May 25, 2019

I’m cleaning out my Scrivener files and while going through The Best Thing, I found two small scenes I had cut when I made changes to the story. Seeing them reminded me that I had never posted all the planning material and plot outlines for that story. So I put up a small series in the Workshop with my outlines, my thoughts, and my back and forth with Cora over some of the finer details. It includes the entire custody battle I cut as well, so if you’re interested, check out the Workshop (it’s at the bottom of the page) or click on the first post: The Planning Stages.

I’ve also blogged about my writing process at Dear Isobel, so make sure you’re keeping up there.

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded

These are two small scenes that ended up not making it into the final version, probably because I decided to make Sonny’s final break happen at the same time and cut the custody battle. I think some of the dialogue might have been used elsewhere. These are from Audrey’s funeral.


Queen of Angels Church

Elizabeth stepped up to the podium, looking out over the gathering of her grandmother’s nearest and dearest. “Audrey Hardy was the heart and soul of my family,” she began. “And the heart and soul at General Hospital. She and my grandfather worked together many years, side by side, saving lives, dedicated to making Port Charles and the world a better place. My grandmother had many setbacks in her life—a difficult marriage, separations from my grandfather, finding herself responsible for a set of teenage girls—” She managed a smile. “And of course, one of those girls was me, so I think we can sympathize with her.”

There was some gentle laughter as Elizabeth continued. “My grandmother was the epitome of grace under fire. She struggled with a heart condition this last year, but rather than slowing down, she welcomed me and my son into her home, opened her heart to my brother, to our friends in Port Charles, and encouraged me to fall in love just one more time when I thought I was over it. She wanted me to find someone I loved as much as she loved my grandfather, and as always, my grandmother was right.” She met Jason’s calm, steady eyes and took a deep breath.

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,” she began, looking at her notes. “I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you wake in the morning hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft starlight—” Her voice cracked and she closed her eyes briefly, gripping the edges of the podium.

She opened her eyes and found Jason again. He’d leaned forward as if he’d been ready to stand. “I am the soft starlight at night,” Elizabeth managed to continue, sending him a reassuring smile. “Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.”

She pick up her notes. “My grandmother may have left, but she will always be with me, and I am stronger for it.”

Queen of Angels

Jason sat down next to Elizabeth on the pew. “Almost everyone has left for the Brownstone,” he told her. “Bobbie and Felicia said they’d hold down the fort until you got there.”

The service had run a bit long—Elizabeth and Steven’s eulogies had been followed by several hospital co-workers, and then burial service would be held the next day.

Elizabeth nodded, her eyes on the casket surrounded by flowers. “She knew she didn’t have much time left,” she murmured. “So she made sure to tell me how much she loved me, how proud she and my grandfather were.” Tears stained her cheeks as she looked at him. “Do you know what she said to me? What her last words of wisdom were?”

Jason pulled her hand into his lap and twined their fingers together. “What?”

“That if you and I hold on to each other, to our children, we can make it through anything.” She bit her lip and looked forward again. “She knew that from experience, of course. Because she’d let go of my grandfather a few times before they got it right. I think of what she lived through in her life—she lost her parents early, she cared for soldiers and war orphans in Vietnam, she endured a devastating marriage to a man who physically abused her, who raped her…” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “And she still had the courage to love one more time. To trust my grandfather would love and cherish her.”

He said nothing as she was quiet for a moment. “We didn’t always get along,” she continued. “It was hard for her to accept I had grown up long before my time. By the time I was eighteen, I knew more about the horrors of life than most people see in a lifetime. My rape, losing Lucky—” She looked at Jason. “You know when she disapproved back in the studio, it wasn’t about you.”

“I know,” he said quietly. “She was worried about you.” Because Elizabeth had seen her share of violence—she didn’t deserve more. “I liked your grandmother.”

“When I came home last year, do you think I must have known somewhere that she would be gone less than a year later?” Elizabeth asked.

“I think you saw Emily’s grief when she visited you in California,” Jason said, “and her sorrow that Grandmother would miss her wedding, her children. You didn’t want that regret.”

“Maybe. I still grieve for everything Gram is going to miss,” Elizabeth said. “Cam and Evie won’t really remember her, but she loved them both. And that matters. There are photos. I’ll make sure they know her. And Lila.” She smiled, looking down at her ring, knowing that someday soon, Lila’s own wedding ring would rest beside it. “Do you believe in heaven?”

“I’m not sure,” Jason admitted. “I want to. It…” he hesitated. “It helps sometimes to think my grandmother looking over us. Looking out for Emily. And that Sam can see Evie.”

“I wish she could see her daughter,” Elizabeth said. She closed her eyes and rested her head against his shoulder. “Just for a minute. So she can see how happy, how bright and beautiful she is. I hope if she is out there, she knows that she made the right choice in trusting you with her daughter.” Tears burned behind her eyes. “I can’t imagine the grief of not knowing Cameron. Of never having more than that one moment.”

He hadn’t thought about Sam much in the last few months, which seemed odd now since he saw her daughter every day. He could remember last winter, when he’d thought about nothing but Sam and her wishes for Evie, her desire to keep her daughter away from Sonny and Carly.

“Did Diane file the petition for adoption?” Elizabeth asked after another moment. “’You didn’t delay it because of my grandmother—”

“No. Diane filed it yesterday,” he said. “Sonny has to be notified. Even though he terminated his rights and never challenged my guardianship, New York law requires him to know about it.”

