This entry is part 15 of 34 in the series Bittersweet

Don’t you dare look out your window darling
Everything’s on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold on to this lullaby
Even when the music’s gone

Safe and Sound, Julia Sheer


Sunday, August 25, 2002

Courtney & AJ’s House: Front Lawn

He had briefly thought of taking Elizabeth straight to the Brownstone where he knew Bobbie must be upset. Gia and Lucas were there, but Elizabeth had a way of comforting Bobbie.

But after they’d dressed in a hurry, as he listened to Elizabeth leave a voice mail for his brother, Jason swallowed the suggestion.

He wanted her with him when he found Carly. He wanted to have her next to him, to keep him grounded. To remember that Michael came first.

Elizabeth would keep him steady even as everything inside him was screaming for answers. For Sonny to be wrong. He didn’t want Carly to be dead, but if she was alive—

What the hell was going on?

He had thought by going straight to AJ and Courtney’s house, they would have time. He didn’t really know what they’d do with that time, but Carly couldn’t know where AJ lived, and there was little chance anyone other than Bobbie would let that slip.

And all Carly knew was that Michael was with AJ. Her inclination should have been to go to the mansion, which would have given Jason a chance to catch up with her. To talk to her.

To find out where she’d been. Why she had put them through all this grief.

But somewhere inside of him there had been a voice that asked—why had Carly gone to Sonny? They were divorced and out of each other’s lives. Michael rarely saw or asked about his Uncle Sonny.

Jason had guardianship. Jason was in control of her son.

So, when he turned his bike around the last corner and saw a small compact car parked halfway in AJ’s driveway, halfway in the street, he wasn’t really surprised.

He pulled the bike to a stop in front of the house, and he could hear voices from the porch. Three figures illuminated in the bright artificial porch lights.

Three.

It was real. Carly was alive.

Behind him, he felt Elizabeth climb off the bike, and he switched off the engine. But he couldn’t make his legs move. Couldn’t go towards the house.

“Jason?” Elizabeth soft voice broke into his thoughts. “Hey.” Her cool hand slid into his and he looked down into her worried eyes. “Let’s just get through this. We can…we can deal with the rest of it later.”

And he knew exactly what she meant. Michael had to come first. Jason’s answers would come later. “How did she know where they lived?” he murmured.

And that worry, that nagging suspicion that Carly was up to something gave him a reason to move.

With Elizabeth’s hand in his, they rushed up the drive and the stairs, Elizabeth doubling her steps to keep pace.

“Carly—”

But he couldn’t say anything else as his friend turned away from the united couple standing guard in front of their door.

There she was. As bright, as bold, as vivid as ever. Her blonde hair exploding into curls around her face, her brown eyes snapping with anger, her features lined with irritation. With fear.

“Oh my God, she’s really alive,” Elizabeth breathed. “Carly—”

Carly glared at her briefly, but dismissed her almost as quickly. “Jason. Thank God, you’re here. I don’t know what he said to Mama, but he has my son, and he won’t give him back—”

And AJ just closed his eyes at that. At the accusation that somehow AJ must have manipulated Bobbie. What was it like for him to always be guilty? To always be accused of the worst?

Jason swallowed hard. But maybe Carly didn’t—maybe there was an explanation. Maybe she had lost her memory. Maybe she had been wandering around, trying to find home. And when she’d remembered—

Clinging to that, to the only explanation for this that would absolve Carly, Jason asked, “Carly, do you know what the date is? How long you’ve been…away?”

Carly snorted. “I’m not crazy,” she spat at him. And her tone was familiar. He was the idiot here, he was the thick one.

Robin had sounded like that in the end.

“It’s August,” she snarled. “And I’ve been gone since April. I want to see my son!” she all but shrieked, turning her ire back at AJ who just stood there.

“Where have you been?” Jason asked. There had to be another explanation then. Maybe she knew how long she’d been gone, but still—and he closed his eyes. Grimaced.

He had to stop this.

Had to stop making excuses for Carly.

“Where have you been?” he repeated, this time, his voice was stronger. “Five months—”

“That’s none of your business,” she snapped. She started to move past AJ, tried to shove him aside, but Courtney—of all people—shoved her back.

AJ stood, his hands at his side, and Jason knew—he knew, for certain, that this was a different man. That AJ would have allowed Carly to storm inside his home if Courtney had not been there to physically hold her back. As punishment for Carly’s fall and the death of her second son.

“You don’t get to show up with no warning, call my husband a kidnapper and act like you’re the only one who matters,” Courtney said, her teeth gritted. “We told you. You tell us what the hell is going on and you can see Michael tomorrow when we’ve had a chance—”

“I’m seeing my son now! You have no right, you little goddamn twit—”

“Carly.” Jason took her elbow and almost dragged her backwards when the blonde attempted to launch herself past AJ’s wife again. “Stop it.”

“Why are you helping him?” she demanded as he turned to her, planted himself between AJ and Carly. “I left you Michael because I knew you’d protect him. What, did that little bitch bat her eyes and you didn’t have time for him?” She focused on Elizabeth now, and Jason just sighed. “You trying to step into my life because I was gone?”

“I’m not even dignifying that with a response,” Elizabeth said, and he could all but hear the roll of her eyes in that tone. “Carly, why don’t we go back to the Brownstone. Bobbie must be out of her mind with worry. She was so upset after the accident—”

“She gave my son away!” Carly cried. She met Jason’s eyes, tears sparkling on her cheeks. “You promised me. Get my son. And if you don’t, I will—”

“Legally, you’re dead,” Jason said after a moment. “And AJ’s parental rights have been reinstated, and we have a custody agreement. So, if you want to see Michael, you’re going to have to tell me what the hell is going on. Where have you been? Why did you let us think you were dead?”

“Fuck you!” Carly’s cheeks paled as she took in the rest of Jason’s words. “Custody agreement? You—you did this? You gave my son to him?”

“It’s not that simple,” AJ attempted. “I forced his hand—”

But that wasn’t true, and Jason wasn’t going to let AJ take the heat for this. He cut his brother off by raising his hand. “I promised you I would love Michael and I would always do what was best for him,” he said in a low voice. “That’s what I did.”

“And that’s AJ now? Not me?” Carly demanded, her voice raw.

“Until I know what’s going on. Where have you been?” he demanded again. “Why did you go to Sonny? And how the hell did you know where AJ lived?”

“You,” Carly said, with a lift of her chin. “Can go to hell.” She jabbed a finger at him and then swung around to face them all in turn. “You can all go to hell. I will have my son.”

She stalked away, the clicking of her boot heels harsh against the wooden porch. Her car screeched out of the driveway, nearly clipping the motorcycle, before squealing down the street.

Jason stared after her. He didn’t know what to do next. What to say.

“Jason.”

He turned to find to Elizabeth standing beside him, her arm wrapped through his. “Hey. If you want to go after her—follow her, I could stay here—”

No. He shook his head and said it out loud. “No. I—” He looked at AJ. “I don’t know what’s going on but…”

“Carly’s up to something,” AJ finished with the exhausted sigh of a man who had been the target of more than one of Carly’s plans. As her other most frequent target, Jason could understand. “I know—I know she’s always been—”

“Michael comes first,” Jason said, almost to himself. “I meant what I said to her. She’ll have to go to court to get the agreement overturned.”

“And if she doesn’t want to tell a judge where she’s been,” Elizabeth said, “I doubt it will go over well.”

And Carly was stubborn enough to tell the judge to go to hell. “Michael stays with you for now.” He met AJ’s surprised eyes. “He’s safe here. I’ll put a guy on the house to make sure she doesn’t come here and make trouble. But Carly—Carly’s on the warpath,” he said, borrowing Elizabeth’s words from earlier. “And I don’t want Michael to be a casualty. Not again.”

“All right.” AJ looked to Courtney. “You okay?”

“Me?” she repeated with wide eyes. “I’m…I’m as fine as I can be considering my husband’s dead ex-wife just showed up on our front step.” She looked over her shoulder. “I should go check on Michael.”

“I need to go…” Do something, Jason finished, but he wasn’t entirely sure what. He just knew whatever came next couldn’t be found here.

“We’ll talk tomorrow,” Elizabeth said to AJ. “Jason has to go to Sonny’s, and I meant what I said. I want to check on Bobbie. Let’s…try to get some sleep. We’ll…we’ll figure it all out tomorrow.”

“See, when you say it, it almost sounds possible.” AJ sighed again. “But yeah, let’s…let’s just figure this out tomorrow.”

He went back inside and closed his door.

Jason walked Elizabeth back to the motorcycle and handed her the helmet, but he didn’t dig his keys out of his pocket or climb on.

He stood there.

“Hey.” Elizabeth touched his shoulder. “Jason. Look at me.”

He did so, finding her eyes in the inky darkness. They were merely shadows, lit by the streetlight across the street. “Elizabeth—”

“You told me once that sometimes…things happen that are just…they’re too big to deal with at once, right? So, we just…we take a moment a time. We live through them slow. Right now…I don’t know what to feel about Carly. Angry because she’s…clearly not telling the truth. And worry. Fear. I know what she’s capable of.” She pressed a hand to his chest, to his heart. “And she doesn’t even matter to me all that much. So, I know what I’m feeling is a hundred times worse for you.”

“I just—” He sucked in a deep breath. “I thought I had changed my life, so Carly couldn’t wreck it anymore. I went away so she would stop—and I stopped loving her. I had to. It was the only way to survive. Because this is what she does. She gets hurt and she runs away. She gets angry and she decides to punish people.”

And all that anger, that pain, that grief he’d felt after finding her with Sonny, waltzing down his steps… That had been the last time, he had promised himself, that he would let Carly use him.

“She thinks you betrayed her,” Elizabeth murmured.

“She’s right. And I’m not sorry. I’d do it again. It was the right thing to do. Michael is safe and he’s happy, and that is the only thing I ever promised her that I would do.”

And some of the shock was burning away. The pain was fading. He was used to this. Used to Carly finding new ways to destroy his life.

“I have to go to Sonny’s,” he said. “Something isn’t right about any of this, and we need to know what’s going on.”

“And I should go to the Brownstone,” she said again. “Not just because I’m worried about Bobbie, because I am, but maybe Carly said something. Bobbie might not have noticed it, but Gia and Lucas like Carly a whole lot less. So maybe she let something slip.”

Jason scrubbed his hands over his face, then nodded. “Okay. I’ll drop you off there. And—” He hesitated. He wanted to tell her he’d see her tomorrow, but…

“When you’re done with Sonny, come by,” she murmured. “I doubt either of us are going to sleep much tonight.”

“All right.”

Brownstone: Hallway

Elizabeth watched as Jason drove away, her heart aching. How could she fix this for him? How could she even begin to know what was next?

