September 29, 2016

I added Bittersweet, Chapter Eight tonight. The story is officially on hiatus as I remarked last week. I’ll keep you dated with how things unfold and when it will be returning.

Apologies for skipping last week’s flash fiction. My niece had her birthday party on Saturday, and I was also having an allergic reaction to my contacts which made eyes sensitive to the computer light. All is fixed and we’ll be back this week 🙂

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Bittersweet

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me

Wrecking Ball, Miley Cyrus


Saturday, May 4, 2002

Quartermaine Estate: Foyer

AJ stormed through the door and into the foyer, ignoring the protests of Alice the maid as he bellowed for his grandfather. His pulse was racing, his muscles quivering—he couldn’t remember the last time he had been quite this goddamn livid.

Instead of Edward, Ned stepped out from the front parlor, a sheaf of papers in his hand. “Junior, having a bad day?” he asked dryly.

“Where is he?” AJ demanded, his hands so tightly fisted at his side that they ached. “Where the hell is our grandfather?”

“Taking a meeting at ELQ,” came the quiet and gentle tone of Lila behind them as Reginald wheeled her in from the conservatory. “And you’ll use a decent tone when you’re in my home.”

“Well, it’s Monica’s—” Ned began the old refrain, but AJ cut him off with an annoyed glance. “Sorry. Not the moment for that old bit.”

“I’m sorry, Grandmother, but he’s gone too far this time,” AJ said, struggling to keep his tone even.

“That may be, but he is still your grandfather, AJ.” Lila lifted her chin, but her eyes were somber. Resigned. “What’s he done now?”

“He went to my son’s school,” AJ told them, still reeling from Courtney’s revelations. “I don’t know how he managed to convince the headmaster, but he’s been meeting with Michael for the last few days. Telling him he’ll be coming here to live, that he’s a burden on Bobbie—”

Ned closed his eyes and shook his head. “That’s a new low. Even for him.”

“AJ—” Lila attempted.

“You should be grateful that I’m here and not Jason. Elizabeth, I’m sure has told him by now, and if you think I’m angry—”

“He’ll raze the old man to the ground,” Ned said. He looked to their grandmother. “You need to speak with him. If Grandfather upsets Michael, it might hurt AJ’s chances in court.” He hesitated and looked at AJ. “For what it’s worth, I’ve tried to talk to him. I knew he was angry after the will reading.”

“I know.” AJ dipped his head. “I was, too.” And hurt that Carly had tried to reach out from the grave to devastate him and his family. And what had they ever done to her but love Michael and want to be in his life? “I know Grandfather just wants to be part of Michael’s life. I love him, Grandmother, but I can’t let him ruin my chances.”

“I understand, AJ. And I will speak to him.” Lila pursed her lips. “Reggie, I’ll need to you to contact Jason—”

“Let me—” AJ waited a moment, taking a deep breath. “Let me speak with him. I need him to know that I wasn’t part of this, that I don’t condone it. If it comes from you, it won’t mean as much.”

“Fair enough.” Lila tilted her head. “I hope that you and Jason can work something out. I’d hate to see this dragged into court.”

“It’s not my first choice, Grandmother, but I’ll do whatever has to be done.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose as she spied the older man striding towards the courtyard from the parking lot. This was all her day needed.

“Ah, Elizabeth, just the young lady I wanted to see.” Edward offered her a broad smile, with a bit of chagrin in his eyes. She sighed. She should have known.

“I’m not running interference with Jason,” she told him as she scooped another set of dirty plates into her plastic mug. “You did the crime, Mr. Quartermaine, you do the time.” She paused and looked at him. “Has he found you yet?”

“Ah, no, but I spoke to my wife…” Edward cleared his throat, straightened his shoulders. “It’s a crime to see my great-grandson?”

She closed her eyes and cursed herself. Why did he have to do this? Why did he have to put that note of hurt, of despondence into his voice? She was such a sucker.

“It’s a crime,” Elizabeth said, setting the tub down and turning to him, “when you tell a five-year-old boy who’s just lost his mother that he’s a burden to his grandmother.”

At that, Edward did look slightly embarrassed. “I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes—”

“I’m not talking to Jason for you,” Elizabeth said. “You’re wasting your breath—”

“This isn’t about Jason. I wanted—” He hesitated. “When AJ files for custody, it’s likely you’ll be called—”

“And you’d like me not to talk so much about what Michael told me.” She rolled her eyes. “You’re wasting your breath. If I end up having to testify, even if I wanted to omit it, Alexis would ask.”

“Elizabeth, I’ve always thought of you as one of the family,” Edward with his smile firmly in place, even if his jaw was slightly more clenched. “You’ve always been so good to Emily. And you’ve been close with Jason—”

“I’m going to do what’s best for Michael, Mr. Quartermaine.” Elizabeth picked up her tub of dirty dishes and discarded food. “I think it’s about time someone started putting him first.”

“But—”

“Goodbye, Mr. Quartermaine.”

Elm Street Pier

Jason slowed his steps when he saw AJ on a bench at the bottom of the steps. Other than another member of the Quartermaine family, AJ was might be the person he wanted to see least in the world right now.

But he’d promised Elizabeth last night that he’d give AJ the benefit of the doubt when it came to Edward bothering Michael. He wasn’t convinced AJ wasn’t working with the Quartermaines to get custody, but he had to admit—it didn’t exactly seem like something AJ would do. Not this AJ.

“Jason.” AJ got to his feet when Jason stepped off the bottom of the steps. “Hey. I was hoping to catch you on the way to the warehouse.”

“Is this about Michael?” Jason asked bluntly.

“I know Elizabeth told you that Grandfather was…that he was harassing Michael at his school.” AJ looked away, his skin mottled with suppressed anger. “I can imagine how angry you were when you found out, because I was, too. I still am.”

Jason looked out over the harbor. “Elizabeth said you didn’t have a hand in it.”

“She’s right. Look, I want my son. I think I’ve been up front about that. I haven’t pretended for a second that I don’t intend to use everything I can to get that done. Including asking Elizabeth to testify—”

Jason swung back again with a glare. “I told you. Leave her out of it—”

“I don’t want to have this argument with you again,” AJ cut in. “I just want to make it clear there’s no way in hell I would ever allow Grandfather to say those things to Michael.” He looked down at his hands, and for the first time, Jason could see the thick calluses that had developed, an indication of the hard labor AJ now did as a forklift operator. “You don’t remember our childhood—”

“I don’t want to talk about—”

“I wish I didn’t,” AJ cut in. “The last thing I want is Michael to go through what we did. Every little thing was measured, considered. If we brought home art projects, we were judged on them as if they were candidates for a museum. Every grade, every test was agonized over. The pressure to be the Quartermaines Grandfather wanted, that Mom and Dad wanted—” He swallowed. “I crumbled under the weight of it. I wasn’t strong enough to drown them out. I drank to make them stop. You went with the flow. You were smarter than I was—”

“That’s not who I am now,” Jason said roughly, for the first time recognizing the pain in the older man’s expression. “I’m not Jason Quartermaine—”

“No, you’re not,” AJ said quietly. “But you were once. And I’m afraid that if Grandfather has his way, Michael will grow up with that pressure. With soul-crushing expectations. I’m sure Michael is as smart as you were—as you are now—don’t shake your head, Jason. Courtney told me that Elizabeth turned over Kelly’s books to you. I know what you do for a living, and you don’t do it for long if you’re an idiot.”

“AJ—”

“I want to be a father to my son,” AJ told him. “But I promise you, Jason, if I have that chance, I won’t let Grandfather do those things to him. I’ve talked to Grandmother. I’m making it clear that I won’t participate in any custody suit he files on his own, and I won’t allow Grandfather anywhere near Michael if he continues to act this way.”

Jason dipped his head, taking a deep breath. He wasn’t sure what to do with this information, with this insight into a man he preferred to ignore. But he knew AJ was being honest with him, and if there anything Jason respected — it was honesty. “I called the school and told them if I found out Edward met with Michael again, I’d have Alexis sue them.”

“Good, good. Uh…” AJ scratched the back of his neck. “I have to get to work. My shift starts soon.” He started down the pier, but then stopped and turned back. “I hope—I hope we can come to some sort of agreement about what’s best for Michael. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

He left then, not waiting for Jason to answer. Not that Jason knew what he would say. In less than three weeks, everything he’d taken for granted about the uselessness of the man who was technically his brother had shifted and changed.

And he didn’t know what the hell to do about it.

Jake’s: Bar

“This day.” Elizabeth tossed back a long swig of her beer, then wrinkled her nose. “Oh, man. Who suggested the cheapest beer?”

“The girl who wanted to go on a Caribbean vacation this summer, which means we have to save every penny.” Gia shrugged and considered the thick dark liquid in her pint glass. “Not sure this is worth it. Next time, we just get the big bottle of wine.”

“But then we’d miss all this atmosphere,” Courtney said with a bright smile as she gestured toward the rest of the room, filled with dockhands and men playing beer. The trio of girls were the only females—save Jake behind the bar.

But no one approached them or gave them a second look. Courtney was Sonny’s sister, Gia was a cop’s sister, and Elizabeth…

Elizabeth decided not to think about why men who worked for Jason and Sonny were ignoring her.

“So, how did telling the boys about Granddaddy Q go?” Gia asked, folding her arms on the table. “You worked all day—”

“You didn’t come back last night after telling him?” Courtney raised her eyebrows. “Do we have something else to put on the agenda?”

No,” Elizabeth drawled with a roll of her eyes. “It was okay. He was pissed as hell, like I’m sure AJ was. I talked him out of going right to the mansion, but it was a close call.” She lifted a shoulder. “We talked, and then we went for a ride.” When Gia started to wiggle her eyebrows, she laughed and punched her roommate lightly in the shoulder. “No, I mean on the bike. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’m done pretending that we’re just…friends.”

“Thank God.” Gia raised her hands in the air. “Hallelujah!”

“AJ looked ready to kill this morning,” Courtney said. “He went straight to the mansion to confront his grandfather.” Her mouth twisted in a slight grimace. “I suppose I don’t have the influence on him that you do with Jason.”

Elizabeth winced, but shook it off. “He must have talked to Lila, because Edward showed up at Kelly’s. I’m not sure if he thought I could make peace with Jason or he could talk me out of mentioning any of it at a custody hearing, but I told him no way.”

“Even if you wanted to leave it out,” Gia said, “Alexis isn’t going to let this slide. She’d use it against AJ, as a sign the Q’s are demonic, but yeah, there’s no way this isn’t going to be a thing.”

“It’s insane. How did he think Michael was going to keep this to himself?” Courtney asked with another sigh. “I hate that Edward might have messed with AJ’s chances, but you’re right. This is a mark against the Quartermaines.”