“Do you think he’ll challenge the adoption?” she murmured.

“Maybe,” Jason admitted. “Diane isn’t worried. He’s had a year to go after custody, and the fact that he’s been in contact with me the entire time weighs against him. If we have to, we can bring his mental health into it. I called Courtney and asked if she would testify in a possible hearing.”

“Will she?” Elizabeth asked. “I mean, you and I have seen some of the behavior, but our testimony would be self-serving. His own sister—”

“She’s also my ex-wife,” Jason reminded her, “but Courtney said she would. It’s better for Evie and the boys not to be around Sonny. Not until he’s stable. And that…that may never happen.”

“I know I said I wanted something traditional,” Elizabeth said softly, “but I want to get married. Soon. I don’t want wait.” She lifted her head.

“Elizabeth, if you want—”

“I wanted that kind of wedding when I thought my grandmother would be there to walk me down the aisle,” she interrupted, “and when we had a prayer of having Sonny be a part of it. That’s never going to happen now. I hate it, but it just isn’t—”

“We don’t have to decide this now.” He stood and pulled her up with him. “We don’t,” he repeated when she opened her mouth. “Steven will still be there for you. And I can ask Johnny or Max to stand up with me. I want you to have something special. You deserve that—”

She sighed. “I just—I’ve been reminded lately that life is short.” Elizabeth dipped her head and closed her eyes, resting for her forehead against the smooth material of his black suit jacket. “I’m tired, Jason. Would it be horrible if we skipped the Brownstone? Would Bobbie be upset? I just want to go home with you and be with my children. I want to shut out the world for a while.”

“I’ll call Steven and let him know not to expect us.” He reached into his pocket for his cell, even as he lead her away from the casket. Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder one last time before they walked out of the church.

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded
Here are my final outlines for the story, complete with a breakdown of the envisioned custody battle.

Post Engagement Announcement

What happens at the end of Part Two? The last event is going to be Sonny going on his meds, because I want Part Three to be the middle section—to be the part where he’s on the meds, with the warehouse explosion and maybe right through to the custody battle. Yeah, Part Three begins Sonny on his meds, engagement party, warehouse explosion, Audrey’s death, Sonny v. Johnny all through this. Then Sonny and Carly file for custody.

Okay, so at the end of Part Two.

It’s the second week of July. Jason and Elizabeth have announced their engagement to their family and friends, and there’s the scene where it’s starting to come together in Elizabeth’s head, maybe for the first time, that Jason and Sonny might not work this out. I think it’s always been a given that some how this is going to work out, even if she can’t quite work out how, but the reaction of Sonny to the engagement and to the possibility of getting help, plus the way Carly is working out — it’s driving home to her, that this might be the thing that doesn’t get fixed.

And she’s kind of sat back and just let Jason handle his relationship with Sonny, knowing that her presence in Jason and Evie’s life is a source of the tension. And it was one thing to let the chips fall where they may when she was on the periphery, just Jason’s friends, or when they were just dating, but she’s planning to be a permanent part of Jason’s life.

And she’s also pointed out to Jason that having been married to Ric, the darkness inside these brothers isn’t news to her. And she and Sonny do have a previous, if somewhat dormant, connection.

So Chapter 18 has to be about Elizabeth taking this step forward to speak to Sonny. Would she talk to Jason first? Probably not. Maybe she’d talk to her grandmother or Steven. Probably not Emily, who would only encourage her to follow Jason’s lead. Or maybe she’d just go on her own. That’s probably more likely.

So she shows up to talk to Sonny. Sonny’s manic episode is subsiding as fast as it blew up, and he’s teetering on the edge of a depressive episode, so it’s probably the most receptive he’s going to be. How does she broach the conversation? It needs to be Sonny’s POV.

He tells her Jason isn’t there, which is why she is, because she waited for a day Jason had other things to do. She knows that things are difficult, and even admits that her being here today might not improve the situation, but she doesn’t want to sit by if there’s anything she can do.

Sonny doesn’t know what to tell her. He created this situation and he has his reasons for it. Does it matter he no longer believes in them? That he sacrificed Sam and Evie to protect Michael and Morgan? Elizabeth tells him it was unfair that he’d had to make a choice—but it doesn’t have to stay that way. But Sonny can recognize that he doesn’t quite have a handle on how he considers Jason. Today, he’s upset for how things have been handled, but it’s always easy for him to regret in hindsight, but he can’t always control himself in the moment.

She agrees that it can upsetting to look back at things you’ve said or done and not be able to understand them. Her entire relationship with Ric feels that way. She refers briefly to her experience with therapy, and what she learned about herself—how, in her heart and her mind, she had never moved past the broken teenager in the snow trying to put herself together.

Sonny interrupts her—is she like Jason, thinking he needs help? What is he, Tony Soprano? She doesn’t know, except that just in her brief experience, she knows some thing’s changed. Because she remembers him the way he was when she met him. The first time they’d interacted at the garage—how he caught her. His kindness in those days. The way he gave Jason his space after the shooting. How he’d looked out for her when Jason wasn’t there. They’d been friends once, maybe even something akin to family.

Sonny remembers all that, and says he’s not that man anymore and she agrees — she’s not that girl anymore. They’ve both grown and changed, but that innate kindness he once showed her—that had been part of his core. Maybe he’s lost his way a bit, but she thinks that’s in him. She used to be a hellraiser, someone who didn’t take shit from anyone and always looked out for herself. She lost that ability after her rape, after Lucky’s death and allowed Lucky and Ric to define who she was. But she found it again.