“What happened?” Gia demanded from the stairs. From the living room, Lucas rose to his feet, his eyes rimmed with exhaustion, irritation…and fatigue.

Another man who had seen the damage Carly could do when she put her mind to it, even if Lucas had always been an indirect target.

“I called my dad to give Mom a sedative,” Lucas said, his voice tight. “Because she has to go to the hospital tomorrow and people who matter more than that bitch need her. I want to know what the hell is going on right now.”

Elizabeth pressed her heels into her eyes and took a moment to gather herself. “God. Let’s go talk where no one else can hear us.”

“You mean my brother?” Gia said with a raised eyebrow, but she followed. “He heard the nonsense earlier and headed straight to the PCPD to see if they could find out what’s going on. He tried to follow Carly when she left—he’s probably harassing Sonny as we speak.”

“Great. That’s just what this night needed.”

“Elizabeth—” Lucas began.

“I don’t know much more than you do at this point. Sonny called Jason at the same time you called me, Gia. I just don’t know how the timeline—”

“She must have gone there when she left here,” Gia said to Lucas. “I could hear yelling down here, but I didn’t come down right away.”

“I came up to get you,” Lucas told Elizabeth. “When Carly stormed out of here, I went up to see if you were home. If Jason was with you.”

“And Bobbie was so upset—it took Lucas and I time to get her calmed down. She wanted to rush after Carly—”

“I don’t think she stayed long with Sonny,” Elizabeth murmured.

“Why go to Sonny at all?” Gia wondered. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

“Carly’s never made sense,” Lucas muttered, but he was frowning, too. “Did you see her, Liz?”

“Yeah. She was already at Courtney and AJ’s when we got there.”

And they both blinked at her. “What?” Gia asked. “How—How could she—”

“That’s what Jason and Sonny are hopefully going to figure out. We confronted her, but she kept trying to get into to see Michael—”

“I swear to God, Liz, if Jason let Carly take my nephew away from AJ again—” Lucas began.

“Carly refused to tell us what was going on, so Jason told her he wouldn’t let her get near Michael.” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. She had been a little surprised when Jason had so quickly declined to help Carly get Michael.

He’d always done what was necessary to keep Carly in Michael’s life. Even after Carly had hurt him.

“Well, I guess he has some sense after all,” Gia replied, folding her arms. “She wouldn’t tell Jason where she’s been?”

“The only thing he got out of her was that she knows what the date is and how long it’s been.” She sighed, remembering the slight desperation Jason had shown asking if Carly knew what the date was.

He’d wanted to give her a reason for all of this, and Carly had failed him. Again.

“He thought she might have lost her memory?” Gia asked.

“If she did and only just got it back, she didn’t say so. She seemed so…” Elizabeth shook her head. “Angry. And not…not in the way you might think. I get that she was pissed AJ had custody, but…she had to know that already.”

“Because she went to their house, which meant she knew they had moved,” Lucas said.

“She knew AJ had Michael,” Gia said slowly, “so why go to Sonny? Why come here and berate her mother?” She met Elizabeth’s eyes. “Oh, hell, Hurricane Carly is gonna make landfall.”

“And God help us all when she does.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny could feel the exhaustion bleeding through his veins and raised tired eyes to first, Jason, then Benny. “What do we know? Do we know anything?”

“Before she showed up at the Brownstone this evening,” Benny said, “There was no activity on any of her accounts that suggested Carly was alive. We had witnesses, the guardrail—”

“The fact that she was gone,” Jason muttered. “You said no activity before tonight, Benny. How about now?”

“Her credit card was used to check into the Cosmopolitan Hotel about…” Benny looked at his watch. “Twenty-five minutes ago. I already sent over two of our guys.”

“And I put someone at AJ’s place to see if she comes by there again,” Jason said. “But Sonny—”

“I know, I know.” Sonny rubbed his hand against his chest. “How is any of this possible? How did she know AJ had Michael? Why did she come here?”

“She wouldn’t tell me anything tonight, but she’ll be back,” Jason said. He accepted the drink Sonny handed him, which wasn’t like his best friend and partner, but hell, this was that kind of night. “I have legal custody of Michael until Carly goes to the court to get him back. She’s not gonna wanna do that.”

“A judge is gonna wanna know where the hell she’s been.” Sonny sat down. “Benny, if she’s been gone—someone had to help her. Someone had to tell her about AJ getting custody of Michael.”

“I put in calls to some of the representatives, but so far…” Benny spread his hands. “There’s nothing to tell. She vanished in April and was resurrected tonight. That’s all anyone knows.”

“I’ll get answers,” Jason told Sonny. “One way or another. If she’s in trouble, that means Michael’s in the middle. And I’m not putting him at risk. Not again. He’s just getting over losing her in the first place. He’s staying with AJ until I know what’s going on.”

And then Jason grimaced—and Sonny understood. To know that all that Jason had done to keep Michael safe. What Sonny had done to keep Michael away from AJ—

To have arrived at the realization that, at least for now, AJ Quartermaine was the more solid parent. The right place for Michael.

How the tides had turned.

Sonny swallowed his bourbon. “Why would she do this? Why would she fake her death? It just…” He looked back at the mini bar, wanting another drink. Wanting to empty the bottle.

“She was doing good,” he continued, mystified. “The club. Michael. She was…she was on her own. Doing well. The divorce…it was the right decision.” He met Jason’s eyes. “This…I know Carly is capable of a lot of things but—”

“She’s stayed away before,” Jason said roughly. “After Michael was born, she left. But…” He shook his head. “Not since then. She’s never left him. Not willingly.”

“Then why come back like this?” Sonny shook his head. “Maybe she didn’t go on her own, but this? Whatever happens from this night on, it’s on Carly. She could tell you what’s going on. She could come to me. But if she doesn’t—”

“She will.” Jason closed his eyes. “She always tells me the truth. Eventually. Just…not usually in time for me to stop her.”

Brownstone: Front Steps

Elizabeth had stayed with Gia and Lucas in the front room for another hour or so to be sure Bobbie wouldn’t wake up.

That Carly wouldn’t come back.

Then Lucas had gone to sleep, and Gia had gone upstairs.

It was nearly four in the morning, and her eyes felt gritty. She had had the opening shift the day before at Kelly’s and had been awake for nearly twenty-fours now. She should have gone to sleep, but Jason had said he would come by.

And she wanted to see him. To know he was okay.

She hadn’t really been around the first time Carly had blown up his entire world when she’d taken Michael to the Quartermaines and declared Jason a kidnapper before marrying AJ. Hadn’t seen the initial firestorm.

But Elizabeth had been there for the aftermath, for the excruciating pain Michael’s loss had caused. She could still picture him, standing on the docks, watching AJ and Michael looking at the ELQ crane, looking at them as if he’d been sucker punched.

And though she hadn’t known it at the time, she had been there when Carly and Sonny had blown it up again when they’d slept together.

It hadn’t been hard to connect the dots when Elizabeth learned Carly was carrying Sonny’s child. It was the only reason she had to explain Jason’s trek to the boxcar the night he’d been shot and nearly died.

And now Carly had blown his world up again.

Maybe not as cleanly or neatly or as totally as she had in the past, but she’d been dead. And now she wasn’t. And Michael was, again, in the middle of it all. Carly had looked at Jason, the man who had never abandoned her even when she had damn well deserved it…and attacked him.

As if any of this was Jason’s fault.

So, she sat here on the steps, a cup of bad coffee in her hands in a desperate attempt to stay awake. Waiting for him.

Elizabeth heard the rumble of the motorcycle when he was still several blocks away—it was the only sound breaking the silence of the quiet summer night.

He drew the bike to a stop, switched it off, and then swung his leg over the side. Jason stopped when he saw her sitting there.

“Hey. You—” He blinked at her as he drew closer, stood on the bottom step. “You shouldn’t have waited up.”

“I said I would.” She rose to her feet and stepped down two more steps until she was in his arms, his face buried in her neck. “I wanted to see you.”

Elizabeth wasn’t sure how long they stood there in silence before he drew back, his thumbs smoothing her hair back over her forehead, drifting down her cheeks. “Hey,” she murmured, tightening her arms around his waist. “Can you talk to me?”

“Yeah.” He swallowed and then they sat on the step, her chin resting on his shoulder. “She’s at the Cosmopolitan. But we don’t know anything we didn’t know before I went to Sonny’s.”

“Tony came over to give Bobbie a sedative,” Elizabeth told him. “She has work in the morning and she just—she couldn’t. It was too much, I think. So, I don’t know if Carly said anything. She came here first, though.”

“That matters,” Jason murmured. “She knew when she left here that AJ had Michael, but she still went to Sonny’s. And he didn’t know where AJ lives now. So, she already knew where Michael was.”

“Which means everything she did tonight was calculated. Planned.”

“Yeah.” Jason exhaled slowly, his breath almost shaky. “I can usually—I can usually talk Carly down. M-Maybe I still can. I don’t know. I just…” He looked at her, his eyes wet with tears she knew to be rare. “I don’t know what she’s going to do. Where she was. Why any of this—I don’t know what she’s going to do,” he repeated. “And that means I don’t know how to stop her.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “I don’t have the words,” she confessed. “I don’t know how to help you.”

“Just…just be here.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “For me. For Bobbie. And Michael. Just be you. That’s always enough.”

January 28, 2018

So like I said, I kind of have an idea how to deal with Fools Me Twice in my second draft — so the next few scenes are going to feel like they come out of nowhere. When I do my second go at this story (once I finish this first fire dumpster draft), I want to take the story back to Jason’s return. So, yeah, basically — if you’ve watched any Franco and Liz scene (ugh, why would you?) just…ignore it.

Bittersweet is officially moved to Wednesdays. Thanks for understanding! I hope we’ll get back to two chapters a week soon, but it might end up staying this way for a while. I don’t want to go months without posting anything new (and lord, the crap I put out in Workshop really doesn’t count) so it’s better to give myself a decent buffer.

I’ll keep y’all posted as to how my student teaching semester is going. I’m trying to do a ton of pre-planning and unit designs before I officially take over so that I’m not overwhelmed and I can give myself more time to write.

Business aside, Fool Me Twice, Part Seven is now updated.

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Flash Fiction: Fool Me Twice

All right, the messiness begins. We are now changing my original pick up date for the show and moving it back to September, so ignore pretty much everything. My version is how it really is.

Written in about 62 minutes and this sucker is loooong for one scene. No editing, so excuse the typos.


Webber House: Living Room

It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes before she heard a familiar roar of a motorcycle approaching. She darted towards the door, threw back the dead bolt and pulled the door open just as Jason pulled to a stop behind her battered Honda Accord in the driveway.

