August 26, 2015

So first things first: Chapter 28 of The Best Thing has been posted. It’s the first chapter in Part Four of the story, and it’s taking us closer to the end. I’m looking forward to putting this one in the done column.

Second, I’ve been toying with taking a small hiatus when classes begin next week. I think I’ve mentioned how insane my schedule is going to be when I’m in school, then I go back to work the week after, I’m going bridesmaid dress shopping because I’m maid of honor, I have nieces and a nephew to help with because my sister is also starting classes (we’re going to get our teaching license and need some education classes before we can student teach) — and sometimes I might want to just stare at the ceiling.

So I want to give myself a chance to get into that routine and find space for writing without worrying I’ll run out of chapters of The Best Thing or miss a deadline.

So The Best Thing is on hiatus for about two weeks. Damaged will only be one week, because I can finish next week’s episode before I start classes and then we’ll just be gone on September 10.

Damaged is on schedule to be posted this Thursday at 8 PM EST. I posted some preview dialogue snippets over at Damaged and updated the cast list with some guest appearances, so check it out.

Thanks guys!

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

Part Four: Salvation

Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are.
– Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother


Chapter Twenty-Eight
Cross your heart and say you’ve never given up
That you carried on when every door was shut
That you live, you live with no regret
We wear a smile to hide that we’ve been hurt before
Keep our disasters in a suitcase by the door
Cause you know, you know we’re only human

Broken Ones, Jacquie Mitchell


 Saturday, September 3, 2005

General Hospital: Emergency Room

 She looked so small, standing outside the hospital curtain in a pair of cotton shorts and t-shirt, a coat thrown hastily over her pajamas. Jason thanked the nurse who had helped him fill out the admission form before joining his fiancée.

“Did the doctor say anything yet?” he asked, putting an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. She leaned her head against his shoulders.

“She’s still in there—did you call Nora?”

“I did. She knows we’re not there.” Jason drew her away from the curtain, away from the jumble of voices and their medical jargon. “I called Steven. He’s on his way. And I called my sister.”

“No, Jason—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Emily’s working so much, and she’s pregnant—”

Jason nodded. “I know, but you know she’d be annoyed with you if you didn’t call her. She and Nikolas are on their way.”

“Why?” Elizabeth turned to him, her eyes red, exhausted, her cheeks stained with tears. “Because you think this is it? You think my grandmother is going to die tonight?”

“I—” Jason sighed. “I don’t know. I just—I just want to make sure you have everything you need. I’m sorry, maybe we should have waited for the doctor before I called Emily, but with the launch always taking so long—”

And the annoyance in her eyes died out, like an extinguished candle. “No, no. I know—I do. I want Emily here. I want her to tell me it’ll be okay, and Nikolas and Steven are friends. I want you all here—”

“Elizabeth—I came as soon as I got the call—” Bobbie touched her shoulder, stepping up to them. “Honey, do we know anything yet?”

“No, no, not yet.” Elizabeth turned from Jason’s embrace to hug her old friend. “Thank you for being here, Bobbie.”

“Of course.” Bobbie reached out to squeeze Jason’s hand. “We need to talk, Jason, when you have a moment.” She drew Elizabeth away for a moment. “Is Monica in with her?”

“I called her from the car, she got here at the same time we did,” Jason told her. “We’re just waiting to hear—”

There was an explosion of movement, of shouting just before the door to the emergency room swung open and a stretcher was rolled in, with several paramedics surrounding it—and behind them, Carly rushed in.

Jason blinked and then focused on the gurney. Sonny. Sonny had been shot. He had already taken a step towards the scene when Carly saw him and rushed over.

“You’re here already! Oh, you always come through!” She threw her arms around him and burst into tears. “I don’t know what happened. The police called me—they found Sonny in some dirty warehouse, someone called 911 but didn’t stick around—”

And then Carly drew away, tears glistening on her cheeks as she took in Elizabeth and Bobbie at his side. “Jase? What’s going on? Mama? Elizabeth?”

“My grandmother,” Elizabeth said faintly. “She’s…” She folded her arms across her chest and took a deep breath. “She’s in with the doctors.”

He should stay with her—he had a bad feeling about this, and he wanted to be with her when the worst happened.

But Sonny had been found in a warehouse, left alone. Not Johnny Zacchara. Had he escaped? Had Ruiz’s men deserted him there to die? Had they taken a body with them?

“You should check on Sonny,” Elizabeth said.

Her eyes were tired, her tone resigned. And when Jason looked at her, her expression was unreadable. As if this was merely the first in the long line of disappointments she could expect at his side. God, he hated himself for even considering leaving her with her grandmother on her deathbed.

“The doctors are with him—”

“Jason—” Carly protested.

“—so, I just need to call someone to—” Jason continued.

“But you’ll be thinking about it and worrying.” Elizabeth nodded to the doors of the emergency room. Steven was there, his hair disheveled. “Steven is here. Emily and Nikolas are on their way. I have Bobbie, your mother is taking care of her.” She attempted a smile but failed. “You have a job, Jason. I get it. Go take care of it. I’ll be fine.”

He hesitated, but now wasn’t the time for this conversation. He did have to take care of this, and it should be done personally, but it didn’t make it any easier.

This would be the last time she’d have to make this kind of sacrifice, Jason told himself as he offered a brief greeting to Steven before taking Carly’s arm and directing her away.

Elizabeth deserved better, and he was going to figure out how to give it to her. As soon as he could locate Johnny Zacchara, get Sonny the treatment he needed, he was going make some changes.

General Hospital: Emergency Room

 “Bits, where’s Jason going?”

Elizabeth sighed and turned to her brother. “Something came up at work and it can’t be put off.” She took his arm, winding her own through it. “It’s okay. I have you and Bobbie. Jason called Em and Nikolas—”

Steven looked as though he wanted to argue, but what was the point? Elizabeth had fallen in love with someone who could never make her his first priority one hundred percent of the time. She would have to make do with ninety percent.

And she would. This was a unique situation, she told herself, as she, Steven, and Bobbie sat in the hard plastic chairs of the waiting room, waiting desperately for some good news from Monica.

There would always be problems, always be rivals—she’d been around long enough to know that, but not like this. Not with Sonny putting them in danger, not with so much at stake. Maybe the next time, Jason would be able to delegate it. If he was in charge, he’d need someone to fill the position Jason had once held for Sonny.

It would be okay. They would get through this.

“Bobbie—” Elizabeth looked her suddenly. “You should be with Carly—I didn’t even think—”

“She has Jason,” Bobbie said. “I’m right where I need to be.” Her mouth was set in a thin line. “If I thought Jason would be here, I’d go with her. Elizabeth, I don’t understand—”

“But I do,” Elizabeth cut in gently. “And I don’t love it, but I made my choices. They’re hard, and right now, I hate them. But I made them. There are things only Jason can take care of.”

Steven grunted from her side, but there was nothing either them could say. It was bad timing that things with Sonny would blow up at the same time her grandmother had a health crisis, but this would pass.

Monica stepped out of the curtain, her expression grave. “Steven, Elizabeth.”

Oh, God. Oh, God.

Elizabeth rose, and Bobbie’s hand remained tight in hers as the older man also stood. “Monica—”

“I’m sorry…” Jason’s mother strode forward. “She’s not gone, but…”

“It won’t be long,” Steven said roughly. “A few hours?”

“Maybe.” Monica swiped at her eyes. “We’re moving her to a room and I promise you, we’ll make her as comfortable as possible.” She looked around, and probably wanted to ask about Jason, but mercifully, said nothing.

Elizabeth’s grandmother would be gone by morning, and the last thing she wanted to talk about was Jason.

“I should call Mom and Dad, Sarah.” Steven cleared his throat. “We won’t be able to see her right away, you know.”

“I’ll go to the house,” Bobbie offered. “Get you a change of clothes. Maybe pick up coffee on the way back?” She patted Elizabeth’s shoulder. “What do you think?”

“That sounds fine.” Elizabeth nodded. She sank back into a chair. “I’ll—I’ll wait here for Gram to be moved—”

Steven hesitated. “I can wait to call—”

“I’ll go in a bit,” Bobbie started, but Elizabeth waved them both off. She was fine. She was sad, of course, she told them, but they’d expected this, and Jason would be back in a few minutes.

They accepted her lies, and they both separated, leaving the ER through different doors, leaving Elizabeth alone in the plastic chair, twisting her engagement ring on her finger.

She loved him. She’d made the right choice, but she couldn’t stand it right now.

Emily strode into the ER then, Nikolas on her heels. And it was the concern, the worry in her best friend’s face that did it. Elizabeth took one look at her and crumpled into tears.

She could fall apart now, because Emily and Nikolas would understand. She didn’t need to be strong for them.

Warehouse: Jason’s Office

 Carly had been annoyed when Jason didn’t do more than make sure she had a guard before leaving the hospital. He wanted to put the things he needed to take care of in motion so he could get back to the hospital.

He didn’t think Audrey had a lot of time left, and he wanted to be with Elizabeth. He needed to be there for her, to make sure she understood that he would be there for her the way she’d supported him all these months. She wasn’t making a mistake to be with him and he wanted her to believe that.

“What do we know about the shooting?” Jason demanded. “Bernie?”

“911 call came in, reporting shots fired,” Bernie responded. “By the time paramedics arrived, Sonny was alone, but there were signs of a struggle. Our guy at the PCPD gave me the preliminary police report. A chair was broken, some rope, some cloth that may have been used as a gag—”

“He must have been keeping Junior there,” Max said. “As soon as the cops clear the area, we’ll start our own search. There was some blood on the floor, two casings — one went into Sonny, so maybe the other went wild or Junior was hit.”

“But no evidence that anyone was dragged or removed from the scene,” Bernie continued. “There was a bit of a blood trail leading out the back door, but the cops lost it. Someone walked out of there, bleeding. Maybe it was Junior.”

Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “Okay. Okay. Sonny is under wraps for the moment. I want a guard stationed at the hospital, but he’ll have an officer on the door so work around that.  I want to reach out to Ramon—ask what the hell Diego Lopez is doing in my territory without an invitation. We can afford to be confrontational now. We have to be. We have to make Ruiz the bad guy if Junior goes home to Anthony.”

“We have the girlfriend under surveillance, but there’s been no contact. If Junior’s hurt, he didn’t go to any of the area hospitals. He still might go to her. She’s a nurse. If we can intercept him there, maybe we can stop him from going to Anthony.” Max shifted. “Jason—”

Jason held up his hand. “Bernie, what’s the status on the new house? I want it up and running by the end of the week.” It would be unlikely they would be moving there any time soon with Audrey’s status, but he wanted it as a backup just in case.