Since her son was born, Elizabeth has been very careful with her choices and weighed them against her own sense of self. And maybe that’s why it’s working with Jason this time when it never did before. She never felt like she had much to offer to Jason, he never seemed to need her, not like Lucky or Ric. But she doesn’t have that desire anymore. She knows she’s worth more to someone than what she can do for them.

Jason does love Evie, and so does she, and while not being in her life as a constant presence would be painful for Jason, Elizabeth tells him Jason would do it in a heartbeat if it meant Sonny was okay. Because that’s why Sam wanted Jason to promise to keep Evie away from Sonny. Because Sam feared Evie would always be second-best, that she would treated as less than. That she’d be discarded as Sam had been. If Sonny stays out of Evie’s life, she’s going to grow up to feel that way, that she wasn’t good enough. Elizabeth has an idea what happens to a child who feels discarded by a parent in favor of other children. Does he want Evie to grow up like Ric, believing his mother loved Sonny.

It’ something Sonny has never considered, but it doesn’t mean he likes the implication. His mother made the best choice she could and can’t be blamed for Ric—which Elizabeth agrees. Ric has his own darkness, probably inspired by a lifetime of hatred instilled by his father and maybe something he shares with Sonny, but she doesn’t dwell on that. She knows Evie would grow up different. But she’d grow up like Elizabeth, maybe. Always knowing there was something different about her. Always feeling less than Sarah or Steven. Not neglected, not unloved. Her grandparents, her mother’s sister had made up for it. But there’s something about parents.

She doesn’t know if any of this helps or she’s making it worse. She just knows that when she and Jason started to discuss the kind of wedding they would have, she realized that it wouldn’t be right without Sonny standing up next to Jason. Despite all the problems, despite the pain, and the arguments, Jason still looks at Sonny as the man who looked at someone the rest of the world wrote off as something less, and saw more. She hopes Sonny and Jason can do something to make this better. If that means he talks to someone about the control problems or not, she doesn’t think any of them should just sit back and hope things get better.

So after that, she leaves. How does Sonny decide what to do next? He’s not going to talk to Carly, so he decides to go to New York to see Courtney.

Audrey should corner Jason to suggest an engagement party. Jason tells her it’s not necessary, but she really wants Elizabeth to know how much she approves of it all, and even to let him know that she approves. Jason doesn’t know why that should matter. She feels a bit faint, maybe a bit light-headed and sits. Jason’s a bit worried, but she waves it off. She hasn’t eaten today. She feels guilty for any part she played in Elizabeth’s troubles, in not supporting her choices, not seeing how she was sinking before she left for California. And also, she feels a small responsibility to him, because she was close to Lila, and his own grandmother can’t be there. And because Jason can see she’s truly trying to come to terms with her granddaughter marrying him, he agrees to the party.

So in Chapter 18, I have Elizabeth/Sonny, Jason/Audrey…I think there needs to be a Carly/Courtney interaction. A phone call in which she tells Courtney that everything is in the open, and that she expects Jason to sign over custody any time now. It’s a good plot point for a Courtney/Sonny interaction once he’s in New York.

Chapter 19. Sonny is in New York. Open with his talk with Courtney. Just discussing that she has also recognized the changes, and is glad he’s getting help. They talk a bit about Jason and Elizabeth, and Courtney asks about his hopes for Evie, and his marriage to Carly. Sonny’s not ready to deal with any of that yet.

Then there’s Audrey talking to Jax about renting Club 101 for the party. The Port Charles Hotel is still under construction — permanents and whatnot are still rough, so this is her best bet. Jax tells her that he sold it to Carly, and that’s a good thing since it’s a party for Jason. They’re at Kelly’s, and Jax points it out in Carly’s hearing, so Audrey decides to go ahead and book it to avoid causing problems, and Carly agrees.

Some Steven and Emily at the hospital. Steven is finally taking this Jason and Elizabeth thing seriously, haha, because before he was just a guy, and now he’s the guy. He admits he’s trying to lay back on big brother, since he’s barely qualified in years, but he’s just not sure how he feels about any of this. Emily understands, but there’s no one better. And she tries to pump him for information about his perfect woman, so he flees.

A Jason and Elizabeth scene. He talks about Sonny taking a sudden trip to New York, but he doesn’t really know why. She talks about her visit and worries maybe she made it worse, but Jason doesn’t think so. It’s been about three days between the visit and his leaving, and he was quiet in a way he hadn’t been in a while. Maybe he’s going to talk to someone.

And end on Sonny and Courtney discussing the doctor. He’s on medication for depression now, and he hopes this is a good turning point. Courtney’s a bit surprised he was diagnosed with depression, but she’s not a doctor, so what does she know? Sonny prepares to return to Port Charles, hoping for a change.

He’s on the meds for a month, and at first, he’s doing okay. Jason notices a change, and Sonny tells him he’s talking to someone. But he understands if Jason doesn’t believe him or trust it. Sonny doesn’t yet either, and it’s not the first good month.

Meanwhile, between July 15-August 15, business problems ramp up again, but Sonny seems to accept that Johnny isn’t involved. There’s a labor strike, or something that feels minor going on. Jason and Sonny are dealing with it. Jason tells Elizabeth that something has changed, but Jason isn’t sure how to trust it. She admits that she went to see him. Maybe that’s what encouraged him.