“Is he gone?” Jason asked, swinging a leg over the bike and moving towards her. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” She exhaled slowly as he walked up the path between the driveway and her front step. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called you, I just…I thought he might…not want to deal with you. I threatened with the cops first but—”

“It’s okay.” Jason gestured towards the front door and they went inside. “I asked Sonny who we’re using for locks now, and he said he’d send someone over.” He grimaced. “I didn’t even…”

She closed the door behind them and waited until he’d handed her his jacket to hang up. “It must be so hard,” she murmured. “So much has changed. I’m sure there’s so many people working for Sonny now that you don’t know.”

“It’s…” Jason hesitated. “I don’t know. It’s fine.” He waited a moment. “I’m going to wait here until they change the locks. Are you sure you’re okay? What did he do?”

Elizabeth frowned, folded her arms. “Look, if you don’t want to talk about it, it’s your life. But don’t do that. Don’t brush me off and then ask me about my problems. I’m not doing that again.”

He squinted and followed her into the kitchen. “Elizabeth—”

“Because we don’t have to be friends to co-parent Jake. And I don’t blame you—” She paused. “The last time I saw you before you were shot…was the day I told you I had lied about Danny’s DNA test.”

She put a kettle on the stove to boil and took a mug from the cabinet. “That was worse than losing you. Knowing that you were angry with me when it happened—”

“I wasn’t.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Of course you were. I was angry with me. It was such a stupid, petty thing to do. I just—I knew it even when I did it.” She grimaced. “I do a lot of stupid things.”

“Elizabeth.” He waited until she looked at him. “Was I angry the day you told me? Yeah. Of course I was. Sam was grieving for her son, and I—I was blaming myself. But I know you have issues with Sam. That—it’s more complicated than that.”

“I just put off the inevitable,” she murmured as she busied herself selecting a bag of tea from a variety box as if it were an important decision. “You were always going to go back to Sam. I knew that. I guess…I don’t know. Part of me wanted some payback.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “For Jake.”

“Three weeks, five days, six hours, and fifteen minutes. That’s how long I was without my son.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “And for every minute I was terrified, when people were accusing me of hurting my son—when my own husband, my friends…thought I had done something…Sam knew where Jake was.”

“I know—”

“She could have told us at any time, but instead, you broke your bail conditions. You ended up going to jail for months—” She shook her head. “I didn’t know Heather was involved. I just thought Danny was with Tea—I never would have done that if I’d thought he was in danger. It kills me that it’s my fault—”

“It worked out—”

“But I kept your son from you. I didn’t know I was doing that, but that’s what it was. That was weeks you didn’t get with Danny—”

“Elizabeth—” Jason waited a moment. “It’s not your fault. What Heather Webber did—that wasn’t on you. No one knew she was involved. You didn’t switch—” he stopped. “Wait—what did happen?”

“Oh.” Elizabeth shrugged, scratched her head. “God. Um. Todd Manning, do you remember him?”

“Yeah. Did he—”

“Yeah. He switched the babies…I guess he wanted to help Tea or something. I don’t know. He also switched the paternity test. Or at least that’s what we think. I don’t know. I wasn’t involved. I think—Spinelli told me that a copy of it was slipped under Sam’s door. And it makes sense, I guess. Danny looks like you did at that age. Like Jake.” The pot whistled and Elizabeth poured her tea.

“Anyway, it all came out after you…were shot. And Todd moved about six months later. Out of nowhere, really. Michael was dating his daughter, Starr. God, I wish she’d been around when everything happened with AJ. He only had Kiki, and she turned out to be lying to him, too—” She paused. “You….know about AJ.”

“Monica told me he was alive, and then Carly gave me her version,” Jason said. He lifted an eyebrow. “Which means it was probably a lot worse.”

“Morgan and Kiki found out that Sonny…” Elizabeth shook her head. “That Sonny had killed AJ. And they kept it from Michael for months. Kiki only came clean after Michael already knew—” She grimaced. “Anyway. Michael’s been through a lot.”

The doorbell rang, and Elizabeth went to answer it. Two guys entered with tool boxes, and she set them up at her front door first to change that lock.

“I was thinking about the memory mapping yesterday,” Elizabeth said as she rejoined Jason in the kitchen. “Do you know when Drew got your memories?”

“Before he came to Port Charles,” Jason said. “According to Robin, he knew her in the lab, and she brought him to Port Charles. He was going to see Sonny when he got hit by the car. Why?”

“Well, it’s just…weird. The car accident messed up his face so he had to have cosmetic surgery, and then no memories. Which…defeated the purpose of giving him your memories. What were they doing that first year until he got them back?”

Jason hesitated. “I haven’t really talked to Drew or Sam about that year—Sonny said he didn’t really know Drew that well—” He tilted his head. “But you did. Nikolas told you he was supposed to be me months later—”

“The Nurse’s Ball that May, yeah. After they found a chip in his head that Helena was using to control him. I guess they’ve upgraded the technology since brainwashing Lucky and screwing with his memories. That’s what makes me think that the Cassadines are more involved—they’ve been experimenting with memories for decades.”

“I didn’t think about Lucky—”

“That’s why I knew Drew wasn’t really guilty when he was accused of helping Faison escape and setting a bomb on the Haunted Star. I knew something wasn’t right. And Helena Cassadine was lurking around—” She shrugged. “Anyway. He had some memory flashes, but really—that first nine months or so—he really only—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “He remembered Jake’s name. And me.”

Jason frowned. “What?”

“Yeah. When he woke up from the coma, he said he felt like he knew me. And he said the name Jake felt familiar, so he chose that. I thought it was because of the emergency room—I was the nurse on duty when he came in.” Elizabeth sipped her cooling tea. “But for a long time, even though he was surrounded by pictures of you and the people from your life—nothing clicked. In fact, he didn’t get along with almost anyone from your life. Just me, Michael, and Carly.”

“I guess I didn’t really think about why they would let him go for a year without the memories,” Jason admitted. “When did the doctor show up?”

“Not until Jake came home. Around—” Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Around the time the flashes really started coming. Drew started to remember Sam more. And everything hit the fan with what we thought was Drew’s real identity.” She sighed, rubbed her forehead. “I’m…I was kind of out of loop after that. Drew didn’t really talk to me again…for months. Which is…understandable.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Anyway, I don’t know if any of that is even important.” She shrugged. “I was just thinking about the timeline and then I was thinking about the Cassadines. Victor was involved with the WSB so he could have been funding the research. It just—I never bought the reason Helena said Victor kidnapped you.” When Jason gestured for her to go on, she did. “Helena told Drew it was to act as a personal bodyguard. Someone with your skills—but that never felt right. The Cassadines never had problems finding henchmen. Why you? And…”

She chewed on her lip. “Helena kidnapped Jake. But Drew said she never talked about him. The first time she told him the truth, she just threatened me. And then she made him forget the conversation ever happened. He remembered later. She told him he was Jason Morgan, that he had to do things for her. But she never once used Jake as leverage. Drew knew who Jake was.”

“There was never any hint that Helena had Jake?” Jason said with a scowl. “I don’t understand how any of that—”

“Lucky found him—and he and Luke brought him home. They just said they’d picked up his trail, but I don’t know. I mean, he’s Jake. The story was that Helena thought he was Lucky’s son—she’d planned to raise him to hate the Spencers and do vengeance or something.” She sighed. “But it…it’s just weird. Helena kidnaps Jake, and then Victor takes you a year later?”

“Could they have known Jake was my son?” Jason said. “I thought we were careful—”

“Jason—” Elizabeth said with a wry smile. “No one believed he was Lucky’s. Not after Ric made me admit in open court that we’d slept together and I’d had a paternity test. The test was on file at General Hospital. The truth was there if anyone wanted to look for it. So, yeah, she could have known. And since she had to take him from the hospital the night of accident—”

“There would be no way she wouldn’t know. She would have been in his files.” Jason scowled. “Damn it. Every time I think I’ve wrapped my mind around all of this, there’s something else.”

“Ms. Webber?”

One of the men stepped up to the doorway, a shoebox in his hands. “This was by the door—it fell over when we were taking out the old lock—and I stepped on one of the ornaments.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose and came around the island to take the box from him. “Franco had this with him when he came in this morning,” she murmured. “He must have left it. Thanks.”

“Ornaments?” Jason said. “For Christmas? It’s February—” He stopped, looked at the open box in her hands. “Can I—Can I see that?”

“Sure—” She handed him the box and he set it on the kitchen table. He sorted out the broken pieces, and then lifted up a round ornament shaped like a disco ball. “That’s not one of ours. What—”

Jason swallowed hard and then twisted the top. The ball split into two in his hands, revealing a USB drive hidden within. “Franco had this with him?”

“Yeah. He put it down when he got back, and he was in a hurry when he left. I guess he—” Elizabeth shook her head. “What is it?”

“Andre destroyed all his records when he left town,” Jason said quietly. “But he gave something to Anna Devane. A disco ball with a USB drive.”

They both stored at the small electronic device nestled within the ornament. “With his files?” Elizabeth said faintly.

“And Drew’s memories.” Jason exhaled slowly. “Do you know what else happened between the time we lost Jake and I was shot?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth pressed her fingers to her lips and forced herself to continue. “You shot Franco and left him for dead.”

“And then he showed up when?”

“Maybe…eight months after the pier—”

“And when did you start…” Jason hesitated. “When did you change your mind about him?”

“After…Andre came to town. After the truth—” Elizabeth folded her arms tightly across her chest, her throat tight. “Right about the time everyone in the town decided I was the worst person alive for lying. But after Andre came back. Around the time Drew started to remember more.” She nodded at the drive. “Those are Drew’s memories. And Franco had them.”

“Yeah.” He put the top back on the ornament. “The boys are at school?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth forced herself to breathe. “And no, Franco is not…he’s not allowed to take them out—only I’m authorized. Well, me and you. Well, technically, Drew—but we thought he—Never mind. That’s not important. Jason, how long do you think we have until Franco realizes he left that here?”

And oh, God, how much of her life over the last two years had been a lie? Had she been manipulated, lied to…even more than she feared?

“Not long enough. They’ll be done with your locks soon. We’ll change your security codes. And then we should probably go see Drew.” Jason looked at her. “We’ll get the boys from school—they can’t go on the bus. And we’ll make sure they’re somewhere safe. What did you tell Franco about breaking the engagement?”

“I—” Her throat was dry. “I told him it—I said the boys weren’t…Oh, God.” She closed her eyes. “He favors Jake. The signs were all there. He’s always been obsessed with you. Of course, he singled out your son—Oh, my God, what have I done?”

“Hey.” Jason put one hand on her shoulder, gripped it. “Hey. We don’t know how this all fits together yet. But we’ll find out, okay?”

“Okay.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s…get my locks changed and then go see Drew. Maybe there’ll be answers on the drive.”

