This entry is part 19 of 34 in the series Bittersweet

Couldn’t take the blame
Sick with shame
Must be exhausting to lose your own game
Selfishly hated
No wonder you’re jaded
You can’t play the victim this time
And you’re too late

Call Me When You’re Sober, Evanescence


Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Bobbie poked at her lunch, unable to muster the appetite necessary to lift the fork. Across the table, Felicia Jones tipped her head. “Hey. This was supposed to distract you.”

“As if that were possible.” Bobbie moved her salad listlessly across the plate. “She’s been home an entire week.”

“I know.”

“And I haven’t seen her.” Bobbie pursed her lips. “Haven’t wanted to. I know where she’s staying. I know Jason is keeping watch—I just don’t care. God. How awful that sounds.”

“I know that I can’t imagine either of my daughters ever doing anything that would get me to that point,” Felicia said slowly, “but then again, Bobbie, you didn’t raise Carly. She’s only been in your life for four years as your daughter. Before that—”

“She was the conniving bitch who broke up my marriage.” Bobbie sighed, pressing a hand to her head. “Yes, I know. And I’ve moved on from that. Because—because I see myself in her, you know? That willingness to do whatever I had to to get what I thought I deserved. I mean, I’m not some shining example—”

“You did things when you were younger, sure.” Felicia shrugged. “We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. I mean, I broke up a marriage to a good man for…something that didn’t exist. You and Tony both did that, too. Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone revels in it the way Carly does. I honestly think she gets off on the damage.”

“I wouldn’t have thought so before,” Bobbie murmured. “But the woman who came back…something happened during those five months, Felicia. I just…I feel like if she would just tell me, we could get past this. Maybe not Jason and Carly—I honestly think he’s done with her—but maybe I could get over it.”

“Maybe. Or maybe her reasons wouldn’t be good enough. I mean, it sounds like they’re not good enough for Jason. Is he still not turning custody over to her?”

“No, but—” Bobbie sighed. “I’m surprised.” She paused. “Or maybe I’m not. I remember thinking when she came home that I didn’t want him to get caught up in her games again. Not just because I care about him, but…”

“But because he’s dating Elizabeth Webber?”

“Yes. I didn’t want that for her, either. You were at that stupid wedding, Felicia. You saw the reaction when she walked away from Lucky. From that entire fiasco. She’s kept walking, and she’s…she’s the girl I always thought she’d grow up to be. I wanted that for her, and I wanted her to be happy. And…Jason chasing Carly isn’t the life I wanted for her.”

“I always thought it was a shame that Robin and Jason broke up the way they did,” Felicia said slowly. “Mac was relieved. He hated how Robin just…let Carly walk all over her. But I never saw it that way. I think Robin knew she and Jason were on borrowed time once she left for college that first time. She was just holding on to him. To the familiarity. And he was, too. They were already over, they just didn’t know it.”

“I guess.” Bobbie leaned back in her chair. “But since Carly’s been home, I’m relieved that Jason hasn’t given in. Because it means he’s putting Michael first. And Elizabeth, if not first as well, a close second—”

“Because everyone is better than me.”

The venomous bitter words startled both women as they turned to see Carly standing just behind the table. When had she—

“Carly,” Bobbie said. But then stopped. What could she say to this woman? This woman who wore the same anger that she’d known all those years ago when they’d first known one another? Her daughter hated her again the same visceral way she’d had when she’d first come to Port Charles.

“Everyone is a better person than me,” Carly continued. Almost growling. “Right? Elizabeth is a better daughter. A better girlfriend. Probably a better mother. Michael probably just loved her.”

When Felicia picked up her milkshake and just slurped it, Bobbie shot her a dirty look. “Carly,” she began again. “That’s not how it was—we all missed you—” Well, not all, but that was important. “I grieved for you—”

“I’m not the daughter you wanted,” Carly retorted. “I got that from the moment I came to Port Charles. All everyone could ever talk about was BJ and how perfect she was—”

“God, Carly—” Bobbie just closed her eyes as a shaft a pain pierced her. Nearly a decade and it still took her breath away. “That’s not fair—”

“I come back again, and it’s all about Elizabeth Goddamn Webber. Jason loves her. You love her. God knows Sonny loves her more than his own damned sister—but what about me?”

“What about you?” Bobbie shoved herself to her feet. “I buried you, Carly. I wept for you. What do you want from any of us? You were dead—”

“You sure didn’t look very hard,” Carly cut in. “From what I hear, the Coast Guard called off the search within twenty-four hours? You all just jumped at the chance to be rid of me.”

“Carly, Bobbie was inconsolable,” Felicia said, finally. “She went to the PCPD day after day, trying to convince them to keep searching. They kept it open longer than they might have because of her—”

“Then why isn’t she helping me get my son back?” Carly demanded. She focused those angry dark eyes on Bobbie’s. “Why aren’t you helping me?”

“I’m not—” Bobbie exhaled slowly. “You weren’t gone a week. Or two weeks, Carly. You were gone five months. Where were you?” she demanded, her voice breaking. “What happened?”

“I didn’t want to believe it,” Carly said with a shake of her head. “I couldn’t believe that you would all forget me. That I didn’t matter. But it was like I never existed. My son, living with the man who killed my child. My best friend in the world, dating someone else, breaking bread with that son of a bitch. My own mother helping them—My ex-husband didn’t even go to my memorial—” Her voice broke. “You all forgot me. It was like I never existed.”

Felicia frowned, but Bobbie just shook her head. “No, no. That’s not—we all struggled to put it back together. Those first two months were horrible. I couldn’t tell one day from the next, and Lucas had to practically take over. Get Michael to school. Look out for him—I couldn’t breathe, Carly—”

Her daughter just shook her head. “I don’t believe that. How could I believe that? You gave my son away to a dangerous and violent alcoholic like he didn’t matter—just one more reminder of your mistake, right, Mama?” She swiped at her tears. “And Jason never loved me. How could he? How could he love me and then not even help—”

“Carly—”

“You’re all going to be sorry,” Carly growled. “I’ll get my son back and then I’m taking him away from all of you.” She spun on her heel and stalked back to the parking lot.

“Damn it,” Bobbie muttered, sitting back down. “Damn it. How could she think we didn’t miss her? That we could have forgotten—”

“I didn’t want to believe it,” Felicia echoed softly. She looked at Bobbie. “She couldn’t believe you would all forget her. She didn’t want to believe it.”

“She just can’t see how it was—”

“Bobbie. Listen to me,” Felicia cut in, and her sharp tone forced Bobbie to take a deep breath. To look at her. “Listen to me. Carly came home last week ready to go to war. She was already angry when she came to your house, remember? And you told me that Jason thought she already knew about AJ. Already knew where Michael was.”

“Right.” Bobbie exhaled slowly. “She didn’t want to believe that we all forgot her.”

“Which means…someone told her that.” Felicia tapped her nails. “Not that it excuses any of the bullshit she’s pulling, Bobbie, but I think you might want to tell Jason that someone was feeding Carly information while she was gone.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“I don’t understand how she could just disappear,” Sonny said slowly, squinting at Benny and Stan, “and then reappear, and there be nothing to explain it.”

“I wish I could help you,” Stan said with a shrug. “We’ve dug into all of her accounts. She was declared legally dead about two weeks after the accident. Her estate went into probate. And nothing. Nothing before. Nothing until she showed up at the Cosmopolitan. Bobbie hadn’t dealt with Carly’s accounts—”

“And it didn’t occur to me to do anything about them either,” Jason interrupted. “Custody came first.” He rubbed his eyes. “I don’t see why anyone would fake her death to get at us.”

“She was barely connected,” Sonny mused. “Why fake it at all? Why not kill her outright? What is served by having her come home? It’s not adding up, Jase. It just isn’t. If she had faked her own death, there would have been a trail. Carly’s smart, but not that smart. The fact that we can’t pick up her scent—”

“What about the witness that called in the accident?” Jason asked. He looked to Stan. “If she wasn’t in the accident—”

“He’s in the wind,” Stan said. “If he ever existed. To be honest, we didn’t—” He hesitated. “We didn’t really check him out before. It all seemed on the up and up.”

“Witness calls in an accident with Carly’s car,” Sonny said with a nod. “I didn’t even know anything until the morning, but by then the Coast Guard was already searching. The PCPD had confirmed something happened up there. Carly never came home. It all added up.”

“But the accident was a set up if this witness is gone.” Jason exhaled slowly. “I keep going back to it being connected to us, Sonny. But I just—it doesn’t make work for me.”

“Roscoe does not have the resources to pull this off. And we’re watching Nico’s money too closely. We weren’t in April, but we were by the end of May. Where could they have kept Carly that we wouldn’t have had noticed?” Benny pointed out. “But even so—”

“What do they gain?” Sonny pressed. “She’s my ex-wife, yeah. Your ex…whatever. But not now. Everyone had to know about the divorce. We barely saw one another those last few months. Why Carly? Why not—” And he hesitated at that. “Why not someone who was still in my life? I have a sister. There’s Courtney. Mike. And Elizabeth has been around for years. Why Carly?”

“It brought you home, Jase,” Stan pointed out. “Maybe someone knew you would have custody of her son. That you’d have to be here.”

“Then there’s no way it’s Nico or Roscoe, because the last thing they wanted was your eyes on the paperwork again,” Benny argued. “But who else?”

They were arguing in circles, but Jason finally shook his head. “This all depends on whether or not we believe Carly did this on her own or if she had help. Or if it was unwillingly. Everything else….it doesn’t matter. Because—”

“You think Carly managed this all on her own?” Sonny shook his head. “I know I said as much to her, and she let me think it was about you, but I’m not buying it, Jase. She doesn’t have the resources—”

“I think it’s possible that she was in an accident,” Jason said slowly. “And maybe…she planned to stay away a day or two. Or just long enough to make a point. Maybe it was for you. Maybe it was me. I don’t know. I doubt she meant to stay away for months, but—”

“Maybe it started as her idea but got twisted by someone else,” Sonny said with a nod. “Remember what Bobbie said—that Carly didn’t want to believe we had forgotten her. You don’t have to believe something you don’t know about. She came back to Port Charles already pissed off, playing it like she didn’t know where Michael was—”

“Elizabeth suggested she followed us the night we took Michael to AJ’s,” Jason said. “I think she followed us longer than that. Or someone did. Because—” And at this hesitated, because it was personal. But it might be important. “We usually spend the night together. At Jake’s most of the time. I don’t like the apartment because of Taggart, and her studio doesn’t—” He shook his head. “Anyway, Elizabeth wasn’t at my place for more than a week. And Carly knew it. She thought it meant we were having issues.”

“And if she knew Elizabeth was usually at your place—someone had to tell her, or she followed you for several days.”

“So we’re back to thinking Carly had help,” Jason said, a bit relieved by that. “She’ll have to tell us eventually, Sonny.” It was what he had clung to all month—this assurance that when it came down to a choice between whatever secret she was holding and her son, Carly would come clean.

Then Jason could—

And then he stopped himself. He didn’t want to fix this for her. It was reflex to look at this situation as a problem he had to solve for Carly. Carly had made her choice that first night she’d been back. Every time she had called him and not told him the truth.  And when she come to Jake’s and attempted to exploit his issues with Elizabeth.

She didn’t care about him. About what was important to him. And if he was honest with himself, Carly had never concerned herself with that. She told herself she did—but it had never been true.

And he let himself think it was—if he let himself get sucked into helping Carly, making her problems go away—he knew it wouldn’t stop there.

Carly would take it as invitation to go back to where she had been in his life before Sonny. Looking over his shoulder. Taking care of herself first and then punishing him later.

He’d already let it happen once and watched Robin walk away from him.

He would be damned if he’d let Elizabeth go to take care of Carly.

“Or maybe she won’t come,” Jason admitted. “I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to predict Carly’s next move, Sonny. But I don’t think we can just…assume there’s nothing behind it. It doesn’t make sense right now. But nothing in the last week has made sense. We should just—keep our eyes open. Because whatever she’s up to—”

“—we’re not going to know what hit us.”

Vista Point: Cliff Road

Elizabeth frowned when Jason pulled the bike over to the shoulder near the guard rail where Carly had had her accident.  “What—”

He switched off the engine and then walked to the edge of the road. The rail had been replaced at some point that summer. Like the accident had never happened.

“I met with Sonny today while you were in class,” he told her when she joined him. “We were talking about how Carly could have pulled off faking her death without help.”

“Okay.”

He looked at her with a wary expression. “I know you’re sick of Carly—”

“I am,” she admitted. “But she’s a problem that exists whether I’m here or not, and I’d rather be here. So what are you thinking?”

“Sonny thought she might have faked the accident to get his attention. Or mine.”

“Because if she were missing, Sonny would call you.”

“I keep coming back to that…because it seems logical. It seems like an asinine plan Carly would pull to make a point. I didn’t talk to her all that much, but she was always asking me to come back.” Jason hesitated. “And I was starting to consider it. I wanted—” He looked at her. “I knew you weren’t seeing Lucky. I guess I was starting to wonder if it would be different this time.”

She managed a smile for him. “I’m glad you did come home. I’m just sorry any of this is happening. Is that you think Carly did?”

“I don’t know. Because…the guard rail was damaged. It was ripped apart and mangled. Something went over this cliff.”