Carly feels a bit better about things, but Sonny is still reluctant to discuss Evie with Jason, and he seems to be pulling away from her more and more. She’s worried that Sonny might decide to leave her, making all of this for nothing. Some Courtney interaction here as a sounding board. She and Jason are avoiding each other, but there should be some stilted interaction, some discussion to other people about how it looks like Jason is finally done protecting Carly.

But the anti-depressants only work when Sonny is in the low point of his cycle. As he starts to cycle back up, because the labor strike isn’t breaking, the rumors of drugs and disappearing bookies, and more trucks being hijacks (something with the business problems getting worse), and Sonny starts to revisit the idea — maybe just to himself — that the Zaccharas are behind it, and Johnny is at the forefront. Still hanging around, whatnot. But he doesn’t voice it to Jason. He’s sure Johnny will show his hand and force things.

So the engagement party is not the end of Part 2, as I had originally outlined, but rather the toward the middle of Part 3. It’s in mid August, and Sonny is starting to cycle again. The mania is starting, but it’s light at first. Like Sonny is in a good mood. He’s looking forward to the party, looking forward to making changes. He’s been feeling so good that the line where he tells Jason it’s time to reevaluate the situation is less ominous and more helpful. There’s even a moment of relief for Jason, that even as he knows his role is going to change, that he’s relieved. He’s Evie’s father because that’s the role he had to play, but he recognizes it’s better for everyone, even Evie if is this not a truth that stays hidden.

Carly is less convinced. Because she lives with Sonny, sees him every day. And he’s not talking to her anymore. But she thinks he’s heading closer to the crash—because he’s so convinced everything will be okay. And she’s learned never to trust the world when it looks good.

So then we have Audrey’s illness starting mid August, after the party is over. Elizabeth is slightly distracted by the illness, and Jason is a bit with her on this as well, because he feels like he can devote his attention to her a bit more here because Sonny is doing better. They’re both tackling the idea that Sonny will be part of Evie’s life, and how to do that best.

It’s a brief down time — two weeks at most. And all notions of Sonny getting better, of Audrey improving end the first week of September. Sonny’s cycle breaks wide open when the warehouse catches fire. He had thought he was getting a handle on things, they had people on the Ruizes, but he’s been proven wrong. It’s not the Ruiz family, which means it has to be the Zacchara family. He blows up at Jason for not taking care of Johnny, for being too distracted by Elizabeth, etc. The cease fire is over. Jason starts to draw back from him — the fire has been ruled accidental, there’s no reason to say other wise so Jason sees this as the paranoia flaring again.

Johnny Zacchara disappears from PC, which Jason does not immediately take note of being related to Sonny. In fact, he thinks Johnny’s sudden absence points more guilt in his direction, and he starts to feel guilty for not seeing it. This needs to be the turning point—he needs to have a confidante in the business. Max is too loyal to Sonny, so we’ll go with Cody. Cody and Jason are talking about it. The men are antsy, they know some thing’s not right. And Jason starts making decisions based on protecting Elizabeth and the kids in case things with Sonny continue to get worse.

Audrey is in the hospital now with her condition, and Elizabeth is faced with losing her grandmother. Emily and Steven are there, Jason is there when he can be, and she’s not holding it against him. There’s not much he can do but offer comfort. Courtney and Carly need to be fleshed out a bit here.

Sonny has kidnapped Johnny—and this lasts about a week. The timeline on this is a bit shaky. Why does Sonny kidnap him instead of kill him outright? He wants Johnny to admit what he’s done, to vindicate Sonny’s suspicions all along. He’s in the manic episode, and it’s been exacerbated by the antidepressants, which only turn up the volume on his disorder. He’s convinced that Jason was protecting him. Jason is now the enemy.

Cody notices Max is absent with Sonny and tells Jason there’s no trace on Johnny anywhere and Anthony is starting to ask questions. Jason begins to suspect Sonny is involved, but has trouble nailing his partner down in order to ask the question.

Johnny gets free, but Sonny stops him before he can leave. Johnny gets to Max’s gun, there’s a shoot out in which they’re both shot, Sonny badly so. Max calls for help while Johnny escapes.

The same night Sonny is rushed to the hospital, Audrey passes away, so Jason and Elizabeth are already at the hospital. He gets word from Max to go to the ER, where Carly is already freaking out at Jason. Why didn’t he protect Sonny? What the hell is going on? Jason gets his answers from Max. Suspicions are confirmed about Johnny. Sonny’s out of control and out of commission, at least for a few weeks. Max, as loyal as he is, is starting to question. Jason has to take charge now.

Sonny’s shooting, coupled with the warehouse the week before — it’s the first time Nikolas and Steven are both starting to have doubts surface. Emily is also worried — not for the safety angle, just for the details. Things were supposed to be getting better. She tries to reassure them both, but Steven is genuinely worried. He’s just lost his grandmother, and he and Liz are just getting close again. Nikolas, however, gets Elizabeth’s resilience after the Cassadine nonsense.

So here we are — beginning of the second week of September. Sonny is laid up in the hospital, Audrey has passed away. Jason is taking over day to day operations—ostensibly while Sonny is out of commission, but in the back of his head, he knows the time has come to consider a true takeover. They don’t know where Johnny Zacchara is, and if Sonny managed to kill him, they have to make sure Anthony never traces it back to him. Cody has to be more a confidante here, and Max as well. Jason is trying to juggle this with Elizabeth’s grief.