“We’re finishing it up, it’ll be done.” Bernie exchanged a glance with Max. “Ah, Jase, Cody told us Mrs. Hardy is in the hospital—”

“I’m getting back there shortly. I had to deal with this.”  He took a deep breath. “Max, stay on the girlfriend and put men in the field to look at the route between the warehouse and the girlfriend’s. He’ll go there first—she hasn’t seen or heard from him in three weeks, we know it was relatively serious—he’d be an idiot not to check in with her first. Our best chance to hold off Anthony’s wrath is to intercept him there. Bernie, get a hold of Ramon, and get us answers on Diego. And I won’t be needing that meeting after all. I’m not traveling to Miami when Hector Ruiz disrespected me by sending his man into my town without a word. Make that clear.”

He tried to look for another angle—had he covered it all? Was there anything left? “Bernie, get Tommy on the phone with Stefano. Tell him we have a line on Junior’s status. We’re going to throw Ruiz under the bus. Make it look like a frame job. Make sure Zacchara thinks we’re doing all we can up here, but that Ruiz is the culprit. I don’t want him throwing any more support at Sonny.”

“Shouldn’t we wait until we actually know where Junior is?” Bernie asked. “It seems risky—”

“It’s preventative. We don’t know if we’ll be able to intercept the kid. I want Zacchara to know we’re on his side. We might make it through this unscathed if Junior gets home alive.”

“Jason,” Max said. “Johnny and I got this. We can make the necessary moves.”  Jason just looked at him. “We’ve been talking about it—you need some guys to step up. Be your lieutenants. To delegate to. We know your big picture. We can take care of the details. You should be with Elizabeth.”

“That’s right,” Bernie told Jason. “Cody is taking point on security. The kids are safe at the house, Carly’s boys are secure at the Brownstone. We know the priorities. You can trust us.”

“Call me if you find the kid or when Ramon gets back to us about Lopez.” Jason tucked his cell phone in the pocket of his jeans. “I’ll be at the hospital.”

General Hospital: Audrey’s Room

 It was unlikely, Monica had told them, that Audrey would regain consciousness—she wasn’t receiving enough oxygen from her lungs due to the heart problems. Audrey had requested that no measures be taken at this point—no machines to breathe for her—they would never be able to turn them off.

So Audrey would slip away from them at some point, and all they could do was wait.

It had been an hour since Jason had left when Steven roused himself to look at his quiet sister. Emily and Nikolas were outside with Bobbie and Monica. Nikolas had taken on the responsibility of transporting the Hardy-Webber clan from their various points around the planet—if they could get away, Nikolas would make sure they got here.

Only family was allowed to visit in the ICU, and truthfully, Steven wanted a moment alone with his sister.

“You know that I like Jason,” Steven said, breaking the silence. Elizabeth just looked at him before looking at her grandmother. “I do, Bits. I know how happy you’ve been, and how much he loves you. I can see that. I just—” He dipped his head. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right.”

“I wish he were here,” Elizabeth murmured, “but if I dwell on it, I’ll start to resent him for things I know he can’t change. Things I told him I could handle. And I can. Jason has been honest with me about the problems he’s having. It’s not his fault Gram’s health suffered at the same time.”

“But—”

“It would be different if Sonny weren’t ill.” She shot him a dark glance. “And I’m not talking about tonight. I’m talking about his mental health. He’s dangerously unstable, and the problem has just gotten worse this last month. It’s not Jason’s fault, and I’m not going to hold it against him. He can’t be everything to everyone, and I won’t be one more person making demands on him—”

“You’re not one more person—” Steven huffed. “You’re his fiancée. He wants you to marry him—”

“I love you, Steven, I do, but you don’t know what Jason and I have been through these last few years. I hate that he’s not here, okay? I hate it. But I know he hates it, too. And I know he’s doing everything he can to be back here. What do you want me to do? Tell him it’s over because he’s not here? I love him. I know what he’s going through. His life is falling apart, too, Steven. I’m not going to make him feel bad about how he has to handle it.”

Steven sighed. “All right. All right, you’re right. You know your situation. I just—” He shook his head. “I’ve never been there for you the way I should have. I just kept my head down when Mom and Dad harped on you about your grades, about your behavior. I headed out when I went to college, and I never came home. We weren’t as close as we should have been. I wasn’t here for Lucky, for Ric. For the things you’ve been through.”

“I never held it against you,” she said dully. “We do what we have to do. And you’ve been great this last year. I know you love me, that you want the best for me.” She shifted in her chair. “I know what I’m doing, Steven. Jason may not be the choice you would make, that Mom or Dad, or even Gram would make for me, but he’s my choice and I know he’s the right one. I love him.”

“Okay.” And Steven let the conversation drop. There was no point in harping on it, because there was no right answer. Not everything in life was black and white. And while a mobster had never his dream for his baby sister, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried guys who’d walked the straight and narrow. Lucky had been a disaster and Ric—Ric had damaged her self-esteem, her dignity, her soul.

He’d never particularly enjoy having a criminal in the family, but if he treated Elizabeth right, well, Steven could overlook it.

Twenty minutes later, Jason slipped into the room to sit next to Elizabeth. Steven saw the tension in her expression ease—she hadn’t expected him back so fast, or maybe at all. But there he was, holding her hand.

Another hour passed in silence—Bobbie and Emily came in to change out the coffee, to press some food on all of them. Monica said Audrey’s situation hadn’t changed—it wouldn’t be long now, and Nikolas reported that the Webbers were prepared to leave Africa for a few days, that Sarah would be able to fly out for a memorial service if they held it on Tuesday or Wednesday. Uncle Tom would fly in from Georgia, and TJ would be in from Washington.

Just before dawn, Audrey March Hardy drew in her last breath.

Elizabeth rose, her face as pale as chalk, and reached for her grandmother’s limp hand. She pressed a kiss to it before pressing it against her heart. “Be at peace, Gram, and be with Gramps. He’s been waiting for you—and I know he’ll take care of you.” She turned into Jason’s embrace, and started to cry.

Nadine’s Apartment: Living Room

 Nadine set her cell phone down for the seventh time. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and had barely been able to draw in a decent breath since the news had broken the night before.

Sonny Corinthos had been shot and taken to the hospital. The news reported that sources in the PCPD said it had been a struggle, and that another man was believed to have been shot but was currently on the run.

And while Nadine had no reason to believe it, she knew in her heart that Sonny Corinthos had taken Johnny all those weeks ago—and that he’d been the other man.

He’d been shot and he’d disappeared.

What if he’d fallen into the lake? What if he passed out? What if he had died? Oh, God, would anyone even bother to come tell her? Would she never know?

She should call Johnny’s father. He would know. He could tell her. She could trust him now. Johnny told her that if anything happened to him, if Nadine knew for certain, then she should call Anthony Zacchara. Anthony was ruthless, but he would protect her.

But maybe she could try Jason Morgan. She’d read the papers—she knew the gossip. Jason had taken over for Sonny, though no one could say how they knew it. Maybe Jason could tell her where Johnny was.

Her cell lit up with an unidentified number, but she scrambled to answer it. “Hello?”

“Nadine?”

Oh, God. His voice. “Johnny, thank God, thank God. Where are you? I’ll come to you. I’m so glad you’re okay, I was scared, I didn’t call your father, but I was going to, but I just didn’t know if I should—where are you?”

And like always, Johnny patiently waited out her rambles. “I’m at a payphone near Van Ness and Courtland. I need—” He coughed. “I need you to come get me. I was afraid to show up at your place, I thought they’d be watching, but maybe you could come here and I could sneak in your car.”

“We’ll make it work. I’m coming to get you. Stay right there.”

She hung up the phone and burst into tears. He was okay. She could do anything now she knew he was okay.

Nadine wiped at her eyes after a moment and reached for her keys. She had a rescue operation to put into action.

August 22, 2015

So it’s been about six or seven weeks since the last update. I wanted to give you guys some concept of how we’re going to go forward into the fall since I’ll be juggling five classes and a part-time work schedule (and baby-sitting nieces and nephews!)

Site Features

1. I want to add a new sort feature that will give better ideas on length. If you want a full-length novel (more than 50,000 words), you’ll be able to find that. If you want something shorter, you can go to novellas, which will range from 15,000 to 50,000 words. Everything else will be in that short story, ficlet range where it already exists.

I had contemplated reoganizing the site and moving stories around to reflect this change. For example, a story like Spinning On An Axis which has always been located in the Alternate History section would move to the novellas area, because it’s about 32,000 words long. But instead, I’ll just tag it with the word “novella” the way I would tag it with a character or couple featured, so if you wanted something that was mid-sized, you could get it.

Adding this feature may seem like a waste of time, but sometimes the chapter length doesn’t give you an accurate idea of how long something is. For example, Spinning is 15 chapters long. Shadows is only three parts, but it’s 20,000 words. You’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

2. On the subject of adding more usefulness to the sort features, I want to start working on adding summaries to the Sort By Title page. I think that this is probably the most visited page in that section, and while I do list where the story is located, it still doesn’t give you enough information to decide whether you want to read it. This is going to be kind of time-consuming, so I’ll be working on it on and off in a separate file. There are around 100 stories listed on the site at the moment.

3. I need to be better with ebook releases. I still haven’t added All We Are, even though the ebook for that is finished. It needs to be converted into two other formats. But I’ve been meaning to set aside one day a month to do ebooks so I can do a new release every month. I hope to fix that going forward, but we’ll see.

Those are the major site changes I’m planning. They go along with the normal stuff — I’m working on a fall layout, but it’s taking longer than I expected since I’m rewriting the WordPress theme code to better reflect everything I’ve learned.

Story Status

The Best Thing – So I’ve finished writing through Chapter 30. I’ve planned and storyboarded through Chapter 35, which with the addition of an epilogue, will complete the story. I’ve tentatively scheduled myself to finish the last five chapters this weekend and part of next week, but definitely by September 1. I’ll continue posting once week to give me a finish date (projected) of October 10.

Damaged – I have done a ton of work on this story this last week and have planned the major storylines through the end of Season 2 and Season 3, with some tentative work on Season 4. At the moment, there’s no plans to go beyond Season 4. I may do a wrap up Season 5 depending on how things unfold as I continue writing.

If everything continues to go to plan, Season 2 will finish on October 8. I’m not positive about when Season 3 will premiere. I took a month off between seasons last time, but it wasn’t enough time, to be honest. I’m thinking a premiere date of December 1 would be the best bet, but it might move up depending on how things move along.