“Maybe Carly’s car.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “She loved that car. First thing she bought when the divorce settlement came through. She used to drive Bobbie crazy with it—you could hear her speeding down the block.” She hesitated. “I’m not saying Carly wouldn’t…fake her death to get to you or Sonny. Because there’s literally nothing Carly wouldn’t do. But…I don’t know. She loved that car.”

“I think someone took her,” Jason said quietly. “And I don’t know what happened after that. I don’t know if she stayed away willingly. I know someone told her we were all living our lives like she hadn’t ever been here. Like she didn’t matter. That doesn’t make what Carly’s doing right—”

“She thinks we were all better off without her. Happier without her.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Yeah. I can see how—I mean, we talked about it back then, Jason. How there were only a handful of people who were really going to miss her.”

“When Carly gets angry, she doesn’t usually stop to think until she’s forced to,” Jason murmured. “And she hasn’t been forced to. She’s running on that anger now. She thinks it’ll work. But she hasn’t gone to court. Hasn’t asked a lawyer to get custody.”

“Because she doesn’t think she’d win. Or she’d have to tell everyone where she’s been.”

“And she doesn’t want to do that.” Jason turned, leaned against the guard rail. “She could get joint custody at least at this point if she told us the truth. Joint custody is better than what she has now. She’s not telling us.”

“Which means it’s more complicated than a plan that backfired.” Elizabeth nodded. She folded her arms and looked away. “It’s not just the car that has me hesitating to completely…blame her. I want to blame her, Jason. Because it’s convenient. Because I don’t like her. But…she loved that car. And she loves Michael. And you. If this was designed to get you home, Jason—she never would have stayed away for five months. It’s not like you and I got together right away. There was a window for her to come home. And she didn’t.”

“Because she couldn’t.” Jason looked away. “I don’t know. I can’t explain why someone would fake her death and then just send her back. Maybe they threatened her if she told the truth. I just—I can’t put Michael in the middle of it. Even if it ends it sooner.”

Elizabeth’s shoulders relaxed as she exhaled slowly. “I know what I said before about…Carly using him. But I wonder if…he’s been asking about her, Courtney told me. And everyone thought…Carly would come clean by now.”

Jason raised his brows. “I thought you said—”

“I didn’t want you to bring Michael to her because Carly manipulated you. This is different. That was four days ago. She’s been home a week and a half…and she’s just treading water. She’s waiting for you to give in, Jason.”

“So you think I should—”

“I don’t know. I don’t…” Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip. “I just know that we can’t keep waiting. We’re at a stalemate, Jason, and if Carly is the first one to make a move…that’s kind of a terrifying thought. She once shot a man in open court. And it was her idea to—” She bit her lip. “You know why AJ surrendered his rights, don’t you?”

“I figured Sonny or Carly blackmailed him—” Jason hissed. “What happened?”

“Sonny threatened his life. Hung him on a meat hook and left him in a freezer for a few hours to make his point. Either AJ signed Michael away or…” Elizabeth trailed off. “It was the only way Carly agreed to go quietly in the divorce. And Sonny wanted the divorce. You know he’s never liked AJ.”

“This was Carly’s idea?” Jason asked, in disbelief. “I mean…I know AJ has his issues, but that’s…that’s—”

“I didn’t know about it at the time. AJ told Courtney, and Courtney told me and Gia. He doesn’t know I know. I think he’s ashamed of himself for giving in. For not being a better father or something. I don’t know. Anyway, that’s not my point.” She hesitated. “My point is that if we wait for Carly to make the next move, I don’t think any of us are going to be happy. I don’t want Michael in the middle of this, Jason, but it doesn’t change the fact that he is.”

“Yeah, I guess. I can’t—I can’t just…do it on my own.” He grimaced. “It’s not just my decision.”

“We can talk to AJ and Courtney tomorrow,” she told him. “They’re both…worried as well. AJ’s kind of…terrified you’ll change your mind and he’ll have to fight for Michael in court. So we’ll figure this out.” She took his face in her hands. “I don’t really care where she was, Jason, but I always understood you did. And that for all of our sakes, you needed to know. What bothered me was that—”

“I let her manipulate me because I wanted the answers,” he said quietly. “I know. And I’m sorry. I wasn’t fair to either of us.” He wrapped his hands around her wrists and leaned down to brush her lips with his. “You want to drive back?”

“Wow, you really are sorry.” She offered him a wicked grin. “I want a rain check on that offer because I’d rather go nowhere. Fast.”

“Done.”

Cosmopolitan Hotel: Carly’s Suite

Carly paced in her hotel suite, growling at her phone. Why the hell wasn’t Jason answering her calls? He had to be desperate by now.

If he would just give her Michael, she could tell him everything. That was the deal. She’d been so sure of him—so sure of their friendship, of his loyalty—

It had never occurred to her that Jason would betray her. That he would be like everyone else.

That he would steal her son and give him away to Carly’s worst enemy. To the man who had murdered her baby.

If Jason didn’t give her back Michael, Carly was going to make him pay just like all the rest—

The knock at her door had her leaping across the room. Finally! Maybe he had Michael with him—that was why he hadn’t answered any of her calls—

“Ah, Ms. Benson.”

Carly scowled. “What do you want?”

“I’m checking in. We agreed you would have some time to convince Mr. Morgan to cooperate. To give you back your son.” Mickey Roscoe tipped his head with a knowing smile. “I see he hasn’t come through. It’s just as I told you.”

“I just need a little more time—”

“I know how we can force Mr. Morgan’s hand. And…” Mickey’s lips curved into a smile. “Don’t you want a little revenge?”

February 25, 2018

Instead of one scene, I managed four shorter ones. I hope they’re halfway good. I went over a little bit. I am now listing the chunks I write by scene, so this part tells you that there’s a Cam/Joss, Curtis/Jason scene, etc. The Jason in this part of the story is Drew, only he doesn’t know it yet so I gotta call him Jason. It hurts to write BM!Jason because he is just not Jason.

Anyway. Enjoy: Fool Me Twice Update

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Workshop: Fool Me Twice, Take 2

Okay, I’m going to label my parts by the scenes included. These roughly go in order, and of course, the Jason in the Curtis scene is really Drew, but he doesn’t know that yet, so I’ve written him like Drew. (Does that make sense?)

The Franco scene is my first attempt to get inside his head. So…yeah. It might suck. It turns out I’m not a sociopath, so I don’t know how to write them.

Written in about 62 minutes.


Webber House: Living Room

Cameron Webber pulled the door open and stepped aside quickly as Jocelyn Jacks stomped inside, a leather bookbag slung over her shoulder and murder in her dark brown eyes. “I swear to God, I’m not allowed to have even a modicum of personal privacy—”

Behind her, the familiar sight of Milo Giambetti loomed on the porch. “It’s not like this is my idea of a fun time either,” the body guard muttered as he followed his charge in side. “Hey, Cam.”

“Hey, Milo.” Cameron closed the door. “Your mom wouldn’t let you come here without him? I mean…” He wrinkled his nose. “I know your mom doesn’t like Franco, but it’s not like he lives here—”

“Oh, he’s a chaperone.” Joss rolled her eyes and dumped her bag at her feet. “Apparently, Mom remembered that we’re a boy and girl. Like we’re going to jump each other or something. I’m fourteen, you know. And this isn’t West Virginia. We’re practically related.”

“Uh huh.” Cameron tossed Milo the remote. “You shouldn’t have told her that my mom was working the late shift—”

“I didn’t, but your mom told her.” Joss stomped into the kitchen as the body guard settled himself on the sofa and turned on the Phillies-Red Sox game. “I liked it better when they were enemies.”

“I’m sure my mom did, too.” Cameron got out an extra glass and poured Joss her usual Dr. Pepper. “I guess Mom told her that Aiden and Jake weren’t going to be home either.”

“It came up,” Joss grumbled as she took her algebra textbook from her bag, then fished for a pencil before giving up and taking one of the extras lying next to Cameron’s. “Whatever. She’s just worried I’ll repeat all her mistakes, but I’m not as crazy as she is. It’s like I’m being punished for crap that isn’t my fault.”

“It could be worse.” Cameron took his seat and opened his textbook to their assigned homework. “Your mom could still be dating Franco.”

“Yeah, well, at least with Franco, there were no body guards,” Joss muttered. “But then my mom did get kidnapped, almost got killed, and covered up a murder. So you know, you take the good with the bad. Your mom hasn’t dumped him yet? I don’t get it. His hair looks greasy, and he’s always got a smirk. He makes me want to punch him. Except, you know, you’d probably screw up his brain and he’s go all rampagey-killer again.”

“He hasn’t been around as much as he used to be,” Cameron offered. “But that doesn’t mean anything. My mom’s the best, except she’s got shit taste in men. The ones who should stay never do, and we can never get rid of the assholes.”

“My mom’s got the same problem. Sonny’s an improvement over the last couple of jackasses, but I really wish she and my dad could have stayed together. He was good for her crazy. Made her calm down. Sonny just laughs at her like its funny.” Joss grimaced. “Where are the rugrats anyway? How come you’re not baby sitting?”

“Jason came home from the hospital a couple of days ago,” Cameron said. “So he took Jake for the week, and Aiden’s grandma is going to take him for the overnight shift.” He stared down at the linear equations he had been assigned. “We used to all go to my Grandma Audrey’s when Mom worked late or overnight.”

“Oh.” Joss pressed her lips together for a minute. “Yeah. That’s right. Well, I guess your mom decided you were old enough—”

“No where to send me,” Cam said, matter of factly. “I don’t have any grandparents, aunts, or uncles. And I haven’t had a a dad since Jake found out he was Jason, and decided he hated everything to do with my mom.” He shrugged a shoulder as if that didn’t bother him.

“Except Jake.”

“Yeah, well, Jake’s blood. I’m not. It’s not like Sam could tell Jason he couldn’t be around his own kid, but there was no way in hell she’d let me or Aiden hang around, you know?”

“Yeah, well, you’re better off. I liked Jason before he had his brains scrambled this time.” Joss shrugged. “You could talk to him. And he was the sane one in the family. Now, it’s like we might as well not exist. You’d never know he basically raised Michael. And he was barely around when Morgan died. And Sam’s trash. I hate her for what she did to Patrick and Emma.”

“Yeah, but that ended up being good. Emma got her parents back together. You know that was always her dream.” Cameron pressed down on his pencil. Of course, then Emma had moved. And Nikolas had died, which meant Spencer wasn’t around much.

“Yeah, I guess. Our parents are stupid. I don’t understand why Jason didn’t just go through with it and adopt you guys,” Joss said. “Which a dick thing to do. Your mom was stupid and lied, but what did that have to do with you guys?”

“It doesn’t matter. He’s not my father. He never really wanted to be my father. He barely wanted to be Jake’s father. The truth came out after we thought Jake was dead. He didn’t have a choice but to step uponce we found everything out.”

“That’s pretty harsh, but I guess it’s accurate.” Joss tapped her eraser against the textbook page. “We should finish this before my mother sends out a search party.”

Floating Rib: Bar

Curtis Ashford lined up a shot at the pool table, took it, and then straightened, watching in satisfaction as the last of the balls slid across the green felt and into the corner pocket. “And that’s how it’s done.”

Jason Morgan scowled, raised a bottle of Heineken to his lips and sipped. “You keep kicking my ass at this. I used—” He shook his head. “I used to be good at this.”

“Well, your brain has been scrambled a few times.” But Curtis tipped his head towards one of the booths across the bar. “You all right? Maybe you shouldn’t have come out tonight—”

Jason followed him to the booth and they slid in. A waitress came over, swapped out their empty beers for a fresh round. “Nah. Sam said I should get out of the house. Jake and Danny were busy with video games or something. And you sounded like you were down on the phone—”

“Jordan,” Curtis muttered. “I don’t know why I bother. I was a private investigator when we met, wasn’t I?”

“Sure—”

“And I take cases from people who pay. That’s the life. That’s the job.”

“Uh huh—”

“So what if you and Sonny are sometimes those people. I gotta pay the bills.”

“I don’t—” Jason hesitated. “I’m not working for Sonny anymore. I actually…” He twisted the cap off his beer and stared at the small circle of metal between his fingertips for a long moment. “I’m getting into something else.”

“You’re…breaking away from Sonny.” Curtis set his beer down with a dull thud. “Is that even…possible?”

“I don’t know.” Jason was quiet for a moment. “It never felt like it was before. Or…I remember that I didn’t consider it before. I don’t know.”

“What’s up, man? I know you’re still getting your head together after spending all the time in the hospital, but you’ve been…” Curtis wiggled his fingers. “You’ve been weird lately. What’s the deal?”

“It’s…” Jason shook his head. “I don’t know. I used to think getting my memories back all the way would help things. And then Sam and I—we got married. We have Scout. And Danny’s great. I get to spend time with Jake. I used to want all of those things.”

“You don’t want them now?”

“I do. Don’t—I love my kids. I love my wife. But—” Jason hesitated. “Tonight. You asked me out to shoot pool. I know I know how to play. I used to have a table in the penthouse. But when I put my hands on the cue, it’s like those things happened to someone else.”