What’s Carly doing during this period? She thinks it’s slipping away from her. She can see Jason stepping in, not seeing it as permanent because she’s always been able to read Jason. With this latest bit, there’s no way he’s giving custody over, which means if Jason isn’t going to do it willingly, she’ll have to force Sonny into it, and if she can engineer the reunion of Sonny with Evie, he’ll forget about leaving her. This is Jason’s fault. He could have made it stop and he refused. Her path is clear. The old if you’re not with me you’re against me schtick.

Jason and Elizabeth are keeping the children at Audrey’s. This is Steven’s idea, because he knows Audrey has left the house to Elizabeth. It’s good for the distance Jason wants to build between he and Sonny and Carly, but it’s a stopgap measure. He’s doing other security arrangements that are more in line with the danger he’s fearing. He’s trying not to really let on to Elizabeth how much is going on, not because he doesn’t trust her, but he doesn’t want her to feel pressured into forgoing her mourning, but Elizabeth is sharper than that. They have a frank discussion on the possibility he may have to take over the business. It’s not what she signed on for, but she’s not an idiot. He was always second in command to Sonny, and always something that could happen.

The hunt is on for Johnny Zacchara. He’s underground, and Jason has people on his girlfriend’s place but it looks normal.

Jason finally goes to see Sonny, and Sonny is still riding high in his manic episode. Zacchara’s dead, he shot the bastard and he’ll take out all the Zaccharas when he gets out of here. Sonny hasn’t quite crashed, but he’s lost grip on the control. Jason goes to Max and Cody. He’s taking over.

Carly can tell the tone of her security has changed. They’re not longer protecting the boss’s wife. Max no longer guards Sonny. She tells Sonny that Jason isn’t just running things while Sonny is in the hospital, but that he’s taking over. He’s been waiting for this moment, she continues, and Sonny showed his weakness by allowing Jason all this time with Evie. He needs to take back his daughter.

But Sonny isn’t so sure. The mania is subsiding. He’s off his pills, but settling back into a bit of normalcy, even sinking closer to the low point. He tells Carly that he’s not ready to be a father to Evie, she needs to lay off for all their sakes. He doesn’t trust himself to take the business back at the moment. He goes back the doctor in New York. Those pills aren’t working and describes some of his symptoms, while cloaking the obvious crimes. The doctor prescribes anti-psychotics, feeling that pulling a gun on someone is a sign of a psychotic break and suggests Sonny find someone closer to home.

This is towards the end of September. Sonny visits Jason and he’s not quite right, the new meds are making him fuzzy, but they’re doing the job for the moment to keep him stable. He wants Jason to continue staying in control. He’s on a new medication, and wants to see how this one works. Jason is relieved by this news and agrees. They each broach the topic of Carly very lightly. Sonny knows he has to make decisions but he’s not there. There may need to be Courtney in this.

As October continues, Sonny’s mood stays fuzzy. Even numb. He decides, on his own, to stop taking so much of the meds, and within a few days, he feels better. More like himself. He wants to start getting involved again, but Jason thinks it’s too soon. It’s only been two weeks since the conversation. Sonny agrees in person, but he’s not feeling it. He stops taking the meds completely, not enjoying the way his brain feels disconnected.

The first week of November is Evie’s first birthday, and Jason and Elizabeth have a party for her. They’ve both tabled the discussion of adoption at this point because Sonny’s been trying to get help. Johnny is still missing.

By the middle of November, Jason has given Johnny up for dead. He’s fielding questions from Anthony. Sonny’s episode is picking back up. He’s missed the entire first year of Evie’s life. He’s been trying to get help, and Jason isn’t even addressing it. He asks Jason to spend some time with Evie, but Jason hedges just a moment too long and it triggers something in Sonny. Remembering the conversation with Carly as to whether Jason had intended to trick him into handing over Evie, Sonny flips. He accuses Jason of it, of stealing everything that Sonny has. Does he want to get rid of Sonny? Does he want his boys? What’s next? What’s left to take? He storms out, but Jason has seen Sonny reach for his gun. He didn’t pull it, but the urge was there.

Sonny goes to Carly and tells her to call Jordan and file for custody. It’s time to end this.

Undecided whether to address Johnny’s fate before Nadine steps forward to Elizabeth about it. They’ve been floating in the background the story, but maybe for some of the stuff in the fourth part to work, they need to come to forefront sooner, perhaps after the shooting. And Nikolas and Emily have to be more in here, with her pregnancy around Audrey’s death or just before.

Jason and Elizabeth are discussing the immediate future when Diane reports to them she’s received notice from Jordain Baines that Sonny is filing for custody. They set up a meeting for the next day to discuss options. Jason knows that Sonny has been going downhill again, that whatever meds he was on this time didn’t work. There’s no way he’s okay with allowing Sonny custody at the moment. Elizabeth agrees. They’re going to fight this.

Carly and Courtney discuss her testifying on his behalf, but she refuses. Sonny needs help, he needs a real therapist, he needs something. Not this. Carly is pissed because Bobbie has already refused to testify.

Originally, I had Johnny and Nadine stepping forward at this point, but as I’ve adjusted the timeline a bit — he’s shot the second week of September, and we’re closer to Thanksgiving, I really think I need to pepper some more scenes in, some more Nadine with Emily at the hospital, particularly during Sonny’s shooting while he’s in the hospital, because she’s dealing with the same thing with Johnny. So their part of this has to start earlier, with Johnny deciding to stay low for a while. So at this point, he’s chafing and the custody news coupled with the takeover leads him to believe Jason would listen to him.