“They’re never more dangerous than when they’re trying to help,” Elizabeth said with a rueful smile.  She grimaced. “Damn it. Why he does have to be here tonight?”

Zander emerged from a clump of men that had been at the pool table. He grabbed a chair from another table, turned it around and straddled it. “Slumming it tonight, ladies?”

“Who asked you to sit down?” Gia demanded, but Zander ignored her, focusing his gaze on Elizabeth who met his eyes dead on. She wasn’t intimidated by him.

She could take care of herself, and moreover, this was Jake’s. The bartender had given them a friendly wave when they’d arrived, and the bar itself was full of men who worked for Sonny. She’d like to think after all the problems Zander had had at his job lately, he’d show some common sense.

But clearly that was too much to hope for as Zander’s eyes narrowed. “You talk to your boyfriend lately?”

She lifted one eyebrow. “Why? You looking to pass another message to him? I’m not interested.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think so.” Zander smirked. “He’s not walking around like a man who’s satisfied. Maybe Gia’s more his speed.”

“Are you kidding me right now?” Gia demanded.

“I mean, I merely suggested yesterday that maybe he needed to get laid,” Zander continued, ignoring her. “And he nearly put me through a wall.”

“I wish he’d throw you over a cliff,” Courtney muttered.

“I wondered what those bruises were from,” Elizabeth said sweetly as she gestured toward the dark marks at Zander’s neck. “I heard you weren’t measuring up at work.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, well, maybe if Jason was getting what he needed at home, he wouldn’t be so bitchy at work.” He tilted his head, a wicked light in his eyes. “Or maybe you’re too frigid.”

Elizabeth fisted her hands in her lap, her blood beginning to simmer.

“Zander, you should probably go,” Courtney said. She leaned away from the table, looking in a different direction. “I think maybe—”

“Yeah, Emily told me you had a hang-up about sex,” Zander continued, leaning in. “I guess no one can measure up to that first time—”

“Oh, that is it—” Gia got to her feet, but Elizabeth had already beat her to it. She picked up her glass and without even blinking, tossed it in his face. Zander scowled and grabbed Gia’s beer.

Elizabeth gasped as the cold liquid splashed her face. Without one more thought, she lunged to her feet and launched herself across the table, tackling Zander and clawing at his face with her nails.

Gia rushed in to help, but the bar had already exploded. Men were trying to separate them, jostling each other. One man took exception to a bump from another, punched him in the face, then had a chair cracked over his head by someone else from the guy’s group.

Courtney neatly sidestepped the whole matter and moved a chair out of Jason’s away, as he closed the last distance between him and the melee at the table. She’d spied him several minutes earlier—and after all, hadn’t she warned Zander to leave?

Elizabeth felt herself being lifted up by the waist and kicked out wildly until she realized it was Jason. He set her down next to Courtney, grabbed Zander by the throat and lifted him up as well.

“When the hell did he get here?” Elizabeth demanded, wiping blood from her cheek. Courtney winced, then bit her lip as she watched Jason drag Zander towards the back of the bar.

“Uh, where’s he taking him?” Courtney asked.

Gia joined them, holding her hand to her cheek. “Fucking wastes of space,” she snarled. “Someone punched me in the face.”

“I better go out there before Jason kills him,” Elizabeth managed before taking off. After a moment, Gia and Courtney followed.

Jake’s: Back Alley

But Jason wasn’t going to kill Zander Smith. He didn’t know why Zander had thrown the beer at Elizabeth, but when he had, he’d seen red and didn’t quite remember closing the distance between the stairs and the brawl.

Fucker was lucky Jason didn’t separate his head from his body. It would have given Jason pleasure to rip him apart.

Though it felt good to finally be using his fists against Zander’s face the way he’d always visualized, Jason saw the back door open out of the corner of his eye. Elizabeth and her friends piled into the alley, followed by Jake.

When he was sure Zander wouldn’t be able to get back up and do any more damage, Jason let him slide to the ground, landing on his back, coughing up. His face was streaked with grime and dirt from the alley, along with scratches from Elizabeth and Gia’s nails—and blood from the broken nose he’d made sure Zander would suffer.

He’d seen the scumbag punch Elizabeth in the face. Zander Smith was lucky to be walking away with his ability to breathe intact.

Jason planted his motorcycle boot on Zander’s chest and leaned down. “You get up and you go away,” he told him in a low voice. “The next time I see you, I might not let you leave alive.”

Zander coughed again and spit to the side, the saliva mixed blood. “Fucking bitch needs you to fight her battles—”

“Call me a bitch again!” Elizabeth snarled, but Gia grabbed her elbow to keep her from striding forward. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me. I knocked you on your ass, you piece of shit—”

“Who are you and what did you do with Elizabeth?” Courtney hissed.

“Get up and go away,” Jason told him again. “Don’t look back. You’re done here.” He stepped back.

Zander stumbled to his feet and spat again. “You don’t get to decide that,” he snarled, but he didn’t press the point. He disappeared down the alley. Jason turned to the quartet at the back door.

“Just wanted to be sure you wouldn’t kill him,” Jake said blandly. “I’ll go in and turn on the sprinklers.”

Elizabeth was breathing hard from the exertion of the fight, her pulse was racing as she watched Jason stand several feet away, breathing just as hard, his muscular chest rising up and down beneath the black t-shirt he wore.

“We should—” Gia grabbed Courtney by the arm and yanked her through the door.

“Should we leave them alone?” Courtney asked. “He looked pretty angry—”

“Girl, those were mating pheromones,” Gia told her. “Let’s help Jake clear out the bar.”

“Um, we weigh like a hundred pounds,” Courtney replied, but followed her friend. “I don’t think we’re going to be a lot of help.”

Back in the alley, Jason and Elizabeth just continued to stare at one another. Should she go inside? Say something? But her throat refused to produce sound and her feet were glued to the sidewalk.

He strode forward then, slid his hand around her neck and drew her up on her toes. And then he kissed her.

She’d been kissed before—by Lucky, mostly. Once, uncomfortably by Nikolas. A few times on dates with Gia’s annoying friends—but never like this. He consumed her. The world around her melted away, and the only thing she knew was the taste of his mouth, the slight tang of beer as his tongue slid past her lips. The way his hands felt as they slid beneath the thin camisole she wore and touched her skin, scorching a trail up her back.

She could feel the cool stone of the building behind her as he backed her against it, taking his lips from hers in order to kiss her jaw, taste the skin at her collarbone, the nip of his teeth at her throat. It was everything she’d ever thought it might be, but somehow more. Everything was brighter, more vibrant.

A bottle smashed somewhere nearby and Elizabeth jerked away, drawn back to reality by the sound. She pushed Jason back a little, suddenly uncomfortable with how fast and…how intense the moment had been.

His fingers touched the swelling at her cheek. “You’re going to have a black eye,” he murmured, with none of the aggression he’d shown just moments earlier. “I should have hit him harder.”

“I’m pretty sure he’ll have scars from me and Gia,” Elizabeth replied with a sauciness she hadn’t felt in months. “I appreciate the assist, but I had it under control.”

“I know.” He grinned then, stepping back, giving her some space to cool down. “I just finally had a good excuse to kick his ass. You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.”

She knew her own smile must be as wide. God, Gia and Courtney had been right. She needed this electric feeling, this sensation of being alive. She could feel all her nerve endings standing on end. “I have a pretty decent idea.”

He tipped his head toward the door. “I should go in, make sure Jake cleared the bar. You need a ride home?”

“Even if I didn’t,” Elizabeth said, arching a brow, “I’ll take one.”

Port Charles Harbor

It was just after dawn when a yacht sailed into the harbor as some of the locals were beginning their morning shift in the warehouses that lined the docks.

It had left Caracas, Venezuela two weeks earlier and had initially been scheduled to arrive the week before. But a storm off the coast of Massachusetts had delayed its northward progress, and traffic down the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic had been congested now spring had arrived and wealthy residents were taking their own pleasure cruises from the Great Lakes to the ocean.

The yacht sliced through the murky blue water of the Elm Street Pier and slid into a slip that had been reserved for the summer.  Its crew set down the anchor, and some of workers at a nearby warehouse part gaped at the large vessel. Yachts were common in Port Charles, and wealth was not a new sight—they had their own island just outside the harbor complete with a Gothic mansion.

But this yacht was unusually large, with swarthy Columbian crew, and a name scrawled in Spanish across the bow, La Venganza. Some of the dock workers who spoke the language remarked on naming one’s boat after revenge, but everyone knew rich people didn’t have much imagination.

Several hours later, a man strolled out to the bow of the boat where the pier met Elm Street. He had a decent view of the harbor and, in particular, Pier 52. He lit a cigar and took a long pull, enjoying the bitter, smoky taste as it rolled down his throat.

“Let the games begin,” he murmured, before turning to meet with his first business associate, his grin wide and enthusiastic. “Ah, Senore Roscoe, thank you for meeting with me…”

September 22, 2016

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Bittersweet

I don’t know where I am
I don’t know what I’ve done
I just go over it and over it again and again and again
I can’t sleep at night
I can
’t breathe
Numb, Airborne Toxic Event


Friday, May 3, 2002

 Gia and Elizabeth’s Apartment: Living Room

Courtney refilled her glass of Moscato—her third of the evening, and she had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last. “I could learn to hate the Quartermaines.” She could still remember the way they’d looked at her, judged her. Found her wanting. They didn’t care much for AJ, but they sure as hell didn’t think she was good enough for him all the same.

“I’d ask what Jason thinks about all of this,” Gia said, swirling the liquid in her wine glass as she reclined on the sofa, “but I’m not an idiot. You haven’t told him yet.”

Elizabeth snorted, curling up at the other end of the sofa. “I tell Jason that Edward Quartermaine is harassing Michael at school, and I won’t have to worry about being in the middle of a custody battle. I’ll be bailing Jason out of jail for assault and battery.” She blinked. “You think he’d get bail?”

“Well, as long as he doesn’t murder the dumb bastard,” Gia considered, “I think he’d be in clear. They usually only withhold bail for serious felonies.” She lifted her glass in a mock salute. “If you start sleeping with him, you’re really going to have start boning up on your criminal law.”

“Haha,” Elizabeth muttered darkly.

“She didn’t deny it this time,” Courtney pointed out to Gia. “Good sign, I think.”

“I don’t see the point in wasting my breath.” Elizabeth sighed and set her wine glass on the coffee table. “I should tell him.”

“Uh, like yesterday,” Gia said. She flicked her fingers at Courtney. “This one is going to tell her husband, I’m sure.”

Elizabeth turned stricken eyes to Courtney. “You’re going to tell AJ?”