For example, I’ll be finishing The Best Thing by September 1, so while I’ll be working on the next story, I might take the opportunity to write two episodes of Damaged a week. If I can finish writing the season sooner than October 8, I’d feel more comfortable bringing it back in early November.

I can’t make any promises since I don’t know how heavy my schedule will be.

Bittersweet – Because I’ve been concentrating on completing The Best Thing by September 1 and Damaged Season 2 by September 15, I’ve pushed Bittersweet to the back burner a bit. It’s the still the next story I’m working on, but I’m glad I decided not to start posting it this week. I’ms still looking at a mid-September, early October launch. I should know by the time I finish writing The Best Thing.

Other Stories

Up Next: Burn in Heaven, Mad World, and Feels Like Home are all on the roster to be written next. I know I’ve been saying this for a year, haha, but as I remarked before, I’ve been burnt out on writing Liason 2004-08 just due to the elements that have to be dealt with. I have no problem writing Sam and Courtney, I’m just tired of writing the baggage, and all three of these stories incorporate it to a certain extent. So I’ll be taing a break to work on Bittersweet, then coming back to these three projects.

These Small Hours – This story is still on my radar, make no mistakes about it. I’m eager to get back into it, but the outline is coming out right because it’s more ensemble than I had anticipated in the initial outlines. It was originally going to be straight Johnny and Nadine with Jason and Elizabeth as supporting characters, but I underestimated how much I would have to deal with Sonny and Kate, and when you deal with them, you have to deal with Jason and Elizabeth more.

So I’m trying to shift it so that it’s written more like The Best Thing, only in reverse with Jason and Elizabeth as the semi-main characters but it being Johnny and Nadine’s story. TBT has Jason and Elizabeth as the main characters with Sonny/Carly and Nikolas/Emily, with some Steven thrown in for good measure. Like Sonny and Carly, the Liason subplot will be fully fleshed out, but won’t steal the focus. That’s if I can make the outline behave.

Counting Stars – I’ve been tempted to sit down and just write this story because it’ll be less than a full novella. It’s kind of like All We Are with an even more narrow focus and less twists and turns. I could probably write it in about a week if I had no other distracts, and doing that and posting it would give me more space to work on more intensive story.

Any other stories not mentioned remain on the drawing board. 🙂

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series The Best Thing: Mercy

If terror falls upon your bed
And sleep no longer comes
Remember all the words I said
Be still, be still, and know

Be Still, The Fray


Friday, September 2, 2005

Hardy Home: Living Room

 “Do you need another pillow, Gram?” Elizabeth asked as she set a cup of tea on the table next to her grandmother.

“I’m fine, darling.” Audrey pressed a hand on her granddaughter’s arm. “Sit with me for a moment.” Elizabeth bit her lip, but settled herself gingerly on the sofa next to her.

She was so tired these days and nearly ready for the end—but every morning she woke, it was a blessing. Audrey was prepared to go, but her heart broke knowing the turmoil she would leave her beloved grandchildren with.

“I always wanted a daughter,” Audrey said softly. Her hands felt thin, even cold, as she took Elizabeth’s much warmer ones within her own. “Did I tell you that?”

“No.” Elizabeth smiled at her. “Though I guess I thought you and Gramps might have wanted more children.”

“Ah, well, we were blessed in you, in Sarah, Steven…” She bit her lip. “And for a while, TJ, though once Tom and Simone divorced, we never did see as much as him as we’d liked. Maybe I ought to have fussed more, but it wasn’t—” Audrey blinked now, the tears stinging for the lost years with her only son, with the only continuation of her own blood line.

But here, in her beloved Elizabeth and Steven, here was the real Hardy lineage. Oh, how proud Steve would have been of these two. “When you and Sarah came to live here, I know it was rocky. And I know we did not always see eye to eye.”

“I didn’t make it easy,” Elizabeth said with a quick smile. “I was a terror, Gram—”

And how like her granddaughter to take the blame, as if Audrey hadn’t had a hand in any of it. She should have insisted Jeff and Andrea send her both girls, instead of only the one. Elizabeth had felt unwanted, unloved left in Colorado. And she’d always been compared to Sarah, always found wanting.

“You were a teenager, my love.” Audrey smiled at her. “I like to think we muddled through it the best we could. I made so many mistakes, I said so many things—I would do anything to take them back—”

“Gram, no…” Elizabeth squeezed her grandmother’s hands. “No, no. Listen, I am who I am today because of the choices I made, because of the people I had in my life. I like who I am now. I have my little boy, I have Evie, and Jason. I love my family, I wouldn’t be here without my choices. And you…” A tear slid down her cheek. “You challenged me to always be better—”

What a kind way to say Audrey had always stood in judgment, in moral superiority—as if Audrey herself had never made a single mistake. “I love Steven and Sarah, but you…” she managed to reach a hand out and cup Elizabeth’s chin. “You are more than just my granddaughter. I am humbled by the courage you’ve shown in your life. So many times, my dear, you have been knocked down, you’ve stumbled—but you’ve never let it get the best of you.”

“Gram—”

“Your grandfather adored you, you know that?” Audrey said. “He always said you would prove all the naysayers wrong. Audrey, he would tell me, the boy is wrong for being upset at our Lizzie’s science grades. She’s a dreamer, not a doctor. We need more dreamers.”

“I never—” Elizabeth’s voice shook. “I never knew that.”

“Oh, yes. He knew Steven and Sarah would go on to be doctors—and he loved them for it, but he said the world needed more dreamers. Doctors—they heal wounds, but dreamers—they heal the mind. He loved your scribbles, your doodles.” She paused, taking as deep a breath as she could manage. “When I saw your beautiful work in New York, I knew your grandfather was with me. Do you know what he would have said if he were there?”

“What?” Elizabeth asked.

“Audrey, see? I was right. Our little Lizzie’s a dreamer with a beautiful view of the world. I have to see people as they are so I can fix them, but my Lizzie, oh, she sees them as they could be. The potential in them. She’ll make the world a better place.”

“I wish he’d been there.” Another tear slid down her granddaughter’s cheeks. Then another. “When he died, I wanted to die with him, Gram. I used to think I was a changeling, you know? Switched at birth, but Gramps always made me feel like I belonged. Like it was okay to be me.”

“I know.” Audrey let her hand fall back to her lap, exhausted by the effort. “I failed in that—” When Elizabeth shook her head, “I did, Elizabeth. Don’t let me off the hook. I judged you. I tried to force you into a mold. I—I tried to make you feel ashamed of who you were, of who you loved.”

“You were trying to protect me—”

“I know things are difficult for you right now. For Jason. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I see the guards. I see the tension, you can feel it when Jason comes home. And you’re not living here just to be with me.”

“Gram—”

“When everything feels as though it’s falling apart,” Audrey told her, “that’s when it’s most important to hold on to each other. I want to be here for you, for Steven. I want to see Cam and Evie grow up, I want to see my Steven humbled by love. I want to be there when you get married—” Her chest tightened. “But I won’t. Not in body. I know I don’t have much time left, my love—”

“Gram—”

“But I will always be with you,” she continued over Elizabeth’s protests. “Just as your grandfather is always with you. You have his eyes, his kindness. His strength. And I like to think you have my stubborn nature, my determination to show the world it couldn’t break me. It never did, and it will not break you.” She pressed a hand to Elizabeth’s cheek. “I believe in you, my dreamer, my Elizabeth. And if you hold on to your children, to Jason, to your family, you will make it through anything.”

“I love you so much, Gram.” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “And I am so grateful I broke the rules and came here. I could not imagine my life anywhere else, with anyone else. And I want to be you when I grow up.”

“Darling…” Audrey smiled, but did not continue. Elizabeth was already better than Audrey had ever hoped to be. She patted Elizabeth’s cheek once more. “Shall we turn on the soaps? I’m curious to see what Erica Kane is up to today.”

Warehouse: Jason’s Office

 Jason put his head in his hands and drew in a deep breath. “Hector Ruiz.”

“I’m sorry, Jason.” Bernie shifted in his chair and glanced at Max. “But he put his top lieutenant on a flight to Port Charles two weeks ago. Stan found the flight records. I put Johnny on tracking him, but for now, we know Diego Lopez is here, under the radar and has been since Sonny dismissed Tommy’s crew.”

He hadn’t quite proved that Sonny was working with the Ruiz organization, but the evidence was certainly damning. And the only thing that would make this situation worse would be discovering Johnny Zacchara’s body.

A fight on two fronts with Ruiz and Zacchara. The nightmare scenario he’d been trying to avoid.

“Max—”

“Carly sent the boys to stay with Bobbie yesterday,” the former guard interrupted. “I don’t know why—Rocco and Vinnie are at the Brownstone, I talked to them, but all they know is there was some sort of argument, some sort of blow up, and Carly packed the boys off.”

Jason raised his head and frowned. “What about Carly? Did she leave, too?” Could she finally be coming around?

“No, she stayed. I don’t know that Bobbie even got an explanation,” Max continued. “I talked to her, though, and strengthened security. We’re upgrading her alarm system, checked over the exits, but the place is a nightmare. She still rents out the top floors, and there’s those tenants.”

“Do what you can for now.” Jason rubbed his eyes. At least Michael and Morgan were temporarily out of the line of fire. Maybe Courtney had made some progress since her visit two weeks ago.

Nothing else good had happened since Jason had assumed full control a week ago. Max and his crew were tearing apart the city looking for Johnny Zacchara, Tommy was trying to stall Stefano as Junior’s absence was starting to become more concerning for his father, Johnny was attempting to run business as usual and rebuild the warehouse—

And Sonny had gone radio silent. Jason no longer tried to contact his former partner, and Sonny had not sought him out.

“The girlfriend?” Max said. “She’s acting off. We don’t know much about her, but Stan pulled her personnel file from the hospital. She used to have relatively good reports—well-liked, efficient, but Nadine Crowell now has several reprimands. Being late, being distracted—she’s on thin ice. And all the bad reports start around Junior’s disappearance. She hasn’t gone to the police or Anthony, though.”

“Junior must have warned her about going to him for help,” Bernie said. “Jason—”

“He’s been missing now for nearly three weeks,” Jason interrupted. “We have to start figuring out what we do next. I can’t—” He exhaled. “I can’t keep putting my head in the sand and pretending we’ll magically find the kid alive. At this point, if Junior survives, he has a legitimate grudge against the organization. He’d have every right to go to his father and demand retribution.”

“If we could nab him first—” Max started.