January 26, 2018

Welp, I half expected this, but I’m glad we at least got through January before I had to make any changes.

I just finished my second week of student teaching and the amount of time I got to spend at home was…wow. Sad. I’m out the door at 6:30 every morning, I teach until about 2:30, I have a about an hour before either my second job starts or class, and most nights I’m home around 7 just so I can eat dinner and go to bed at 9:30. One night, I don’t even get home until almost 9 because of graduate seminar.

I haven’t had a ton of time for writing — I expect that to change as I settle in a bit more. I also won’t be working my other job three days a week, so that’s an extra night. But right now, I only have about ten chapters between what I’ve posted and what I’ve finished writing. I don’t feel great about a five week buffer — I feel lots better about a ten week buffer.

So…while I hate having to do this, I’m going to be scaling Bittersweet back to one chapter a week for a few weeks just to give me some more time to get my schedule straightened out and finish the last few chapters.

You’ll still get Workshop Sundays — and I might toss in a Micro Fiction one night if I can make that happen on Tuesdays. I’ll let you know for sure once I start having that night off.

Thanks for understanding guys 🙂 I’ll go back to twice a week as soon as possible! Let me know if I should be posting on Mondays or Wednesdays. I’m leaning towards Wednesdays to make the posting a bit even with Workshop Sundays. What do you guys think?

This entry is part 14 of 34 in the series Bittersweet

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt, suddenly goes away somehow
A Thousand Years, Christina Perri


Thursday, July 25, 2002

AA Meeting Room

AJ accepted the gold chip from his sponsor at the podium and spent a moment looking at it, turning it between his fingers. Feeling the weight of it. He had several of these at home already—a white one for his first twenty-four hours of sobriety, and then one for every month that followed.

All of those were important to him. He carried the most current one in his pocket everywhere, touching it when the urge to drink threatened to swallow him. He would take the chip out, look at it—look at the length of time imprinted on it and reminded himself of all he had to throw away.

But a part of him had never truly believed he’d make it to this chip. To this moment.

“AJ?” his sponsor touched his shoulder, his voice quiet. “You don’t need to say anything, you know that, right?”

“Yeah.” His voice felt rusty, but he raised his eyes to meet the steady eyes of the man who had stood behind him the whole way. He looked out to those gathered—the usual members and the small group there to see him get the coin.

His miracle, his wife, Courtney. His mother and father. His grandparents. Ned. And next to Courtney, Jason and Elizabeth.

His brother was there to see him in this moment. Even if Jason never called him that, never felt that link—AJ always would.

He took a deep breath and turned to them. “My name is AJ. And I’m an alcoholic.”

There were murmurs of the usual greetings. “Today I am one year sober.” He looked down at the coin. “A year ago, I came to my first meeting. But I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to say. I’m…I’m not even sure I know what to say now.”

He looked back at the audience and found Courtney’s encouraging eyes. “I had a miracle happen to me this year. I found someone who looked at me…and liked me. Just the way I was. Damaged. Broken. But she saw something in me worth loving. It gets easier to believe that it’s true every day we’re together.”

Elizabeth leaned over and squeezed Courtney’s hand, and the two shared a smile.

“I have a son,” AJ continued. “Because of my choices in life, his mother kept him away from me. I used…I used to hate her for that. But now that I’ve been allowed to be with him, to be his father—” He met Jason’s eyes. “I get it. They put him first. I wasn’t ready to be a father. To stop letting the alcohol win. But I am now.”

He cleared his throat. “I drank to forget. To forget that I wasn’t what my family wanted. That I had destroyed my life, nearly killed my brother. That I had thrown away anything worthwhile in my life. But last year…I looked at myself in the mirror and I realized…” AJ’s voice caught. “I realized that I was killing myself. And I didn’t want to do that anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted to stop living in a fog. Stop letting everyone else define me. I couldn’t stop drinking for my son. Or to atone for my brother. But I stopped for myself.”

He looked down at this coin. “I’m not sure I ever believed I would get here. And I’m terrified I might slip. That I might have to start over. But I—I know what it’s like to win now. To feel worthy. To be respected. And I have so much to lose. So, I hope that I’m here again next year for a second year sober. I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”

“I’m so proud of him,” Courtney murmured as AJ took his seat up front. “How honest he is.” She looked at Elizabeth. “And how happy he’s been with Michael. Thank you.” She met Jason’s eyes as well. “Thank you for letting him have a chance.”

When the meeting was over, Courtney and the Quartermaines went forward to meet AJ but Elizabeth hung back with Jason. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I guess…” Jason shook his head. “I don’t know. He’s been sober for a year. That’s…that’s good.”

“It’s always one day at a time,” she murmured.

AJ broke away from the others and hesitantly approached them. “Hey. Thanks for coming.”

“Congratulations.” Elizabeth stepped forward and embraced him. “I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, Liz.” AJ smiled at her. “It’s really…it’s Courtney who should—”

“You’re the one who didn’t take the drink,” Jason cut in, surprising them both. He looked away, as if he couldn’t quite meet AJ’s eyes. “Yeah, she’s been there. But you didn’t—you did the work.”

“Thanks.” AJ swallowed. “And thanks for last weekend. We had a lot of fun with Michael staying over.”

“Bobbie and I were talking—” Jason shifted slightly. “And we think it might be—we might try a few days. Maybe three or something.” He finally AJ’s eyes. “If you want.”

Elizabeth’s throat closed, and her eyes burned as she saw the surprise, the happiness, and the terror flitting across AJ’s face. She was so…proud of Jason for doing this. For giving AJ this chance. She knew how hard it was for him to give on this, to let go of Michael and trust AJ.

“Yeah.” AJ cleared his throat. “Yeah, I want.”

Friday, July 26, 2002

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“The PCPD’s final report came back,” Benny said with a twist of his lips. He tossed a folder on the table. “They’re ruling it accidental.”

“What?” Sonny barked reaching for the paperwork. “How in the hell—I thought you said they found bomb remnants—”

“They’re reclassifying it as materials from the warehouse. Blaming a gas leak.” Benny hissed between his teeth. “They don’t have any leads, so it’s easier for them this way.”

“It’s easier for us,” Jason said after a long moment. He skimmed the report Sonny passed to him. “We’re almost finished the reconstruction. If the PCPD ruled it accidental, we can get back to work.”

“Unless it’s a trick,” Sonny muttered. He poured himself a bourbon and tossed half of it back, letting the harsh liquid burn a trail of fire down his throat. “We’re going to have to stay careful. They’ll be raiding it. Maybe…maybe that’s the point here.”

Jason raised his brows. “Blow up our warehouse? Let the cops crawl all over our waterfront properties for almost two months? Just so we can get harassed by the cops? I’m not saying no,” he added when Sonny scowled at him. “It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”

“We’ll need to find a way to draw the attention from our warehouses,” Benny said, neatly sidestepping both men. “I think we may have to consider the possibility that the warehouse explosion was an accident—in that perhaps they did not intend it to be so powerful. In the last two months, not one member of the Families has taken advantage of our…issues.”

“Benny’s right,” Jason said. “And I’m finished going over the books. Looking at all the men. The casinos in Atlantic City could be run better, and that goes for the island. For Puerto Rico, but that’s just because of the expansion. And—”

“Because Nico is chomping at the bit to get out of Port Charles,” Sonny muttered. “His crew came back clean?”

“No. But his is the only crew that looks like an issue. Most of Sorel’s men went to Nico because he was a familiar face,” Jason told him. “We probably should have pushed some of them out of the city. He’s into drugs, there’s no doubt. They must have dumped the product because their sales records took a hit about a month ago, but they’ve ramped it back up—”

“The Paradise and Oasis sales are through the roof in June,” Benny confirmed. “Triple that of May and double over last year. And July is on track—”

“It was a distraction,” Sonny murmured. “Thought we’d be preoccupied with the warehouse. Thought it would force me to get you back into the fold,” he said to Jason. “We were right to keep you focused on the paperwork. Because now when I demand answers from that son of a bitch, I’ll—”

“We need to take this slowly,” Jason cut in. “He’s cocky right now, Sonny. And running drugs isn’t the goal. It can’t be. He’s been doing it for over a year, but now he tries to distract you? Now he tries to get out of town and leave a scapegoat? There’s no way Nico didn’t know Zander was a hothead. He planned on it. And he knew you hated him. He knew I hated him.”

“He’s got something else planned.” Sonny nodded. “Okay. I can get behind that. It makes sense.”

“Time to put in surveillance,” Jason told Benny. “Tell Stan we want everything. Both the Paradise and Oasis. Nico and Lenny’s phone lines.”

“I want someone following them at all times. I want to know who they talk to. When they talk to them.” Sonny hissed. “I shouldn’t have let the bastard in. I just—I didn’t want another Sorel. Better to join. Divide and conquering has never solved anything. Not after Smith or Moreno.”

“Drugs are lucrative,” Benny said kindly. “And most of the men don’t have your feelings against it—”

“You think I give a damn how people destroy themselves?” Sonny challenged. “I keep drugs out of Port Charles because I don’t want them near the high schools, yeah. But the PCPD know I don’t traffic in drugs. It’s good for my reputation to be against them. It’s kept me in business for the last seven years.” He shrugged. “People can go anywhere for drugs. If I really gave a damn, I wouldn’t move Zacchara or Ruiz’s product.”

“Fair enough.” Benny checked his watch. “I better catch Stan while I can.”

When their business manager left, Sonny looked to Jason. “We’ll need to keep you out a little longer, but maybe by the end of the summer…unless you have plans to head out of town soon.”

“I—” Jason hesitated. “What do you mean?”

“You stayed for Michael’s custody.” Sonny poured himself another. “It’s settled now.”

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t think AJ is going to challenge it, and we’ve already increased visitation.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “But Elizabeth is graduating in December and she’s managing Kelly’s—”

“Ah.” Sonny managed a half smile. “So you’re sticking around.”

“I—hadn’t thought about it, honestly. I figured I would be even before—but, yeah. Elizabeth’s life is here right now. I don’t know. Maybe that’ll change.” Jason shrugged. “For now, it’s better if I stay on the fringes. Francis and Johnny are doing a good job of handling things.” He waited a moment. “And I’m okay with what I’m doing now.”

“Keeps you out of the line of fire. Below the radar. Makes Elizabeth safer, I guess.” Sonny eyed him. “You’re not going to be able to keep out of it forever, Jase. I hope you both know that.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Miami, Florida: Pier

Zander scrawled his signature at the bottom of a clipboard, gave it back the harbor master, and gave the signal to his crew to unload.

It wasn’t glamorous work—way more manual labor that Zander had had to do running gamblers and bookies to ground back in Port Charles, but it wasn’t too bad. He had his own guys and might even move up the ranks, but he wanted off the pier, off the docks altogether.