Courtney swallowed and shrugged. “I kind of have to, don’t I? I mean, AJ had a huge fight with his grandfather a few days ago after the will reading. And if you’re telling Jason, I think AJ should get a chance to defend himself. What if Jason thinks AJ put his grandfather up to it?”

“Did he?” Gia raised her eyebrows.

“No!”

“Courtney.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I just—I want to do the right thing. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything to anyone. You don’t tell AJ; I won’t tell Jason—”

“Well, that’s just a stupid reaction.” Gia huffed. “Elizabeth, you have to tell Jason. He’s Michael’s legal guardian, and Edward Quartermaine is screwing with the kid’s mind. I mean, I’m sure he means well, but trying to get in good with the kid behind everyone’s back just screams manipulative.”

“I know, I know. I just—” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I don’t know. It’s been…almost normal. Michael was starting to bounce back a bit. When I tell Jason, his first instinct is going to be to go after Edward. I don’t want that. I don’t want Jason to have to deal with that. He has enough grief with the Quartermaines.”

“It’s cute how concerned she is about a guy who’s not her sex toy,” Gia told Courtney. She looked back at Elizabeth. “Listen. You can’t not say anything. You’re gonna feel guilty. And if you keep quiet, Edward Quartermaine is just going to keep going to Michael’s school. They won’t turn him way—too much money. Too much influence. He’s gonna keep confusing and upsetting Michael, and eventually, it’s going to come out that this is happening, and that you knew.”

Elizabeth dipped her head. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. I just—” She bit her lip. “I don’t know. It’s stupid to think I could stay out of this—I just don’t want to fall into bad habits.”

“Bad habits?” Courtney echoed, but Gia was shaking her head.

“You know telling someone is the right thing. You know it, because you’ve always been a goody-two shoes—”

“Oh, shut up—”

“Gia,” Courtney tried to break in, because she didn’t like the tone in either woman’s voice or their flushed cheeks. But it was if she wasn’t there.

“So you wanting to remain silent is about this stick you have up your ass about Jason. You think I haven’t noticed you pretending you’re going to keep him at arm’s length? You’re doing the same bullshit now you did last year, only you don’t have Lucky to blame anymore.”

Elizabeth shot to her feet, her eyes dark with anger. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means,” Gia began as she carefully got to her feet, “that you’re still telling yourself you don’t want Jason that way. You’re being his friend, but you’re sending the same damn signals you sent last year. I watched you when he came to see you a few days ago. He’s giving you the same looks, and you’re not shutting it down—”

“That’s not true—”

“What the hell are you so afraid of?” Gia shot back.

“Gia, come on,” Courtney murmured, standing. She didn’t want them to fight like this. She touched Gia’s arm. “Don’t—”

“You have no right—” Elizabeth stopped, and closed her eyes. “Gia—” Her voice broke, and so Gia’s face softened.

“I don’t know how we ended up being friends or roommates,” Gia continued, “but here we are. I don’t want to be like the idiots who pushed you at Lucky last year. That’s not what I’m trying to do, Elizabeth. I just—” She bit her lip. “You were miserable last year going after that modeling job, dating Lucky. You were pretending to be someone you’re not. When you left Lucky, when we decided to do this new life thing together, what did you tell me?”

“I—” Elizabeth sighed and sank onto the sofa. She closed her eyes. “That I didn’t want to pretend anymore. I didn’t want to be someone I wasn’t.”

Gia sat next to her. “If you really don’t want anything romantic with Jason, that’s fine. But you’re sitting here, contemplating not telling him something about Michael you know he has to know, and you’re doing it because you can’t pretend when you’re with him. As long as you don’t see him, you can play this game.”

“Elizabeth,” Courtney said, a bit uneasy. “I don’t know everything that happened with Lucky, and I don’t expect you to tell me. I just—I think Jason should know Edward is around Michael. I’m going to tell AJ so he can do something about it. Jason and AJ want to put Michael first. We should help them do that.”

“I know.” Elizabeth lifted her wine glass to her lips. “Hand me my cell phone.” She looked at Gia. “That’s why we ended up friends. You’re the only one who ever called me on my bullshit. Once that stopped scaring me, I realized how important it is.” Her lips twitched. “Bitch.”

“Skank.” Gia handed the silver phone over to her. “I won’t wait up.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny scowled, closing the folder of a business plan from Benny he’d intended to ignore anyway. He rose to his feet. “The little punk said what?”

Jason’s expression was tight, the muscles in his shoulders bunched with an unleashed fury. The pragmatic side of Sonny’s brain was relieved Jason hadn’t strangled Zander in broad daylight in front of witnesses when their peace was fragile.

But most of him wished Zander was lying at the bottom of the cold dark Port Charles Harbor. He’d been right to hold him back, right to test him. Goddamn bastard.

“One little setback and this is how he reacts?” Sonny shook his head. “Hothead. No goddamn common sense. Instead of doubling down, trying to prove himself, he mouths off.” He crossed the room the mini bar, but poured himself a glass of water instead of the bourbon he wanted.

He’d found himself turning to liquor more often than not, and while he rarely drank to excess, it struck him as a crutch he couldn’t afford.

He turned back to Jason. “You warn Elizabeth that Zander’s on the warpath? I don’t want him harassing her.”

“I talked to her.” Jason waited a minute. “I had Francis give me a guy to hang out at Kelly’s when Elizabeth works. That’s where Zander would likely catch her. She can handle herself, but—”

“He’s been warned,” Sonny cut in. “He shouldn’t need another damn warning. He shouldn’t have needed one in the first place. Every man in the organization knows—” He stopped, took a breath. “Jason, you know that anyone who’s been around for a few years, they think Elizabeth is—”

“I know.” Jason looked away, but Sonny caught the faint hint of red at his cheeks. “They still think I was—that winter I was shot—”

“When Nikolas Cassadine announced it at the Christmas party, after the bomb in her studio—when it became clear you were staying there—” Sonny tilted his head. “After I put a guard on her after you left. We never made it clear she wasn’t—” He paused. “What I’m telling you is, Jason, that I can talk to Francis, to Johnny. They can spread the word discreetly. If you want it known that she’s not—”

“Would it matter?” Jason asked. He met Sonny’s eyes, then shifted away. “If—if we say anything, it just draws more attention to her. We don’t go after women. It shouldn’t matter who they are. If he’s talking about Elizabeth that way—can you imagine how he’d treat the women who work at the clubs Nico wants him to run?”

“Yeah.” Sonny exhaled slowly, taking note of the fact Jason had declined to clarify Elizabeth’s status. She would remain linked with Jason unless they changed it. That relationship would carry weight with most of their men. And might prove dangerous to those who would use it against them. “We’ll send him a message. And those who work with Nico in general.”

He crossed to his desk, picked up the receiver. “Right now, Zander collects money for Nico. He doesn’t do any of the physical work, but he keeps the rest of the guys in line, particularly for some of the more lucrative bookies. He’s done with that now. I want him back on muscle. Any trust I had is gone now, and I don’t reward dumb fucks.”

“He’s gonna be pissed about that,” Jason said. “Might make it worse.”

“There were witnesses that heard him go after a woman under my protection. Mock you, challenge your authority. I don’t give a shit about Zander’s personal feelings. He wants to come at me? Let him.” Sonny scoffed. “He won’t. He’ll keep coming at weaker targets because he doesn’t have the balls. You let him live once. He crosses us again, we’re not so nice the next time.”

Oasis: Back Office

“God damn it, Zander.” Nico pounded his fist on the table. “You got a fucking death wish, you little shit?”

Zander scowled, slumping in his chair. “What, I’m fired now?” He expected no less after Jason Morgan had nearly strangled him. He’d known it was suicide to insult Elizabeth to his face, but he couldn’t resist the temptation—he knew insulting that bitch would crack Morgan’s legendary cool.

But it hadn’t. Oh, yeah, Morgan had shoved him against the wall, but he’d done it with a cool expression. As if he were swatting a fucking fly. Fucker. He hated that bastard. He’d pissed Jason off, but not enough to lose it.

“No,” Nico retorted. “But you’re back to cracking heads and busting knees.” He huffed. “I’m gonna have to find someone else to take over for me when I go to Vegas,” he told Lenny. “I thought this fucker could be fixed—I thought if I gave Sonny some time, but no.” His eyes were like laser slicing through him when he looked back at Zander. “You got a thing for this bitch? Is that why you can’t keep away?”

“What?” Zander demanded. “No!”

“I got eyes on you, you moron. I know you went after her at that diner you live at. I know you harassed her—that’s why Sonny called last week.” He lit a cigarette. “You didn’t tell me that happened.”

“It wasn’t important—”

“You ended your career, you dumb shit. You fucked up your life over a whore, I hope you at least fucked her first,” Nico muttered. He sucked in a long drag, then exhaled, the wispy smoke disappearing into the dimly lit room. “Is that what this is about? You wanted her, she wanted Morgan?”

“I don’t—” Zander stopped, took a deep breath. “No,” he said, a bit more calmly. “I don’t care about Elizabeth Webber. I shouldn’t have said anything about her. Or to her.”

“Little late for that.” He looked at Lenny. “Call Ollie. Tell him to send me Paulie.” Nico tipped the ash of his cigarette into a ceramic ash tray at his side. “You can go work for Ollie. Paulie will take your place here. He’s due to move up.”

“Damn it, Nico—”

“If I want Corinthos to give me the go ahead on Vegas,” Nico said, his tone tight, “I gotta toe the fucking line. I already put my neck out for you once, you piece of shit. I ain’t doing it twice.” He leaned back, considered him a long moment. “You play your cards right, Smith, you let Morgan cool off. You stay away from this woman—maybe when I get to Vegas, I can convince Sonny to send you out to me. But get your head together. Women aren’t worth losing money and power.”

It hadn’t been about a woman. Nothing to do with her. Just what she represented. Who she was to Jason Morgan. The man had everything, but hell if he’d let anyone else get a toe up in this world.

One day, someone was going to put a bullet between Jason’s eyes, and Zander was going to raise a toast in celebration.

Brownstone: Front Step

When Jason pulled up, Elizabeth was sitting at the top of the steps, a glass of wine in her hands.

“I’m sorry to call you so late,” she said, shifting a bit to the side to make room.

“It’s okay,” Jason responded as he climbed the steps to take a seat next to her.  “You said something was wrong.”

“I wrestled with telling you this for a lot of reasons,” Elizabeth said. She twisted so that she was half facing him, her back against the cool stone. “Most of them aren’t important, but I mostly just…I know it’s going to make everything worse. You’re going to be so angry…”

“Elizabeth…” He leaned forward, trying to capture her eyes but she kept them down, looking at her lap. “Did something happen? Are you okay?”