“Hey, you’re being too hard on yourself. Helena Cassadine had you frozen for two years, planted shit in your head, and then Elizabeth lied to you for like a year—”

“Half a year,” Jason muttered. “And…that’s just it. I’m so angry at her. And I remember all the crap she and I have been through, and I don’t…I don’t know. I think about the memories I have of Sam. And Sonny and Carly. And they all just feel like…it’s not me. Like they’re in my head, but they happened to someone else. Walking away from Sonny? From Carly? It felt like the right thing to do. It’s the first thing that’s felt right since the day I found out who I was really was.”

“Maybe that’s just it.” Curtis tipped his beer towards him. “You’ve spent two years being the image of Jason Morgan. You tried to be him even before you had those memories. You lived as someone else for a long time, man. What’s wrong with letting that guy lead the way?”

“That guy?” Jason snorted. “That guy was brainwashed, controlled, lied to—”

“That guy started a fresh new life without anyone running after him,” Curtis said, with a half shrug of his shoulder. “Yeah, Helena did some crap to you, but you got through it. You made new friends. You fell in love with a good woman—even if she did something that wasn’t so great—”

“She lied to me about who I was—”

“She did you a favor, man.” Curtis leaned back against the booth. “You barely like being Jason Morgan. The only good things in your life are your wife and kids. All the other crap that comes with being Jason? Sonny, Carly. The money. The job. That all drives you insane. You think it would have been easier to know the truth earlier?”

“I know it wasn’t her decision to make.” Jason sipped his beer. “It was mine. Anyway. I don’t know. I got a wife I’m crazy about. A brand new beautiful little girl. Two great boys. I don’t know what I’m bitching about.”

“Me either,” Curtis agreed. “Besides, sounds like you figured it out. You broke ties with Sonny. You said you were getting into something else. And you know, maybe you could cut your kid’s mom a break.”

“Why are you suddenly Liz’s biggest fan?” Jason asked, with some irritation.

“Because she’s a nice person who looks out for my nephew at the hospital. He’s been working as orderly, and she showed him the ropes. I don’t think what she did was worth the punishment she got.” Curtis shrugged. “I mean, how desperate for love do you gotta be to hook up with that psycho?”

General Hospital: Emergency Room

“Ugh.” Elizabeth set a chart back into the rack and reached for a new one. “Why did I pick up a shift down here again?”

“Because you love me,” Felix DuBois, her friend and permanent emergency room nurse, sang as he wheeled a patient past her. “And I begged.”

“Hey, you can’t get this kind of action anywhere else,” Dr. Lucas Jones said with a smirk as he held out a chart to her. “Can you give the drunk crazy in Curtain Three another 2 mics of lorazapam? I’m waiting on a Psych result.”

“I live to serve.” Elizabeth took the chart, flipped through it, and yawned. “How many more hours until seven and freedom?”

“One hours, thirteen minutes, and thirty seconds,” Amy Driscoll said in her usual perky voice that made Elizabeth want to rip out her vocal cords. “But who’s counting?” She smirked. Though it probably a smile, but Elizabeth found everything about her annoying. “I’m off now, though. I came in early.”

As the blonde took a new chart and headed for an exam area, Lucas grimaced behind her back. “I try to be a nice person, but sometimes, I think I’ve had too much exposure to Carly.”

Elizabeth snorted. “Yeah, well, there are a few reasons I only take shifts here when Felix begs me too. I hate the overnight shifts, and…well…some of the company. Besides, I like surgery.” She uncapped her pen and perused the orders on a chart. “I just want to take the boys to Disney World next summer, and that does not come cheap on a single mom’s salary.”

“Feel free to tell me it’s none of my business, but can’t Jason buy and sell Disney World a few times over?” Lucas asked as he wiped his name and a patient from the white board.

“He can. I can’t. He gave me money a long time ago for Jake, but my brother lost it in the stock market. Naturally. And we never really set up anything official for child support. I’ve always taken care of my boys myself.” Elizabeth shrugged. “Anyway, there’s still Aiden and Cam to pay for—” She frowned as the desk clerk took a call from an ambulance unit. “Did they say another overdose?”

“Yeah.” Lucas frowned. “That’s the fifth one tonight. That’s not usual—” He rubbed his eyes. “But it’s only my first ER rotation—maybe it’s normal.”

“No, we’re good for one or two at best,” Felix said as he joined them. “And that’s usually during the holidays. Five in one night—”

Another call crackled through the radio—a fire with several major injuries. Elizabeth sighed, checked her watch. She was probably going to end up working overtime and missing breakfast with Franco. The third or fourth date in the last few weeks.

She made a mental to call him and then rushed to meet the trauma coming in.

Franco’s Art Studio

Franco Baldwin slammed the door behind him as he stalked inside. He ripped off the thin fall coat he wore and threw it across the room.

Stood up again. Not even a fucking phone call. What the hell was her problem—

He stopped himself. Took a deep breath. She was working a lot and picking up shifts all over the hospital. It wasn’t her fault.

Franco looked down at the list in his hand. His reminders. Elizabeth was a good person. She loved him. She trusted him. She would tell him if she didn’t love him anymore.

He needed to remember that when he got angry. He couldn’t just fly off the handle. Just react every time he wanted to. That was the before Franco.

The bad Franco.

He was good now. A good man. Who could do good things. Who knew how to be someone Elizabeth would love. He wanted her to love him. That made him a good man.

Carly was a bad woman. Her love had made him empty inside. Angry. He’d done bad things with Carly. He’d done bad things with Elizabeth, but those had been for her. Proof of how much she meant to him.

No one would hurt her.

So he looked down at his list. His little cheat sheet. Sometimes he couldn’t remember why he didn’t do what he wanted to do. Why he didn’t do the things that made his art good. That gave him passion and life.

Because he was a good man now. And Elizabeth would leave him if he gave into his urges. He’d go back to jail.

He really didn’t want to go to jail. And as along as Elizabeth still loved him, he could be a good man. It would all be okay. She would save him. She liked saving him. She liked saving people. That was her job. That’s why she had stood him up today.

Why she hadn’t even given him the decency of a fucking phone call, like he was nothing. Like he could be forgotten. Who the hell did she think she was? What gave her the right to treat him like he was invisible?

His cell phone rang then and he stared at at photo that popped up. Her face. Her smile. He stared at it. Her lying face. Her bad face. She was a liar. Just like Carly.

He threw the phone across the room and felt good inside when it smashed into pieces all over the ground.

Maybe he’d go to the hospital and tell her she was a liar. That she couldn’t treat him like that. He was only good when she loved him. She needed to remember that. He should tell her.

February 23, 2018

Apologies again for missing my Wednesday  posting. If I don’t do it on Sunday, I can’t seem to remember to do it on Tuesday, and then my week is off on a roller coaster between student teaching, my second job, and occasionally sleeping. Today, one of my classes is doing a review worksheet for their test next week, so I stole some time to post.

This last month of student teaching has been insane — I literally have not written more than a scene or two since this started. I’m hoping that once I get the hang of my schedule, once I get comfortable, I’ll be able to breath a bit more. I really hope I can finish the last few chapters in time to prevent a few weeks off.

But I gotta be honest, writing hasn’t been my priority. In addition to my jobs and my graduate class, we’re also dealing with my grandmother. She’s been sliding into dementia for the last two years. It’s been a slow slide, but it’s spend up over the last six months. She still remembers me, my dad, and my uncle, but everyone else comes and goes. And lately she’s been asking for her parents, who both passed away more than thirty years ago. So, yeah, it’s just been difficult to make writing a priority even though it’s one of the things I truly enjoy.

I have written through Chapter 26, and up to Chapter is with Cora, so we’re good for a few more months. I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

Chapter Eighteen

This entry is part 18 of 34 in the series Bittersweet

Cause I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise
You’re not through with me yet
So if all of the trials bring me closer to you
Then I will go through the fire
If you want me to
If You Want Me To, Ginny Owens


Monday, September 2, 2002

Kelly’s: Courtyard

When Elizabeth saw Sonny sitting down in the courtyard, she sighed and thought about asking Penny to cover the table. A month ago, she had been telling Gia she didn’t know how to be happy. A week ago, she’d confessed those fears to Jason who had seemed to understand.

And two days ago, Jason had left her studio to talk to Carly again. He hadn’t called her since.

She should have known.

There would always be a second shoe. Always a disaster.

And somehow, even though Elizabeth couldn’t quite figure out why, she felt like the villain here.

She’d been honest with Jason—maybe too honest. And her timing had sucked. He’d just been drop kicked by Carly for maybe the eighth time in his life and she hadn’t waited more than a handful of days before giving him what must have felt like an ultimatum.

“Hey, Elizabeth.” Sonny tossed aside the menu and sat back as she poured him a cup of coffee. “How’s life?”

“Oh, fantastic,” she muttered. “You?”

Sonny sighed. “Can you sit?”

She didn’t want to, but she could tell Sonny had something on his mind and he’d timed his visit for the post-lunch rush. “Yeah.”

“I don’t intend to pry,” Sonny began. “I just…I’m worried. About Carly. And how Jason is handling this. He hasn’t talked to me—”

“Why do you think I would know anything?” Elizabeth demanded.

Sonny blinked at her short response. “Did you…did you have another run-in with Carly?” he repeated.

“Oh, my God.” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. This was going to be her life now. All Carly all the time. “No. She’s not going to bother with me. I made my position clear to her. The only the way she gets anything from me is to tell Jason what’s going on. She’s not going to do that, so I’m useless to her. Is that it?”

“I—” He held out a hand to stop her as she started to rise. “I get it. Carly’s not your favorite person right now, but she’s in trouble—”

“I just—I can’t.” She threw up her hands. “I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m a bad friend. A terrible girlfriend. Whatever label you want to slap on me. But I do not give a rat’s ass if she’s in trouble.”

Sonny’s lips formed a bit of an ‘oh’ as he took this tumble of words in. “Are…are you and Jason fighting? He hasn’t said—I mean, he wouldn’t. He’d rather chew off his own arm rather than talk to me about this stuff.” He looked away.

“I don’t know what we are.” Elizabeth shifted. “I tried to help. I waited at the Brownstone. I did exactly what Jason and I talked about. Trying to convince her to think about Michael. But she just—God, Sonny. She’s the same person she’s always been, and I just get don’t this obsession with getting her out of trouble. I don’t care what the hell happened—”

“Ah. She…” Sonny scratched the side of his nose. “She probably didn’t really like finding out you were dating Jason.”

“Yeah, because I was worried about her opinion. Jason got that look, too, when I told him I had mentioned it. That grimace like I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, are we protecting Carly? Was my relationship with Jason something I was supposed to lie about?” she bit out.

“No. Just…” Sonny sighed. “Antagonizing her—”

“I’m done with this—” Elizabeth shot to her feet. “Look. I get it. I’m not an idiot. Part of the reason you and Jason are treading so cautiously is because…where ever she’s been—it might be…connected to whatever. But you’re both kidding yourselves if you think that’s the only reason you’re both so goddamn concerned. You both have spent years bailing Carly out of her bullshit, and you’re apparently addicted to it. Well, I don’t have blinders where she’s concerned.”

“Jason doesn’t see her that way—”

“This is not jealousy you’re seeing and screw you, Sonny, for thinking that it’s that simple. It’s not a cat fight over a guy. This is about seeing Carly for who she is which I thought you had.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Like I said, I’m a terrible person, whatever you want to say. But I’m not going to spend my day thinking about her. And I’m not going to sit by and watch while you and Jason let her wreak havoc—”

“Elizabeth.” Sonny stood. “Let me just—I’m not helping, I can see that. And I’m sorry. I think—” He tilted his head. “You’re thinking about Robin. And that entire mess when Carly came home, and Jason had them both in the cottage—”

“I can remember their fights at the garage when I used to visit Lucky,” Elizabeth admitted. “And I know how Carly saw Robin. She was a threat. And I don’t know what she did, but it worked. Because Robin left. And Jason stayed with Carly. No matter what she did, he always—”

She closed her eyes. “It’s not about romantic feelings. I don’t…I don’t see her as a threat. Not like that. But he will always go running to help her, Sonny. I don’t understand it. And I’m not sure I want to. She’s planning something, and she’s going after Jason. But then he’s talking about this like it’s another scheme, something he can fix. You know better than anyone else how much damage Carly can do when she’s trying to help. What about when she’s actively trying to destroy someone? Bobbie and Tony are still picking up the pieces of their lives. And what about Lucas and Michael? Just collateral damage in whatever she cooks up.”

“You’re not wrong, Elizabeth—”

“Yeah, Jason said that, too. Except I’m the one getting the silent treatment because I had the nerve to be honest—” Her voice broke, and she had to look away. “I told you, Sonny. I wasn’t going to do this again. And here I am, all over again. Giving pieces of myself away I will never get back. I’ve already been sacrificed on the altar of the Spencer/Cassadine feud. Excuse me if I’m not really interested in signing up to be a piece of roadkill Carly leaves behind.”

Sonny exhaled slowly. “You don’t want to sit back like Robin did, and wait for Carly to destroy Jason’s life. Again. She can’t take Michael away from him again—the only thing he gives a damn about now is you. So you know—”

“Oh, don’t—” Elizabeth stabbed a finger at him. “Don’t you dare play that card. I get to be angry about this. Because I’ve been here picking up the pieces of Carly’s life for years. You think I don’t know exactly why Jason went to the boxcar that night and nearly killed himself laying in the snow?”

Sonny ducked his head. “Elizabeth—”

“I can count, Sonny. Jason cut you and Carly out at the same time. And then she was pregnant. So yeah, I know exactly how much damage she can do. He nearly died.”