Miami had a lot of opportunities to make money, and Zander was always looking for the next score.

“Yo, Smith.”

Zander turned to find his boss’s youngest son loping towards him. Manny Ruiz was short and covered in tattoos, and from a distance, wasn’t all that intimidating.

But up close, there was a glint in his eye that made even the toughest guy shrink back. The Ruiz boys, save for the brother who had turned priest, were fucking crazy, and Manny was the worst of them.

“Manny.” Zander turned, met his eyes evenly. “You need something?”

Papi wanted me to send a message.” Manny tilted his head with a half-smile. Despite the smothering, muggy heat, Zander felt a cold chill dance down his back. “Our friend has been in touch. You should start paying attention to matters back home.”

“Am I going back?” Zander asked. He looped his fingers through the belt loop of his jeans. And why the hell was Manny Ruiz playing messenger boy?

“Not yet, no, but…” Manny stepped closer. His tone remained friendly, but the light in his eyes was anything but. “Papi wanted to make sure you know…if anything goes wrong, we’re out of it.”

In other words, when this all blew to hell, Hector Ruiz would set his fucking insane progeny on anyone who brought his name into the discussion.

Fair enough. If Zander had tools like Manny and Javier Ruiz to deploy, he would do so as often as necessary.

“If anything goes wrong,” Zander said, slowly, “I’ll be too busy getting my ass out of there to worry about diming anyone out.” He offered his own sickly-sweet smile. “I don’t intend to be caught, and I’m the only one who could give your name.” He paused. “Other than Luis.”

“Just so we’re clear, amigo.” Manny clapped him on the shoulder. “But I like you, you know. Papi expects good things from you.”

Manny offered him another smile and then loped back up the ramp to the shipyard. Zander rolled his shoulders. He would play his role for Luis Alcazar, but when this fell apart as Zander thought it might, he was going to come back here to Miami, making money and not giving the Ruiz family a single regret for giving him a chance.

He’d do what he could to bring down Corinthos and Morgan, but there was no way he was putting his ass on the line. Not worth it.

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Gia wiggled her fingers. “You see these hands, Liz? These are the hands of a free woman. My last summer class ended today.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and scowled at the receipts. She really needed to ask Jason to help her with the books more often. She sucked at math.

And lately, she almost resented having to total this stuff up at the end of the day. She had cleaned out her studio a few weeks ago, and for the first time in months, she was spending time there again. Sketching. Drawing.

She’d meant what she told Lucky almost two months ago — going back to school, managing Kelly’s—they hadn’t been plans. They’d just been a way to fill her time. Give her a direction. A reason to get out of bed.

And she was glad to be finishing her degree, even if she’d mostly got it to thumb her nose at anyone who said she couldn’t. And she was glad to be helping out Bobbie here.

But she was starting to feel restless again, as if this wasn’t quite what she’d planned. Or what she wanted.

“These last two months sucked,” Gia continued, “but it means we can both graduate in December.” She reached for her milkshake and slurped it. “Yo. Liz.”

“What?” Elizabeth blinked at her. “Oh. Yeah. It’s good. I’ll be glad to get some time off next month. Um, Courtney said she’d cover my shifts if we still want to go away for a few days.”

“Funny you should bring it up.” Gia flexed her shoulders. “You’re still dating Jason.”

Elizabeth frowned at her. “What?”

“Almost three months now. Going solid. All good. Super happy for you. You know what Jason has?”

“Oh.” Elizabeth scowled. “Christ, Gia. You want me to ask my—” Because boyfriend sounded weird, she skipped right over it, “if we can go to the island? What for free? Should I ask for Sonny’s jet?”

“Well, if you can get it—” Gia frowned. Tilted her head. “I know that tone. I thought—” She paused. “I thought things were good. You’re barely ever at the apartment anymore. I’d take it personally, except I think it’s more because we live in the same building as my brother. Are you guys not okay?”

“No, we’re fine.” And because that sounded less than convincing, Elizabeth tried again. “Okay. I don’t really know. I mean, we’re—I think we’re happy. I just—” She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I can’t explain it. We’re together almost every night. And it’s good. When we’re together. I mean, it’s…not perfect, but it’s almost like it could be. I just…” She set the receipts down. “I think it’s me.”

“I know it’s you,” Gia muttered. “He’s too sexy for it to be him.” When Elizabeth glared at her, Gia just shrugged. “It’s usually you. And I say that with love.”

Elizabeth wanted to argue with her, but Gia’s logic was rock solid. Jason was an open and honest person. When something bothered him, he said so.

Not that anything was bothering her. It wasn’t.

“I think I don’t remember how to be happy,” she confessed. “That…I’m so used to fighting with Lucky and just generally being miserable in a relationship, I find it…uncomfortable to just have things be easy.”

“Okay…”

“And I think it’s because it’s early, right?” Elizabeth chewed her on her pen cap. “It’s a few months in. And we know each other really well. And we agree on stuff to do together. Take out from a bunch of places. Rides on his bike. Spending the night at Jake’s. Or sometimes at my studio. I don’t…ask him about his job because I don’t need to. I know if there was something for me to know, he’d tell me.”

“Yeah, okay, so this is what’s called the infatuation phase,” Gia told her. “You’re both enjoying each other. It’s not complicated yet. You haven’t decided to take it to the next step.”

“The next step?”

“You know, you’re just enjoying being together. And yeah, you do know each other really well, but I bet you’re still learning new stuff.”

“I—” Elizabeth tilted her head. “He’s a neat freak. Which I didn’t expect. Folds his clothes. Puts it away. Doesn’t like clutter. I used to think he just didn’t have a lot of stuff. My studio drives him crazy because there’s stuff everywhere. He never said anything before, but now I can see his grimace sometimes when he thinks I’m—” She smiled at the image.

“You need to figure out how to relax,” Gia told her. “Because it ain’t gonna be sunshine and roses. Eventually, y’all are gonna argue. Or one of you is going to start to want more.”

“More?” Elizabeth couldn’t imagine wanting more than she had right now. It would be tempting fate, and that bitch had always hated her.

“Yeah, like, you’re both sleeping together in small spaces. Maybe you want a drawer at Jake’s. Or your own bathroom at the studio. Or one of you says those three little words before the other is ready. Someone always wants more first.” Gia shrugged. “I mean, I don’t think it’s an issue for you guys right now. You’re both stupid for each other. But yeah, eventually, just hanging out at Jake’s isn’t gonna be enough.”

“I guess.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s just irritating to know I could still…have doubts. It’s exactly what I thought it would be like to be with Jason.”

“Yeah?”

“Safe,” she murmured. “And amazing. The way he just listens. Or looks at me. The way he says my name—”

“Girl, you’re not the only one who finds that hot.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Gia—”

“He drops his voice an octave. It’s sexy. I like it. I have decided not to settle for anyone who doesn’t make my panties wet when he says my name,” Gia declared.  The mother sitting a table away gave her a dirty look which Gia didn’t notice.

“Anyway—” Elizabeth said, her cheeks flaming because—well, Gia was right. “It’s not just—I mean. Yeah. You’re, um, not wrong about…you know.”

“Oh, damn it. I knew it.” Gia huffed. “Sex on a stick. He just oozes it. I should have seduced him when I had the chance.”

Elizabeth flicked her straw wrapper at her friend. “Hey. Hands off. Don’t be jealous because I’m having better sex than you.”

“Girl, you are having better sex than everyone.” When the mother gave Gia another dirty look, Gia arched her brows. “Why don’t move closer, you want to listen so much? Maybe she’ll talk about positions next.”

The older woman scowled but averted her face.

“You’re going to get us shut down for obscenities,” Elizabeth said with a roll of her eyes.

“She’s as jealous as the rest of us.” Her roommate waited a moment. “You’re not used to a guy who respects you. Who treats you like a queen. You should ask Jason to go away for a few days. And hey, if he needs to do business, I’ll be happy to come along and keep you company.”

“Somehow I knew this would come back around to a free vacation.”

Saturday, August 24, 2002

AJ & Courtney’s House: Front Porch

Jason hugged Michael one more time. “Have a good time this week, all right?”

“We’re gonna have lots of fun, Uncle Jason,” Michael assured him with a broad smile. He peered up at his father through shaggy blond hair. “Right, Dad?”

AJ grinned down at him. “Right. We’re going to Six Flags on Tuesday. You guys can come if you want,” he told Elizabeth.

“Oh.” Elizabeth grinned at Jason. “You like roller coasters?”

Jason hesitated at the sparkle in her eyes because he couldn’t figure out if she was joking or not. “Uh, let me…check my schedule.”

“It’d be lots of fun, Uncle Jason.”

“Pretty sure I’d pay to see you at a theme park, Jase.”

“You and everyone else,” Elizabeth told AJ with a wicked grin. “I could live forever off those proceeds—”

“All right, I think it’s almost time for Michael to go to bed,” Jason said, stepping back. AJ just laughed and with another wave, father and son closed the door behind them.

Jason stood there, watching the door for just another minute. Elizabeth slid her hand into his. “You okay?”

“It’s okay.”

“Yeah. And he loves his new room.” Elizabeth tugged him down the steps and Jason followed her reluctantly. “And the backyard.”

“I know.”

She turned to face him when they reached the door of the SUV Jason had borrowed from Sonny to drive Michael to AJ’s house. “But this is his first full week. And you’re worried.”

“He’ll be okay,” Jason muttered, but he looked away.

“Because you know it’s not going to be long before Michael’s living with AJ,” Elizabeth said. “Bobbie’s already talked about how much Michael and AJ seem to like each other.” She let her fingers drift down the soft blue t-shirt he wore. “I know that used to hurt you. The idea of them together.”

Jason exhaled slowly and dipped his head until his chin hit his chest. “I didn’t trust AJ. And it…it was the way it happened. I didn’t have a chance—I couldn’t…get ready for it. And I know I was right to give up visitation. That it gave Michael his best shot.”

“Doesn’t mean it hurts any less.” Elizabeth looked at the one-story ranch home Courtney had been so excited to close on a month earlier. Her first real home, she’d told Elizabeth at Kelly’s. She’d always lived in apartments, but now she had a home.

“He’s happy here,” Jason said after a moment. “That’s all I ever wanted for him. He’s not…AJ’s good. So far.”

Elizabeth nodded, because Jason had been forced to come a long way in the last five months. He’d all but ceded custody to a man that had almost killed him. A man who had spent most of his life in a drunken oblivion. “That’s one of the things I—” She stumbled a moment, and he tilted his head as if he knew what word she’d nearly said.

“One of my favorite things,” she corrected. “Is that you’re fair. And honest. I know it’s been difficult to let this happen. And not just because of AJ’s alcoholism.”