“It’s not about me,” Elizabeth replied. “It’s…I pick Michael up during the week. Two days, sometimes three. Today, he was in a bit of a mood. Not a bad one, just…quiet. He’s been quiet since Carly…but it was different today. It took some prying—Jason, Edward arranged for Michael to come to the headmaster’s office.”

Jason sat up, his shoulders tensing. “He harassed Michael at school?”

“He told Michael it was going to be their little secret. His way of getting to know him before Michael came to live with them. So he wouldn’t be so scared.” Elizabeth shook her head, her voice thickening. “When Michael said he wanted to stay with his grandmother, Edward told him it would be easier at the mansion. More family. It wouldn’t be such a burden to look after him.”

“A fucking burden?” Jason repeated. He lunged to his feet. “He told Michael he was a burden to Bobbie?”

“Jason…” Elizabeth stood. “I know you’re angry, and I’m sorry. I just—you needed to know this was happening. I didn’t tell Bobbie yet. I wanted to see how you wanted to deal with it—”

Deal with it? He was going to go to that damn house and throw Edward Quartermaine into the fucking lake. What the hell was he thinking? “Carly’s only been gone for a few weeks,” Jason managed through a clenched jaw. “He couldn’t wait—”

“Jason…” Elizabeth sighed, and wrapped her arms around herself. “I know, and I know you think confronting him is the right thing to do, but—”

“It won’t solve anything,” he muttered. “It’ll make me feel better, but that’s not the point.” He sat back down and dragged his hands through his hair. “What did you tell Michael?”

“I told him that Bobbie loved him, that you loved him. That his home is with her and no one was taking him anywhere.” Elizabeth dropped next to him. “I know I probably stepped out of line, I just didn’t want him worrying that he might—he’s been through so much during this last year. Leaving Sonny’s, losing him out of his life. Coming here. Carly working, then when she died…he can’t handle more instability. He shouldn’t have to.” She hesitated. “I told Courtney and Gia. Courtney is telling AJ about it.”

“Why?” Jason demanded. “He probably put the old man up to it—” He looked away even as he said it.

“You know that’s not true,” Elizabeth murmured. “I don’t want to champion him because, well, I don’t know anything for sure, but if AJ were behind it, he wouldn’t send Edward as his emissary.”

“No,” Jason muttered. “He wouldn’t. He would have gone himself.” He waited a moment. “I’ll have to talk to Alexis again. I want her to be ready to challenge any suit they bring my way. Edward might not wait for AJ to file on his own.” He shook his head. “Michael’s staying with Bobbie. He’s not going anywhere near them—” He glanced over, then frowned. “What? You look like you want to say something.”

“Edward going behind everyone’s back—it looks bad for him. But if AJ wasn’t involved—that’s not going to change his custody case.” Elizabeth asked softly. She closed her eyes. “Jason. I hate this. I hate that I have to say this—but I think you’re running out of time to make a decision.”

Jason flinched. “AJ can’t be trusted. You said so yourself—”

“I know that,” Elizabeth said. “I just…I don’t know, Jason. Maybe you should talk to AJ.  Come up with a third solution. I don’t want Michael to go through a custody hearing, have to talk to doctors and judge and watch you and AJ fight over him only for you to lose.”

“You want AJ to have Michael?” Jason demanded. “After everything he’s done—”

“I’m not saying that. And I’ve never said that,” Elizabeth retorted. “And I’m not in any position to judge anything anyone else does, okay? I don’t know. I just—I want what’s best for Michael. I’m just—” She bit her lip.

“Spit it out, Elizabeth.”

“I know all the reasons you don’t want AJ to have custody,” Elizabeth said finally. “And you know I agree with them. Jason, I’m just so scared that a judge isn’t going—he’s not going to take them seriously. If you and AJ fight this out, if you force a judge to rule—” She swallowed. “Jason…”

“I know.” He exhaled slowly, and looked away, looked straight ahead to the other row of brownstones across the street. “Thanks for telling me about AJ. I know—I know you’re not comfortable telling me anything Courtney says to you.”

“Well, I figured it was fair warning.”

Jason hesitated. “Why else?”

She blinked at him. “Why else what?”

“You said you struggled with not telling me for a lot of reasons,” he said slowly. “I can’t—I don’t think they were all about Michael.”

“Jason—” She bit her lip. “No, I guess they weren’t.” She rubbed hands over her denim clad knees. “I just—I don’t want things to be like they were before. I want us to be friends, I do. I just—” She tilted her eyes to the sky. “I’m not sure we can be.”

He sucked in a sharp breath—he hadn’t expected that. “Elizabeth—” He exhaled slowly. “Why can’t we be friends?” he asked. He almost scowled at he saw a tiny smile flit across her petite features. “What? What’s funny?”

“Nothing…it’s usually…I’m used to being the one asking for—” Elizabeth sighed. “Why were we friends in the first place?”

“What?” He lifted his brows. “When? Last year?”

“Ever. You felt sorry for me and gave me a ride. How did…” She looked at her fingernails, painted some sort of dark shade he couldn’t make out by the light of the street lamps. “How did that turn into everything else?”

“I—” Jason hesitated. He’d never really thought about how they’d become so close. They just…they just were. Or had been. “I don’t know. I guess you were just…you were someone I could talk to.”

“Maybe it was that morning I found you in the snow. Maybe that’s when it changed.” She sighed. “I always felt like I took advantage of you. Like…you were there because I saved your life once and you just…”

“We weren’t friends because I felt obligated,” Jason finished her thought. “That’s not what I do. Yeah, after that winter—after you dragged me to your studio and forced soup down my throat, sure, if you’d needed something, I would have done it. You saved my life. But that’s not why—” Not why he’d been so scared the night the bomb was in her studio. Why he’d felt as torn about cutting things off after that…

Why saying goodbye a few weeks later had hurt so much.

“Why does it matter?” he said instead. “Do you need to know why I care about you?”

“Because I did take advantage of you last year,” Elizabeth said.

He shook his head. “I don’t see it that way—”

“Oh, come on…” She rolled her eyes. “Don’t—don’t do that. Don’t pretend I didn’t—” She bit her lips. “Anyone else would have called me a tease or something worse—”

“I’m not anyone else.” He took her chin in his hand, forcing her to look at him. “And you don’t get to tell me what happened last year. I was there, and I know what you were going through—”

“Jason—”

“And you can’t keep punishing yourself. Is that this is about?” He released her and got to his feet. “We can’t be friends because of what happened?”

She stood. “Because there’s no place in my life for you.”

He took the hit and didn’t flinch. “If that’s true, Elizabeth, then I can respect that. But I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t get to tell me how to feel,” she shot back, echoing words he’d once spoken to her. “I can’t go back. I can’t do any of that again—”

“Any of what?” he challenged, feeling the frustration crawl up his throat. “Damn it, Elizabeth, what did I do—”

“I’m never going to be broken again, do you get that?” Her voice cracked, a tear slid down her cheek, iridescent in the pale streetlight. As soon as the words left her mouth, her shoulders slumped, the anger slid out of her posture.

Jason closed his mouth, because he didn’t know how to respond to that. How to argue with that. He didn’t even know why he was pushing this except— “I—”

Elizabeth sighed and scrubbed her hands over her face. “I’m sorry. I don’t—you didn’t—I did it to myself. I let people tell me how to feel, how to live. I let them direct my life. I’ve worked my ass off for the last five months to be the person I was supposed to be. I can’t…I can’t go back. I can’t be that person again. After the rape, after losing Lucky, after the wedding—I keep starting my life over again. I can’t do it again. I just can’t.”

“I’m not asking you to. I just…” Wanted to see her. Be around her. Take her to the cliff roads. “I just—”

“But it hurts too much…” A tear slid down her cheek, glinting in the dim light. “It all hurts, and I can’t stand it. I hate this. I hate that when I see you, it’s like nothing has changed—”

He took her by the elbow and drew her in closer. “Elizabeth—”

“Even the way you say my name—” Her voice broke and she dipped her head, leaned into him. “I just want to be…” She trailed off, as if she didn’t know how to finish that.

“I want you to be whoever you want to be,” Jason told her, running his hand from her elbow to the top of her shoulder then back again. “You’re still putting pressure on yourself. If that’s because of me—”

“It’s because of me…” Elizabeth sighed again and stepped back. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m making things into a huge deal. What did you used to say? A solution doesn’t have to be complicated to be right? Maybe…I just have to stop.”

“There’s no law that says we have to do anything or be anything,” Jason told her. He tipped her face so their eyes met. “You keep telling me you’re a different person now.”

“A better one,” she said with conviction. “And maybe it’s time I show you.”

He tilted his head toward the street. “How about a ride?”

“Perfect.”  As they started towards his bike, she asked, “What are you going to do about Michael? About Edward?”

He sighed, as he handed her the helmet strapped on the back of his bike. “I don’t know. I suppose I’ll call Alexis in the morning to see what she recommends. I might want to go…” Yell at someone, break something… “But it won’t solve anything. I have to do what’s good for Michael.”

Though if Edward making this move at Michael’s school was the reason Elizabeth had finally started to tear down the walls between them, well, maybe he might even find room to be grateful to the old bastard.

Maybe.

September 20, 2016

Hey! So no updates today, but I wanted to make a few announcements separate from the updates.  As most of you know, I’m a graduate student studying American History and pursuing my teaching certification while I work as both a substitute and a tutor at Huntington Learning Center.

As part of the teaching program and NJ state requirements, I have to pass the Praxis Core in order to even get into the program and student teach.  Reading and Writing, naturally, went well. Math has been a disaster. I’ve taken it twice and failed it. That happened for the second time on Monday. In order to reach my deadline of January 31 to take and pass it again, I have to really focus on preparing and study math a lot more in depth than I have up until now.  I’m pretty annoyed with my life, but I have to do what’s necessary.

So writing, as always, takes a back seat. I hope to continue with Flash Fiction, and to be honest, I may skip some weeks so I can take that hour or two to work on Bittersweet.

After next week, and Chapter Eight, Bittersweet is going on hiatus for about a month to allow me to conserve chapters I have and keep building a buffer zone. I’m going to work on Bittersweet again for my NaNoWriMo project so I can finish it finally.

And then, to be honest, the next time I start posting a full-length project, I’m actually going to wait until it’s fully written. Then I can post a few times a week. I don’t think anyone is really served well by piece meal updates. Storylines feel like they’re being dragged out constantly when really they’re just over a few chapters and you wouldn’t notice the time if you were reading in a book.

I appreciate those of you who are coming back week after week for both Bittersweet and A King’s Command, the flash fiction series. To be honest, I’m using Flash Fiction to workshop ideas and I may end up taking the series and reworking it a bit once it’s complete to flesh it out and make it a traditional novel from the site. The difference is that I just post at the end of the hour rather than waiting, rereading a few times, sending it to Cora, reviewing her suggestions, etc. It’s messier, and sometimes drives me crazy but it’s a good writing exercise.