“It doesn’t matter. We have to cut Sonny off at the knees. He’s using Hector Ruiz to go after the Zaccharas. Maybe there’s something there.” Jason hesitated. “If we were the ones to go to Zacchara—”

“That is fucking suicide,” Max cut in, sharply. He rose to his feet. “No way in hell, Jason. We can’t tell Anthony Zacchara that Sonny snatched his kid three weeks ago—he’ll take it out on us just to be contrary—”

“Maybe not,” Bernie interjected. “Trevor Lansing has a lot of influence with Anthony, and we all know he hates Sonny. We could turn that to our advantage, don’t you think?”

“Maybe we leave Anthony out of it,” Jason said. “I could take a meeting with Hector and make it clear that I’m willing to go to Anthony. If Hector thinks Anthony will come for him—and he will—he might give up Diego Lopez’s location to save his skin. We’re in contact with the Zaccharas. We know Hector’s involved.”

“He could call your bluff, go to Anthony himself, and blame it on you,” Bernie told him. “There’s a lot of ways this could go wrong, Jason—”

“Can we keep sitting around? We’ve tried everything else. I’ve tried to reason with Sonny, we’ve tried tailing him, we’ve torn the city apart to look for the kid—” Jason shook his head. “I don’t see any other options. I have to go to Anthony or Hector.  If I go to Hector, I have a prayer to get Junior home alive.”

“And it’s his sons that are the animals,” Max reminded the business manager. “We should thank our lucky fucking stars Javier and Manny aren’t on the ground up here. Hector can still be reasoned with to a certain extent. It’s worth a try, Jason.”

“I’ll call Ramon and request a meeting.” Bernie stood. “Ah, should I ask Hector to come to Port Charles or will you make the trip to Miami?”

Jason hesitated. He couldn’t go to Miami. Not now. Audrey could go any moment and he would never forgive himself if he were away—

But asking Hector Ruiz to come to him was a sign of disrespect. If Jason was requesting the meeting, it was customary for him to go to the other party. It was just how things were done.

“Two more days,” Max said, almost kindly. “Give me two more days to find Junior. You should talk this over with Elizabeth. You know if you take this meeting, you have to go to him. And you know she’ll understand.”

“She shouldn’t have to,” Jason muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. But Max was right. Elizabeth would see the bigger picture—he’d be gone half a day at most. “Monday morning, if nothing has changed, we’ll call Ramon and set up the meeting.” He rose to his feet. “But I’m done sitting around. If Hector sent Diego, he might send one of the boys next. And if you think a turf war with Anthony Zacchara is a nightmare, toss in the Ruiz boys—”

Bernie visibly shuddered. “I’ll throw myself into the lake,” he muttered. “Save them the trouble.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

“Carly, I want you to come to the Brownstone with me.”

Her mother sat across from her, concern practically oozing from every pore, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

“I can’t.” Carly stirred her ice tea idly. “But thank you for taking the boys, I hope it’s just temporary—”

“Carly…” Bobbie leaned forward, pushing her untouched bowl of chili to the side. “Courtney and I are very worried. I haven’t seen Sonny, but Courtney has and she was almost…I’d say she was terrified. For you, the boys, for Jason and Elizabeth—”

“She’s overreacting.”

She wasn’t, but Carly wasn’t going to admit that. How could she admit she’d gotten it all so very wrong? She’d thought by showing Sonny she could be trusted—that she didn’t believe he was crazy, he would come back to her.

She’d shown him the pamphlets Elizabeth had given her, proclaiming her belief that whatever Sonny’s doctor had told him must be correct. After all, he was the one with the degree—the one Sonny had actually spoken with. Elizabeth Webber was nothing more a waif with an overactive imagination. What the hell did she know about someone’s mind?

But his reaction had chilled her to the bone. He’d grabbed her, shook her, demanding to know where she’d gotten these pamphlets.

“Did Jason give them to you? Did he? That son of a bitch—I made him!”

 Carly shook her head, frantically, trying to get away from him. “No, no, Jason wouldn’t—Sonny, you’re hurting me—”

 “He thinks he’s got the power? He thinks he can beat me? I’ll destroy him—”

And then he’d tossed Carly aside, like a rag doll. She’d hit the mini bar on her way to the floor as Sonny stormed out of the room. Glass had shattered, and she had several cuts.

She should have called Jason then. She knew that. She should have believed Elizabeth.  But instead, Carly had stood up, grateful the boys were out with Courtney for the day. She had cleaned her cuts, swept up the glass, and calmly packed a bag for all of them.

It had been her intention to go, to leave, but Sonny had seen her leaving. And he’d told her what he would do to her if she walked away from him.

“No one takes my boys.” He twisted her arm, the already sore muscles protesting. “You think you can take what’s mine? You’re mine, they’re mine. No one leaves.”

So she’d stayed. She’d given the bags to Vinnie, told Courtney to take the boys to the Brownstone, and she’d stayed.

For now, Sonny believed they were visiting for a few days—it was closer to Michael’s summer camp, Carly had told him when he’d finally realized two days later the boys were gone. And Lucas was away at soccer camp in Vermont—her mother was so lonely.

And Sonny had agreed with a smile. He’d asked what’d happened to the minibar—because he didn’t remember their argument. Didn’t remember the bruises, the way he’d hurt her.

He’d apologized for how difficult things had been lately. His problems with Jason had spilled over, but he wanted to do better. He’d told her about his depression then, as if they’d never spoken of it before.

Now Carly honestly didn’t know what to do. How could she leave him when he was so desperately ill? How could she keep clinging to the belief that if only Jason hadn’t kept Evie, none of this would be happening?

Sonny needed her. He deserved someone who loved him to stick by him, not like Jason and Courtney who just wanted to put him away, to medicate him. To take away everything he loved.

“Carly?” Bobbie said. “Are you listening to me?”

“Yes.” Carly set her spoon down. “I am. I know Sonny is ill. And I know Courtney is concerned. I’m dealing with it.” She rubbed her arm, where a large dark purple bruise lay beneath the long sleeves. “He needs to adjust his treatment, but it’s hard to bring that up when he’s having problems with Jason. I’m not stupid, Mama. The boys are better off with you for now, and Evie is better off with Jason at the moment. Sonny is…”

Out of control. Beyond her ability to help. Oh, God, how did she get herself into this? How could she make it go away? Would he hurt her again?

How could she leave him? He’d be alone. He hated being alone.

“Sonny isn’t himself,” Carly said finally. “If I could make his problems with Jason better, I think it would help.”

“Carly, I’m not sure you can help Sonny right now. Please—”

“The boys don’t need to see his mood swings,” Carly interrupted. “They’ll just be upset, and I don’t want that for them. I can deal with it.”

Tell me I’m wrong, Mama. Make me stop. Force me to come with you. Oh, God. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t know what to do.

“My home is always open to you, Carly,” Bobbie told her. “But maybe you’re right. And Jason and Sonny will come around—they always do.”

Yes. Yes. She could cling to that. Jason and Sonny had always muddled through their problems, had always fixed what was wrong. She just had to hold strong, keep Sonny from falling completely over the edge until Jason fixed things. He always fixed things.

She could depend on Jason. He had never let her down.

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

 Nadine hesitated in front of the nurse’s station, studying the brunette intern scowling at the back of Dr. Patrick Drake’s head as the resident waited for the elevator.

It had been three weeks since Johnny had left her apartment, since he had called. Since his phone had gone dead. She hadn’t contacted the police, hadn’t called his family.

She didn’t know what was going on, but the last thing she wanted to do was make the situation worse. And if something had happened to Johnny, calling his father would make everything worse. She knew that.

And yet, it had been three weeks. Someone had to do something.

Nadine stepped up to the counter. “Emily, can I ask you a question?”

Emily glanced up. “Hey, Nadine. What’s up?”

“Um…” She shifted. “Your brother is Jason Morgan, isn’t he?”

“Yeah.” Emily set her pen down, her dark eyes concerned. “Nadine, is something wrong?  You’ve been so distracted lately—”

“I know.” Nadine looked away and saw Epiphany Johnson, the charge nurse, eying her with the usual stink eye. “Listen, if I—if I needed to talk to your brother about something, I could—I could trust him, couldn’t I?”

And it was to Emily’s credit that she didn’t ask why someone who had never spoken to her brother and wasn’t particularly close to Emily, was asking this question. She nodded. “Jason is the best person I know, and he’ll be there to help you. If you needed to talk to him.” She reached across the counter to place her hand over Nadine’s. “Call me, Nadine. And I’ll make sure you get in to see him, okay?”

“Thanks. I need to go before Epiphany throws me out the window.”

Hardy Home: Elizabeth’s Bedroom

 Elizabeth set aside her sketchbook when Jason opened the door. “You’re later than you thought you’d be,” she murmured as she sat up in bed. He sighed and sat on the chair to pull off his shoes.

“I…” He hesitated. “I have to talk to you about something.”

“That sounds ominous.” She pushed aside the thin blanket and rose from the bed. “What’s up? Did something happen?”

“It’s more what didn’t happen.” He pulled a pair of sweat pants from a dresser drawer and set them on top of the dresser. “I know we haven’t talked much about what’s been going on—not since we moved in. It’s not because I’m keeping things from you—” Jason turned. “It’s just—there’s no change.”

“I don’t need an itinerary of your day, Jason.” Elizabeth folded her arms across her chest. “I just need the big picture details. Don’t apologize, just tell me what’s going on.”

“Sonny—” He exhaled. Jason briefly explained Sonny’s involvement with the Ruiz organization and their plan to cut off a turf war. Elizabeth listened closely, but didn’t really see what it had to do with her.

“It sounds like your best bet, I don’t know what—” She hesitated. “Ruiz. That’s the one in Miami.” Elizabeth swallowed. “You’d have to meet him down there. That’s the way these things work.”

I’m the one asking for the meeting. If it were Tagliatti or Vega, I might be able to make them understand I don’t want to be away right now. Not even half a day.” Jason waited a moment. “But Ruiz is different. I have to be careful with him—”

“When do you leave?” Elizabeth murmured. “How soon?”

“I don’t want to go,” Jason told her. “Max is taking the weekend—one last effort to find Junior. If I could be assured I don’t have to deal with Zacchara—” He dipped his head. “But Bernie’s going to contact our guy in Miami on Monday morning, so maybe that afternoon. Tuesday, I don’t know yet.” He looked at her. “Elizabeth, if there was another way—”

“But there’s not.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. Resentment was wasted here. She’d walked into this with her eyes wide open and Jason had been brutally honest with her. He was in charge now, he couldn’t delegate this. She understood.