“Part of me…” Jason hesitated. “Still thinks I’m betraying Carly,” he admitted. “I promised her—”

“And you did everything you could to keep that promise,” Elizabeth cut in. “You really did. And maybe Carly would have rather you take Michael on the run to keep AJ from winning. I know you don’t like to break your word—”

“But I made a promise to Michael, too,” Jason said. “To always put him first.” He looked back at the house. “And that’s what I’m doing.”

She opened her mouth, but whatever she had been about to say—she swallowed it. And not for the first time that day. Or week. Or this month.

He brushed his fingers against her temple, smoothing her hair behind her ears, and she turned into his touch. How many times had Jason touched her like this the year before and watched as she’d pull away? Go back to Lucky?

“What were you going to say?” he asked softly.

“What? When?”

“Now. Or before.”

She tipped her face up to him as he kissed her, drinking in her taste. Her scent. “What were you going to say?” he repeated, their breaths mingling.

“Nice try.” But Elizabeth was smiling as she said it and kissed him again, her hand fisting in his shirt. “Let’s go back to Jake’s.”

Jake’s: Jason’s Room

“You’re thinking again.”

Her breath still shallow, her heart still racing, Elizabeth scowled and sat up, her hands sliding down his chest, still straddling him. “Excuse me?”

Jason just grinned up at her, his hands behind his head. “You’re thinking again. What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” She started to slide away, to reach for the thin sheet and cover herself, but Jason kept her there with his hands gripping her hips. “Jason—”

“You started to say something earlier and stopped. You did that yesterday. And last week.” Jason sat up, touched her cheek.

“It’s not—” Elizabeth sighed. “You’re not wrong.” And this time, when she moved away, he let her. “I don’t know. I feel like an idiot. I’ve been…” She searched for the right way to express what she was thinking. “When you first came home, I tried to push you away.”

“I know.” He cleared his throat. “Are you—”

“I was so afraid of hurting you again,” she continued, holding up her hand. “And of being hurt. And I think…maybe I was afraid to be happy. Nothing…nothing good ever happens when I’m…happy.” Her voice trembled a bit. “I know that sounds insane—”

“Elizabeth.” Jason drew her against him, tucking her head into shoulder as they laid back. “It doesn’t. Sound insane, I mean.”

“I just…these last few months…I think I’ve been waiting for something to go wrong. For you to change your mind, maybe. Or for me to mess it up.”

“I can’t promise that nothing is never going to go wrong,” he told her. “We’re both probably going to make mistakes.” Jason shifted so he was laying on his side, facing her. “But that’s not what you were going to say earlier.”

“Ugh. You’re relentless.” She bit her lip, but suddenly she didn’t feel like she would be tempting fate. “Specifically, what I was going to say earlier…at the house…was that…” She reached up to trace his features with her fingertips. “The way you look at things…with openness. Honesty. Fearlessness. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.”

He wrapped his hand around her fingers, bring them to his lips where he kissed them softly. “Your courage and the way you always believe in people is one of the reasons I love you.”

She opened her mouth to reply, but her cell phone began to shrilly ring from the depths of her purse across the room. She blinked at it and had almost decided to ignore it when his cell phone in his jeans began to ring, too.

“That…” Jason sat up and reached for his jeans beside the bed. “That can’t be good.” He looked at the display. “It’s Sonny.”

Elizabeth rushed to her purse and pulled out her phone. Fear sliced through her chest. “It’s Gia. Oh, God, what if something—”

She heard him talking into his phone and she answered hers. “Gia—”

“Jesus ‘effin Christ, Elizabeth Webber. You are not going to fucking believe what the hell is going on here!”

“Gia—”

What?” she heard Jason demand from across the room. She turned to him, his phone against his ear, his face drained of color. “Say that again, Sonny.”

“Gia—”

“Carly was here a little while ago,” Gia said. “Caroline Benson, aka Destroyer of Worlds, is alive, looking for her son and pissed as hell. And Bobbie was too stunned and told her about AJ— ”

“Carly?” Jason repeated. “What—”

“I’ll call you back,” Elizabeth said, numbly, closing her phone. “Jason—”

“We have to—” Jason stared at his phone. “Sonny said Carly just left his place. Carly. Looking for Michael.”

“That’s…what Gia said. Um, she knows he’s with AJ. I guess she’ll go to the mansion first, but—”

“We should…” Jason just stared at her, trailing off. “I can’t—”

She took the phone from him and touched his cheek. “Hey. I can’t imagine what’s going through your mind right now. Carly’s alive. And she’s on the war path.”

“Right.” He cleared his throat. “So we should go to the house. We should get there before her. You should call AJ.” He started to pull on his jeans but stopped and sat on the bed. “Christ, Elizabeth. Where the hell has she been for the last five months?”

This entry is part 13 of 34 in the series Bittersweet

They’re tryin’ to come back, all my senses push
Untie the weight bags, I never thought I could
Steady feet, don’t fail me now
I’m gonna run till you can’t walk
Something pulls my focus out
And I’m standing down

Stop and Stare, OneRepublic


Saturday, May 18, 2002

Elizabeth & Gia’s Apartment: Living Room

As Elizabeth went to get a broom and dustpan, Jason reached for his cell phone.  The last thing any of them needed was someone coming in and blowing the warehouse sky high.

And he was almost positive it was a bomb—the force of the blast—the fact that windows had shattered five blocks away—what else could it be?

“Where are you?”  Sonny’s voice picked up almost before the phone rang. “Did you see? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m at the Brownstone with Elizabeth. It—Sonny, the windows shattered here. Probably almost everywhere else on the block.”

He heard a knock and turned to the door as Elizabeth let Bobbie in. The redhead was a bit shaken as she took in the broken windows. “Bobbie just came in.” He looked at her. “Your windows, too?”

“Yeah.” Bobbie blinked at him. “I—it woke us up. I just—I left Lucas with Michael because I wanted—” She pressed her fingers to her lips. “I wanted to see if Elizabeth knew where you were—I saw it was at the warehouse—”

“The whole area is engulfed,” Sonny said, and Jason turned his attention back to the phone. “Not just our building. But most of the pier. No way it’s an accident. Alexis and I are on our way down—”

“I’ll be—”

“We talked about this, Jase. You need to stick where you are. You need to be out of this.”

“Sonny—” Jason gritted his teeth. It had made sense in the moment, but now he wasn’t so sure. “This was serious—”

He saw Elizabeth dump glass in the recycle bin and then go back towards the bedrooms to check the other windows, but Bobbie stood there, her dark eyes sober. Worried.

“I know. I don’t know who was there tonight. I’ll let you know when I know something else, but we gotta—we gotta stick to the plan.”

“Yeah, all right. I’ll talk to you later.” Jason hung up the phone and just stared at it for a long moment. He hated being out of the loop. Unable to fix anything. To not be right there when the information came in.

“Jason?”

He turned to Bobbie. “Hey. I’m—I’m gonna make some calls. I’ll have someone out here to fix the windows by the morning, but—Is…is Michael okay? I’m sure he was scared.”

“He’s all right. Lucas distracted him with video games. He’s getting good at that.” Bobbie watched Elizabeth return from the back of the apartment, more glass in the dustpan. “I’m glad…I’m glad you were here, Jason.”

She left then, and Jason looked at Elizabeth who met his eyes without hesitation. With understanding. “Are you going to meet Sonny?” she asked softly.

“I—” Jason exhaled slowly and slid the cell phone back in his pocket. He picked up his gun from the table where he had set it, and put the safety back on and tucked the gun back in placce. “There are things I won’t be able to tell you. I know you know that. But…that was before…” He looked away, leaned against the back of the sofa. “Before.”

“Before we started dating.” Elizabeth set the broom and dustpan aside, then sat at the small circular table she and Gia had used to dump their books and papers throughout the semester. “Okay.”

“Sonny—he likes to think it’s better when you don’t tell anyone anything ever. And I guess after Brenda and Carly, that makes sense for him, but it just—I don’t know. I never told Robin much, I guess. And it usually meant we argued about what I wasn’t telling her. And Carly turned Sonny into the Feds. And Brenda wore a wire. So, I think—”

“Jason.” She managed a brief smile, a light of amusement in her eyes. “You’re rambling. I get it. There’s stuff I don’t need to know because…I don’t need to know it. But there’s things you think I should know because it makes us both safer. And I know you don’t want to lie to me. So, tell me what you want me to know.”

Her quiet acceptance of everything he was—it was so different than anything he had ever had in his life before and it took him a minute to gather his thoughts again.

Jason pulled out another chair next to her and sat down. “After I left last year, I—I didn’t think I’d come back so Sonny had to—what I used to do for him—”

“He gave your job to someone else,” she said with a nod. “Makes sense.” And neither of them commented on the reason he hadn’t planned on returning to Port Charles. It just wasn’t important anymore.

“So technically…I’m as out as I could be. And if I left Port Charles, I’d be out.” Jason hesitated. “And I haven’t…gotten my job back. In the same way. I’m…” He searched for the right way to explain it. “You know that Sorel died last year.”

“Yeah, and Sonny merged the territories.” When he blinked at her, she shrugged. “You pick up some things on the street, and Sonny gave some hints. He put a guard on me for a little bit during the worst of it because Sorel’s men knew me from before.”

“Oh.” He felt out of his depth, didn’t know what to do with someone he could…explain things to without them demanding more. Who just…understood him. “It meant taking in a lot of new guys. New clubs. And Sonny’s been expanding elsewhere. In Atlantic City. He’s talking about Las Vegas.”

“I imagine it’s been difficult with so many new people.” Elizabeth tilted her head. “Is that what you’re doing? Sorting through them?”

“Yeah. Kind of. Auditing records, actually.” He rubbed his hands against his jeans. “There’s…some irregularities. We think we know who and how, but we’re just…we don’t have enough. This, though…” He heard the sirens of ambulances, fire engines, and police cars as they raced towards the scene. “This is out of the blue. I don’t know of any threat that…would explain this.”

“Okay,” she drew out the word with a squint of her eyes. “But you’re not leaving to meet with Sonny because you’re not technically back at work?” Elizabeth frowned. “Do…do you want people to think you’re not there?”

“Yeah. If I’m out, then there’s no reason for me to be there tonight.” He frowned and looked at the door. “I’m surprised Taggert isn’t banging on the door yet. He would have seen my bike parked on the street—”

“He went to Buffalo with Gia. He’ll probably harass you when he gets back.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Thanks. I mean for telling me. I know you don’t like to talk about any of this.”

“I don’t because—” Jason took her hand in his, felt the soft skin of her fingers. Ignored the bruise developing on her forearm. “I don’t like to think about of that when we’re together.”