“It’s not—” Sonny took a deep breath. “She saw him dancing with you, and I taunted her. I told her that he was moving on. And you know, he was, Elizabeth. You had to know he cared about you—”

“Not enough to stay.” Her eyes burned. “I know why he left that first time. Because of her. Because she made it clear she would keep using Michael against him. So, he gave in. And he left.” She swiped at her tears. “I’m—I’m tired, Sonny. I’m tired of being a runner-up in a contest I never entered—”

“You and Jason made a lot of mistakes,” Sonny said carefully. “You know that’s true. But it’s not like that now. I know he loves you, Elizabeth. He has to have told you that by now.”

“He has.” Elizabeth tilted her head back and tried to catch her breath. “But he loved Robin. And he was with her longer.”

“Fair enough.” Sonny waited a moment. “I hear what you’re saying, Elizabeth. I really do, and you know, I-I agree with you. I don’t want to watch Jason chase after Carly, solving all her problems, either. But…what exactly are you asking for him…for either us to do?”

“Stop playing her games,” she said, then sighed. “I blew up at him this weekend, he hasn’t—we haven’t—talked. I told him I wouldn’t sit back and watch him run after Carly every time she called. But…”

“Okay.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize—have you thought about talking to him again?”

“Why bother? If I were any other girl he was dating, it wouldn’t even be—I don’t know. Maybe if I hadn’t had the year I’ve had, I could swallow it. But I—I just—I’m broken. I tried to tell him—”

“Stop it.” Sonny took a step towards her, as if he wanted to do something but he left the space between them. “You’ve been through hell. And God knows, you’re not wrong about what she’s capable of. Look, let’s just… let this lie for now, okay? Do…do you feel any better for having yelled at me? Because you can keep doing that if you don’t want to talk to Jason. I can listen.”

Elizabeth sat back down, exhausted. “I don’t know anymore, Sonny. I guess…you know they said love isn’t supposed to be easy. And I believe that. If it’s worth having—and I believe Jason loves me. But it’s like it always is. We do really well inside our own bubble. When the rest of the world gets involved…” She stared at the coffee pot. “Don’t tell him. He’s dealing with enough, and you know, I know that this isn’t easy for him. I know it would be better if I swallowed all of this and just…sucked it up. Held his hand—”

“The last thing Jason wants you to do is be anyone other than who you are. And you know what?” He dipped his head down so their eyes met. “I’m proud of you, you know. A year ago, you folded in on yourself. You weren’t honest with yourself and now you can’t hold back.”

“Yeah. Whoopee.” Elizabeth rose. “Thanks, Sonny. It did—it did help to just…admit how angry I am. And to realize that it’s not even about Jason. It’s about me. It usually is. It’s like he’s doomed to pay for the mistakes of others—”

“To be fair,” Sonny said as he held the door open for her to go back inside. “This time it looks like he’s actually paying for his own mistakes.”

Jake’s: Jason’s Room

Jason grimaced as he studied his cell phone, his finger hesitating over Elizabeth’s name. This wasn’t like him.

He was decisive. He didn’t have second thoughts.

But he hadn’t spoken to Elizabeth in two days. Hadn’t seen her. And after four months of being with her—of spending nearly every night together—this silence sucked.

But he didn’t know how to make it stop. How to convince her that it wasn’t like all the times with Carly and Robin. That it was different.

Because Jason was almost convinced Elizabeth was right. That Carly wasn’t manipulating him. He’d gone to the hotel, and Carly had just cried. Told him that Sonny came to see her, said all kinds of awful things to her. If she had Michael back—

So he’d told her he wouldn’t come the next time she called. He was done waiting for her to come clean. And then he’d ignored her phone calls.

He just wished he hadn’t left Elizabeth at the studio on the Friday. That she hadn’t had to force him to see what Carly was up to.

A sharp knock drew him out of his thoughts and he closed his phone, standing.

“I know you’re in there,” Carly snarled. “Open up.”

Jason took a moment to take a deep breath and braced himself for another round with Carly. She was coming to him this time, so that had to be…a good sign.

He opened the door to find her scowling at him. “Why the hell didn’t you answer your phone?” she demanded as she stalked past him. She narrowed her eyes at the scattering of cosmetics on his dresser—Elizabeth had started to leave things here to make it easier and he liked it.

“I still cannot believe you’re dating that little twit,” Carly muttered as she whirled to face him. “What do you see in these mealy mouthed little girls, Jase?”

Jason just stared at her. “Are you serious, Carly? What did I tell you—”

Carly’s lip trembled. “If I could just see Michael, if I could—just hold him, I could…I could start to get past it. It’s hard to think about what happened when I’m so worried about him.” One solo tear slid down her cheek. “Please, Jason. Just…let me see my little boy. We can talk about anything you want after that—”

“I—” He knew his line. He knew what she expected. But Jason stopped himself.

Because Elizabeth was right. This wasn’t about Michael. This was about Carly, and all the reasons he kept bailing her out.

And it had to end.

“When you left me guardianship,” Jason said slowly, “I didn’t immediately—I tried to keep him away from AJ. I talked to Alexis. I looked at my options. But she made it clear that I faced an uphill battle.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake. You pay a judge—”

Jason shook his head. “AJ has the Quartermaines behind him. Even if he isn’t asking them for help. Any judge I tried to bribe Carly, Edward would have just given him more money. And we would have dragged Michael through all of that for nothing because I was never—” He swallowed hard. “I was never going to win.”

“She got to you, didn’t she?” Carly demanded. She picked up a tube of lipstick and sneered at it. “Little Miss Muffin Face. She’s all buddy buddy with Sonny’s stupid sister. AJ’s cheerleader. I bet Elizabeth couldn’t wait to bad mouth me and tell you to give Michael to AJ—”

There was so much…wrong in what she’d said that Jason couldn’t even take it all in. “Elizabeth didn’t tell me anything. I saw for myself. He’s sober, Carly. And he’s been good to Michael. That’s what I wanted for him—”

“You promised me,” Carly said as she tossed the lipstick down. It rolled off the bureau, across the floor. “You promised me you’d keep him away—”

“I couldn’t keep that promise—”

“So you take Michael and go,” she snapped. “There are a lot of countries without extradition—”

Jason took a moment, tried to keep himself calm. “Michael’s life is here. My life is here—”

“Oh, Elizabeth, right?” Carly rolled her eyes. Dismissive. “For the next five minutes. She’ll be running soon enough.” She smirked. “Isn’t she already avoiding you?”

“Are—” Jason sucked in a breath. Damn it. “Are you watching me?”

“So I’m right. Trouble in paradise.” And a glint ignited in her eyes—something he hadn’t seen in more than two years. Something he’d thought was dead and buried.

So this was how it was gonna be, Jason thought, with a surprising amount of bitterness. “It’s that simple for you, isn’t it? You think you can do what you did before. I’ll come running because you crook your finger. What, you think I’ll take Michael away from AJ so we can be a family?” he demanded.

She blinked at his harsh tone. “Look, Jase, we’ve both—we’ve both gone down different roads, and I guess maybe you like the hero worship, but Elizabeth Webber can’t give you what I can—”

Jason took her wrist as she reached out to slide her hand down his chest and held it between them, his grip tight. “We haven’t been together that way in five years, Carly.”

Carly yanked her hand back. “I want my son, Jason. You know what I’m capable of—”

“And you know what I’m capable of,” he said, flatly. “The terms haven’t changed. You’re not getting near Michael until you tell me where the hell you’ve been for five months and why you left.”

“We’ll see about that.” Carly snapped. “I’ll get my son back, and then you’re going to pay for keeping him from me. All of you will.”

General Hospital: Cafeteria

Bobbie sighed when Alan set his coffee on the table and took the seat across from her. “Hey.” His tone was kind, his eyes were concerned. And she wanted to throw herself out the window. She was sick of people looking at her that way.

“I don’t know what Carly is planning,” she said abruptly. “She came to my home in the middle of the night, screamed at me, and only came back once since then. I didn’t even see her.”

And wasn’t sure she wanted to.

“I’m not—” Alan took a deep breath. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wondering what Carly had in mind. But that’s not—I’m just…I’m worried. And I thought we could be worried together.”

She closed her eyes. “I’m not…sure I have the energy left to be worried. I feel…empty. I love my daughter, but…” Bobbie looked at her old friend. “I love her the way a mother loves a child. I gave birth to her. I supported her. And I’m glad she’s alive. But at the same time—”

“You don’t know what direction to go.” He sipped his coffee. “How is Lucas handling all of this?”

“Lucas…is worried about Michael. He’s been hanging out with him, keeping him company at AJ’s. Helping the transition. He’s so good to that little boy, Alan. But he hates Carly. And that will probably never change. Not after this stunt.”

She hesitated. “I meant what I said. Carly hasn’t sought me out since that first night. When she came back to the house the next day, I was at work, and Elizabeth was there to run interference. To try to get answers. But she and Carly argued. Mostly about Jason, I’m sure.”

Bobbie stared down into her coffee, likely cold by now. “For months, I walked around in a fog, trying to do the best by her memory. By her son. And when she came home—when she walked through that door—I think I would have forgiven her anything if she’d only told me what happened. But she refuses, Alan. All she wants is Michael. There’s no room in her head for me, for what she put me or Jason through by being gone for five months.”

“Do you think it was willingly?” Alan asked curiously. “Carly is a lot of things, but I never—I never pictured her leaving Michael.”

“I don’t want to think that,” Bobbie admitted. “But it’s been more than a week, Alan. If she’d been kidnapped, if she’d lost her memory—why wasn’t that the first words out of her mouth? What reason does she have to come back here like she’s the victim? Like we did something to her—all we did was love Michael. And do our best by him. She won’t—she won’t slow down long enough for anyone to tell her about the custody issues.”

“I wanted to tell Jason how much I appreciated him giving AJ a chance, but I knew he wasn’t interested in my opinion,” Alan admitted. “And the fact that he’s stood by that—that AJ still has Michael even though Carly is home—”

“I would have told you that there was nothing Carly could do to make Jason cut her off. She destroyed his life over Michael. Married AJ. Slept with Sonny. Nearly got Sonny arrested twice. And still—he called her a friend.”

Alan’s lips thinned in displeasure. “I certainly never understood either of my sons when it came to Carly.”

“But this?” Bobbie shook his head. “Whatever my daughter is planning on, he’s not going to bail her out.” She sighed. “Or maybe I hope not. Because I don’t see Elizabeth putting up with it for long.”

He just tipped his head in silent inquiry, so Bobbie elaborated. “Playing second fiddle to Carly. Which is what tends to happen to anyone in Jason’s life when Carly is a factor. Carly has a way of convincing Jason to help her—and I used to be grateful for that. Because he kept her from going too far. But it’s too much to ask for him be that for another person. I don’t want him to destroy his life for her. Not again.”

She sipped her coffee, then grimaced. It was ice cold and not in a good way. “I know you’re concerned about AJ losing custody of Michael again, but you know…I’m not sure my daughter has even faced the possibility that a judge is going to look at the two of them and leave the situation as it is. She’s so used to getting her way with Michael that…I fear for us all when she realizes that this time…she might lose him.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

As Elizabeth folded up a chair to stack it with the others, her toe caught the edge of another chair and she tripped, sending the whole stack sliding across the courtyard.

“What the fuck,” she muttered, kicking the chair. It clattered against the rest of them. “God I hate this world—”

“Hey.”

Elizabeth turned to find Jason at the entrance. “Hey.” She sighed and then started to pull the chairs back into formation.

“Can we talk—”

“Jason—” She closed her mouth. “Fine. Go ahead. I’ve said what I need to say, except—” She set a chair down and looked at him. “I know you’re dealing with a lot. And I’m not—I’m not a bitch. I can see you’re struggling. I just—”

“You’ve been around Carly long enough to know what she’s capable of.” Jason slid his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I don’t—I don’t want this to be like it was with Robin. I didn’t do right by her. And she was right about Carly. You’re right.”

“Not sure that gives me a lot of comfort, Jason.” Elizabeth walked back towards the diner, opening the door. “I knew I was right. You knew I was right. But you still went.”

“You told me to go—” He stopped talking as the door swung shut behind them and he watched her go behind the counter. “But you were right. I wanted to go. I thought—I thought I could find the right thing to say. That there had to be something I hadn’t tried.

“Carly…” Jason hesitated. “After the accident, everyone looked at me like I was…a problem to fix. Even Robin and Sonny. They both thought they knew better than me—”

“You told me once you grew up in Sonny’s eyes, but not in Robin’s.” Elizabeth studied him. “But that was before that night at the boxcar.”

“Sonny thought I needed to be free from Carly. And he knew—he knew how to play her.” Jason looked away. “So he slept with her.”

“I did the math when she got pregnant. I’m sorry. But that doesn’t explain—”

“Why I let Carly get away with so much.” He exhaled slowly. “Carly never thought I was damaged.”

Elizabeth tilted her head. “So…fixing her problems, what…proves it?”

“I guess. I don’t know. I just…I see her in trouble, and something in me tells me to fix it. I never really thought about why before. I should have. I could have saved Robin a lot of pain if I could—” Jason shook his head. “That doesn’t matter.”