Love you guys, see you tomorrow for the update!

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Workshop: A King's Command

Within an hour, Jason knew all there was to know.

Which was damn little.

His cousin had been all but asleep on his feet—Dillon had been reluctant to leave Elizabeth as Tracy had not deigned to assign any protection to the laird’s wife. “I argued most fiercely, Cousin,” Dillon said as Jason shoved him down the hallway toward his own chambers. “But Mama did not agree a’tall wit’ Barbara—”

“I know,” Jason muttered. “What of the serving girl? Who gave my wife the ale?”

“Dunno.” They stopped in front of the door. “God’s Truth, Jason. I was out wit’ the boats all day. Just as I am every day. I share some ale with Elizabeth each night before supper. She was already there, the ale at her side. We spoke a bit about…about things…then we—” He looked away and swallowed. “I thought we might drink a toast to your safe return. If I hadn’t, mayhap she would have forgotten it ‘twas there—”

“The only fault lays with the coward who tried to kill her.” Jason shoved him inside his chamber. “Sleep. Thank you for looking after my wife.”

He turned to find Francis, his first in command, behind him. “I was about to send for you—”

“Yer aunt told me all when I came in the hall.” They went back towards Jason’s chambers. “I’ve already asked Johnny to look into the kitchen staff, but the trail is ice cold, Laird. And…”

When Francis paused, Jason sighed, his hand on the heavy oak door. “Aye. Elizabeth is not well-liked, there there is no small amount of suspects. But not all dislike is ill-meant.”

“’Tis not that the men dislike her,” Francis said, his face miserable. “They—she does not…well—” He shuffled his feet. “They’re unconvinced at our king’s motives. They think she brings danger with her.”

“Aye, and I’ve held my tongue. I thought Elizabeth would—” Win them over. As she had him. And the contingent of men who had been with them at the wedding and the journey home. “But I sat back too long, I let Elizabeth talk me down—she was—there was to be a child.” His voice broke—just slightly. “’Tis gone.”

“I—” Francis lifted his chin. “I see to Johnny’s investiation and put Max and Gannon at the chamber door. Yer wife will come to no more harm. We will find the fiend, Jason. You have my oath.”


It was another day before Elizabeth stirred from her deep sleep, her voice slurred as she struggled to sit up. “Husband?”

“Do not move quickly—you will be tired for days yet.” Jason braced her and piled furs behind her. “Are you hungry? Do you wish for drink?”

“No, I—” She cleared her throat, blinking. “What has happened? I was—” Her eyes cleared and there was dread in her eyes. “Jason. I—I was drinking ale with Dillon. And I felt so ill.”

He bowed his head. “Aye. The healer says…there was nightshade in your mug.”

“Night—” Elizabeth pressed a fist to her chest. “Someone wants me dead—” She closed her eyes. “That is not all, is it, husband? Do you know…you know who?”

“No, but—” He paused. He could not keep this from her, he could not lie. But to say the words— “There was…you were with…”

“Child,” she finished. “But no longer.”

“No.”

In her lap, her hands fisted and she was quiet for a long moment. “I should like to…could you help me to stand up?”

“I am not sure—”

“Please.”

He drew back the furs and helped to rise to her feet. She swayed slightly but together, they made their way to the chairs set before the fire. He helped Elizabeth sit down there and then fetched furs to tuck around her. “Elizabeth—”

“I knew ‘twas nothing more than a dream,” she murmured. “To be free. A family. I should have told the king no.”

“I know you do not feel safe here,” Jason began, kneeling in front of her. IF she wanted to return to the king’s court until the villain was found, he could not—he was not sure he could deny her. But—

“I was always told it ‘twas a curse,” Elizabeth continued, her eyes distant, her voice flat as if he were not even in the room. “I told myself it was. But I see now I did not truly believe it until now.”

“Believe what?” Jason drew back, tilting his head. “Elizabeth—”

“I should have—the king should have told you. I should not have believed it would be different here. That I could have a life—”

“You can—”

“No.” She reached forward for his hand. “No, I cannot. I am cursed, just as my parents have always told me. God has cursed me for reasons I cannot fathom. And I am sure of it now. I wanted a child, and God has taken that from me—”

“A coward, a worthless scum has done that—”

“If it is not my fault, then why could I not see?” Her voice broke and a tear slid down her cheek. “I can see when the king’s man poisoned his chalice. I stopped it. I knew when the shepherd at home had broken his leg, had been stranded in the fields.”

“See?” Jason repeated.

Her eyes found his and the emptiness, the devastation nearly stole his breath. “I am cursed by God to see the future, to know things I should not. If it is not a curse, then why could I not save my own child? I had—I had a brief flash just before it all went dark, but not in time. You should—” She swallowed. “You should set me aside. Contact the king. You deserve a wife who can give you more—”

“Stop, just—” Jason rose to his feet and dragged his hand through hair, startled to find it shaking just a little. His wife was telling him—what exactly was she—

“You had a vision that the king would be poisoned and you stopped it,” Jason said, turning back to her. “You saved his life.”

“I could not help it.” She looked down at her lap, twisting her fingers in the dark furs. “My parents brought me to court under royal order—the king is seeking to make alliances between clans and all unmarried maidens—I touched his hand, and I blurted it out. I—he is my king. I could not pretend—”

“Of course not. Your parents were angry?” Jason could easily believe it of the man who had thrust his daughter away to an unknown chieftain.

“Aye. My father passed it off as a crazed mind, but the king…he discovered the man poisoning his chalice. He sent for me, and he said—he was so grateful for it. He said I should be protected.” She looked at him with a sad smile. “And he gave me you. He said I would be safe with you.”

And she hadn’t been. Damn it. He sank back to his knees. “I promise you, I will make you safe here again, Elizabeth. I will find the man who tried to take you from me, who took—” And again, there—his throat closed. He had wanted a child with her. A family. Hers was not the only dream to be crushed this day.

“I should have been able to see in time,” Elizabeth insisted. “What use is this gift if I cannot save my child—” And then her face paled. “You have an enemy. It—I understand now.”

“Understand what?”

“The night of our wedding,” Elizabeth said slowly, “I saw—I felt you be pierced by a sword.”

He remembered her sharp cry that night, the way she had fallen to the ground as if it struck. Her explanation had made little sense, but he could never have dreamed of the truth.

“Did you see who?” Jason asked.

“No, but I—” She bit her lip. “I felt your betrayal,” she murmured. “You—trusted this person.”

“Someone close to me.” Who may not want to see his line continue as laird. Who had sought to kill his wife. “Who may not be eager to see you with child.”

“Jason, I—” She pressed her lips together, her expression quizzical. “You are not…you are not angry with me. You…do not wish to set me aside?”

He took her hands in his, running his calloused thumb over her smooth palm. “You are my wife. The king may have commanded our marriage, Elizabeth, but he was right to. I will protect you, and I will care for you.” He met her eyes. “You are a miracle, wife. Not a curse. And I will thank my king and God every day for you.”

September 15, 2016

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Bittersweet

You know the thing they fear the most
Is that someone’s gonna see right through
Their thin disguise and made-up lies
It’s sad, but true

Heard Ya Talkin’, Jeremy Kay


Thursday, May 2, 2002

Queen of Angels: Chapel

It was strange to stand with Bobbie and Jason as part of the receiving line, but Bobbie had asked Elizabeth to stay with her when Lucas had balked at attending. He’d elected to stay home and hang out with Michael, and Bobbie had thought it would be the better use of his time. So Elizabeth stood there next to Bobbie as people offered their condolences.

She wondered when she saw the large crowd how many of them were there because they’d genuinely liked Carly—and how many had attended out of love for Bobbie?

There was a tense moment as she spied AJ and Courtney in the line. She saw Jason’s muscles bunch—could feel the irritation, the annoyance rising off him as if it were steam rising from a pot of boiling water.

“Bobbie,” Courtney said with a smile, as she came to the older woman first. She leaned in and kissed Bobbie’s cheek. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Carly and I didn’t know each other well, but she was so full of energy. I’ll miss her drama at the diner.”

“Thank you,” Bobbie managed, as Elizabeth gave her friend a grateful smile. The blonde’s words had been some of the few genuine offers of sympathy. Many likely thought Bobbie was better off without the tornado of Carly Corinthos.

“Bobbie, if there’s anything you need,” AJ said, as he carefully avoided looking to Bobbie’s right. “You call me.”

“Yeah, anytime you need me to cover,” Courtney said to Elizabeth. She bit her lip and looked at Jason. Good manners won over her native shyness as she offered her hand to Jason, who accepted it. “Elizabeth has told me so much about you and Carly. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thanks,” Jason said. Courtney hesitated then stepped forward, moving past the line.

AJ cleared his throat as he considered his brother. Elizabeth could hardly breathe. Surely—they wouldn’t cause a scene here. But AJ was a Quartermaine, an unpredictable breed at best.

“No matter our difficulties,” AJ said finally, “I know Carly mattered to you.” Which, Elizabeth supposed, seemed the safest way to describe the strange relationship his brother had had with AJ’s ex-wife. “Losing a friend is never easy.”

He offered his hand, and Elizabeth could feel the eyes of everyone in the immediate area drawing in a collected breath.

But not Elizabeth. She knew Jason better than that and knew he’d let AJ set the tone for this scene. Whatever trouble they had, she hoped Jason would see the sincerity in the older man’s eyes.

So she wasn’t surprised when Jason accepted the hand and shook it. “Thank you,” he replied, his voice devoid of any expression.

AJ and Courtney moved on, the crisis averted. Elizabeth sucked in another breath when she saw Edward and Lila at the end of the line—the last Quartermaines in the room. Alan and Monica had elected not to come, Bobbie said, having offered their condolences at another time. Ned had been through already with Alexis, and his sympathy had been genuine, his interactions with Jason civil, but Ned had always been the most mature member of the family.

“Don’t worry,” Jason murmured to Elizabeth as his grandparents drew closer. “Grandmother won’t let him start anything.”

“And after the scene in Alexis’s office, he knows better,” Bobbie said tightly. Elizabeth sighed at the reminder of just how effectively Carly had pitted the two sides against one another.

True enough, Lila’s gentle presence had forestalled any attempt Edward might have made to antagonize Jason. There had only been a stray comment about family being important, and Edward being willing to do whatever was good for that family, but Elizabeth paid little attention to it.

Bobbie thanked Elizabeth profusely for standing by her at the viewing and in the receiving line, but then she left with Felicia and Mac in order to head to the reception at the Brownstone.

Elizabeth had driven to the church with Gia, but her roommate had had to leave immediately after the service for a study group session, which left Elizabeth with the option to either walk to work or…

“Do you have a ride?” Jason asked.