“Elizabeth—”

“What matters to me most of all,” Elizabeth cut in, “is that everyone stays safe. And if you have to go to Miami to make that happen, Jason, then you’ll have to do it.” She nodded. “It’s okay. Thank you for—thank you for waiting. I know you could have done it this weekend and called me from the plane—”

“I wouldn’t have—”

“But you didn’t.” He’d made her part of it, taken the time and effort to keep her in the loop. This wasn’t like last time. It was crappy timing, but it had to be done. “Jason, I understand, and I’m okay with it. It doesn’t make me the happiest woman in the world, but I love you, and this is just something that has to happen.” She took a deep breath. “I have Emily, Steven, and Nikolas. And Monica and Bobbie, if I need it.” She offered a hesitant smile. “Maybe—maybe I won’t need it.”

“Maybe.” He touched her shoulder, sliding his hand down to her elbow. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” But when he reached for her, she drew back slightly. “I just want to check on my grandmother before we go to bed, okay?”

She didn’t wait for his response, but instead, left the room and went down the hall to the room where her grandmother slept. She was okay. She could handle this. She didn’t have to like it, but she could handle it.

Elizabeth pushed her grandmother’s door open and stepped over the threshold. “Gram? What’s wrong?”

Audrey was sitting up in bed, her hand pressed to her chest. “I—I can’t—catch—” Her face was red, her shoulders rising rapidly. “Eliz—”

“Don’t talk, Gram.” She raised her voice. “Jason! Help!”

She was at her grandmother’s side, reaching for the phone when Jason arrived. He took Audrey’s pulse. “Mrs. Hardy,” he told her, “we could wait for the ambulance, or I could carry you down to the car and we can be at the hospital in ten minutes.” He looked at her. “Do you want to wait?”

She shook her head. “N-No—”

Elizabeth watched as Jason carefully lifted her frail grandmother into his arms and started for the door. “I’ll get my purse. I need to call Steven—”

Less than two minutes later, their SUV was speeding through the darkened streets.

Warehouse

 Johnny Zacchara had reached the point where death would be a blessing. Everything hurt. He couldn’t distinguish his own smell from his surroundings, which annoyed him more than anything else. He’d been bound and gagged for days. Weeks. He had water poured down his throat once a day and some bread. Water and fucking bread.

He wanted a glass of merlot and some fucking caviar if he survived this.

But even the water and bread had started to taste like a five course meal. He wanted to go home. He wanted to see his piano, Nadine’s smile, hell, he’d like to see his father one more time, his sister.

He’d settle for goddamn Trevor at this point.

A door creaked open and footsteps came closer. “Still holding out, I see.”

Exhausted, Johnny lifted his head and listened intently. One set of footsteps. The door had closed behind him. And the voice belonged to Sonny Corinthos. He was alone. For the first time, the fucking lunatic was by himself. His gag was removed, but his blindfold remained.

Could he do something with that?

“I didn’t burn down your warehouse,” Johnny bit out. “And if you kill me, my father—”

“Maybe you don’t give a damn about your own life.” A hand yanked Johnny’s head back by grabbing his hair. “Maybe I’m using the wrong leverage.”

Sonny’s voice was close now, his breath warm on Johnny’s face. “Maybe if you had some company—you have a sweet girlfriend, don’t you?”

No. No, no, no. If Sonny knew about Nadine, he could do this to her. And Johnny would admit to anything to keep them from touching her. He’d die, but they’d probably kill her, too. He had no illusions left.

He had to protect her.

And with a strength Johnny didn’t know was left, he twisted his head out of Sonny’s grip and rocked the chair backwards. He and Sonny both went crashing to the floor—

And chair shattered, allowing Johnny to get to his feet. They’d been bound to the chair, but not together. He still didn’t have his sight or use of his hands, but damn it, he could run.

He kicked out at where he thought Sonny might be and was relieved to hear the older man crash back to the floor. Johnny rushed forward, wincing when he crashed into the wall. Frantically, he rubbed his face against the cement, trying to loosen his blindfold.

And finally, it slipped around his neck. Johnny could see! And the ropes at his wrist—they were loose.

Within a few seconds, by the time Sonny had managed to get back to his feet, Johnny Zacchara was a free man. He rushed at the older man, his eyes on the gun at his waistband.

Johnny tackled Sonny to the floor again and grappled for the gun. He managed to get a grip on it, but then a searing pain shot through his shoulder.

Sonny also had a grip on his the gun and had managed to pull the trigger.

Fucking hell. With his last ounce of strength, Johnny head butted Sonny and got control of the weapon. He stood and shot blindly in Sonny’s direction, but he could hear voices rushing towards the room, footsteps clattering.

He ran for the back door, not caring if Sonny was dead or alive. He had to escape. He had to get home, to get help.

He disappeared into the inky dark Port Charles night.

August 14, 2015

Damaged was updated last night — I’m moving updates of that to Thursdays at 8 PM EST. This week’s episode was split into two parts (each about the average length of a suuuper long The Best Thing chapter — so like 15 pages.) Head over there to read it. I’ll be back next Wednesday with more updates.

August 12, 2015

So The Best Thing has been updated with Chapter Twenty-Six. It hasn’t been beta read, but I’ve using a text to speech program on my computer to read Damaged‘s dialogue to me (more on that on Friday), so I ran it through there and found a bunch of typos and a couple of sentences to fix. I’ll make any other changes when I hear from Cora 🙂

I posted a short story last night, A Line in the Sand, if you missed it. I haven’t had a moment to add it throughout the rest of the site, I hope to get it done today buuuut I’m going to go finish Damaged now and I think that’s a better priority, yes?

And I created a new survey. Not about the site, which though I’m sure you guys found boring — I think it helped clean up the site a lot and offer a few more features I think helped streamline the CG experience. 😛 This one is about the stories here at CG. What do you like to read? What you would like to read more about? Etc.

I created it because while I write for me, I want to write for you guys, too. So if you have a minute, it’s short — only a few questions.

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series The Best Thing: Mercy

If we’re only ever looking back
We will drive ourselves insane
As the friendship goes resentment grows
We will walk our different ways
But those are the days that bind us together, forever
And those little things define us forever, forever

Bad Blood, Bastille


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

 By the time Jason had finally managed to corner his partner, it was a week and a half after the warehouse fire. After Johnny Zacchara had disappeared without a trace only to end up in Sonny’s custody.

Their contacts in the Zacchara organization didn’t seem to think Anthony was aware of it, but if Johnny was MIA for much longer, the girlfriend was likely to contact him. She hadn’t yet, which meant she was all too aware of the reaction she’d trigger.

Jason stood just behind Sonny, who was calmly sipping bourbon as he stared out over his view of the waterfront docks. “Where is he, Sonny?”

Sonny turned and arched a brow. “I wasn’t aware you were in a position to give me orders,” the other man practically purred, the arrogance and self-certainty oozing from every word. “Remember? You told me you didn’t want the power.”

Once, Jason would have stepped around the question. He would have ducked the confrontation, but the reasons for doing so were gone.  Jason didn’t have to protect his guardianship of Evie or Carly’s ignorance.

Carly had never believed the lie—that was certain now, and Jason would rather be roasted over a pit of burning coals before surrendering custody of Sam’s daughter to this man.

Jason had hoped his illness could be controlled, that they could resurrect a semblance of their old life, their old friendship, but Sonny’s mental health would always be precarious, and Jason was no longer prepared to sacrifice his family or their men to the capricious nature of chemical imbalances.

“I don’t,” Jason said bluntly. “But you can’t handle it. You kidnapped Johnny Zacchara, Sonny. Tommy’s guys told us—you kept him in a warehouse and beat him, trying to force him to admit guilt. There’s nothing to admit.” Jason flung a copy of the final fire report at him. “It was an electrical fire. You’re starting a war over an accident. You didn’t wait for evidence, you didn’t wait for a reason to go after him.”

“I don’t need to wait.” Sonny ignored the papers as they settled at his feet. “You,” he scoffed. “They all worship you for your patience. For your steadiness. You’re not a fucking accountant, Jason. We don’t have the luxury of time here—”

“When you brought me into this business, you told me that there are two men I never want to piss off,” Jason interrupted. “Hector Ruiz, whose sons were ruthless animals even then, and Anthony Zacchara, a man rumored to have murdered his own wife while taking a shot at his kid. He’s insane, Sonny. And you know it. You fuck with his kid, Anthony Zacchara is going to unleash his people on you. On your family. On me and mine. We knew by the end of the day the fire was electrical, but you couldn’t wait a lousy six hours.” He fisted his hands. “Where is he?”

“I always wondered what it would take for you to turn on me,” Sonny mused. His lips curved into a bitter half-smile. “I screwed your woman, you didn’t blink. I left you in charge when you clearly weren’t ready, it didn’t seem to faze you. I cost you Elizabeth, and you just went about your business. I’ve all but destroyed Michael and Morgan’s childhood, but that’s not why you’re turning on me, is it?”

“I’m not—” Jason took a deep breath. “I’m not turning on you, Sonny. You’re—you know you’re not well. That whatever medication you were taking isn’t working. You need to go back to the doctor—”

“I’m in control, Jason.” Sonny sipped his bourbon. “My voice isn’t the one raised. Johnny Zacchara has done nothing but cause us trouble for months—”

“There was never any proof—”

“You didn’t want to see it because it meant you’d have to look away from your precious family,” Sonny sneered. “Because if you took your eyes off Elizabeth for a single minute, she’d run away like she always does. What? You think she won’t run now because you’re engaged? You’re still the naive little boy I took in all those years ago.”

“I want Johnny Zacchara,” Jason said evenly, ignoring the attacks. “We can sort out whatever the hell is wrong with you this time later. But I need him back. I need to pack him off to his father so I’m not facing a war from Anthony Zacchara—”

“You’re scared of a little territory scuffle?” Sonny chuckled. “That tells me you’re not cut out for this. I trusted you too much, that’s clear—”

“Anthony Zacchara doesn’t engage in scuffles,” Jason shot back. “When Moreno went after his trucking route, he blew up Moreno’s home and held his wife hostage for a month. For a fucking trucking route. What do you think he’ll do if he thinks you’ve got his son? Do you think he’ll care that I didn’t have a damn thing to do with it?”

No, Jason knew Anthony would blame him for letting Sonny lose control. Sonny would be destroyed, but Anthony would take personal pleasure in razing Jason and his family to the ground as a warning to others who let personal feelings rise above business.

“If his son wants to play with the big boys,” Sonny said, his voice still eerily calm, “Anthony should have known better than to send him.”