“Great. So now you know why you jump when she calls. Doesn’t change it.” Elizabeth slid some paperwork in her tote. “I’m surprised she hasn’t called you yet. We’ve been here ten minutes—”

“You were right about that, too. She is—she knows when we’re together. Because she knew you hadn’t been at Jake’s.”

“Oh, I bet she did.” Elizabeth’s smile felt as sour as her stomach. “And she came to see you, right? Probably finally played her trump card.”

“Yeah. Promised to tell me whatever I wanted if she could see Michael.”

“Smart. Didn’t ask for Michael outright, just to see him. You must have been tempted.”

“I—” Jason hesitated. “I would have been.”

“Don’t do anything because you don’t want to upset me.” Elizabeth came out from behind the corner as she untied her apron. “You want to give in to her, that’s your problem—”

“Hey—” Jason took her by the elbow. “Just—just stop. Can you just listen to me? Or are you going to—”

“Be bitchy?” Elizabeth demanded. “What, do you want a cookie because you saw Carly was manipulating you before you gave in? We’re all out, but maybe I can dig up a lollipop—”

“Elizabeth—Damn it.”

She stepped back away from him. “I’m sorry. What do you want from me?”

“I—” He dragged his hands through his hair. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, Elizabeth. Whatever Carly is up to, she had help. How the hell do I know it’s not someone coming after us? What if she’s part of it?”

Elizabeth looked down at her feet. “Jason—”

“She thought I would just—” His hands dropped to his side. “She thought I would bring her Michael and we’d—we’d just be a family. Like nothing happened.”

She rolled her eyes. “I saw that coming, too, didn’t I?”

“There’s nothing—” Jason paused. “You don’t have to feel threatened by Carly, Elizabeth. I told you. I love you.”

“I’m not threatened by Carly,” Elizabeth said with a touch of disgust. “I’m just—I told you. I’m not interested in letting her play you like a piano while I stand by and wring my hands. Carly’s not going to run my life.”

“I don’t plan on letting Carly run my life either,” Jason said, his eyes flashing with impatience. “It’s been a week—”

“No one ever plans for Carly,” she shot back. “That’s how she gets you. Great, Jason. You know she’s manipulating you. I’m thrilled for you.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I don’t want to fight anymore. I really don’t.” She rubbed her eyes. “I’m tired. I’m tired of watching Bobbie kill herself trying to understand her daughter. Of worrying about you and Michael. I’m just…I’m tired of Carly, Jason.”

“I know.” He swallowed hard. “This is—it’s gonna be over soon, okay? She’ll screw up. Or she’ll realize I’m not coming through for her. And she’ll have to tell us what’s going on. Just…” He held his hand out to her on the table, his palm facing up. “Just give me a chance, okay?”

Against her better judgment, Elizabeth took his hand. For all the times she hadn’t stood by him the year before—she owed him this. Even if everything inside of her was screaming at her to get out before it all fell apart.

Jason had never let her down, so she had to trust that he wouldn’t this time.

February 17, 2018

If you followed me during my NaNoWriMo Tweets last November, you might remember these tweets:

Chapter Sixteen, with the scene on the Brownstone at the end of the chapter is the scene this tweet referred to. I did add another chapter, but I realized I had to do more with the Jason and Elizabeth conflict. So I cut that scene in half and rewrote the chapters. I had to lose part of the story and about 5000 words.

So to make up for the lack of workshop and late chapters, I’ve given you about four deleted scenes. I hope you enjoy: Bittersweet, Deleted Scenes

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Workshop: Bittersweet - Deleted Scenes

After Carly’s return in Chapter 15, Bittersweet was going to look very different for the next four chapters. Carly was going to come home, refuse to talk, and then go to custody for Michael, and then lose it. I got as far as writing the custody hearing, but it didn’t feel right.

What I did have was a brief conflict between Jason and Elizabeth in Chapter 16, in that final Brownstone scene. They were going to resolve it at that point, but it gave me this idea to make that conflict a bit more deep. To really hit the beats of 2002. I’m glad I cut the original story and I think you’re going to like where it goes, because I think, ultimately, it does good things for the Liason story.

However, I did cut almost 4000 words. Some of the scenes from those chapters stayed — I just rewrite them slightly, but there were a few I had to lose entirely. Here they are now. They’re not edited or beta’d. I hope you enjoy.


AJ and Courtney’s House: Living Room

“I don’t understand how the Play-Doh got in the carpet, Michael,” AJ said as he scrubbed the blue dried bits entangled in the threads of the gray carpet. “You were supposed to keep it on the table.”

“I know, Dad,” Michael said with wide brown eyes that shown with innocence and guile. “But then I was playing with my guys, and Yoda was lightsabering Darth. I sort of…” he flashed his white baby teeth. “I knocked it over. And then I didn’t see. I was trying to run from the Siths and…I stepped on it.”

AJ just stared at him. “That actually…sounds logical to me.” He handed Michael the sponge. “But it’s your turn to finish this. You’re old enough to clean up after yourself.”

Michael scowled but took the sponge. “Yeah, yeah, Grammy and Liz say that to me all the time but Lucas gets to leave his stuff everywhere and no one yells at him—”

The doorbell saved AJ from having to explain to a five-year-old that sometimes teenagers weren’t worth arguing with, and he rose to answer it.

He liked these afternoons with his son on Wednesdays. He had the overnight shift, which meant he slept until noon and Courtney left for work. And then, it was just the two of them for eight uninterrupted hours.

He had never expected to still have custody of Michael once Carly came back—had really thought Jason would eventually change his mind or that Carly would work whatever voodoo she usually did and AJ would at least be cut back to supervised visitation.

But AJ now had unofficial full custody. It was easier, Jason had told him, if Michael stayed with them from now on. Until the hearing. To…give the judge more to work with.

He and his brother were united for once in what was best for Michael, and AJ wanted to enjoy that for as long as he could. He knew that Jason was hoping the custody hearing would force Carly’s hand—that she would have to tell them what the hell had happened in April and why she had been gone for four months.

But if Carly hadn’t come clean in the last month, AJ…he wasn’t convinced she would tomorrow. Carly still thought a judge would look at the two of them and give her Michael. Even though she had never retained custody on the up and up, she was arrogant enough to think it would work this time.

AJ’s lawyer was confident that AJ would be awarded permanent full custody. No unofficial custody agreement, no Jason standing there, holding the strings—not that AJ had minded that part—but that Michael would be his son. Forever. Irrevocably.

And God he wanted that. He didn’t want Michael to lose Carly, permanently. And he hoped that he and Jason, Bobbie, Lucas, Elizabeth—all of the people who loved Michael could continue to be united in what was best for him. Because knowing every day he didn’t drink was another day he could be a father to his son—

That was worth everything.

When he opened his front door to find his grandfather standing there, AJ didn’t even grimace. Didn’t wince. Edward didn’t hold that power over him anymore.

He was just his grandfather, and AJ stepped back to welcome him into his home. “Hey. I didn’t know you were coming by.”

“Spontaneous decision,” Edward said. Michael turned to look at him with a considering eye. “Good afternoon, Michael.”

“Grandfather,” Michael said, kicking the carpet with the toe of his sneaker. “Hi. We were just playing.”

AJ frowned at the stilted tone his son had, but then remembered—they hadn’t seen one another since those clandestine visits to Michael’s school in May. He’d taken Michael to see his grandmother, his parents. Even Ned. But Edward had absented himself.

Doing penance? AJ didn’t think it was likely, but…maybe.

“Hey, why don’t you put away the rest of the Play-Doh and go into the family room to pick out some video games for us to play when Lucas comes by later?”

“Okay.”

AJ waited until Michael had gathered the colored tubs of clay and left the room. “He’s still a little wary of you.”

“To be expected. I didn’t—I really didn’t intend to do any harm when I went to his school.” Edward lifted his chin. “I just…I wanted to know him.”

“I know. And you will.” AJ slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “What brings you by?”

“I know the custody hearing is tomorrow. I, ah, I wanted to go. To show my support. We all did. But—” He coughed lightly. “We—I wasn’t sure if you’d want—or need us there.”

“I—” AJ hesitated. He didn’t want to flaunt his family in front of the judge, particularly since it would be unfair to Carly who wouldn’t have any allies in the room. But at the same time—

He did want to his family there to support him. Not the support he’d once craved like the taste of vodka sliding down his throat—but he wanted the comfort of knowing that his family thought he was doing the right thing.

“If you want to come, that would be okay. I don’t know—I know how long it will be,” AJ told him. “I know I’ll be testifying. My lawyer is calling Jason and Bobbie. And probably Carly will testify. I don’t think Michael will have to talk. I hope not, anyway.”

“I—” Edward hesitated. “I know it was hard on you losing him. And we pushed you to get him back. I pushed too hard. Your grandmother always said I put too much pressure on you boys. I did the same to Alan and Tracy. I just wanted the best for you both, and instead, neither of my grandsons talk to me.” He looked away.

For a man who loved his family as fiercely as Edward Quartermaine, the loss of both the Quartermaine scions obviously weighed heavily on him. “I had to get away, Grandfather. I had to stop waiting for you to love me for me. And not have your disappointment weigh on me enough to make me drink. I don’t blame you for the pressure you put on me. You did the same to Jason, and he thrived.” Until AJ had stolen him away.

“I blame me for the way I reacted to it. For not being strong enough—”

“I blame me, too,” Edward said quietly. “You boys were smart. And you were good young men. Decent. Kind. I could see such potential in you both. You to carry on at ELQ, and Jason at the hospital. You were going to be the next generation, and I knew you would be great men. I just…I thought my way was the best.”

He cleared his throat. “But you and Jason went your own way, and I—I might not entirely approve of Jason’s line of work, but there’s no denying that you both grew up to be good men. You put Michael’s needs above your own last spring, AJ. And you’ve kept doing it. And Jason saw that. Before the rest of us. He gave you the chance with Michael. And I’m-I’m proud of you both. You’re the kind of father that neither Alan nor I could ever have been, and I know if and when Jason has children of his own, he’ll do the same.”

“Grandfather—”

“And your wife—Courtney. I know—we were harsh. We didn’t see her worth.” Edward paused. “We see it now. It doesn’t matter, of course, because you saw it all along. And I know you don’t want to come back—to the house. But I thought…in time, we might discuss…I know you like your job. I just…I hope you know ELQ is always here for you.”

AJ hesitated. ELQ was the dream. He did like his job, but it didn’t satisfy his soul the way the corporate world did. He liked making deals, making decisions. The power of it all. But…

“I don’t know. It’s a lot of pressure to be in that job,” he said slowly. “Maybe one day. But for now, I have be the man my wife and son deserve. But…I do miss the company, Grandfather. So maybe we can talk about it one day.”

Elizabeth and Gia’s Apartment: Living Room

“I shouldn’t be nervous,” Courtney said, pouring her second glass of wine. “I’m not.”

“Not at all,” Gia said with a side eye glance at Elizabeth as she raised her own glass of Moscato to her lips. “But we’re cutting you off after this. You’re supposed to be the golden stepmother tomorrow. Wouldn’t do if you had a wine headache.”

“And besides,” Gia continued when Elizabeth just sipped her wine. “You got nothing to worry about. Carly is not a good candidate for visitation, much less getting custody. Is anyone even testifying for her?”

“Nope,” Elizabeth murmured. “I feel guilty.”

“Oh, hell.” Gia rolled her eyes. “I knew it.” She held out her hand to Courtney. “Five bucks, Quartermaine. You owe me.”

“What?” Elizabeth demanded as Courtney grumbled and slapped a crumbled five-dollar bill in her roommate’ s hands. “What did you bet on?”

“You feel guilty because Jason is going to testify against Carly. And you think it’s because of you,” Courtney said. She wrinkled her nose. “I thought we were on the same page about her. Anti-Christ, yeah? She doesn’t deserve—”

“See, that’s where you’re wrong, my esteemed friend. Elizabeth gives not one single fuck about that psycho. She’s guilty because—”

“If it weren’t for me, Jason would be helping Carly. And maybe—” She huffed. “Maybe he’ll be irritated with himself later for it.”

“And hence, irritated with you.”

“Hence the guilt,” Courtney said, finishing Gia’s thought. “Elizabeth—”

“I mean, you’re completely right. He’s not helping her because of what you said to him—”

“Gia, this isn’t not helping—”

“But I think you’re wrong about why,” Gia said, ignoring Courtney. “You made it clear to him. You did what I cannot imagine Robin ever did or you did it in a way that scared the living shit out out of him. Because you were not going to play Back-Up Barbie the way Robin did. You demanded he respect you.” She wiped an imaginary tear. “I’m so goddamn proud.”

“But—”

“Jason isn’t going to be irritated with you,” Courtney told her. “I wasn’t here for Robin—”

“I wasn’t either. But I’ve seen the way Carly is around him, and that’s even when she was married to Sonny. She thinks Jason is hers.” Gia hesitated. “He’s going to get her out of trouble because he’s still Michael’s uncle, and Carly is still that kid’s mother, God help him. And because he loves Bobbie.”