Emily discusses character witnesses with Jason and Elizabeth. Monica and Steven are testifying, Emily plans to discuss what she’s seen of Sonny. Bobbe is worried for her grandsons, about Sonny, and Carly isn’t listening to her. Diane also agrees with Emily’s assessment. It’s unlikely Jason and Sonny are going to let either lawyer go after their careers, so it’s likely to come down to the stability of their respective homes. Elizabeth wins.

The facts are clear. Sonny never contested the termination in the last year. Jason’s a member of the Quartermaines, whether he likes it or not. Diane plans to go after Carly, which makes Jason feel like crap, but Elizabeth knows Carly has engineered this. Sonny was really trying, really struggling to come to terms with hias problems. She has no doubt Carly is poisoning him in order to retain her position. Carly only worries about herself.

While the personal business is imploding, the business problems that have been plaguing the organization worsen. Trucks are hijacked, the warehouse is raided, Mac is convinced Jason is dealing in drugs — arrests are up. There’s some problems with prostitution. Jason is keeping it under control, but he and others suspect Sonny is pulling strings with another family, because some of the attacks are too targeted. They’re also dealing with the fact Johnny Zacchara’s body hasn’t surfaced and while Anthony isn’t after them yet, the time is going to come.

Courtney stops by the house before the hearing, and she and Elizabeth have a long talk. She begins by telling Elizabeth that she’s not going to testify for Sonny and Carly. She’d prefer to testify for Jason, but that might create more problems than she needs with Sonny and Carly. She honestly believes Jason and Elizabeth are the better parents, she’s just not sure she can get on the stand while Sonny is crashing like this and tell him he’s a bad father, and that Carly is, at best, a mediocre mother. She still loves them. However, she’s going to the hearing, because if at any point she thinks it’s going against Jason and Elizabeth, she’ll step in. Elizabeth is grateful, and knows Courtney is in a difficult position. They talk a little about the situation, how Courtney understands how it all unfolded, how she understands how Carly talked herself into this, that she always knew Jason hadn’t cheated on her. She admits to Elizabeth that she’s happy they’re together—she feels terrible that she trashed their friendship and used everything Elizabeth told her about Jason to win him for herself. Elizabeth admits none of them were stellar, but she’s not bitter. Without the way things unfolded, they wouldn’t have Cam and Evie. At some point, she hopes Courtney can be in Evie’s life, she’s her aunt. Courtney would like that, but she’s not sure how they could make it work.

Elizabeth tells Jason about Courtney’s visit, and he’s relieved she won’t testify. He’s also relieved she never believed he cheated. He should have talked to her, but he knew she’d disapprove. He tells Elizabeth he loved Courtney, but they were never going to work. She didn’t see him. Elizabeth does, she always did.

At the actual custody hearing, Diane leads with Elizabeth, establishing her role in Evie’s life, her art career, her own son. Jordan skips over much of the bad stuff, knowing that much of it isn’t admissible. Ric was never charged or prosecuted for Carly’s kidnapping, so there’s not much they can do on that end. She brings out that Elizabeth has been married twice to the same man, but there’s just not much dirt there. Diane puts Jason the stand, bolstered by Jordan’s light-going on Elizabeth, and asks him to describe the situation about the paternity change and the guardianship. He describes Sam’s last words, and talks about how he tells Evie stories about Sam all the time, and how Elizabeth painted a portrait of Sam and Evie for Evie’s room at Audrey’s home. Yes, Elizabeth plans to adopt her, to be a mother figure, but he plans for Evie to always know her mother.

After a parade of character witnesses who wax poetic about Jason raising Michael, to discuss Carly as a mother and Jason as a father, Jordan reluctantly puts Sonny on the stand to explain why he didn’t contest guardianship initially. Sonny’s story doesn’t really make him come across well (hiding it from his wife, having a second affair, with it’s clear from Carly’s expression she was unaware of), but then Diane rips him apart on the stand—talking about the shooting of Carly the night Morgan was born, Michael’s long absences, the faking of his death. She keeps pushing at Sonny, and he’s growing angrier and angrier as if he’s about to explode, and then Diane abruptly calls off the questioning and sits. The hearing is over, the judge will return with a determination in a few days, but there are very few people that don’t think Sonny and Carly have lost—Sonny may be the only one. After all, blood is blood.

Carly is worried — none of this is happening the way she thought it would, and now she can see Sonny is sliding toward an edge he’s never gone over before, and she doesn’t know how to make it stop.

There’s no air of celebration as the Morgan side of the courtroom separates and heads to their homes. Jason and Elizabeth will surely retain custody of Evie, but there’s no winners here.

Jason and Elizabeth head back to Audrey’s, and her heart is breaking for him, because she remembers Sonny once, and how wonderful he was to her, to Jason, how much Sonny meant to Jason. To see them at odds like this, she wishes they could have found a way to avoid it. He does, too, but he thinks the decision was made the moment he honored his promise to Sam over his loyalty to Sonny. It’s almost the same thing that happened with Robin in some ways. His promise to Carly resulted in falling in love with Michael, and he couldn’t see how things were falling apart with Robin until it was too late. But it’s complicated because of Sonny’s mental problems. He thought for a bit there there a chance they could come out the other side of this, but it’s looking less and less likely.