Jason bit off his protest. “Who are you working with?”

His partner blinked at him. “What do you mean?”

“You’re not using any of our guys to hold him,” Jason said. “And Tommy’s guys swear they left the kid alive. Which means you’ve got men holding him somewhere. If he’d confessed, you’d be throwing that in my face, and he’d be dead. He hasn’t confessed yet. Did you grab men off the street?”

“That,” Sonny said quietly, “is none of your business.” He raised his tumbler to his mouth. “You wanted the power, Jason? Fine. But don’t get too comfortable. I’ll be coming for what’s mine.” His dark eyes glinted. “All of it.”

There was nothing to accomplish here. He couldn’t beat the truth out of Sonny—he hadn’t had the psychotic break they’d feared, but Jason was more convinced than ever that Emily and Elizabeth had been correct. Sonny was bipolar and his antidepressants convinced him he was in complete control.

Even as everything disintegrated around him.

Jason closed Sonny’s penthouse door behind him and looked at Max. “You’re officially relieved of duty,” he told him. “Make sure Carly and the boys still have their guards, but you’re needed elsewhere.”

Max nodded and followed him to the elevator. There was nothing left Jason could do for his friend. His family had to come first. The organization had to come first.

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Elizabeth slid into the seat across from Nikolas. “I am so sorry for being late—it’s Nora’s day for a summer class, so I have the kids—” She paused to lift Cameron out of the stroller and set him in a chair adjacent to hers before tugging Evie into her lap. “Maybe we could get some booster—”

Nikolas raised a hand. “Give me a second.” He went to the doorway at Kelly’s, reached inside and brought out two highchairs. With his usual brand of efficiency, both children were quickly settled with their sippy cups and snacks into their own chairs.

“You,” she said, “are going to be an amazing father.”

He laughed, the sound tinged with a bit of anxiety. “Well, it’s easy with other people’s children, but…” Nikolas lifted a shoulder. “I suppose I can’t be much worse than other members of my family.”

Elizabeth arched a brow. “That’s putting it mildly.” She glanced over where a cadre of guards had taken the other outside table. Milo, Denny, and Lyle looked a bit uncomfortable in their usual suits, but she and the children went nowhere without them.

Nikolas followed her gaze. “Security has been ramped up, I see,” he said quietly. “Emily mentioned things have been tense since the fire.”

“They’re…” Elizabeth set her menu down and twisted her napkin in her hands. “God, Nikolas, I don’t even know. We’re still getting settled in with my grandmother—we’re staying with her until Jason can find something more permanent, but he didn’t want us across from Sonny and Carly anymore. And Sonny—” She looked away. “Let’s just say it’s possible we were on the mark about his medication.”

“Ah.” Nikolas exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth, I’m not being—I don’t want to be like I was before, warning you away, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least…voice my concern.”

Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile. “I’m sure you’d be much happier if you could hogtie me and put me and the kids on a plane to the far corners of the Earth. But I appreciate you not saying it.”

“It’s human nature to want your family safe,” Nikolas said, conceding her argument. “But I know that Jason is taking security seriously. He’s sent some men to check over things at the mansion and at Wyndemere. I allowed him access to the background checks we run on servants. I just…I worry that all his precautions won’t be enough.” He touched his throat where a faint scar still lingered. He’d once nearly died for standing too close to Jason.

“I know.” Elizabeth picked up a butter knife and looked at it. “And there are no easy answers. I love him. Nikolas. And he’s not just dealing with—business concerns. Sonny is out of control. He was always a father figure to Jason, you know. His best friend, his brother. And now…he basically has to decide between keeping us safe and Sonny.” She pursed her lips. “Maybe we’d be making different choices if not for Cam and Evie, but—”

“Emily mentioned you were feeling a bit…apprehensive,” Nikolas said. “Do you really think it’s just the kids precipitating Jason’s choices at the moment? Do you think if it were just the two of you, he’d sacrifice you for Sonny?”

“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “No. I mean, of course not. I know he loves me. I know he takes our engagement seriously. He offered an out, but—” She looked away. “To be honest, Nikolas, I’m not…” She closed her eyes, pitching her voice low so that her guards could not possibly overhear her. “I’m not always convinced. I mean, most of the time, yeah. But sometimes, I wonder…”

“And that’s human nature, too,” Nikolas told her softly. “Because you know what it’s like to have someone constantly put someone else in front of you. With Lucky’s brainwashing, that always seemed to take precedence.”

“I guess. I mean, I just—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t know. I know Jason and I aren’t together because of Evie and Cam. It’s been different this time, because Jason and I are different people, and we’ve allowed for that. I’m a stronger person. But yeah, part of me does wonder why it always has to be so hard.”

“And this is where I offer some platitude about how nothing worth having comes easy,” Nikolas said, “but I get it, Elizabeth. Life is full of difficulties, challenges, and obstacles, but when there never seems to be a break, when it always seem the day or the moment can grow bleaker, you begin to wonder if it’s worth it.”

“I just…I want to be happy. I want to have my life with Jason, with the kids. With my brother and my grandmother. With you and Emily…I want us all to be happy for five minutes. All at the same exact time. Why isn’t that something I get?”

“If I could answer that question, Elizabeth, I’d have solved one of life’s enduring mysteries.” Nikolas leaned back. “Are you having second thoughts?”

Elizabeth blinked at him. “No. Of course not—”

“And you can be honest with me.” He hesitated. “I have no vested interest in you pursuing a life with Jason beyond hoping for your happiness. Emily seems to think the two of you are soulmates. I don’t know. That’s something only you can answer. So when I say you can be honest with me, I mean that.” He waited. “Are you having second thoughts?” he repeated.

“Yes,” Elizabeth admitted. “And third. And fourth. I’m terrified to raise my son in a world where one man’s instability can bring it crashing down. If not Sonny, then one of Jason’s enemies. I hate it. And there are moments, when I wait for a car to be swept for bombs before I put my son into it, I wonder what the hell I’m doing here.”

“And yet…”

“And yet, I stay,” Elizabeth finished. “Because I know that Jason loves me. That he loves me for who I am in this moment, not his fantasy of me. He doesn’t want me to fix him, he doesn’t need me to keep him rooted in this reality, or to save him. He loves me. And he loves my son. I’ve tried being without him. I always drift back. Because I love him. When I’m thinking about this insanity with Sonny, I’m not thinking about the dangers first, I’m thinking of that dream wedding where my grandmother walks me down the aisle, and Emily is my maid of honor—and Jason has Sonny standing next to him, and I know it will never happen. My grandmother is going to die, and Sonny is never going to be that man for either of us again. And if that realization breaks my heart, can you imagine how that destroys Jason?”

A tear slid down her cheek. “So yeah, I have my doubts sometimes. I wonder occasionally if it were just me, if Jason would put me aside to focus on Sonny, and if I could honestly blame him for that with all I know now. I worry that Cameron and Evie will grow up to resent my choices.  But I can put those worries away. I love Jason, and he loves me. We love our children. Things are going to be difficult in the next few months—Sonny is going to crash and burn, my grandmother may not be with me much longer, but Nikolas?” She paused. “I can get through it. Because when I go home at the end of the day, Jason’s there. He’ll put his arms around me, and for a moment, it all goes away.”

Nikolas nodded. “Okay then.” He reached for the menu. “By the way, if Emily suggests using any form of the name Nikolas in our child’s middle name, you are to discourage it immediately. That’s not a request, it’s a command.”

And just like that, he turned the conversation to other topics.

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

 Emily flexed her fingers and scowled down at the stack of forms she still had to get through. “Do you think insurance forms are proof there’s no God?” she asked the blonde standing to her side.

Nadine Crowell blinked at her. “What? Oh. Yeah. Sure.”

Emily frowned. While she wasn’t close to the blonde perky nurse, she knew her relatively well through working together at the hospital and Leyla Mir’s relationship with Lucky—Leyla being Nadine’s best friend.

And lately, the usually bubbly woman had been withdrawn. Even distracted.  Epiphany Johnson, the floor nurse, had been on her case for more than a week.

“You okay?” Emily asked. “You don’t seem like yourself.”

“Just…” Nadine jerked her shoulder. “Just tired. You know how these shifts can be.” She picked up a stack of files. “I’m gonna go work on these in the break room.”

She stepped away—Emily considered following her, but she really didn’t know the other woman that well. Maybe she could talk to Leyla.

Before Emily could decide whether to add Nadine Crowell to her roster of wounded hearts—as Nikolas liked to call them—Steven stepped off the elevator, looking every inch as exhausted as the woman who’d stepped away.

“Steven.” She set the pen down and rounded the counter. “Hey.”

“Hey, Em.” He pressed the heel of his hand in his eyes. “You talked to Bits today?”

“No, not yet—Nikolas is supposed to have lunch with her…” Emily took his arm and steered him toward the waiting room sofa. “Sit before you collapse. What’s up? I thought you were supposed to get more sleep with Liz and Jason moving in with Audrey.”

“Yeah, well they just spent their first night last night, so I guess I have some to catch up on.” He hesitated. “Em, Gram just had a checkup.”

“It’s only been a week since—” Emily pressed her lips together. “It didn’t go well, I suppose.”

“No, no, it did not.” Steve dipped his head. “I have to call my sister. Both of them. My parents. My uncle. I guess I should talk to TJ, though he’s never been close to Gram, thanks to his mother, but they should be on alert—”

“Steven—”

“Surgery,” Steven said evenly, though his expression was devastated. “Surgery is no longer an option. Gram has—she’s declined rapidly in the last week and a half. Monica said it happens sometimes—the medication can control things for a while, but once it stops, it just…” He dismissively waved his hand. “It just stops.”

“Oh, God—”

“Monica doesn’t think Gram would have made it through a surgery anyway, based on these results. She’s—” He closed his eyes. “It’s a matter of days now, Em. Maybe another two weeks if we’re lucky. She’s fading fast.”

“It—she was fine just two weeks ago,” Emily managed. “She was so happy at the party—”

“We all were.” He looked to Emily. “How did you do it last year?”

She blinked at him. “Do what?”

“When you lost your grandmother. She was like mine, right? Heart of the family. Center of it.” He expelled a harsh breath. “I don’t know what to do. I have to tell all these people Gram might go at any point, and I can’t—I can’t even process it myself.”

“I’m so sorry, Steven,” she murmured. She pressed her forehead to his shoulder. “My grandmother had been declining for years—we could all see it. But she had such a vibrant spirit, I suppose we thought she’d outlast us all. Then one morning, she was simply gone. She went in her sleep, how we all might hope she’d go.” Emily bit her lip. “Is Audrey in any pain?”

