just as pretty.”

Elizabeth cracked her first smile in hours as she reached for the keys and phone Robin held out. “You’re downright adorable. In a brotherly fashion.”

“I blame you for this,” Patrick was telling Robin as Elizabeth headed down the hallway. “You’ve domesticated me and ruined me for all women.”

“Yeah, I don’t see the problem there.”

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Elizabeth’s Apartment: Living Room

Elizabeth set a blanket over Cameron’s napping body on the sofa and switched off the cartoons that had lulled him to sleep.  It was the first day in weeks she’d been able to devote completely to him, a realization which made her feel lower than an ant.

How was she going to take care of her little boy with no money? She’d lose the apartment for sure, and she did not want to move in with her grandmother. She’d probably feel pressured to stay with Lucky.

That was one thing that was going to change. If a divorce wasn’t part of Jason’s plan, she was going to add it. It wasn’t enough that Lucky had humiliated her, lied to her, cheated on her, but he’d continued to place Cameron in danger by leaving pills in the apartment.

And now he’d cost Elizabeth her job and possibly her freedom.

“It’s a hell of a way to smash a permanent lock,” she murmured as she rose from the sofa, her stomach twisting in knots. She rubbed her hand absently. “Please, Baby, be Jason’s. That’s the only thing that would make my life remotely easier.”

She hit play on her answering machine and listened to the messages she folded some clothes. One from Nikolas, concerned about news he’d heard from Emily. Emily had also called, hoping she wasn’t blaming this on Lucky. Her grandmother had called—

But black cell phone a man in a suit had delivered to her door the night before remained silent. If Jason had a plan, he was taking his sweet time.

And, God, didn’t it gall her to be so dependent on him? Why couldn’t she stand on her own two feet and make this go away? She could turn Mac’s daughter in—the affair and her volunteer work at the hospital would surely point the police towards her as the culprit.

But as much as she wanted to hate Maxie, she couldn’t.

She remembered what it was like to be young and desperately in love, then to have it shattered. If Maxie had had a Jason in her life, someone she could turn to keep her from trashing her life, the way Jason had stopped Elizabeth that night in Jake’s so long ago, would Maxie have turned to Lucky?

She knew what it was to be desperate, to want to keep someone’s love so badly you’d do anything. What had she done in the name of her love for Lucky? For Ric?

No, turning the attention to a desperately unhappy, barely legal adult wasn’t fair. Maxie didn’t deserve to pay for Lucky’s mistakes any more than Elizabeth did

So how else could she make this go away? How could she protect herself and her children without throwing Jason to the wolves? Lying in front of a grand jury seemed like the best bet, but that would just land her even more on Ric’s radar.

Maybe Jason’s idea would allow her to be more involved, to make an active choice to help rather than passively sitting back and hoping he could make it go away.

And since she was the weapon being used against him, it was fair Jason had a hand in making this go away, right? It didn’t make her weak, just smart.

“I’m using all my available resources,” she told the room. “Jason is a resource. He’s always been there for me. I didn’t do this. There’s no harm in making sure I don’t pay for it.”

Right. That sounded good.

The black cell phone vibrated suddenly, the force of it sending the device sliding across the coffee table. Elizabeth snatched it up. “Hello?”

“Elizabeth. I—I need to see you. Can we meet at Vista Point?”

Elizabeth chewed her lip. “I just put Cameron down for a nap. Let me see if Robin or Patrick can come watch him.” People who wouldn’t ask her questions. God, it was nice to have people to depend on for a change.

“Okay. I’ll be there in an hour.” He paused. “I have a way to make us both safe, I just…I need you to let me explain it.”

Well, that sounded odd and disturbing, but she swallowed. She trusted Jason. “All right, I’ll be there in an hour.”

She hit the end button and tapped the phone against her mouth. What if he was sending her away? To a jurisdiction where she couldn’t be extradited?

What if that was the only solution? Could she give up her family, her friends, her life here? Any hope of having Jason being in her child’s life?

“God, I hope that’s not the plan.” She reached for her own cell phone in order to dial Robin’s number, hoping she’d come through for her again.

Vista Point

Elizabeth pulled into a spot next to Jason’s bike. She could see him standing by the bench on the lower portion of the cliff, not looking at anything in particular.

He didn’t look like he was about to send her away forever, but hell, what would that even look like?

“Hey, Robin came through?” he asked as she approached.

“Sort of. She sent Patrick while she finished up at the hospital.” She pressed her purse strap higher on her shoulder. “I told him I was meeting with someone to make the charges go away, but he’s been talking to Robin enough to know something more is up.”

“If Robin trusts him, that’s good enough for me.”

She nodded and then folded her arms. “So…your plan?”

“Yeah.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Listen. I—we can do a couple of things, but not all of them are guaranteed to work the way we want it, too, okay?”

“Okay,” Elizabeth drawled. She sat on the bench—something told her she didn’t want to be standing for this. “One of them is sending me to some place they can’t find me and make me come back, right?”

He exhaled. “It’s…an option. I don’t like it for a lot of reasons.” Jason sat next to her. “I don’t…want to ask you to leave. I’d rather have you stay in Port Charles.”

Well, that was something. “Okay, so what are our other options?”

“I talked to Diane, and she thinks she can get Ric disqualified from any investigation involving you,” Jason told her. “And it’s unlikely another prosecutor would take up the case without the personal relationship.”