Elizabeth hesitated. “I know that. And I never said he had to completely walk away from her. I get that they need to know what she’s up to. Especially if Bobbie was right and Carly was being fed a bunch of crap, but I don’t know. I mean, I think maybe I wasn’t super fair or didn’t handle it right—”

“Is there a right way to handle your boyfriend’s ex-whatever coming back from the dead?” Courtney asked. “Because if there’s a manual and none of you bitches have given it to me, you’re all in for it—”

“Look, if Carly had shown all upset and explained right away what happened, this all would have been different. Because the Carly that went over the cliff was not the raging bitch I knew last year—”

“Or that I’ve known for the last few,” Elizabeth agreed. “If I honestly felt like she was in trouble and scared or something, I don’t know—maybe I wouldn’t have even worried about her and the way she treats him. I would have given her more space—”

“But eventually, this was gonna be an issue.”

“She would have been waiting for the first opportunity to go after him,” Elizabeth agreed. “I wouldn’t—I thought she’d moved on. Jason talked her into marrying Sonny. He thought they were good together. But he told me that the second she thought he and I were fighting, she tried to seduce him with Michael.”

“She didn’t think that through,” Gia said. “Played that card way too early. Which almost makes you wonder if she was testing him.”

“I’m just—he’s not chasing after her. I know he and Sonny are looking into it, but she hasn’t taken over the way I thought she might.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “And I think that actually scares me more.”

“I thought that what you wanted,” Courtney began, but Gia nodded.

“You’re thinking back to the Carly of old. She’s channeling that destructive anger again, so it makes sense to think she’d act the way she did then. When she wanted something at Deception, she just kept at it. Relentless. Laura would eventually give in just to shut her up.”

“If Carly wanted Michael back, if she really thought she had a shot at convincing Jason to be a family with her and Michael—she wouldn’t have just…stopped. Unless Jason isn’t telling me something—and I don’t think that’s it—she hasn’t bothered with him. Or Sonny. Bobbie saw her today for the first time. And—”

“She hasn’t come near the house or Michael,” Courtney added.

“If she really wanted Michael, why did she just file custody papers and sit back? She doesn’t know that you basically threatened to walk if Jason so much as lifted a finger to help her—”

“That’s not how it was—”

Gia rolled her eyes. “It’s what it boils down to. Either way, she has no way of knowing that. How many people told her—just tell us where you were Carly, and this can go away. You said it yourself. Had she just told Jason that night, Jason probably would have tried to do something with custody.”

Courtney nodded. “AJ’s been worried for weeks that Carly will come clean and that Jason will revoke the custody agreement. Not that Jason would—not like, harshly, I mean. But that—I don’t know—AJ doesn’t trust Carly. And he’s trying hard to trust Jason, but—”

“But Jason has gone to extreme lengths so that Carly can keep Michael,” Elizabeth said. “And so has Sonny.”

“You said Jason and Sonny think whatever Carly was doing is connected to them somehow. I think they have to be right. Because otherwise, custody hearing be damned, the Carly we know would have not waited for a custody hearing.”

“She’d be hassling Jason every day,” Courtney said.

“Pulling fire alarms,” Elizabeth murmured. “Someone is pulling her strings.”

“Someone who doesn’t want Jason and Sonny to know where she is.”

“Which means this custody hearing is part of a plan,” Elizabeth said slowly. “If Carly loses custody tomorrow—”

“How much you wanna bet that whoever is winding her up about everything else has told her — play it cool, Carly. They don’t matter. Ignore them. You’ll go to court, and I’ll make sure you get your son back.”

“But why?” Courtney asked, exasperated. “What does this have to do with anything. How would help anyone—”

“Because Carly isn’t going to get custody tomorrow,” Elizabeth said, meeting Gia’s eyes. Her best friend nodded. “She’s going to lose. And she’s going to lose hard. Because everyone is testifying against her and she’ll probably refuse to tell anyone anything. She doesn’t have to. The fix is in.”

“No way Carly goes through everything she’s been through with Michael and just sits back to wait for a custody hearing. She wouldn’t leave it to chance that way. Unless she knew something.”

“But she’s going to lose custody,” Courtney said. “If you’re right—”

“If Carly loses custody after her mother and Jason get up on that stand to tell the judge Michael is better off with AJ…” Elizabeth said, and simply stopped, pressing a hand to her stomach. “Christ.” She reached for her cell phone. “I have to call Jason.”

Port Charles Courthouse: Hallway

“Gia, you could look a little less excited,” Elizabeth muttered as she and her roommate stepped off the elevator. Ahead of her, she could see Jason, Bobbie, Courtney, and AJ huddled in front of the doors speaking quietly with a well-dressed redhead who must be AJ’s attorney.

“I can’t help it. I get that this is all emotional,” Gia said, “but you know I don’t have a dog in the fight. I’m just here for the entertainment.”

“Gia—”

“And to support you and Courtney, but there’s no law that says I can’t enjoy it.” But she rolled her shoulders and somehow, managed to ease down the energy.

Elizabeth could understand that—part of her was almost looking forward to seeing Carly raked over the coals—but at the same time, she wondered what could have happened to the woman in the four months she had been gone.

She had told Jason her suspicions the night before—that the custody hearing was part of some larger scheme. That Carly’s strange behavior could only explained if she was following someone else’s instructions and expected to win. Jason saw her logic, agreed with it to a certain extent, but couldn’t quite allow himself to think Carly could follow directions for a full month.

Blinders, she had told with some annoyance. Carly could be extremely focused when she wanted to be, but Jason wouldn’t believe that. For all of his protestations that Carly wasn’t his friend anymore, he still treated her that way. Still thought he knew her. He thought the custody hearing was a distraction, and that when push came to shove, Carly would tell the truth.

Which meant Elizabeth would have to be on her guard for him.

“Hey,” she said as she and Gia joined the group. She slid her arm around Jason’s waist waist, his went around her shoulders as she curled into a half-embrace. “Sorry we’re late. Gia got into an argument with the officer who gives out tickets in our neighborhood.”

“It was 9:01 and we were right in front of the car. She wants to write me a ticket, she’s going to have do it over my dead body,” Gia declared. “I threw out Marcus’s name, but of course she’s a bitter ex-girlfriend.” She scowled.

“She nearly got us arrested,” Elizabeth offered with a roll of her eyes.

Courtney managed a smile, and AJ had some amusement in his eyes. Which is why she had told the story.

“How’d you get out of it?” Bobbie asked, folding her arms rightly across her chest. “The last time Gia got into an argument with the parking officer—”

“By the way, when are you due in court for that?” Courtney asked.

“There is no way that she can get me for double parking. By the time she got there, the other car was gone, which means at best, I’m a shitty parker—”

“You keep getting cited for disorderly conduct, they’ll never let you be a lawyer,” AJ told her. “Right, Diane?”

“Well, if you have the right attorney…” the redhead produced a card from nowhere. “Diane Miller.”

Gia took the card. “Let me tell you, if my idiot brother keeps breaking the hearts of the female officers in the parking authority, I’m gonna kill him. You do criminal law, too?”

And this time, she saw a ghost of a smile at the corners of Jason’s lips which made her feel much better.

“Anyway,” Gia continued, tucking the card away, “I would still be there fighting for the common man—”

“You were parked illegally, Gia,” Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes.

“—but Elizabeth started to hassle me about places we needed to be. So I took the ticket. But I’m not happy.”

With the end of the story, the group fell in silence again as AJ looked at his watch. “Almost time,” he murmured. “I’m going to try keep you and Jason from having to testify, Bobbie—”

“We’ve talked about this,” Diane interjected. “They’re important—”

“I don’t want to do any of this,” AJ cut in. “I never wanted to go to court. We offered her lawyer all kinds of things—”

“AJ,” Jason said after a long moment. “This is the last thing any of us wants. Because if Carly keeps pushing this, Michael will have to testify. After everything we did to keep that from happening—” He shook his head. “I don’t want to get on the stand and say Carly shouldn’t have custody. But if she’s going to leave him for four months without a word and not bother to explain herself, she shouldn’t have custody. Not full custody.”

“I agree with Jason. I’m in no hurry to take custody away from Carly because I know she loves Michael. But I can’t support what she’s doing,” Bobbie added. “Michael comes first.”

“Should we have kept Michael from her this last month?” AJ asked his lawyer. “Won’t that count against us?”

Jason opened his mouth but hesitated a moment before saying. “Carly said I should have taken Michael and left. When I realized I would lose in a custody hearing.”

Diane pursed her lips. “Would you be willing to state that if Carly brings up the lack of visitation? I can argue that AJ had a good reason to worry that she would leave the jurisdiction.”

“Yeah,” but Jason sounded less assured than he had earlier.

The elevator doors opened, and Carly stepped off with a woman at her side. “That must be Jordan Baines, her lawyer,” Bobbie murmured. “She doesn’t look happy.”

Carly glared at the group and then scowled as the elevator opened again and a trio of Quartermaines stepped out—Edward, Lila, and Ned. “Why am I not surprised? Good. You can all watch me me win and walk away with my son.”

She lifted her chin and strode through the doors.

“Good luck,” Lila said softly. “Though I wish this weren’t happening at all.” At her side, neither Edward nor Ned spoke a word.

“Let’s get this over with,” AJ said as he started towards the courtroom.

The hearing was as bad, if not worse, than Jason thought it would be.

Carly’s lawyer attempted to make a cogent case that Carly had not agreed to the custody arrangement with her ex-husband, making it invalid.

Diane countered with a death certificate, the court’s legal declaration naming Jason guardian. Therefore, Diane declared, Jason had the right to negotiate any agreement he saw fit. With copies of AJ’s paternal rights petition and the notarized custody agreement—this was a black and white case. AJ had unofficial custody thanks to his brother, and Carly would have to overturn Jason’s guardianship if she wanted Michael back.

“And since Ms. Benson has declined to inform anyone of her whereabouts from April 9 through July 28, Mr. Morgan has not seen a need to revisit custody of his nephew, so Ms. Benson’s suit against Mr. Quartermaine is invalid. However, we are countersuing in order to streamline today’s hearing. Mr. Quartermaine seeks an official custody order, awarding him full custody.”

“Thank you, Ms. Miller. Do you have any witnesses, Ms. Baines?” the judge asked.

“I do,” but the woman sounded even less thrilled than she had during the opening statement. “We call Caroline Benson.”

With an arrogant air that Jason didn’t recognize—that she had never held herself with before—Carly was sworn in.

Elizabeth had been right, he saw now with a sinking feeling. Carly was too confident, too sure of herself. Her lawyer had obviously argued with her over the weakness of her case. And yet, she sat there. Sure of herself.

Someone was giving Carly her marching orders, and she was listening to them.

Jordan Baines took Carly through her difficult pregnancy, and to her credit, Carly owned up to her initial mistakes. Her lies to AJ. Her affair with Sonny. She had not been a good wife, but she had always been a good mother.

And in fact, AJ had not been a bad father when sober. But Carly couldn’t trust him, she told the court tearfully. After he had pushed her down the steps, after the death of her second son, she could never bring herself to trust AJ again, and it broke her heart that Jason had.

In front of him, Jason saw AJ’s shoulders slump and felt a bit of pity. It was still an uncomfortable feeling, but Jason couldn’t bring himself to blame AJ any longer. He’d been wrong. He’d fought with Carly, but he could understand now how it could have been a tragic accident.

And AJ’s sobriety had to count for something. A person could change for the better. Otherwise, what was the point?

And he saw how Carly would use it as a weapon for the rest of AJ’s life to punish him. The way that the Quartermaines had used the accident.

Jordan took Carly through her marriage to Sonny and the early months of owning the club and doing well. And then simply stopped.

There were no questions about the four months Carly had been gone. It was if they hadn’t happened.

“She didn’t ask anything about it,” Elizabeth murmured, her hand tightening in his. “Why? She has to know Diane—”

But Jordan was already sitting down, and Diane Miller stood.

“That was a lovely account of the first five years of Michael’s life, Ms. Benson.” Diane tilted her head. “How did he like kindergarten?”

Carly hesitated. “Fine,” she said warily. “He liked his teachers. Made friends.”

“What did he make you for Mother’s Day?”

Carly pressed her lips together. “I don’t know.”

“He made his grandmother a lovely crayon drawing of his family.” Diane picked it up, held it up so Carly and the judge could see it.

Carly looked at Bobbie whose eyes were shining with tears, but Diane continued. “He drew his entire family. That’s him. I think that’s supposed to be his uncle Lucas. He told me they were playing video games. And then there’s his grandma Bobbie with a doctor’s bag. And his uncle Jason on his motorcycle, and Elizabeth Webber—he calls her Liz—with a paintbrush. He drew his family, Ms. Benson.”

Diane laid it down in front of her. “You’re in this photo, too, aren’t you?”

Carly looked down at it and took a deep breath. “I’m at the top.”

“Mommy,” Diane said, reading the scrawl under the blonde figure at the top of the drawing. “You’re surrounded by clouds. Why do you think that is?”

Carly closed her eyes. “I’m sure I don’t know,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Did you see Michael on Mother’s Day?”

“No.”

“What about the Fourth of July?” Diane set a picture down. “Lucas Jones took pictures of Michael with members of his family at the Port Charles Park celebration. Are you in any of them?”

Carly didn’t even bother to look down. “No.”

“Are you sure?” Diane asked with a friendly smile. “Let’s make sure. Here’s a really nice one of Michael and Lucas. Oh, I like this one of Michael with his stepmother. She seems like him—and here’s a good one of Michael with his uncle Jason and Elizabeth—”

“Your Honor,” Jordan Baines said with a tired sigh. She stood. “What’s the point?”