“Some shortness of breath, but not really—Monica has given her some meds to keep her comfortable—” He dipped his head again. “I should call Bits.” He looked to Emily. “Thanks. I appreciate you sitting with me.”

“Of course.” She squeezed his hand. “And tell me if there’s anything I can do. Nikolas and I are here for you.”

“She was happy at that party,” Steven said after a moment. “I know your brother hated it—it’s not his thing, but she told me he wanted to make Elizabeth happy. That he’d done it because he knew how much Gram meant to her. And she had a blast planning it, you know. She was so happy this last year with my sister and me in Port Charles, with her great-grandson. If she has—” He paused. “If this is it for her, then I’m glad she’s going out on a high.”

Warehouse: Jason’s Office

Max wrinkled his nose at the distant sounds of construction as crews began to repair the damaged portions of the building. “Is this place safe?”

“The structure is sound enough,” Jason said. “I’m not thrilled either, but after this morning, I can’t go back to the penthouse and Mrs. Hardy’s home is out of the question. I don’t want anyone to know about the new house yet.” He looked to Tommy. “What do you have?”

Tommy shifted. “Stefano has always been the liaison between us and the Zaccharas—you know that. He contacted me last night. He wanted a meeting with Sonny.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “And you’re just telling me this now?” He glanced pointedly at the clock on the wall which indicated it was two in the afternoon. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Figuring out what to tell Stefano so it’s clear that you’re in charge without anyone thinking it’s a power play,” the other man retorted. “Or do you want Zacchara to smell blood in the water?”

“Tommy,” Bernie murmured. “We could do without the attitude. You should have called Jason immediately, and you know it. Where do we stand?”

“Stefano knows we’re having issues,” Tommy admitted. “He wanted to give us a heads up. Word is out that things are fluid here. Sonny is still nominally in charge, but you’re doing the work. Zacchara was testing the waters by asking to see Sonny.”

“It wasn’t about Junior?” Jason asked, not sure if this was a good thing or not. He wanted Anthony in the dark about his son as long as possible, but if he was interested in the weaknesses—

“Not for the most part. Stefano asked if we’d seen Junior around lately. He’s been lax on his weekly call to his father, but Anthony figures he’s holed up in PC with the girlfriend. Johnny has maybe two more weeks to check in before Anthony gets worried. He’s annoyed, but it’s not the first time the son has deliberately stayed out of touch.”

“Thank God they’re a fucked up family,” Max said. “We got time to track Junior down—”

“The longer Sonny has him somewhere, the less likely it is we get him back alive,” Jason interrupted. “Max, tailing Sonny isn’t doing us any good. “ He looked to the men gathered in the office. “He’s no longer in charge.”

Johnny nodded. “About damn time—”

Bernie scowled at him. “O’Brien—”

“I’m just saying—”

“Sonny seems to think we’re merely risking a turf war with Zacchara if the son doesn’t come home.” At the annoyed and confused expressions reflecting back, he nodded. “I know. It’s why I can’t risk even the illusion of leaving him in charge. I don’t want any of the men thinking they report to him. Johnny, call Francis on the island. Make sure he gets the change out to his guys there. Tommy, Max, Bernie, anyone balks, do what’s necessary to get them to go along.”

“I doubt we’ll have more than a ruffle of feathers,” Tommy said. “Most of the men have never met him anyway.” He lifted his chin. “What are we going to do about the rest of it?”

“Tommy, I need to keep lines of communication with the Zaccharas open, so keep Stefano in the loop. We can honestly say we haven’t seen him around, but we’ll keep our eyes open. I also need you to concentrate on the bookies and the waterfront. Keep your territory running like usual. The cops are going to be digging into things, but I think the fire report calmed them down.” Jason looked to Johnny and Max. “I want you guys to tear this city, this county, even the state apart. I want Johnny Zacchara back, and I want him alive. And I need to talk to him before we send him home to Anthony.”

“What about whoever is holding him?” Johnny asked. “What muscle is Sonny using?”

“That’s what I want to know. If it’s guys off the street, that’s problematic, but it might be more likely Sonny has called in a favor from another organization. Tagliatti is still annoyed we didn’t skin Faith Roscoe, so he’s out. Vega has never particularly liked Sonny. He’s Italian, Sonny’s Cuban. It’s stupid, but it’s a point of honor for him.”

“Hell.” Max scowled. “That leaves Hector Ruiz. I’ll have Francis call Ramon. He might be able to give us some ideas.”

With their instructions given, the room cleared, leaving only Bernie and Jason. “Bernie—”

“The security upgrades will be done by the end of next week,” his business manager told him. “I tried to hurry it up, but I don’t want to compromise quality—”

“We’re okay at the Hardy house for a while.” Jason hesitated, thinking of how pale and wan Elizabeth’s grandmother had been that morning. “And I don’t…I know how much longer Mrs. Hardy will be with us. I don’t think Elizabeth will go to the new house until…” He hesitated. “Until things are resolved.”

The older man’s face softened. “Please extend my deepest condolences. The security at the house is decent enough. If we can keep the status quo, it should be okay.” He waited a moment. “Jason, I know these are tough times, but the men who work for you are loyal. They’ll do what they can to keep things from getting worse.”

“Even if Sonny gets his medication changed,” Jason said slowly, “I can’t imagine letting him be in charge again.” He met Bernie’s eyes. “Because he was doing well, and then everything just exploded in our faces. I can’t take the chance again. Not if I want to keep everyone safe.”

“I know.” Bernie sighed, gathering his files. “I guess we all knew we’d be looking to you someday, Jason, but I don’t suppose we thought it’d be like this.” He drew his shoulders back. “But we’ll get through it. We always do.”

And Jason knew he was right—somehow, they would come out on the other end of this. But at what cost?

Hardy Home: Elizabeth’s Bedroom

 

After seeing that Nora had settled Cam and Evie in their temporary bedroom at the Hardy house and making sure their nanny was okay with the move, Jason went next door to Elizabeth’s bedroom.

She sat at a window next to the bed, perched on the windowsill, looking out over Maple Avenue. Across the street, a dark SUV sat with a set of guards. With a guard on the front door and another on the back door, as well as a brand-new security system, he wondered if she was regretting the move to her grandmother’s home.

“Hey.” He closed the door. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she murmured. She looked at him. “Gram looked tired today, didn’t she?”

Jason sat in one of the chairs and unlaced his boots, not sure how to answer that question. He’d been present before dinner, while Audrey had been resting, when Steven had told Elizabeth the devastating news.

He wondered now if Audrey had just held herself together through sheer force of will through the engagement party. She was, as Steven had said, fading fast.

“She did,” Jason said finally. “I’m sorry about the guards—”

“It’s not—” Elizabeth turned, her back now to the window, her bare toes sinking into the carpet beneath the sill. “I’m fine with the guards. With the security system.  Gram didn’t care about any of that. And what’s the point?” She closed her eyes. “It’s not like things would be different if we’d stayed at the penthouse. She’d still be…”

He rose to his feet and crossed to her, pulling her up against him. “I don’t know what to say to you,” Jason admitted finally. “I can’t make any of this go away.”

“I know.” She pressed her forehead against his chest. “There’s nothing that can be said. Steven called my parents. They’re going to try to get away, but they’re in Botswana, and Sarah just came out over the weekend. She can’t get the time from her program again. My uncle might be able to come in for a day, and TJ—my cousin—he’s in medical school in Washington. No one seems to care.” She drew away from him, scrubbing her hands over her face.

“But you know who called me today?” She turned to him. “Your grandfather. He called while you were on the phone. He told me the Quartermaines are devastated for all of us, and if there’s anything he can do, just say the word.” A tear slid down her cheek. “And he’s not saying that because of you. I know you don’t care for him, but he—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “He sounded so upset on the phone. He told me Monica has been beside herself because she couldn’t do more, and I just…” She pressed a hand to her mouth. “And I was so relieved because it meant Steven and I aren’t alone. We aren’t the only ones to grieve.”

He didn’t know what to say to any of this. His grandmother had been there one day, then gone the next. How did one face this gradual fading away? This long goodbye?  And what could he say about Elizabeth’s family except that they had always seemed selfish and useless to him.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said, her eyes red. “I shouldn’t have—I know you don’t consider Edward your grandfather—”

He held up a hand to ward off her apologies. “It’s not—I can’t say that anymore. Lila was my grandmother, so…” Jason looked away, remembering Emily’s birthday party, and Edward’s delight in Cameron, in talking with Elizabeth. The way the old man had looked at the party, holding out Lila’s wedding ring.

“As much as I’ve tried to deny it, he is my grandfather,” Jason said. “And Alan and Monica are my parents. I know they care about me.” And watching Elizabeth struggle with her own biological ties, how could he continue to deny his own when they tried so hard? “And they’ll be your family, too. I mean, you’ll probably regret that one day—”

She laughed then, pressing her hands to her mouth. “Oh, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve been to some of their parties.” But her humor passed swiftly, and she sank on the bed. “I’m just tired, Jason.”

He sat beside her, feeling her exhaustion. He wanted to look ahead, to picture a moment when he wouldn’t be thinking about all the ways his life could blow up, but he didn’t have the imagination for something like that.  He’d never been good at thinking about the future.

“I know.” Jason took her hand in his, rubbing his finger across her engagement ring. “I wish I could make all this go away for you,” he told her.

“I know.”  She leaned against him, her head tucked under his chin as he slid his arm around her shoulders. “I wish I could make it go away for you, too.  But we can’t. This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we have to handle that.” Elizabeth turned her hand so that she could lace her fingers through his. “But I know I have you at the end of the day, and it makes it easier.”

He tightened his grip around her shoulders. “I feel the same way,” Jason told her, feeling a bit clumsy about it, because he would never be able to articulate what it meant for him to have a day like the one he’d had and know he could come home to Elizabeth, put his arms around her, and the world could disappear for just a few moments.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough for now.

August 11, 2015

So, I wrote a bunch of dialogue yesterday intending to flesh it out into an actual short story, and then I decided not to. But I liked the dialogue, so I edited it and posted it like a dialogue fic from The Adventures of Lucky and Lizzie.

I keep trying to avoid writing my own version of the Jake is Jason reveal, but ugh, I might if I could develop a decent enough reason for Nikolas to want ELQ and be willing to kill for it. I hate myself sometimes.

I haven’t linked this on other pages (short stories, title list, etc.) — I’ll get to that tomorrow.