“Which fixes the problem of my charges, but not the one where I’m subpoenaed against you,” Elizabeth said. “So what’s the plan to keep me from testifying? Sending me away until the grand jury is dissolved?”

“It would be a short term thing.” Jason looked away. “But you’d be okay, Elizabeth. Diane can make the charges go away—”

“I already told you I’m not interested in any solution that doesn’t protect you, too,” she told him. “I’m glad Diane can help me, but I want to help you. I won’t let Ric use me as leverage.” She arched a brow. “So, what’s the rest of the plan?”

“This is where it gets…complicated.” Jason paused. “Spousal privilege.”

She blinked because she could not have heard those words correctly. No way in hell did Jason say a word whose root was spouse. Elizabeth cleared her throat. “You said…spousal privilege. L-Like Sonny and Carly? Or you and Brenda?”

“Yeah.” Jason clasped his hands together. “Diane told me that even though it’s technically for things said between spouses after the marriage, most judges and prosecutors aren’t willing to take the risk and contest it. Too easily thrown out and mistrials are common.”

“So this would keep me from testifying against you.” Elizabeth leaned back. She’d wanted an active role this plan, but this…

And really, knowing all the history involved, this should have occurred to her as an option.

“It would,” Jason told her. “But—I can’t ask you to do that.”

She closed her eyes. Of course not. She was insane. Jason was still in love with Sam.  He had already done this once, hadn’t he? Married to Brenda, involved with Courtney?

No. Not going to think about those days. Best left in the past.

“Why?” she asked flatly. “Am I suddenly less marriageable than I was two weeks ago when I told you about the baby?”

“What?” Jason leaned back, his eyes wide. “No. I mean, Elizabeth, you’d have to convince Lucky to give you a divorce in the Dominican Republic so we could get it done by next week. After how things turned out for you with Ric and Lucky, how can I ask you to get married again when it’s for my protection?”

Oh. What a sweet idiot he could be. “Jason, you signed a false statement to the police to keep me out of jail after the hotel fire, remember?” she said. “You could have done time for that. Are you the only one that gets to make sacrifices in order to protect people?”

He shook his head. “It’s not the same, Elizabeth. This—this is an open-ended solution and you’d have to be sure. I mean, we’d live together. You’d be in my life for at least a few years.” Jason cleared his throat. “A-And you said that night…it couldn’t work.”

Because she’d trying to beat him to the punch of establishing what had happened was a one-night stand, but hell if she was going to admit that. “I say a lot of things when I’m trying to protect myself,” she murmured. “Jason, maybe that’s what I said then, but you know it’s different now. I’m pregnant and there’s a very good chance you’re the father. What, you think I’d keep the baby from you?”

“No. I mean…” He exhaled in a quick rush of air. “I just want you have all the choices in front you.”

“So I can pick the one that asks the least of me?” Elizabeth demanded. “What kind of person would that make me if I took the easy path? The one where Diane makes it go away for me, but leaves you in Ric’s crosshairs?” She shook her head. “I’m not going to be the reason you go to jail—”

“My job is the reason I’d end up in prison,” Jason cut in. “It would never be your fault—”

“And you’ve done a great job of staying out of it on your own. Besides, if you weren’t doing this work, someone else would be.” Elizabeth rose to her feet and started to pace. After a moment, she turned back to him. “You’re doing a pretty thorough job of keeping me from agreeing, Jason. So why even bother bring it up if the thought is so distasteful?”

Slowly, Jason got up and approached her. “I don’t think that. I asked you weeks ago, remember? You said no then.”

Because she’d almost said yes and that had scared the bejesus out of her. “I—we don’t know if you’re the father of this baby.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ear. “You would have been stuck.”

“So you would have said yes if we knew the paternity for sure?” Jason asked, tilting his head.

That,” Elizabeth said carefully, “is not the issue here. The issue is that you’re very reluctant to take this step. Are you just…not thrilled with asking me for help? You’d prefer to fix this on your own, but you need me to make sure it works.”

“I—” He stopped. “I don’t want you to feel obligated. That’s why you’re stuck with Lucky, why you kept Ric around. You deserve better than that.”

“Funny, the last thing I feel is an obligation to keep you out of jail. It’s not a tit for tat thing. You’re not making my charges go away by doing anything nefarious.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “Ric wanted me to panic. Maybe he even wanted me to run to you. But he isn’t going to expect me to fight him. He’s trying to make me choose what’s more important to me—my freedom or yours.”

She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “I’m not interested in any solution where he gets what he wants. He should have thought of this—any lawyer worth their salt would file the motion Diane is planning to file. I’d have no incentive to tell the truth in front of the grand jury without these charges hanging over me.”

“The last thing I want is for you to lie—” Jason began.

“So that Ric can use what little he does know as a weapon?” Elizabeth challenged. “Think of the leading questions he could ask. He could put our history out there for strangers to know about, to dissect.  I don’t know what I might know about your business, but whatever I say could add to what he already knows.  So if we don’t do this, I promise you, Jason, I will protect you another way. Ric is not using me as a weapon.”

Jason sighed and looked away. “So either we stop you from testifying or you’ll commit perjury.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “I think I had this conversation with Carly once.”

“I’d be insulted you’re comparing me to her, but in this case, she had a point. Carly didn’t want to be the reason Sonny went to jail, especially since if I recall correctly, it was her fault he was in that particular mess to begin with.” Elizabeth huffed. “Now, are you going to marry me or not?”