“But the real world is what it is.” She laced her fingers with his. “For what it’s worth, Jason, not that my opinion matters or anything, but if you’re trying to find a traitor or whatever, it’s probably good that they don’t think you’re doing more than the books. You’ve got a reputation.”

He scowled at that. “What do you mean?”

She lifted a brow. “No one messes with you. I remember that day on the docks when you almost threw Sorel in the harbor for talking to me. I mean, yeah, he approached me one time when you left and there was that bomb, but I was mostly left alone after that. Anyway… I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but people talk about you, and I’ve…” She shrugged. “I’ve seen you in action. Anyone who wants to get one over on Sonny knows they have to go through you. If you’re not really back at the job, if people think you’re just here to deal with Michael and might go away again, they’re not going to cover their tracks as much.”

Jason leaned back, drawing his hand from hers. “None of this bothers you?” he asked, feeling a bit skeptical. Robin had never spoken so matter of factly about his job. Or what he did. And Carly had really only enjoyed spending the money.

But no one had ever spoken to him bluntly about the work he did. Or how well he did it.

Elizabeth frowned. “Are…are you mad because I get it?” She pressed her lips together. “I would think it would actually be easier for you if I didn’t. I mean, Jesus, Jason, what do you want me to say? I found you bleeding in the snow and changed your bandages. I hid you in my studio because you didn’t want anyone to know you were here. And I’ve seen you hold on a gun on people. I know what you do. I know who you are.”

“I—”

“Do I wish that you…had a safer job? I guess. I don’t really think about it. You were a mechanic for a while, but I know you didn’t like it. And…” she shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not black and white. You work in a violent world. But you know what? The whole damn world is violent. You don’t have the monopoly on danger. I mean, I walked through the park at night and that turned out to be—” Her voice stopped.

“I’m sorry,” Jason said roughly. “I don’t mean—I just…” He swallowed hard. “I don’t know. We’ve never talked about any of this.”

“You need to understand that I don’t see you through rose-colored glasses. That yeah, there’s the guy you are with me or with Michael or Bobbie—then there’s another side of you. But I’ve seen that side of you, Jason.” She learned forward and forced him to meet her eyes. “I’ve seen it. I know you know how to use that gun. I know you’ve been shot more often than I want to think about. I’ve seen what you’re capable of. And my face isn’t going to change.”

She held up a hand before he could speak. If he could have even spoken. “And don’t tell me it did with Lucky. That was—that wasn’t you. That was me. I was terrified last year. I didn’t know what to think. Who to believe. I wanted to believe Lucky because that meant I didn’t have to blow up my life. It was easier to believe him. I spent two years taking the easy way out. Because I was too afraid to do anything else.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I’m not doing that again. I’m done living my life in fear. So, yeah, I know what you do for a living, Jason. And no, it doesn’t bother me. If it bothers you that I’m not wringing my hands over it—” She rose to her feet, shrugging a shoulder as she did so. “Then maybe this isn’t going to work—”

He reached for her hand as she started to walk away, just to stop her. To turn her back. “Hey. I’m sorry. I just—what I do is…”

“You’re used to people looking at you differently because of it.” Elizabeth sighed. “I get it. You’ve had to deal with my baggage about Lucky so many times, it’s only fair that I get some of yours.” She framed his face with her hands. “I am not Robin. And I will never walk away because of your job.”

“Okay.” He tugged her closer to him and kissed her. He wasn’t entirely sure he believed her, but he knew she believed it, and that was enough for him.

It was more than he’d ever had before.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Kelly’s: Hallway

AJ hesitated for just a moment before knocking briskly on Lucky Spencer’s door. It was jerked open and the blond man scowled. “What? I’m packing.” He squinted. “Why are you here?”

“Because if it wasn’t me making sure you were leaving, it’d be Jason.” AJ raised his brows. “Pretty sure that would be bad idea.”

Lucky scowled and jerked away from the door, disappearing back into the room. “I told Liz I’d go, and I’m going.”

“Okay.” AJ moved inside the doorway and leaned against the frame. He didn’t like the younger man—didn’t much care for anyone who put their hands on a woman. Beyond that one horrible fight with Carly, he could honestly say he’d never stooped to that.

But there was something in the way he carried himself, something just beneath the anger that radiated from his lanky frame.

Desperation.

AJ understood that. He’d lived it.

“It’s easy to stay angry.”

Lucky paused as he shoved some clothes into a duffel and looked at him. “What?”

“When your world blows up,” AJ continued. “When people disappoint you. When you disappoint yourself. Being angry is easy. It feels good. And sometimes, you get stuck in it.”

Lucky exhaled slowly. “I’m not angry all of the time—” But the protest seemed weak and he couldn’t finish it.

“When I found out Jason had lied about Michael, I got angry. And I stayed angry.” He shrugged. “Not that my marriage to Carly ever really had a chance, but maybe if I had been kinder. More understanding. I don’t know. Maybe. But I made choices that led me to losing her and Michael. And then I—I started drinking. And—”

“Carly fell.”

“Yeah.” AJ rubbed his mouth, trying to block out that moment. To forget his part in it. He hadn’t pushed her. He knew that in his heart and in his soul. But he’d been part of the moment. And he should have walked away.

“I spent years drowning out all the voices that told me I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t Jason. I wasn’t Ned. I wasn’t the right kind of Quartermaine. I crumbled under that pressure, Lucky. And I ruined my life. I didn’t push her, but that doesn’t make me any less guilty.”

Lucky looked down at his hands as if they belonged to strangers. “I know I left marks on her,” he murmured. “I had to have.”

“I know what it’s like to feel like you’re not going to measure up to Jason. To come in a distant second.” He’d done with the family. With Keesha. With Carly.

The younger man looked up, his mouth pressed into angry lines. “Yeah, and he just stands there because he doesn’t actually give a damn. He’s not—”

“He’s not even competing. Yeah.” AJ hesitated. “I understand being hurt about how Elizabeth called off the wedding. That she didn’t call it off before. That she waited until—”

“We were standing in front of everyone who loved us. Family. Friends. Everyone who—” Lucky broke off. “You didn’t know us before. Before I died.”

“No, but I remember—I remember you. Around the house, with Emily. And I—I went with Emily to your funeral.” AJ rubbed his chest, thinking of his younger sister. “She was devastated. Everyone was. But Elizabeth was beyond that.”

“Yeah.” Lucky resumed packing. “She said that. When I came home. That she almost drowned in it. But that Jason helped her figure out how to live with it. And you know, I’m glad. I want to be glad,” he corrected. “She didn’t know I was alive. And I wouldn’t have wanted her to lose herself.” His voice dimmed. “She worked too hard to put herself back together. I would have hated if she’d gone back to that place. And so, yeah, when she told me Jason helped her. Was there for her, I was glad. I liked Jason. He was good to me.”

“And then he came home.”

“And she looked at him.” Lucky turned to AJ. “And you know what I mean. She told me she loved me. But she looked at him.”

“And stayed with you.”

“And that’s—I can’t stop being pissed off about it. But I made that choice, too. I stayed. I guilted her into staying with me. I knew I could. And I did.” He looked back at his hands. “And last night, I—I don’t know.”

“It’s easy to stay angry,” AJ said again. “Because, man, it feels good. It feels righteous. When you’re angry, you can throw it at someone. Make them hurt the way you hurt. So, I get that. And I get how that anger turns into something like last night. The only person in my entire world that loved me anyway was my brother. And he’s gone because of me. Jason’s alive, but he’s not my brother. I killed that man. I took him away from my family. From me. From everyone. And I have to live with that.”

“I don’t know how to stop being angry,” Lucky said dully. “And it’s not just Liz. It’s…it’s my whole damn life. I look around at it, and I just—” He shook his head. “I’m tired of everyone looking at me and wanting me to be that guy. Who I used to be.”

Lucky wouldn’t appreciate the comparison, but he had more in common with Jason that he thought. And maybe one day, AJ could tell him that. But for now, he stood there while Lucky packed the rest of his things and helped him put them in his car.

“Where are you going to go?”

“I’m going to go home and stay with my mom for a while. She and my dad are planning a second wedding,” Lucky said. “I guess I’ll help them do that. Do some photography for my mom’s company. I don’t know.” He hesitated as he opened his car door. “You’re right. I’ve…I’ve held on to the anger. Because I don’t know what else is there.”

“A year ago, I woke up,” AJ said. “And I was hungover. I stumbled into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and I was just…I was done with it. Because the alcohol drowned out the voices, yeah. But I was killing myself. Nothing horrible happened. Nothing traumatic. I just woke up one day and I was done. But until that day comes, Lucky, you gotta stay away from the people who make you angry.”

“Yeah. Not the worst idea. Thanks. For not…for not treating me like…well, for not kicking my ass.”

“Thought about it, but I’ve been there, Lucky. And it doesn’t help. You know you were wrong. Make it better.”

AJ stepped back and watched as Lucky pulled out of the parking lot. He’d done what he could to reach out to someone else who was drowning, but there was no way to know if it had worked.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny ran his hands through his hair and winced as Benny listed the casualties from the explosion. Seven of their night shift workers hadn’t been able to escape the building, including their manager who had been with Sonny since he’d managed the Paradise a decade ago.

“What does the fire chief say?” Jason asked from across the room by the fireplace.

“They found remnants of a bomb,” Benny reported. “Too early to be more specific but we got our guys at the PD on it. We’ll know when the full report comes in.” He shook his head. “I didn’t—I didn’t see this coming.”

“It wasn’t just us they hit,” Sonny murmured. “The fire spread to a few of the other businesses. The Quartermaines lost a building. A restaurant went up in flames. Two stores. Whoever planted this one—they meant to destroy everything.”

“I’ve never seen anything do this kind of damage here,” Jason admitted. “Five blocks away, most of the buildings lost their windows. I got someone out there today replacing what we can, but car windows—what do the Families say?”

Benny spread his hands. “Johnny called last night—he was in touch with the Zaccharas. We’ve heard from Hector in Miami. There’s just nothing from their end. And this isn’t Tagliatti or Vega’s signature. They’ve got no reason to blow up our place.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Sonny murmured. “A smaller bomb. A fire. Something to get our attention. But taking out the entire building and most of the crew that handles shipments—it’s nothing but problems for anyone going through us. It’ll be a month before we’re back up to speed. If not longer if the PCPD wants to be assholes about it.”

“What about Nico?” Benny asked. “I wouldn’t think he’d have the resources—”

“He’d have to get them from somewhere and I don’t know anyone who’s willing to destroy the waterfront to get to you,” Jason cut in. “Even Roscoe can’t be that stupid. This doesn’t make sense, Sonny. There’s…there’s no escalation here. It’s just nuclear right away.”