Nadine has kept Johnny informed about the custody battle, and he’s decided it’s time to make his move, and throw in his lot behind Jason. He thinks he can get his father on the right side if he does it right. He needs Nadine to make the contact, because it’s not safe for him in public with Sonny on the loose. She suggests going to Jason’s fiancee, Elizabeth. She goes to Kelly’s, she thinks that might work. Johnny agrees but makes her promise not to take any chances. He doesn’t think Jason will hurt her, but he can’t guarantee about Sonny.

Sonny’s reaction once they get home is disturbing to Carly. He doesn’t seem to realize how badly it went, as if he just doesn’t see it. She’s angry about the way it’s falling apart, that Sonny had another affair with Sam, and she’s angry that Jason didn’t help them avoid this breakdown. She sends Michael and Morgan to stay with Bobbie for a few days, not wanting them in the house.

Jason is trying to get things under control, but the word on the street is that Hector Ruiz’s son Javier has been seen in the area—that Ruiz is working with someone. Jason’s almost sure that Sonny’s gone to the Ruizes for manpower, which was a sign that Sonny was near the edge — because Jason finally has evidence the Ruizes were behind the sabotage altogether. Jason’s walking a very thin tight rope, which he knows will snap when Sonny loses custody. He cautions Elizabeth, tells her to take a guard with her at all times (she already does, but it’s just a reinforncement), and that the kids aren’t leaving the house until further notice. He can’t take them to penthouse because that’s where the threat is, and the other safehouse he’d been working on isn’t ready yet. He gives orders to Cody and Francis to work overtime making it ready. They’re going to need it soon.

Nadine approaches Elizabeth at Kelly’s. She tells her that it’s important she speaks to her, that it’s about Johnny Zacchara. Elizabeth is hesitant, remembers Nadine from the gallery, and steps into the courtyard for a quiet chat. Nadine tells her that she’s been dating Johnny for nearly a year, and that Sonny thought Johnny was up to something when he kept coming to town—he was coming to see her, after they’d met at a party in New York City. The night Sonny thought he killed Johnny, he came to her, she’s been hiding him, but Johnny wants Jason’s help getting out of this, and in return, Johnny will keep Anthony Zacchara from blowing them all up. Elizabeth didn’t know most of these details ,but she knew there as direct source of disagreement. She immediately brings Nadine to the warehouse.

Nadine repeats her story to Jason and Jason agrees to offer protection. He knows he’s going to need Anthony Zacchara on his side if Sonny is going to bring Hector Ruiz’s sons into this. Javier is more old school, like his father, but Manny is a fucking lunatic. He tells Nadine and Elizabeth stay exactly where they are. He’ll get Johnny to a safehouse, but he wants them safe in this room until Johnny’s out of Nadine’s apartment. He leaves.

Carly and Sonny are in the penthouse, and she’s wondering what she should do when the news comes down. She’s never been as good at helping Sonny in breakdowns. She’s tried to talk to Bobbie about what might be wrong, and doesn’t know that Sonny has been trying different medications. She thinks she’s opened a gate that she can’t close, and she’s aimed him directly at Jason. It’s a little late for regrets, she knows, but man, if Jason had just told her Sonny had had an affair with Sam while Carly was living across the hall, she would have left him. They’d been separated before but they’d been together. It would have been the end.

Probably. Maybe. But at least she could have made the decision, so maybe it was little his fault.

Carly gets a call from Jordan, and the judge has delivered her decision. They’re upholding the termination of Sonny’s rights. They’ve lost custody. And…the judge recommends social services be involved with Michael and Morgan. Sick to her stomach, she hangs up and reluctantly begins to prepare to tell Sonny the truth.

At the warehouse, Nadine is on pins and needles. She was so nervous about approaching them, and Johnny hated her doing it, he hated her being involved but it wasn’t like they had a choice. She hadn’t saved his life and nursed him back to health to see him screw it up now. Elizabeth completely understands. She hid Jason once while he was shot, and it was less dangerous in some ways, but one of her well-meaning friends started a fight with him that ended up reopening his wound. Also, he pushed himself. She tells Nadine not to worry. She trusts Jason to keep them safe. She gets a call from Diane, who gives them the joyous news. Elizabeth is relieved, but admits to Nadine she’s kind of terrified. The other shoe is going to drop.

At the penthouse, Sonny has flipped the minibar and Carly is terrified, because she’s never seen the look in his eyes before. He flips the coffee table, and then throws a vase. It crashes past her, and she’s cut by the shards. And his words begin to penetrate that haze. Jason is a traitor. Jason’s going to pay. He’s going to get his daughter. He doesn’t care who gets in his way. He storms out. Shaking, Carly calls Jason’s phone. No answer. She leaves him a message, and then texts him. Get the kids out. Move the kids. Sonny’s slid over the edge.

At the warehouse, Elizabeth and Nadine are startled when the guards rush in and rush them to waiting car. They’re going to the safehouse now. Elizabeth is upset, where’s Jason? What about the kids? Milo doesn’t know what to say. And then Elizabeth is quiet, because she doesn’t think she wants the answers.

At the safehouse (which is a compound outside of Port Charles with stone walls, security cameras, electric fences — Jason wasn’t kidding with making it safe.) Elizabeth and Nadine go inside, but Jason still isn’t there, and they’re still not answering her questions about the kids.

At the hospital, Emily is worried, talking with Steven and Leyla. Leyla’s friend Nadine hasn’t come for her shift, and she’s been dating Johnny Zacchara. Emily says she just heard from her mother that Sonny and Carly lost the case. Quartermaine connections at the courthouse meant they knew before even the participants. Steven wonders what Sonny Corinthos is capable of.