She had a feeling Gia might have had an ulterior motive when making plans to abandon to her at the church. She’d known Elizabeth was scheduled to work, that Bobbie wouldn’t be able to take her home. She sighed and looked at him. “No, I—I’m supposed to be at Kelly’s—Penny and Don have been there all day—”

“I’ll take you,” Jason told her. “I’m in the parking lot.” And because she could think of no reason to say no that didn’t sound insane and petty, she nodded.

They left the shadowy anteroom of the church and moved into the brilliant sunshine of the early May afternoon. Elizabeth shaded her eyes with one hand as she rummaged one-handed in her purse for her sunglasses.  “I already miss winter,” she muttered.

“There’s sun in the winter,” Jason said blandly as he touched the small of her back to propel her toward the parking lot. She ignored the tingles of his warm skin as they brushed the thin fabric of her black dress and increased her speed, leaving those fingers behind

“Well, if you’re going to be literal,” she began as they passed through the thin black fence, but she cursed herself when they all but crashed into a trio of people she’d been trying to avoid.

Damn it. She was usually more aware of her surroundings, but no—today of all days—

“Well, I’m not surprised to find you sniffing after her already,” Lucky said, ignoring Elizabeth and directing his disgust at Jason. “It’s only been, what? Five minutes since we broke up?”

“Oh, for Christ’s…” Elizabeth huffed and shoved the sunglasses on her head. Even if they were only in the parking, this was still a church, she reminded herself, and Sarah was still her sister. So she plastered a smile on her face and took a deep breath. “I didn’t see you three inside.”

“We caught Bobbie before the ceremony,” Nikolas said, his expression dark with disappointment. Likely in her, for her choice of friends. Jackass. “I thought it was best we didn’t cause a scene.”

She didn’t have a damn clue what kind of scene they might have caused, so she ignored his comment and started past them.

“Lizzie, do you need a ride somewhere?” Sarah asked, even as she wound her arm through Lucky’s. Elizabeth blinked at it for a moment, trying to figure out why the movement bothered her so damn much.

“Let’s just go,” she finally said to Jason. “It’s like talking to a brick wall.”

“Lizzie, you’re not going to get on that bike!” Sarah protested as Jason and Elizabeth rounded the trio and closed the short distance to the motorcycle. “You’re in a dress!”

“Cool it, Sarah. You know there’s no talking to your sister,” Lucky said, bitterness lacing his retort. “Why aren’t you with my aunt?”

Elizabeth ignored them as Jason handed her the helmet and straddled the bike. Don’t give in, don’t give in. Don’t look at them—

“You really know how to cut and run when it gets tough, don’t you?” Lucky managed to call over the engine. Stunned by this attack, Elizabeth looked at him then, seeing the misery, the anger in his expression.  What the hell was his problem?

“Elizabeth?”

She turned back and looked at Jason, his brow lifted. “If you want to stay,” he began, using a resigned tone that she remembered too well.

And she remembered all the times she’d walked away from Jason and stayed with Lucky. Every single mistake she’d made. Jason was hurting today—he had said goodbye to a friend, he was facing a difficult custody battle. And now he was looking at her with that same understanding.

Maybe she didn’t intend to pursue her feelings for him, but she’d be damned if she let him for one more minute think that she was contemplating leaving him for Lucky.

“Can you take the long way to Kelly’s?” she asked, climbing behind Jason and tucking in her skirt so it wouldn’t fly up. “Penny and Don can wait. I want to be anywhere but here.”

Brownstone: Kitchen

The reception had waned by the time Jason arrived—Bobbie was in her kitchen, picking at a sandwich he was sure someone had put in front of her.

With the memorial done, Bobbie had nothing left to plan. There was no next step, nothing to focus on. He worried that she might fall apart now.

But she surprised him with a genuine, if sad, smile as he pulled out a chair to sit with her. “I wondered if you would stop by once people had started to leave.”

“I took Elizabeth to Kelly’s,” he told her. And had stayed for lunch to be sure that if Zander stopped by, he’d be there to give him a warning in person. He hadn’t, and Jason had felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. He wouldn’t mind having Zander’s face to punch today.

“Oh…” Bobbie leaned back. “I didn’t even think—she drove with Gia, but Gia had to leave.” She pressed a hand to her forehead. “I should have made sure—”

“No one expects you to take care of everyone. Elizabeth is an adult.”

“I know, but…” Bobbie sighed. “I just…it struck me as I sat here with my dearest friends in the world. No one misses her.”

Jason blinked. “Bobbie—”

“No one genuinely misses Carly’s presence save for you, me, Michael, and perhaps Sonny, but he holds his grief inside. Everyone else?” Bobbie looked away, toward the backyard where Jason realized he could hear a rumble of voices and the thump of a basketball hitting a hoop. “They feel sorry for me, but I imagine many of them think I’m better off.”

Jason started to protest, but found he couldn’t. Carly had not endeared herself to many in her few years in Port Charles, and had actively sought to antagonize most. Her absence might even bring relief to some.

“I know people think Carly was destructive. Conniving. Manipulative.” Bobbie’s smile was warmer now. “She came by it naturally. I gave her away to give her a better life, but I wanted one for myself, and I did whatever I had to do to get the life I thought I deserved. I schemed. I lied. I had an affair and destroyed my marriage long before she came to town. Once I was past the shock, the sorrow that my child had not had a good life, I could see everything we had in common. Everything that I had passed to her.” She sighed and met Jason’s eyes. “I can only hope she’s found peace now.”

She rose and crossed to the coffee pot. “Can I make you some coffee?”

“Sure,” he said, because it would give her something to do and he could see she needed that now. “About Michael—”

“I hope you’re not angry with me,” Bobbie cut in as she filled the pot with water and turned it on. She looked at him. “It’s not that I don’t want him with you. I remember how good you were to him. I’ve always wished he was your son. It would have made everything easier.”

“But he’s not,” Jason murmured. “And wishing doesn’t take away the problem we have. I spoke with Elizabeth.”

“Oh.” Bobbie drew her brow together. “Oh. I forgot I had asked her—I feel awful about that. I know she doesn’t want to take sides—”

“I needed someone to be honest with me about AJ,” Jason said. “If Michael ends up—” He couldn’t articulate the possibility, so he just stopped. “Anyway, it’s not important. I just—I’m listening to what you and Alexis are telling me. I know the odds aren’t in my favor. I haven’t decided yet what to do. Elizabeth thinks we—that I have still have time.” He hesitated again because it wasn’t in his nature particularly to pry, but— “We ran into Lucky as we left.”

Her expression changed, distaste creeping in. “I’m sure that was pleasant,” she said, acid dripping from every word.

“She told me a little bit of what happened,” Jason continued. “I know that she left him at the altar, moved in here with Gia. I’m not—” He waited. “I don’t know what I’m asking. I guess I just—”

“You’ve noticed the changes.” Bobbie poured the coffee into a mug, then set it in front of him. She returned to her chair. “I’ve known Elizabeth since she moved to Port Charles. I can remember the brash, irresponsible teenager Aunt Ruby kept on at the diner even though she was pretty hopeless. She was flighty, vibrant, clever—” Bobbie sighed. “Ruby always said she was reminded of me at that age. I wasn’t much older than Elizabeth when I—” She bit her lip and looked away. She didn’t have to clarify what she left unspoken. Jason knew she’d been a teenager when she’d started as prostitute in Florida.

“Anyway.” Bobbie coughed, and continued, “Ruby kept her at the diner to keep an eye on her. She saw so much of herself, of me, in Elizabeth.” She tilted her head. “And then, one day, it was gone. All the promise, the bright shining light—extinguished in an instant.”

“I know she was…” He couldn’t say it, hated thinking it. He could remember Emily divulging the truth to him at the garage after Tom Baker had held them hostage in his studio, and while it had saddened him then—he hadn’t really understood it until he spent time with Elizabeth, had seen the scars the attack had left on her soul. It wasn’t abstract any longer, but a real horror that had happened to someone he cared about. “I know what happened to her.”

“I watched her battle back from that, putting herself together piece by piece. It was a struggle,” Bobbie admitted, “but I—I was so proud of her…for finding a new sense of herself. I could see the woman she was going to be emerging. The flightiness—her superficial nature—that had deepened into a bottomless well of compassion, of caring. I could see her shining again, and I could see my nephew shining with her. She didn’t just put herself back together that year, Jason, she kept my fractured family together and didn’t even know it. Lucky was going to leave Port Charles, but she kept him here. And he and Luke were able to patch things up.

“She used to tell me that Lucky fixed her,” Bobbie continued, a tear sliding down her cheek. “I could never understand why she wouldn’t see what she’d given him. Just when I thought she’d battled herself completely back—” Her throat closed. “Well, you were there the night of the fire. You know what she lost. What never came home.”

“Bobbie—”

“The changes you see, the ones I’ve seen since January—” Bobbie cut in, shifting the topic back to the present. “I see that vibrancy returning, but she’s…” She bit her lip, frowning as if searching for the right words. “She’s guarded. In a way I haven’t seen in a long time. I worry that she’s so focused on protecting herself that…” She looked at Jason. “I can’t tell you much about what happened with the wedding beyond the brainwashing. I think it was merely the final straw. Elizabeth doesn’t like to speak about it. I know that she was unhappy before you left, that she was almost miserable in the months that followed.  I wasn’t sure getting married was the right idea, but Lucky had pushed for it, and Elizabeth seemed to…” Bobbie pursed her lips. “I don’t know. I can’t explain it. She seemed to swallow herself up and disappear entirely into Lucky. Until the wedding. And then she woke up.”

Bobbie shifted and leaned back. “Lucky was upset, Laura was beside herself—she’s been in denial about the boy who came home to us as much as anyone of us, but she put so much pressure on Elizabeth. If Elizabeth could just wait a bit longer, love him a bit more, maybe Lucky would be okay again. They both wanted me to talk to her, but I was relieved when she called off the wedding. Gia broke up with Nikolas at the same time. They asked to rent an apartment, they went back to school—” She lifted her hands. “And that’s what I know.”

And it told him very little, but he should have expected that. And what did he really want to know? That Lucky was out of her life? Did he want that to be the truth?

“If you care about her, Jason,” Bobbie said, softly, “then give her some time, some space. I would never call her delicate or fragile, but—”

He almost laughed at that and saw similar humor fill her dark eyes. “No, that’s definitely true. Bobbie—” He stopped when he couldn’t find the words to say. She leaned over and squeezed his hand.

“I think of her as part of my family,” she told him. “Just as you are to me. I know you’ll do right by each other.” She rose to her feet. “I should call the hospital and check in.”