“I want to hear from Tagliatti and Vega to be sure. And make sure we got eyes and ears everywhere.” Sonny rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t slept. Had spent half the night down at the PCPD trying to explain to Mac he really wasn’t stone walling.

He didn’t know what the fuck was going on.

Benny excused himself to deal with the details and left Jason and Sonny alone. “You said you got the windows at the Brownstone replaced?”

“They’re there now,” Jason said. He hesitated. “We’ll figure this out, Sonny.”

“There used to be a way of doing business,” Sonny muttered. “A code. It’s all gone to hell.”

Friday, June 7, 2002

Miami, Florida: Cafe de Lune

Zander slid off his sunglasses and scanned the interior of the small cafe. He found his target across the room, in a corner. He hadn’t expected to hear from Luis Alcazar for a few more weeks and certainly hadn’t thought to be summoned to meet in public.

Senor Smith.” Luis folded the Venezuelan newspaper and set it down on the table. “Would you like an espresso?” He raised his hand to summon the waitress, but Zander shook it off.

“Nah, I don’t like that stuff.” He sat across from the other man and frowned. “I’m surprised you wanted to meet with me. Here.”

Alcazar shrugged. “Corinthos doesn’t have time to worry about a guy he fired a month ago. He confirmed your new employment and moved on. You heard about their warehouse?”

“Yeah.” Zander pressed his lips together. “Doesn’t seem like that was the plan.”

“It wasn’t. Senor Roscoe is impatient.” Alcazar sipped his own drink, somehow making the act of drinking from a miniature cup look intimidating. “Wanted to send a message.”

“Some message. Hector is pissed about it. All movement has halted. No profits. Everyone’s ticked off. And he’s looking at me funny.”

Zander wasn’t interested in working for another half-assed idiot who didn’t take Corinthos and Morgan seriously.

“I’ll speak to him. I’ve dealt with our associate. He knows if he moves again without my say-so, it will be to his detriment.” Alcazar pursed his lips. “Though it was interesting to learn that Jason Morgan did not report to the penthouse until the next day. He stayed with his girlfriend. Is she the type who needs her hand held?”

“Elizabeth?” Zander scowled, remembering the scrape of her nails as she’d clawed at his face. “She can take care of herself. And it’s not her first rodeo. Morgan’s sister told me she hid Morgan after he was shot. And had a bomb in her studio for her troubles. She wasn’t hurt, but it didn’t sour her none. She’s tougher than she looks.”

“Is it possible Morgan is staying out of the business while he is in Port Charles? That this trip home is temporary?”

Zander hesitated. “I would have said yes when he first came back. Corinthos split his job between O’Brien and Corelli after the merger. He hadn’t done that before. And the way I hear it, that hasn’t changed yet. But I know he was looking at the books. Nico was getting freaked out. Dumped the product.”

He waited for a moment. “I would have said it was temporary,” he repeated. “That he would have settled the custody issues and left. But it got complicated with AJ Quartermaine going after custody. And if he’s seeing Elizabeth Webber, he’s probably not pulling up stakes.”

“The Webber girl has been involved with him for several years—never stopped him before—”

“They never dated before,” Zander interrupted. “There was always Lucky Spencer. He’s not a factor now. Trust me, if they’re together, it’s serious. And she’s got roots here. She’s managing that restaurant. She has friends. She’s in college. She’s not gonna go away with him.”

Alcazar nodded, steepling his fingers under his nose. “Thank you for your insight. It helps a great deal.”

“Are you still planning an ambush?”

“I’ve had to readjust that plan a bit. This warehouse incident has heightened security. Made them suspicious. My plan works when they’re not expecting it. We’ll have to wait.” Alcazar dropped a twenty on the table. “I’ll smooth things over with Hector and be in touch when we’re ready.” He rose to his feet. “You had a reputation for being a hothead. I’m pleased to see you’ve throttled it back.”

“Well,” Zander said with some consideration, “you seem to take Corinthos and Morgan seriously. They’re not weak. Or easy to take it down. Not impossible. But not easy. It’s irritating when no one else sees what you see.”

“Indeed. Keep out of trouble.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose as she scrubbed dried milkshake from one of the outside tables. “Goddamn assholes can’t even wipe up after themselves,” she muttered.

She heard a sound behind her and turned to find Lucky standing just inside the entrance.

She hadn’t seen him in nearly three weeks, not since that night. AJ had told her he’d seen Lucky to his car himself, and she’d been relieved by that news.

“Lucky,” she said, a bit warily. She glanced over her shoulder through the window. Courtney and Gia were at the counter as always, bickering as Courtney refilled sugar canisters.

“I just wanted—” Lucky hesitated. “We met here, you know.”

How could she forget? It had practically been her first day in town, and she’d made an irritation of herself to practically everyone—including Lucky when she’d insulted the bracelet his little sister made for him and his name. Love at first sight, obviously.

“I remember.” She tossed the milkshake-stained rag into the plastic tub with the other dirty dishes. “You didn’t much like me then, so I guess we’ve come full circle.”

“I thought I had all the answers back then,” he murmured. “I was Luke and Laura Spencer’s kid. That made me special.” He looked away, off to the side as if remembering that. “I don’t remember why I felt that way. I just know it was part of my DNA. And then…somehow, during that year, I lost it. And I keep trying to find it.”

She managed a sigh, feeling a bit of…empathy. She’d grieved that year, but he’d been kidnapped. Brainwashed. “I know. And I know I wasn’t—I looked at you like you were supposed to still be that boy. And that wasn’t fair.”

“I thought you should still be that girl.” He met her eyes there, and the anger…it was still there, but it was dimmer. And she didn’t feel it radiating towards her. “But so did everyone else. Everyone kept looking at me and you and I guess they thought if we could be those people again, it would all be okay. It could go back the way it was.”

“It’s too much pressure to put on a relationship,” she murmured. “I never stopped loving you—”

“But you stopped being in love with me,” he finished. Lucky nodded, slipping his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, I know. Because I stopped being in love with you, too. But I couldn’t admit it. Couldn’t face it. I just wanted to be that kid again. I wanted to be Lucky Spencer.”

“I went up to my room that night,” he continued, “and I just stared at my hands.” He looked down at them now, spreading his fingers out. “I…I grabbed you. Maybe I didn’t hit you. But I don’t think that changes it. I promised you once I would never hurt you. And that’s all I’ve done for years. And that night—” He shook his head. “I don’t recognize myself, Elizabeth.”

She sighed. “I hurt you, too. And I am sorry for that, I am. But at some point, Lucky, it’s going to have to be enough. I—I have to live my life. And I want—I deserve to be happy again.”

“Yeah.” Lucky nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. And maybe—maybe that’s why I can’t seem to put it away. Why I can’t stop being angry. Because I don’t know how to stop wanting my life back. I don’t even know what life I have now. And you do. You didn’t wait around for someone to give you the answers. You went out and got them.” Lucky looked away, his mouth twisting in disgust. “And I think maybe I almost hate you for being able to do that.”

She closed her eyes, accepted the words. “I didn’t have the answers when I left you, Lucky. I didn’t know what I wanted. I just…I tried things. I went back to school. I threw myself into my job. And I just tried to move past it all.” Elizabeth hesitated. “And, yeah…I found someone to be with. I can’t apologize for that.” She paused. “I won’t apologize for that.”

“I just…I came here to tell you I was sorry for that night. For all the nights—” Lucky shrugged. “It’s not enough. It never takes it back. But I just…I need you to know that I know I was wrong. And AJ didn’t have to force me to go. I’m surprised Jason hasn’t taken my head off. If it had been him who walked in—”

He exhaled slowly. “I try to remember that Jason is a man I used to respect. That I considered a friend. He looked out for me when I wasn’t living at home. And I—I’m—” He swallowed hard. “I’m mostly glad you had someone to talk to when I was gone. And I know he’ll treat you well. I just—I can’t seem to be happy for you.”

“Fair enough.” Elizabeth twisted her fingers in front her. “So—”

“Mom has some connections with some photography studios in New York,” Lucky cut in. “Photography…it’s the only thing I’ve kind of…felt good about since I came home. I’m going to try—I’m going to see if I can do something with it, you know? So I just—I’m going away. I think it’s better for both of us if I’m not around. Maybe I’ll be able to put something together and I can…stop being so goddamn angry.”

She was relieved to hear that he would be leaving Port Charles, but somewhere, deep inside, she grieved for the boy. And hoped he’d find peace. “Good luck, Lucky. I wish you the best.”

“Yeah.” He nodded slowly. “Thanks. You…you, too.”

January 21, 2018

First, I’ve updated the Workshop with Fool Me Twice, Part Six. I wrote it in 28 minutes. Fool Me Twice has also moved to its own page and is also on the in progress page.  I think I’m starting to pinpoint some of the issues I’m having. I’m going to keep writing my planned scenes until the resolution of the primary storyline, but I think I need to move the story back a  bit — in the sense that I need to make it a rewrite of Jason returns story, which I sort of figured.

I need more of a build up and to incorporate more from Jason. It’ll be easier to get inside Jason’s head if I take him back to when he first came home. If that makes sense. I still want to write the resolution of what I’m setting up here because you guys are invested and I still need to play with the chronology and emotions of the scene.

In other CG news, I have renewed the domain dearisobel.org for another year and transferred the registration from GoDaddy to Dreamhost. This only affects you in the sense that CG might be unavailable for a little bit at some point this week. It shouldn’t be – but if it goes down, it will only be temporary. This will just make my life easier when it comes to renewing my registration every year.

I want to update my graphics — this layout has been up for two years and I like it. I’m just ready for a change. I had hoped that Jason and Elizabeth would have shared more scenes by now — I was trying to make a layout from their one scene back in October or November, but it wasn’t coming out just right. I also have to update the Bittersweet graphics for AJ’s character and Sean Kanan.

I just ordered new Liason DVDs from Stacey at CurlyQGrl. I’ve been ordering collections from her since I was fifteen, haha — my first Liz and Lucky VHS tapes arrived in 1999. I started to order again in 2013 to update to DVDs. I now have Liz and Lucky August 1, 1997 – November 1998, Jason and Elizabeth, August 1998-April 2001, August 2002-November 2006, and Patrick and Robin November 2005-April 2006, and then November 2007-February 2008. I cannot recommend her edits enough. They’re decently priced and she even shipped international to me in London in 2014!

My new edits will take me from November 2006 through March 2008. I intend to do another round of ordering in a month or so that will get me the May-July 2002, and then 11-15, which goes from March 2008 through Steve leaving in October 2012. At that point, my Liason collection will be complete. These DVDs have been ridiculously useful in helping me write from different time periods and I wanted the 2006-08 DVDs to better write some of the things I have planned.

Anyway, she has a ton of GH edits going back to the 1980s, so check out her site.