“Move on, Ms. Miller.”

Diane gathered the photos up. “Ms. Benson, did you see your son between April 9 and July 28 of this year?”

“No.”

“Did he know where you were?”

“I—I don’t know.”

“Did you tell anyone where you were?”

“No.”

Diane arched a brow. “Where were you?”

“I don’t have to answer that.” Carly lifted her chin. “I love my son. I am a good mother.”

“A good mother who walked away from her child, giving him reason to draw a picture of you on Mother’s Day…in the clouds. You suppose that means he thought you were in Heaven?”

Carly didn’t answer. Just looked away.

Why wouldn’t she just tell them? What could be so awful?

Diane waited another moment. “I have no more questions for this witness.”

She took her seat.

The judge hesitated. “Ms. Benson, is it your contention that you do not have to tell this court where you were during the months of April, May, June, and July?”

“I am saying that I had full custody of my son. And when I was not available, Jason was to be his guardian. I never agreed to allow AJ Quartermaine to have custody,” Carly said, gritting her teeth. “He had no rights. He signed them away.”

The judge sat back, his sigh heavy. “Do you have any further witnesses, Ms. Baines?”

“No.”

“Ms. Miller, I see that you’ve listed three witnesses here. Alan James Quartermaine, Jr., Barbara Spencer, and Jason Morgan.”

“Yes, Your Honor—” But even as Diane stood, the judge waved for her to take a seat.

“Do they plan to testify to the same facts? That Ms. Benson has been absent from her son’s life since April 9?”

“Yes.”

The judge nodded. “Mr. Morgan. Stand up.”

“Your Honor,” Jordan protested. “This is irregular—”

Jason got to his feet. “Your Honor.”

“You’re the child’s legal guardian.”

“Yes.”

“Is there a reason you have chosen not to vacate your guardianship and return custody to the child’s previous custodial parent?”

“I—” Jason hesitated, looked at Carly. “I don’t know where she was. Michael didn’t know where she was. I don’t know if she’s in trouble. She won’t say anything. I thought…all things considered, it would be best if Michael stayed in a stable situation. Which he has with AJ and Courtney.”

“So if Ms. Benson just tells you where she’s been, you would vacate guardianship?”

“I—” Jason stopped abruptly. “I don’t know.”

“Fair answer. You can sit.” The judge looked at Carly, still seated in the witness stand. “Ms. Benson, this is your last chance. You abandoned your son for four months. Where did you go? And why did you say nothing?”

Carly shook her head.

“Carly,” Bobbie pleaded. “Just tell us—”

“Carly, Michael deserves to know,” AJ said.

But she said nothing. Just stared at Jason as if he should have said something. Fixed it. How could Jason do anything but put Michael first? She hadn’t left him any choice.

The judge sighed. “All right. I am awarding custody of the minor child, Michael Benson, to the child’s biological and legal father on record, Alan James Quartermaines, Jr. Ms. Benson is to have supervised visititation at the agreement of Mr. Quartermaine, and I am ordering three months of counseling.”

Carly’s face paled. “Wait, what? What did you just do? What—”

“Here we go,” Gia murmured from next to Elizabeth. “Liftoff in 5, 4—”

“Gia,” Elizabeth hissed.


And I stopped writing there. These scenes are fine, but I think what I ended up writing is ultimately better.

February 16, 2018

So sorry this chapter is so late. I’ve been busy at work and school, and then of course, I caught the flu. I usually get it every other year, so I know the early symptoms. I went in as soon as I felt them, got my Tamiflu, and hopefully caught it before it gets really bad. It just means my four day weekend of getting things done and caught up is shot.

I highly doubt you’ll get workshop from me this weekend, which sucks because I have some good ideas for the next few scenes, but I did manage to get Chapter 17 posted of Bittersweet.

This entry is part 17 of 34 in the series Bittersweet

The angels they burn inside for us
Are we ever
Are we ever gonna learn to fly
The devils they burn inside of us
Are we ever gonna come back down – come around
I’m always gonna worry about the things that could break us

Angels and Devils, Dishwalla


Thursday, August 29, 2002

Kelly’s: Dining Room

“Hey.” Elizabeth managed a smile for her best friend as Courtney tucked her purse under the counter and tied on her apron. “Welcome back.”

The blonde managed an exhausted smile. “Thanks for the time off—it’s been…” she sighed and shook her head. “Not great. I mean, it’s not Michael. He’s—”

“Tough?” Elizabeth offered as she measured coffee beans for the grinder. “Taking it all in stride?”

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Courtney admitted. “Should he just not even blink when his mother returns from the dead? Or he is just so used to having his life upended that he just shrugs and moves on?”

“Well, he’ll probably be in therapy for the rest of his life. How’s AJ dealing with it?”

“Okay, I guess. He was worried Jason would change his mind at first the way he always does with Carly, but he hasn’t. And Carly hasn’t come back. Which makes us even more nervous.”

Elizabeth turned on the grinder and they were both silent for a few minutes while the machine roared.

“How is Jason doing with all of this?” Courtney paused. “I mean, if you want—”

“I don’t know. He’s not…” Elizabeth measured the first of the grounds into the pot, the habitual routine comforting to her. This—this she could do. “We had kind of a fight that first day after Carly came home. We’re not—we’re not not talking, but I guess he’s trying not to—”

“Are you okay?” Courtney asked after a moment when Elizabeth stopped speaking. “I know you’ve been waiting for the second shoe—”

“I don’t like Carly. Which I told him. And then she called him to come and talk.”

Courtney hesitated. “She did? But—”

“She didn’t tell him anything,” Elizabeth cut in. “Jason didn’t—he didn’t really get into it, but I’m sure she tried to guilt him like she always does.” Elizabeth waited a moment. “She called him again the next day. And then again yesterday.”

“And still hasn’t told him anything?” Courtney shook her head. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why—”

“She’s testing him,” Elizabeth muttered. “To see if she can—” She stopped. “I don’t know. Maybe that’s just me not liking her coming out. But it feels that way. It feels like she calls him to see if he’ll come running. And he does. Because he wants answers. Because he wants to fix this.”

With the coffee brewing and a signal from Don in the kitchen that he was ready to get started, Elizabeth flipped the sign on the door to open. In about ten minutes, they would be flooded with dock workers grabbing coffee and breakfast before or after a shift.

“Are…” Courtney hesitated. “Are you mad at him?”

“No.” Elizabeth considered her answer. “Just…resigned, I think. This is who Jason is. I just…I don’t know how I’m supposed to…do this. How I’m supposed to feel about it. I…I don’t want to be Robin.”

Courtney frowned. “I don’t get the reference.”

“Robin was Jason’s ex-girlfriend—”

“Who told AJ about Michael. Yeah, that much I know.”

“Robin put up with Carly for the last two years of her relationship with Jason. Carly was always a factor. In fact…Jason…” Elizabeth hesitated. “You know about the accident? That it…he had to…kind of relearn a lot of things.”

“Yeah—”

“Well, he slept with Carly even when he was with Robin. It’s not—it’s not important because I get it. And I’m not worried about that. But it’s always given Carly a sense of power over Jason. And Robin was basically humiliated in front of everyone when people thought Jason was Michael’s father—”

“Because it was during the period when they were dating.”

“Basically. And Robin put up with Carly over and over again. Jason let Carly get away with so much—you should hear the way Carly talks about Robin, and you just know she said it to her face—”

“Do you think he’ll do that to you—”

“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, I don’t. I guess, mostly I don’t. He was pretty angry with Carly back when we were getting close. Carly and I got into it more than once when he was at my studio. And he stepped in. He says he’s learned from what happened with Robin. That he wasn’t fair to either of them in the end, but—” She looked at Courtney. “By the time Robin left town, I know they hated one another. Jason says he’s forgiven her, but I’m not sure he’s forgotten what she did.”

“What, you think because you made it clear you’re not really going to do much to help Carly, that it’s going to change things between you?”

“I don’t know. I feel like maybe it already has.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “And I’m not being fair, I guess. I know Carly is his friend. I may not understand it, but I’m not…I wouldn’t ask him to choose—”

“Why not?” Courtney demanded. “What’s she done to deserve his loyalty after all this?”

“She gave him Michael.” Elizabeth managed a smile for the first wave of customers as the bell over the door rang. “I can’t compete with that. I’m not going to.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I just…I’m not going to let Carly run my life or get in my face. Even to make his life easier. I’ve spent too much time letting people walk all over me. That part of my life is over.” Elizabeth picked up her order pad. “I know who I am now. And no one is going to change that. Not ever again.”

Cosmopolitan Hotel: Lobby

AJ stood from his seat when Carly strode out of the elevators. “Make it quick,” his ex-wife barked as she approached him, her arms crossed tightly. “If you’re not here to give me back my son—”

“I don’t want to be at odds with you, Carly,” AJ murmured. “I want us to figure out a way to resolve this without—without making Michael’s life more complicated.”

“Then give him back—”

That’s not on the table,” he said quietly. Her lips pressed into a thin line. “I have my rights back. And until you petition the court to vacate Jason’s guardianship, legally, you can’t say anything about where Michael goes. Who he sees.”

“Jason will come around. He always does. He’s just mad at me right now.”

And AJ knew that was probably true. That his time was limited to make an agreement with Carly. Jason had stood by him so far, but eventually—eventually Jason would give in.

He always took Carly’s side.

“That could be weeks. Or least until you tell him what’s going on and where you’ve been since April.” AJ held his hands up, palms facing her. “Michael is asking about you. We—we told him you were alive. And he’s so happy, Carly. God, he missed you.”

“I missed him, too. And I—”

“I’ve been sober a year.” AJ took his chip out. The small gold chip that meant almost as much to him as the wedding ring he wore. “I know why you’re scared. What happened two years ago, Carly, I can’t—”

“You killed my son. You’re lucky you’re alive,” Carly hissed. She snatched the chip out of his hand. “This? This doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. Easy come, easy go.”

And then she flicked it away, sending it rolling across the lobby floor until it disappeared under a sofa.

He followed its progress, noting exactly where it had landed, and then looked back at Carly. At the smug, arrogant set of her features. “You really think Jason is going to come through for you, don’t you?”

“He always does. He just—” Carly’s lips trembled just a moment—just long enough for the mask to slip. For AJ to see that she wasn’t…quite as convinced as she said she was. “He’s just mad at me right now,” she repeated. “He’ll get over it.”

“Not until you tell him what happened.” AJ paused. “But if he does try to take Michael—it’s not going to be like before. I’m going to fight you, Carly. I gave you ammunition to keep Michael before. The warehouse fire. The…” His throat closed. “The stairs. My drinking. But none of those were the reasons you kept Michael from me in the beginning—”

“Don’t even try me—”

“You lied to keep Tony Jones happy. And then you lied because I was angry. Because you—” He dipped his head. “You destroyed my life. You…you made me think I was drinking again, Carly. To make your life easier, you made me think I had thrown away everything I had worked on. You were my friend. And you destroyed my life.”

“I had—” Carly closed her mouth. “Don’t blame me for your damage. I never forced you to pick up a bottle.”

“No,” AJ said softly. “But you made me think I had. I’ve never been in a good position to fight you, Carly. I am now. I have a good job. I have a good relationship with my family.” With Jason, for now, but AJ wasn’t hopeful it would last once Jason had forgiven Carly. “I don’t want to drag Michael through court. I think we could make something work between us—”

“Michael is my son. If you don’t give him back to me, then Jason will make you.”

“He can try.” AJ sighed. “You know where I live, Carly, if you change your mind.”

And with that, he strode away, moved the sofa, retrieved his chip, and left.

He would wait to see what Jason decided, but having had a taste of Michael in his life again—there was nothing in the world that could make him give that up.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Elizabeth set the coffee down in front of Bobbie and then sat across from her. “I haven’t seen you much this week,” she said to her landlord. “How…how are you?”

“Oh…” Bobbie sighed, stirring some cream and sugar into the mug. “I’m surviving. Lucas is speaking me again. Apparently, since Carly didn’t move back in with us and Michael is still with AJ, he feels like he can trust me.”

“I know he’s struggled with Carly for several years,” Elizabeth said. She sipped her own iced tea. “So you…haven’t seen her?”

“Not since that first night. Have you?”

“Not since Sunday when she came to the house. Courtney said AJ went to talk to her, but—Carly thinks Jason is gonna fix everything so—” Elizabeth shrugged. Sat back. “She wasn’t in a negotiating mood.”

“God.” Bobbie pressed her fingertips to her temples. “And Jason told me he still hasn’t gotten anything out of her. Not for lack of trying, of course. I don’t understand. Why won’t she just—why won’t she tell us—”

Elizabeth sipped her water. What did it say about her that she just couldn’t dredge up any real interest in where Carly had been? Or why she wouldn’t tell Jason or anyone else? Yeah, maybe it hadn’t been Carly’s fault, but what was Elizabeth supposed to do about it? She’d reached out to the insufferable woman and had had her hand slapped for it.

And her every waking moment for the last six days had been steeped in the drama of Carly’s life. Which was fine, she supposed. It was only the first few days, and Carly had returned from the dead. She couldn’t hold Bobbie’s emotional state or Jason’s agitation against them.

But Carly had called Jason again the night before. And Jason had, again, dropped everything to go talk to her. Then Jason hadn’t come back, and from the way Bobbie was talking—there was still no update on where Carly had been. Which meant she still wasn’t talking.