“Thanks, Bobbie.” Jason stood. “I should be getting to work anyway.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

 

Elizabeth offered Sonny a sad smile as the mobster took a seat at the counter and flipped over his coffee cup. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He waited as she poured the thick, dark liquid into the porcelain mug. “Was it okay? No one made any scenes?”

“It was,” she murmured, searching for the right words as she returned the carafe to the hot plate. “It was quiet. Reserved.”

A small corner played at the corner of Sonny’s mouth. “She would have hated that.” He hesitated as he stirred a bit of sugar. “I think I thought…I really thought she’d show up to her own funeral.”

Because they hadn’t found a body. Because Carly would always be at the bottom of the lake. Trapped in her car. Her stomach swirled at the thought.

“It would be her style,” Elizabeth replied. “But not this time. No one showed up at their own funeral.” She smiled at him. “Not that it means anything. Lucky didn’t come to his either and…well…you know.”

“True enough.” Sonny sighed. “A funeral should feel more final,” he said after a moment. “Like closing a book and putting it on a shelf.  I can’t…” He shook his head slightly. “I can’t stop thinking about those cliffs. About Brenda’s accident at the same place.”

“Sonny…”

“I worry for Jason,” her friend said, cutting her off. “The Quartermaines…they’re just lying in wait.” He grimaced, lines shadowing the dimples in his cheeks. “I should have adopted Michael. I just…”

“It made perfect sense at the time.” Elizabeth closed a hand over his. “Carly started a new life. No one saw this coming. And it’s not like AJ has always been a prime candidate for fatherhood. It’s just…it’s bad timing, Sonny—”

“He’s not saying much about this chances in court, but I can imagine…”

“They’re not good.” Elizabeth sighed, dipping her head as she concentrated filling a sugar canister. “Sonny—”

“Jason mentioned you two don’t see each often,” Sonny cut in. “Are you…are you mad at him?”

“Mad?” Elizabeth jerked her head up. “No. No, of course not. Why would I—God, it should be other way around, Sonny…” She sighed. If Jason had mentioned something to Sonny, it must really be bothering him. “I just…all of that is behind me. That person. I made stupid decisions, I said and did awful things—”

“Elizabeth, you were in a difficult—” Sonny stopped and took a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. “I married Lily. You know this about me, right? My marriage to her.”

“I do—”

“I married her because…well, let’s just say it wasn’t my first choice.” He hesitated. “And I loved Brenda. I never stopped. I was going—I was going to leave Lily for Brenda, but then…Lily was pregnant. And I wanted to give that family—” He closed his eyes.

Hating that he was going back to that time in his head, Elizabeth winced. “Sonny, really—”

“I stayed with Lily out of obligation. Because I thought it was the right thing to do.” He paused. “And maybe it would have been okay. She would have been a good mother. I would have been faithful, loved my children. But it wouldn’t have been what either of us deserved.”

“I get it,” Elizabeth said before he could go on. “And I know I was with Lucky out obligation. I do—”

“You’ve got Jason wrapped up in all of that, Elizabeth. You made yourself miserable trying to be someone else, to want something else. And none of that had anything to do with Jason or how you two felt about each other.”

“That’s…” She closed her eyes. “It’s not just about trying…to be a better person, Sonny. I can’t…” Her throat thickened and she could feel the pressure behind her eyes. “Yeah. It’s about last year. And how I hurt Jason. And how I want to get as far away from being that person as I can. But if it were just about that, I think I could…I could just…be okay.”

“It’s about fear,” Sonny murmured. “Fear that when you open to yourself to someone, they take a piece of you. And you never get it back. I get it.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t want to tell you how to feel or what to do about those feelings. You got enough of that from my former partner and his idiot son.”

Elizabeth laughed then as one tear slid down her cheek. She swiped at it. “I know, Sonny. I’m—I’m terrified that the next piece I give away…” She couldn’t quite articulate it, but he nodded.

“Yeah…” He dropped a fifty next to his empty coffee cup. “So let’s just leave it at this. I think Jason needs a friend. Someone who will care about what happens to Michael as much as he does, but someone who won’t lie to him. Someone who has his best interests in heart.”

“I…” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Sonny—”

“If that can’t be you for whatever reason,” he continued gently without any judgment in his eyes or voice, “then you need to make sure he’s clear on that. You need to let him go to find someone else.”

Friday, May 3, 2002

Oasis: Parking Lot

Jason slid off the bike and eyed the clump of men outside the club. He hated the strip joints Sonny still controlled, but the only thing they could do was be sure they were run fairly and that the women working there were taken care of. Nico had used the Oasis as his headquarters since Frank Smith had put him in charge a dozen years ago, so Jason wasn’t as familiar with this place as he was with the Paradise Lounge.

He recognized only one of the trio smoking cigarettes in front of the entrance. Zander Smith sneered as Jason approached. “Look who’s slumming.”

Jason just stopped and leveled a stare at the idiot. “I’m here to pick up the books from Lenny,” he said. “He inside?”

“I’m not his fucking secretary,” Zander shot back. One of the men looked at the other with an uneasy expression.

“He’s waiting for ya,” the shorter man said, elbowing Zander in the gut. “Knock it off.”

Jason ignored them both before heading toward the entrance. He had the door halfway open when Zander called out again. “How’s your girlfriend, Morgan? Still got her legs glued shut?”

“Fucking death wish this one’s got,” he heard one of the men mutter.

“Smith,” the other hissed. “Shut the fuck up!”

Jason turned, debating what to do, if anything. If Zander had been alone, Jason might have simply ignored him. But to let a slur pass against Elizabeth was to send a message to the men next to him—to anyone who worked on Nico’s crew—that she was open game.

She may not be his girlfriend, but no one in this organization was going to treat her like trash.

Calmly, Jason strode toward Zander and was unsurprised when the scum began to retreat rather than hold his ground. When Zander was against the wall of the building, Jason’s hand shot out and pinned him there by the neck.

“I’m sorry,” Jason said coolly. “Did you say something to me?” He squeezed a moment, feeling the satisfaction as Zander’s dark eyes, seething with hatred, bulged slightly, his cheeks flushing with the effort to breathe.

“Go to hell,” Zander managed.

“Go get Lenny,” a voice behind Jason hissed.

“What was that?” Jason demanded. “You want to try again? What did you say?”

“Nothing,” Zander muttered finally. Jason released him, and the younger man collapsed to the ground, panting.

“Tell Nico and Lenny that they can send their books to the warehouse,” Jason said, turning to the man who remained. “And they should rethink their welcoming committee.”

Without sparing a glance for his sister’s ex-boyfriend, Jason returned to his bike and climbed on. Maybe it was time to do something more permanent about their Zander Smith problem.

Saint Andrews Academy

When Michael trudged out of the double doors of his private school, Elizabeth stepped away from the parent whose small talk had threatened to bore her to death. His small features were etched in misery, his book bag dragging behind him.

“Hey, kiddo.” She flashed a smile at the teacher’s aide who returned the gesture before turning to the next kid she was handing off to a parent or guardian. “Have a bad day?”

“Hey, Liz,” Michael said. He blinked up at her, his dark brown eyes shaded by the blonde hair they’d forgotten to trim. She slid her hands through it to brush it out of his eyes. “Grammy had to work?”

“Yep.” She reached the bag at his side and slung it over his shoulder. “We’re going back to the Brownstone to have snacks and hang out until she gets home. What do you want for dinner?”

“Nothing.”

She eyed him carefully as they crossed the manicured lawns back to her beat up car, but let it go for now. Michael, despite the turmoil of his life, was generally a good-natured kid. If something was bothering him, eventually he would cough it up. They had several hours before Bobbie’s shift ended.

She tossed his backpack in the front seat and checked to make sure his booster seat was firmly attached. “How about a movie?” she offered. “We can stop on the way home and rent something.”

“I guess,” he replied with a sigh.

“Video games then?” She slid into the driver’s seat and started the car. “I’m sure we can get Lucas to set up his Sega or PlayStation downstairs.”

“Maybe.”

Elizabeth bit her bottom lip. “Michael, did something happen at school? Did you have a fight with someone in class?”

“No.” But after a moment, he spoke again. “Liz, am I too much work for Grammy?”

Elizabeth drew up to a red light and glanced at him in her rear view mirror. “Of course not. She loves you. We all do.”

“’Cause I don’t wanna be a burden.”

“Burden?” she echoed. What the hell? How did a five-year-old even know what that word meant? Who the hell was talking to him? “Michael—”

“He said he was my grandfather, and I was gonna live with him soon. I don’t wanna leave Grammy, Liz, but maybe she don’t want me anymore.”

Elizabeth pulled over at the next parking lot, and twisted in her car to face the sullen boy. “What happened at school today?”

Notes: Takes place in summer 2014, after Jake was returned to Elizabeth, while she was lying to Jason about who he was.


The room was cool, the air conditioner humming in the window. There was no movement in the room, no other sound save for Jason at her side, his breathing even and deep. She squeezed her eyes. Jake. She had to call him Jake, even in her own thoughts. She couldn’t slip, couldn’t chance a mistake.

“Is that the way you want to live your life?”

The voice was gentle, soothing. Familiar.

Elizabeth Webber’s eyes snapped again and she jackknifed into a sitting position. “Emily?”

The figure was dim at first—almost transparent. And then she was simply there. The best friend, the sister she’d lost nearly a decade ago.

“Emily?” Elizabeth repeated, her breath coming in short pants. This was a dream. It had to be. But Emily was standing in front of her, dressed in a simple white dress. Not the elaborate ballgown that had served as her death shroud, but one more suited to the hot August weather in upstate New York.

“It’s good to see you.” Emily Quartermaine clasped her hands in front her. Behind her, a small lamp on the dresser turned on, illuminating her friend’s long dark hair, the pale skin.

Elizabeth pushed aside the covers and took another look at the man still sleeping at her side. “This is a dream,” she murmured. “He would never sleep through this—”

“He was always a light sleeper,” Emily said wistfully. She touched the end of the bed, where her brother’s feet were tucked under the comforter. “If it helps to see this as a dream—”

“You’re not—” Elizabeth swallowed lightly, stood. “You’re not here. You can’t be.”

“All right,” Emily said easily. “Then I’m a dream. Why would you dream of me here? Now?”

Elizabeth turned back to the man sleeping in her bed. “Because of Jason. Because I’m lying and stealing him away from his life.”

“You’ve been doing that for months.” Emily tilted her head. “I’d hoped he was alive, you know. But I couldn’t be sure.”

Elizabeth blinked and looked back at her. “Wouldn’t you know? If this isn’t a dream, then—”

“Well, it’s not as though he would go to the same place as me.” Emily sighed, but she was smiling as she continued. “He’s a good man, but he’s not precisely what you would call innocent.”