A Line in the Sand

Author’s Note: This is a sort of episode tag to Friday, 7 August 2015’s episode in which Elizabeth confronted Nikolas about his possible participation in Hayden’s shooting.

I actually wrote this before I watched Friday’s episode, so the conversation between Elizabeth and Nikolas is different in my version and I didn’t feel like rewriting it. I’m not planning to follow this up with anything, though we all know I’ll end up rewriting the Jake is Jason reveal because show is going to disappoint me, so don’t be surprised if this shows up some other time.

It’s also in the style of my Lucky and Lizzie series, with just dialogue. I wrote the dialogue first intending to come back and flesh it out, but I don’t know that it’s really necessary. The first speaker is Jake/Jason, the second one is Elizabeth, and it should be relatively simple to follow. Let me know if it’s difficult and I’ll try to fix it.


I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
I don’t know what you’re expecting of me


“Hey. I thought you had work today. Where are the boys? Are they still at camp?”

“What time is it?”

“It’s almost three. Are you okay?”

“Um. No. No, I’m not.”

“What’s up?”

“I should—I have to pick up the boys—”

“Hey. Call Patrick. He can do it. You’re pale. Are you sick? What’s wrong? Did you call out of work?”

“No, I mean. Yeah, I called out, but I needed—I needed to think. I have to go.”

“I’ll call Patrick myself. You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s bothering you. You had dinner with Nikolas last night. Did you have a fight?”

“No. I wish it were that simple. I don’t know what to do anymore. I wish I could go back to just lying to myself. I could pretend I was just—we were happy, right? You and me. Patrick and Sam. I have my son home. We were happy?”

“We’re all happy. Elizabeth, what happened? Did Nikolas say something?”

“I can’t. I can’t. Once I start telling you, I won’t be able to stop. You’ll know everything.”

“And what’s wrong with that? You sound scared. What the hell happened?”

“I—I know the lengths Nikolas will go to keep his control over ELQ. I don’t know why it matters so much. But I know now and what if … what if he hurts you?”

“He’s not going to hurt me, Elizabeth. Hey. Do you want to call Michael? We can call Lulu’s husband. Dante, right? If you know something Nikolas has done—”

“I didn’t know—but it was stupid to think he would just let her walk away. When he’d already lied to so many people. I was stupid to think he was lying for me now, not for himself. Nikolas never does anything without a reason.”

“Who didn’t walk away…Elizabeth, are you talking about Hayden? Did … did Nikolas know what—”

“Don’t ask me that. Please, Jake. Don’t ask me that. Because I can’t lie to you, and I don’t want to tell you the truth.”

“You know, don’t you? What Hayden was going to tell me. Nikolas had her shot first.”

“I—Yes. Yes. He did. She was blackmailing him, and he told her it didn’t matter. He let her walk out, and then she was shot. I—I really believed it was mob related, I did. But I was stupid.”

“How long—I don’t—What was Hayden trying to tell me? What doesn’t Nikolas want me to know—”

“Jake—”

“If it’s about ELQ, whoever I used to be must be connected to that. I must be able to take control back. But that doesn’t make sense, Elizabeth. The shares were left to the Quartermaine family. Nikolas controls most of that – ”

“He controls a bloc that … isn’t his to control. It belongs to someone who is supposed to be dead.”

“And that’s mine? I—am I some sort of long-lost Quartermaine? I read that Edward had some illegitimate children.”

“Oh. God. Oh, God. God. Jake. You’re not just … you’re not just some long-lost Quartermaine no one knows about. You’re…You’re Jason.”

“That’s … That’s not possible.”

“But you are. And I’ve known for months.”

“How did you find out?”

“I was coming to find you. I thought … I thought this would be our chance. You weren’t married after all.”

“Since the Nurse’s Ball?”

“Nikolas stopped me from coming to you. He said it was because he didn’t me to get hurt. Because you did have a wife. And a son.”

“No. No. I don’t know what’s going on here. But I am not Jason Morgan—”

“You are. And I lied to you. And then Hayden overheard the truth, and Nikolas shot her to keep her quiet.”

“What did he say to you to make you stay quiet? Why would he even tell you?”

“At the time, I honestly thought he didn’t want me to get hurt. He thought I would—I would keep my distance. Or something. And when he told me about ELQ, I thought what a terrible risk he’d taken—I could have ruined all his plans by telling you the truth. But he knew me better than I know myself.”

“Because you lied.”

“And he must have known how tempted I would be. He knows how I lie. I lie to other people, to myself. I lie like some people breathe.”

“That’s not—that’s not true, Elizabeth. I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t understand what’s happening, but that’s not true—”

“I lie to myself most of all. I do. It’s how I get up in the morning. When I thought my son was gone, I told myself I was okay. I was past it. But I was dead inside, and I know that now, because he’s home. And I woke up.”

“Elizabeth–

“I’ve tried so hard to stop lying to myself, but I don’t know how. I do it without thinking. I was going to tell the truth. That night. I got on stage and I was ready to do it. Until I looked at Patrick and Sam, and I thought … he’ll be devastated. And I would be unhappy. And I’m so tired of that. I’ve been swimming in misery for years.”

“You lied to me, Elizabeth. About who I am. Am I supposed to feel sorry for you right now?”

“No. And you shouldn’t. I’m just…I’m trying to explain how I could tell you I love you and lie to you about something so important. And it’s because I don’t know how to do anything else.”

“What, you’re some kind of pathological liar? Come on—”

“When I was pregnant with Jake, Jason thought—You thought he was Lucky’s son. And you told me it was for the best. That it was better that way. And instead of being honest, I thought…well, if that’s how he feels, if my son would just be a burden to him, then I won’t tell the truth. He doesn’t want him—”

“I don’t know anything about that day, Elizabeth. You tell me I’m Jason Morgan, but I don’t know him. And I’m sorry he hurt you. Was this some kind of revenge?”

“No! But I’m trying—It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. You know now. And I know Nikolas is willing to kill to keep his control at ELQ. That puts everyone who goes against him in danger. Okay? That’s important here.”

“We’re not done yet, Elizabeth. If I’m Jason, that makes Danny and Jake my sons. What could you have possibly told yourself to keep me away from them?”

“Nothing rational. Nothing that makes sense when you say it out loud. You were here, in my life. And you were part of Jake’s life. And Danny—he was happy.  Or maybe it was about revenge. Maybe I didn’t think Sam deserved to have you in Danny’s life.”

“What the hell—”

“I raised Jake alone. You knew he was yours and walked away.”

“That wasn’t me—”

“But you didn’t even know about Danny being yours and were willing to raise him. So maybe, maybe I was lying to myself when I thought he was happy and would be okay. Maybe I didn’t really give a damn about him.”

“I don’t…I don’t even know who you are right now.”

“It’s not like Sam ever gave a damn about me or my boys. She didn’t when she watched an unstable mother kidnap Jake three weeks after he was born, and then kept quiet about it for another two weeks. And then she hired men with guns to scare Cameron and me.”

“Elizabeth—”

“And when none of that worked, she went after Lucky and destroyed my marriage. It was already on life support, but she didn’t care. She wasn’t even with you when Jake was conceived, but she tried to destroy me as payback.”

“But this isn’t about Sam. It’s about me.”

“I know. And I’m not proud of what I did, Jake. The longer I kept quiet, the worse it was. The harder it became. When my—our son—came home, I wanted to tell you. I thought about it.”

“But said nothing.”

“Because I was terrified. You’d learn who you were, that I had lied. And you would walk away. And what would I do then? Explain to Jake another father disappeared?”

“Elizabeth—”

“As long as you didn’t have your memories, I could rationalize it. You didn’t remember that life, so what was I really taking from you?”

“It’s not your choice to make.”

“I know that. And what I did was no different than what Ric did. I saw what I wanted, and I took it. I knew it was going to be over the second you learned the truth, whether you got your memories back and went back to Sam or you found out I lied. I knew we were on borrowed time because I was never going to be able lie forever.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I wanted to have you. To be happy just for a little while. It’s all I ever get.  I hate myself more than you could ever hate me. I used you. I used what we felt for each other before I ever knew the truth, and I’m sorry for that. I am.”

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information. Nikolas Cassadine is willing to kill to keep this secret. Is that what he told you last night?”

“He told me that if I told anyone about his involvement with Hayden’s shooting, it would be my word against his, and I’m the one with something to lose.”

“That’s a threat. He threatened you.”

“I don’t see it that way.”

“Can you tell me honestly that he wouldn’t come after you if you were responsible for him losing ELQ?”

“Not me. Not personally. He wouldn’t do that to the boys. But he could go after you. I have to believe the only reason he’s left you alive is because he doesn’t think you’ll get your memories back.”

“Well he’s not wrong about that. I thought I didn’t remember because I wasn’t around anything familiar. And it turns out I’ve been surrounded by my old life. By the same people. And nothing more than flashes.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Are you?”

Yes. If you’d gotten your memories back, I would have dealt with it, Jake. I just didn’t want to be the one–I didn’t want to blow up my own world.”

“Why today? What made you change your mind?”

“I don’t know if Nikolas will…I can’t…I can’t seem to convince myself he’ll leave you alone. If he decides he’s not even willing to take the minimal risk of you eventually learning the truth—”

“So he threatened me.”

“Not in so many words, but he made it clear that whatever he’s using ELQ for, it’s important enough to kill for. He knew Hayden. He’d slept with her. And he tried to kill her.”

“She’s awake now. She says she doesn’t know anything.”

“He went to see her. She’ll stay quiet for fear of her life, but I’m not sure Nikolas believes her. I think he’ll go after her again, and you know, it’s one thing to lie to you. But if I say nothing, if I sit back and let Nikolas go on like this…I’ll be a murderer.”

“Hey. No.”

“And you know, it’s comforting to know that there are some lines I’m not willing to cross. I sacrificed my dignity. My self-esteem. Every shred of integrity I ever owned. But not my soul. He can’t have that.”

“We’re going to come back to this discussion, Elizabeth. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about this. About this lie. About the people who cared about Jason. But that’s not our first priority.”

“This is going to sound selfish, but are you … does everyone have to know what a horrible person I am?”

“You mean am I going to tell Sam and Carly that you knew who I was and lied about it?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know that it’s anyone’s business how I found out the truth. You lied to me. You didn’t owe anyone else the truth but me.”

“How will you explain knowing the truth?”

“I’ll say I searched Nikolas’s study and figured it out. Let me worry about that, Elizabeth. You’re the one whose oldest friend is killing people to protect this secret.”

“No one’s dead yet.”

“Not for lack of trying, and I don’t intend for either of us to be first.”