“She hasn’t made any legal moves to get Michael back?” Elizabeth asked.

Bobbie frowned. “No—I think—she must think she’ll bring Jason around without—Are you—are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’m not—I’m not the one going through any of this, Bobbie. I’m upset for you. For Jason. And for AJ and Michael. But beyond that…” Elizabeth fiddled with the napkin on the table in front of her. “This doesn’t really affect me.”

She avoided the redhead’s eyes when Bobbie squinted at her. Elizabeth continued, “Jason will figure it out eventually. Either he’ll find a way to make Carly tell the truth or she’ll do something even worse and the truth will come out anyway.”

Bobbie pressed her lips. “You…things are all right with Jason, aren’t they? Not that I pay attention to these things, but you haven’t been home much this week—”

“I’ve been staying at my studio. Painting. Getting in some time before classes start next Tuesday. It’s my last semester, so I’ll be swamped between classes and work.” Elizabeth set the napkin down, ignoring the tears and twists her fingers had made. “Jason’s been busy. I didn’t expect anything less.”

“Has he—”

“Worrying about Carly is a full-time job,” Elizabeth said with a false smile. “You know that.”

“I do,” Bobbie said slowly. “Jason—you know he’s worried about Michael—”

“He is. Which is why Michael is still with AJ.” For now. Elizabeth cleared her throat. “She calls him. He goes to talk to her. He’s not making much headway, I don’t think, but he will. You know how stubborn Jason can be.”

“I do,” Bobbie repeated. “But—”

“It’ll work out.” Elizabeth got to her feet. “Jason will fix this, Bobbie. He always does.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I have to get back to work.”

Cosmopolitan Hotel: Carly’s Suite

When Carly swung open her hotel room door and glared at him, Sonny remembered how he had hated her once. How he had seen a bitter, venomous viper whose only redeeming quality was her fierce loyalty to Michael.

He thought he had found a heart underneath all that anger and vindictiveness—that she had shown a mask to the world, but that he knew the vulnerable woman underneath.

And now he wondered if they had all just been fooled.

“Carly.”

“We have nothing to say to one another—” She started to slam the door shut, but Sonny slapped a hand against it and stopped it. “How did you even get up here? Did you bribe someone?”

Sonny just flashed her a smile. “I’m a friendly guy.”

“We have nothing to say to each other,” Carly repeated. “You said it all when you kicked me out. When you walked away from Michael—”

“Uh uh. You do not get to make me the bad guy here, Carly. I was generous in our divorce settlement, and I got AJ to surrender his rights—”

She snorted. “A lot of good it did me—”

“I am not the one who walked away from him for five months.” Sonny tipped his head to the side. “What I can’t figure out is whether it was on purpose or…something that got out of hand. You trying to get my attention? Is that what this is about?”

“Please.” Carly rolled her eyes and walked back into the room. He followed her, closing the door. “You were just Jason in a fancy suit.”

Sonny studied her. There was something to that statement of course—they had become closer when Jason wasn’t available. Wasn’t in town. And he liked the finer things in life. Had a lot of money.

“You trying to get Jason to come home? He’d have to come home for Michael. Did you fake your death for that?”

“Maybe.” Carly lifted her chin. “What do you care?”

“I don’t,” Sonny said. “I care about Jason. And Michael.” And Elizabeth, but that wouldn’t be useful to say. “You ask someone to help you? They turn on you, wouldn’t let you leave? Because if you wanted Jason to come home, you probably should have revealed yourself before he started dating Elizabeth—”

“Like she’s competition,” Carly muttered. She lifted a glass of wine to her lips, but her fingers were trembling. “I know what I’m doing, Sonny. And it’s none of your damn business.”

“You think Jason will forgive you for putting Michael through this? For making Bobbie bury another daughter?” He shrugged. “Even if he did, it doesn’t change anything. He doesn’t love you. He told himself he did. But he knows better now.”

“What, his little twit loves him better?” she snarled, whirling to glare at him. “Because everyone is better than me, right?”

“You said it, I didn’t.” Sonny squinted. “You’re not going to dangle Michael in front of him like candy. It didn’t work four years ago, Carly. It’s not working now. He’s moved on.”

“Whatever—”

“Whatever you’re up to, Carly, just stop. You know the only people you ever end up hurting are yourself, Michael, and Jason. I don’t know what happed in April, Carly. I don’t—I don’t know if I can believe you did it on purpose.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “You love Michael too much.”

Carly just stared at him, her eyes burning with hatred. “You don’t know a damn thing about me, Sonny. You never did. I was just a toy for you to play with when you got bored. You wanted me to be someone else. Jason will give me my son back. He always comes back to me. And you know that.”

“Carly—”

“Let him have his fun with Elizabeth. Because he’ll get bored eventually. Just like he did with the princess. He’ll remember how good we had it. How close we were to having it all—”

“And then he’ll remember why you don’t. Because you accused him of kidnapping, Carly. And then you married his brother. And Jason lost Michael. And then you and I broke his heart. His trust.” Sonny shook his head. “You know it’s never been the same. He’s never trusted either of us the same way again.”

“Sonny—”

“Jason might have been halfway in love with you, God knows why at the moment, but you burned him to the ground, Carly. No one else. You might want to blame Robin or Elizabeth, but the truth of the matter is no one took Jason from you. You destroyed him. You’re not doing it again—”

“Yeah, well, we’ll see about that.” Carly stalked past him and jerked open her door. “You can go.”

Sonny stopped at the threshold and looked back at her. “We loved each other once,” he said quietly. “And we lost our little boy. I loved him, Carly. And I hated AJ for a long time. I still do,” he admitted. “But whatever is going on, Carly, Jason and I can’t help you until you’re honest with us.”

“I don’t owe you anything—”

“Maybe not. But you owe Jason.”

Elizabeth’s Studio

Elizabeth pushed the key into the lock and turned back to Jason with a smile. “I’m glad you called—that we could go for a ride.”

When he followed her in, she turned to face him and leaned up to kiss him. Jason kicked the door closed behind him with one booted foot as he pushed her light jacket from her shoulders.

“I’ve missed you,” she murmured as she tugged his shirt upwards.

“I—”

And then his phone rang. With a mutter, Jason stepped away, dug his phone from his pocket. “It’s Carly.”

Of course it was. Carly must have fucking radar, Elizabeth thought bitterly as Jason answered. Never failed. As soon as she and Jason had a minute to themselves—there she was.

Maybe she was watching them.

“Carly—I can’t—What? All right. Yeah. I’ll—” Jason cast a look at her, and she just arched a brow. “I’ll be there.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. Of course he would.

“I have to—”

“Did you ask how high first?” she bit out, cutting him off. When he just blinked at her in confusion, Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Carly said jump, didn’t she? So, go.”

“Elizabeth—”

“She’s not going to tell you anything.” She grabbed her jacket from the floor and tossed it over the sofa. “You’ll go over there, and she’ll try to guilt you. And eventually you’re going to think that the only way Carly will tell you the truth is if you get Michael back for her—”

“Hey—”

Elizabeth faced him, jabbing her finger at him. “I am not Robin.”

He scowled. “What the hell does that mean?”

“I am not going to let Carly run my life until I loathe the sight of her and you. I don’t care where Carly was. I only care how it effects the people I love. And that includes you. And Bobbie and Michael. She does not get to waltz back in here like she wasn’t dead for five months, Jason. You grieved for her. And now it’s like—”

She closed her eyes. “It’s like we’re all just treating this like another episode in the Carly show. Well, Carly screwed up again. Let’s bail her out—”

“Is that what you think I’m doing—”

“You are drowning in guilt because Carly made you promise something completely stupid five years ago,” Elizabeth shot back. “But you know what? You promised her she could keep Michael, and she abandoned you. She walked out on you to deal with Michael on your own. And you raised him. He was your son. You made a promise to him to love him—”

Her voice broke. “And you’re so pissed at yourself because you broke a promise to Carly. Why the hell should that matter? Why isn’t Michael more important—”

“He is—” Jason sliced a hand through the air, all but growling in response. “Have I even once said I’ll get Michael back for her—”

“No. But you’re thinking about it,” Elizabeth said flatly. “You’re thinking if you can clean this up, if you can find out how Carly is in trouble this time, maybe you can make her understand why AJ has custody and everyone can live happily ever after—”

“I—”

“And it hasn’t once crossed your mind that maybe Carly doesn’t deserve to get Michael back at all,” she continued, scathingly. “Nothing AJ has ever done to Michael could be as bad as what Carly’s done to him. She’s used that little boy as a meal ticket for five years. She nearly got Sonny thrown in jail and still sued him for child support and alimony. She played you and AJ against each other after she got done drop kicking Tony Jones—”

“What—” Jason held up his hands. He took a deep breath. “Wait. Let’s just…let’s just stop this for a minute, okay? Let’s—”

“I get it, okay?” he continued when Elizabeth said nothing. “Carly has…Carly hasn’t done much for me except…” Destroy his life on a regular basis. “And you’re right. I do feel guilty because it’s one thing not to keep my promise when I thought she was dead, it’s another to actively keep her from Michael. But me feeling guilty, Elizabeth? It’s not gonna change anything. Because you’re right. I don’t know where Carly has been. Or why she was gone for so long. Maybe it wasn’t her fault. I don’t know. What I know is that Michael is safe where he is. Happy. And that has to come first with me. It does. It’s just—”

“Then why do you go every time she calls?” Elizabeth demanded. “Every single time. What’s going to change this time, Jason? Why do you magically think that this time Carly is gonna tell the truth?”

“I—”

“Because she’s won’t. She’s manipulating you. And I’m done watching.” Elizabeth nodded towards the door. “So, go.”

“What does that mean?” Jason demanded. “If I go, what, we’re done? What the hell does one thing have to do with another?”

“I will not play Robin’s role in this ridiculous farce,” Elizabeth said. “You humiliated her, Jason. You know that. And you drove her away. Because you kept letting Carly get away with everything. I don’t understand it and I don’t want to. Whatever is between the two of you—that’s not friendship. It’s sick. And I’m tired of it.”

“It’s been a goddamn week, Elizabeth—”

“It’s been years,” Elizabeth said, her teeth clenched. “Years. Because yeah, she’s been back for a week. But you’ve been playing her games for years.”

“Damn it—”

“I am done,” she repeated. “Because this will never change. Because if this—if you forgive her for this, if you take that little boy away from AJ because you think it will make Carly tell you the truth—”

“I never said I would do that—” But he looked away.

“Yeah, I’m not an idiot. I know you, Jason. I know how you think. And I know Carly. I can practically see the gears turning in her head. She keeps calling you when we’re together, Jason. Hasn’t that crossed your mind? Does she call you when you’re with Sonny? When you’re at work?”

“I—”

“No. She calls you when you’re with me. Because she wants to see if she can still make you dance to her tune. And you’re doing it. You are walking away from me to go to her.” Her eyes burned. “This is call number five. How long do I have to put up with it before you think it’s okay for me to be upset about it? Ten? Twenty? She’s never going to tell you where she was, Jason.”

“She will—”

“She won’t. Not until she’s backed into a corner. And you’re letting her off the hook. Because it’s Carly, right? She does insane things. Awful things. But she always has a reason, right?”

“Elizabeth—”

“She’s watching you. Or someone is watching you. Because she knows when we’re together. And she knew where AJ and Courtney lived. She still has her goddamn cell phone and that should be at the bottom of the fucking lake. She faked her death, Jason. I don’t give a shit how she did or if whoever helped her turned against her. Kept her away—you think because you and Sonny don’t tell me what you’re thinking, I don’t know?”

Jason held up a hand. “I don’t want to argue with you, Elizabeth. C’mon.” His voice softened. “I love you—”

“I love you, too, but you know what? I love me more. I have to put myself first. And if I honestly thought it was just…it was just going to be these couple of days, if I thought that we were just—going to have to keep our heads down until Carly came clean, then maybe I could deal with it.”

She closed her eyes. “But you know I’m not crazy. Because when it comes to Carly, there will be a next time. There is always a next time. You’ve been on this ride for five years, Jason. Maybe you like it. Maybe you like that she sees you as some kind of superhero that can fix anything. But I’m not playing back up. So, if you want to go and have another useless conversation with Carly while she just tries to guilt you—” She gestured to the door. “Be my guest.”

Jason took a deep breath. “She’s in trouble, Elizabeth. And Michael—we need to know the answers for his sake—”

“Stop. Do not use Michael.” The tears were hot as they slid down her cheeks. “You’re better than that. You need to fix this for her. Stop lying to yourself. You’ve made saving Carly your life’s mission, and you don’t know how to stop. It’s your life, Jason. You get to do what you want. But I do not have to stand by and watch.”

“Elizabeth—”

She walked past him, pulled the door open. “You should go. Because if you stay now, it’ll be because I’m upset. But you want to go. I can see it.”

He exhaled slowly. “I just have to-I’ll—I’ll tell her that this is it. This is the last time—”

“I think you honestly believe that,” she murmured as Jason passed her. “But it never is. There’s always a next time.”

She closed the door even as he was opening his mouth to say something else. And shoved the bolt home.

Elizabeth pressed her forehead against the door. It was the right decision, she knew that. She needed to make herself clear. To put herself first.

She just wished it didn’t hurt so damn much.