Elizabeth accepted that, because what else was she supposed to do? “If this isn’t a dream, then why didn’t you come before?” Her voice tightened. “Why didn’t you tell me about Jake?”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Emily replied. She leaned against the dresser. “I can be comforting. I can show you truths you already know about yourself. But I can’t tell you what you don’t know.”

“That’s why you’re here now, isn’t it?” she snapped. “Because of Jake.”

“You tell me.” Emily met her eyes. “You said it yourself. You’re lying. You’re stealing him away. You know it’s wrong. You’ve done it anyway.”

“I can’t stop now,” she whispered. Her eyes burned. “I can’t. If I stop, he goes away. He won’t stay for me. He won’t stay for Jake.”

“Why not?”

“He never did before. We’ve never been enough for anyone. For Lucky to stay away from drugs. For Jason to stay—” Elizabeth close her eyes. “I deserve this. I deserve these moments.”

“You deserve more,” Emily said softly. “But you’ve never believed that. You’d rather be the consolation prize in a contest no one else entered.”

“Emily—” Her throat closed. “I just—”

“The lie is eating you alive, Elizabeth. You’re not happy. You spend all your time worrying—” Her friend broke off with an irritated huff. “I could kill Nikolas for doing this to you—”

“No.” Elizabeth blinked, a bit disconcerted. Did ghosts get angry? “No, Nikolas wanted to help me—”

“He wanted to make himself feel better,” Emily snapped. “He knew for weeks. He could have told you when he found out. He could have told you about Hayden Barnes being a fake. He could have stopped you from giving Ric another chance. He waited, and then he told you when he must have known there would be no way you’d come forward.”

“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “He didn’t—he risked ELQ—” But Emily wasn’t wrong. If Nikolas had told her after Jake’s brain surgery, it would have been different. She had been attracted to him, but not as far down that road as she’d been in May. He’d waited. Until she’d been devastated by another man she’d trusted.

“He put the decision into your hands knowing you wouldn’t risk losing Jason,” Emily murmured. “He gets to sleep at night, Elizabeth, because it’s not his problem anymore. It’s yours.”

“Telling the truth has never worked for me,” Elizabeth muttered. “I thought I’d try to take a page from Carly’s book—” She closed her eyes. “Which sounds insane now.”

“The truth always comes out,” Emily murmured. “You know that. A secret like this? You have to live with it every second, every minute, every hour—”

“If I tell him the truth, I’ll lose him—”

“You don’t have him now,” Emily said gently. “And you know it.” She reached out, and for just a moment—Elizabeth felt a cool touch on her forearm. And then she was gone.

Elizabeth opened her eyes, the sunlight streaming through the windows. She could hear Jake—Jason. She could Jason stirring next to her.

She sat up, and twisted to look at him. He smiled at her, his eyes blurred from sleep. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I have something to tell you.”

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Workshop

Not a continuation of the medieval series 😛


Prompt: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ― C.S. Lewis


Bobbie Spencer found him in his office, long after he normally left for the day. His eldest son had called, worried. Lee was never late for dinner, not since he had brought home another lost boy in January.

He was slumped over in his desk chair, his hand still clutching a pen as he had been finishing a patient’s chart. Lee Baldwin had spent his entire life helping people—from the children he counseled to the three boys he and his wife had fostered and adopted—and no one was surprised he had had his final heart attack in the midst of continuing his life’s work.

On an early spring day, Lee’s sons buried him in the plot reserved for him after his wife Gail had succumbed to breast cancer a decade earlier. They returned to the home where they had been raised, now filled with food and the people who had loved their father.

And Jason Morgan, the eldest of the three boys but the last to come to Lee and Gail, hated every inch of it.

He sat on the back porch, where the backyard met the small patch of woods and a creek. Wind rustled through the leaves, the low level of water babbled over rocks…this was was everything to him.

Patrick and Johnny had wanted to go back downtown, to the streets where they had grown up. Maybe to prove something—that they weren’t the same little assholes anymore, that they were better, stronger men.

Jason just wanted the peace, the quiet. He liked his home, liked his garage two blocks away. Stopping in the local diner for lunch or coffee. He didn’t need more than that.

The porch door creaked behind him, and he heard footsteps. Without turning, he said, “I’m not going back in there.”

“Hell, I know that.” His younger brother sat next to him and passed over a bottle of Rolling Rock. “Figured you’d want another one of these.”

Jason accepted it, and used the corner of the porch to knock off the cap—he’d been doing that since he was sixteen. “I can’t deal with all those people.”

“You don’t like people in general.” Johnny Zacchara shrugged. “I don’t either, but I’m better at pretending.” He took a long pull from his own bottle. “What was the final straw?”

“Bobbie Spencer was crying on my shoulder.” Jason closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the porch post. “I get it. Everyone loved Dad. I didn’t fight having the memorial, I just…”

“Want to put it away.” Johnny nodded. “I get it. Patrick’s the schmoozer, he’s got it covered.” He was quiet for a moment. “The chick from Social Services stopped by. The blonde?”

Jason frowned. “Why? We told her how it was going to be. Dad wanted Michael to stay. He’s ours. Done.”

“Adoption was barely started.” Johnny looked down at his bottle. “She’s worried we’re a bunch of crazy bachelors. But better us than somewhere else, right?”

“Right.” Jason nodded. And it was a done deal in his head. It was Lee’s last wish, so that was the end of it.

The door creaked again, but this time Jason heard the sound of heels rather than the shoes of a man. He straightened and turned. “Elizabeth.” He stood. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Elizabeth Webber smiled at them both, her blue eyes tinged with fatigue, one had propping open the door. “Patrick’s looking a bit wilted, Johnny. He had to deal with the nursing staff without you guys. Maybe…”

“Heard.” Johnny flashed their old friend a smile as he brushed past her into the house. “Jason wouldn’t be any help anyway.”

Jason didn’t even bother to scowl at his brother.. “You okay?”

“Fine.” She shifted. “Jason—”

“Where’s Cam?” Jason asked, cutting her off before she could ask him the same question everyone else did.

He might tell her the truth.

“He’s inside, taking a nap with Lulu’s son.” Elizabeth gently closed the door and stepped closer. “I’m surprised you lasted as long as you did. Almost an hour.” She tried to smile, but it didn’t last. She closed her eyes as a tear slid down. “I’m sorry. I was just—I walked into the kitchen and he wasn’t there. And I didn’t realize how different the house would be—”

Jason reached for her arm and drew her close. “Hey. Hey. Elizabeth—”

She wiped at her eyes and shook her head, drawing away from him. “No, no. I’m okay. I—you lost your father. I’m fine. Really.”

He sighed, but kept his hand on her arm. “Take a walk with me.”

“What?” she frowned. She gestured behind her. “We still have—”

“Don’t worry about it.” He tugged her down the stairs and towards the path that led into the woods. He needed to be away from the house almost as much he wanted to see Elizabeth take a moment for herself, which she rarely did.

From the moment he had come to live with Lee and Gail Baldwin in their home on the outskirts of Port Charles, Elizabeth Webber had been part of his life. She had been a little girl, then, nine to his thirteen, and closer to Johnny and Patrick since they were all in the same grade. At first, she had visited during the summers—her grandparents had lived nearby and worked with the Baldwins at the hospital. She had moved to Port Charles permanently three years later when her parents left for Doctors Without Borders, and she’d remained there.

To Johnny and Patrick, she would always be their sister—a comrade in arms, and often a partner in crime. To Jason, she was…fresh. Innocent. The first person, other than Lee and Gail, to care about him. Even Patrick and Johnny hadn’t warmed up to him as fast as she had.

And if maybe, once they were older, his feelings had shifted, that didn’t matter. She was better than him, deserved more than him.

“It feels weird to take this path now.” Elizabeth wrapped the ends of her thin black sweater more tightly around her torso as they picked their way through the well-traveled route. “How many times do you think we used this in high school?”

“More than my parents knew.” Jason winced—the shoes he’d worn for the service were not much for walking in. “I can’t believe it’s been eight years since your grandmother died.”

“I know.” Elizabeth stopped when the white porch of the old Hardy house was visible. “I wonder if my grandmother knew my parents would sell her home so quickly.” She was quiet for a moment. “They really just thought I could pull up stakes after five years and come to Europe, like I wasn’t in the middle of my senior year.” She turned and offered him a sad smile. “But Lee wouldn’t hear of it. For a little while, I was one of his lost kids. I loved him so much. I hate that Michael won’t get to know him and love him the way we did.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Johnny told me Social Services is making some noise about pulling him.”

She blinked. “But he’s doing so well here. I know his grades are up and he was talking to Lee last week about playing baseball this year.” She pressed her lips together. “You guys are going for custody aren’t you?”

“Lee wanted us to keep him, so we’re keeping him.” Jason looked off into the woods, focusing on the breaks in the trees where the creek could be seen. “We’ll meet with her. It probably won’t be anything, but—” He looked at her, and shifted, hating what he was about to say. “Can you—can you maybe help out a bit for a few days? We don’t…have a schedule or anything with Michael yet. I—I don’t plan my day around him. He needs to be picked up from school—” He cleared his throat. “I’ll pay you whatever Dad was paying you to keep doing some things around the house—”

Elizabeth scowled and stepped back from him. “You think Lee was paying me to look after him and Michael? To make some meals and clean up? Jason.”

He frowned. “You’ve been around a lot the last few months—I know you cut back on some the houses you look after on the weekend and dropped a shift at Kelly’s to be around for Michael. Elizabeth—”

“Lee was family to me. He needed a bit of extra help.” She huffed. “He wasn’t a young anymore—when he took in the three of you, he did it with Gail. He was a bit out of his depth with Michael.” She bit her lip. “He needed the help, Jason. Couldn’t you see that?”

He looked away. He had. But he had ignored it. Kept to himself. Protecting his quiet world.

“I didn’t mean…” Elizabeth sighed, and tilted her head. “Jason, you know Lee hated asking you guys for anything. He was so proud of all you—”

“Don’t.” Jason shook his head sharply. “Let’s just…” He paused. “Let’s just get back to what—I’m going to need help with Michael. Patrick and Johnny—they can’t just…they can’t pick up and move back to the house, and I still need to work. Please. I know you’d help without it, but I’d feel better if I knew you and Cameron were all right.”

Elizabeth turned and started back towards the Baldwin house. He followed her, but said nothing. He knew she would agree—he just had to wait.

“Let’s do it this way,” Elizabeth said after a long moment. “I’ll still work the lunch shift at Kelly’s, and my regular weekend shifts. But I’ll pick Michael up from school, look after him until one of you can get here. And you can pay me the rate I would usually make at Kelly’s for the evening.”

“Okay.” The house came into view and he stopped. “I have to go back in there, don’t I?”

“Yeah.” She wound her arm through his. “But I’ll come with you.”