The door burst open at the safe house, and its Johnny with Cam in his arms, and their nanny, Nora with Evie. Elizabeth is relieved, but Jason’s not with them. Where is he? What happened? She takes Cam from Johnny, who rushes to Nadine. Cody tells them Jason is in the car behind them.

Jason comes in, and he looks haggard. There’s a cut on his forehead. Elizabeth doesn’t understand what’s happened. Were they attacked at Nadine’s? Jason says he’ll explain, but they need to get the kids calmed down and settled. And Elizabeth realizes they’re too upset for them just to have been picked up on the way from Nadine’s. But she gets Jason. Leaving Johnny and Nadine, she and Jason and the nanny take the kids upstairs. They get them calmed down. Jason apologizes to Nora for this, but she responds she knew what she was getting into.

Once Cam and Evie are calm and in the nanny’s safe hands, Jason and Elizabeth return downstairs. He tells her that Diane called him as they were in the car going from Nadine’s to the safe house. And three minutes later, he received a call from Carly. He ignored that, but then he got her text. He turned the car around immediately, and called the security at the house. By the time Jason and Johnny arrived, the car was outside, and the men were inside the house. The kids heard guns as the nanny and Cody were rushing them out the back, and men died.

Elizabeth is wrecked that Sonny sent armed men to the home they share with the kids, to her grandmother’s home. He would have killed the nanny, probably Elizabeth, would he have hurt Cam to get to Evie? She’s devastated, and looks like she’s going to crumble.

Instead, she turns away, takes a deep breath, and when she turns around, she looks steely-eyed, with a sense of resilience Jason didn’t even know what she had. She tells him okay, now she knows the situation. What’s next? Jason exchanges a glance with Johnny, and Elizabeth can see he’s about to send her and Nadine out of the room. She balks. Not after her babies were threatened, after gunmen went to their home. This isn’t business, it’s personal. Jason reluctantly sees her point. Sonny has allied himself with the Ruizes for their resources. Elizabeth gets it—Jason needs back up, he needs help. She looks at Johnny. It’s got to be his family to help, since Johnny coming to town to avoid his father is fed into this mess. Johnny agrees, and he’s already pledged his help to keep Anthony from retaliating. It’s not enough, Elizabeth tells him. She looks at Jason, Because he knows she’s right. He’s going to have to ally with Zacchara against Sonny. Johnny tells him he can convince his father to do that. He’s never liked Sonny anyway—because you know, Trevor Lansing and all.

Jason takes Elizabeth into his office. Nadine wants to know how much more dangerous this is going to get. Johnny tells her it’s going to get worse before it gets better. He can send her away, do something extra to make her safe, but she says she’ll call out of work for a few days and if Jason is okay with it, she’ll stay here. If he thinks his kids and his fiancee are safe here, she’ll be fine. Johnny agrees. He’s sorry about this, it’s hardly what she signed up for. She signed up for him, and whatever comes with that. Again, though, he’s lucky he’s cute.

Jason apologizes to Elizabeth for this getting so out of hand, could they have avoided it if he’d talked to Sonny earlier? Elizabeth isn’t sure. Sonny might have snapped earlier, there’s no way to tell. They have to concentrate on the now. She’ll stay here, with the kids, to stay safe. But he has to come home to her. They’ve come too far for them to lose each other now. He tells her he’s not going to make her promises he can’t keep. He’ll do what he can.

There needs to be a conversation between Jason and Elizabeth at some point during this scenario that uses the conversation, or at least the theme of it — Elizabeth recognizing the possibility that the only way Jason comes home is if Sonny doesn’t, and that he needs to know she’s aware of it. It doesn’t fit at the end anymore, because Jason isn’t going to kill Sonny anymore, but I think it’s important that Elizabeth really faces it, and that Jason knows she has.

Jason and Johnny leave immediately for Crimson Pointe to make the deal with Zacchara and secure his resources. He only takes Francis with him as security. Everyone else stays in Port Charles. Nadine asks Elizabeth how scared she should be, and Elizabeth tells her somewhere under terrified. She should have known it would get this bad. Carly was involved, and she just knows Carly kept pushing and pushing until Sonny was too far gone to control. She wonders at Michael and Morgan’s safety, and Carly’s location. Despite everything Carly has done to Jason, she knows Jason will take it badly if she’s hurt in the crossfire. Nadine doesn’t know Carly that well, but she’s never seemed that stable. Elizabeth blames Carly entirely, because she thinks Sonny started to change because of her. Because, maybe to with someone as destructive, selfish and needy as Carly Benson, Sonny need to kill that part of himself that was generous and warm. He’s never been the same since he hooked with the walking hurricane. Jason was smart to get himself away from that while he could. If Carly’s selfishness is the reason Jason doesn’t come home, Elizabeth will destroy her.

Jason and Johnny meet with Anthony Zacchara and Trevor Lansing. Johnny quickly explains that he’s been hanging out in PC, not in New York, he’s been seeing someone. Anthony figured, but he decided to let Johnny annoy Sonny. Well, unfortunately, Johnny admits, he annoyed Sonny a little too much, and Jason had to step in—not that Johnny knew this. Had Jason come to him, he would have figured something out. Jason’s annoyed by this, because, yeah, there’s a point, but let’s focus. He admits that Sonny shot him, and Johnny hid out for six weeks with his girlfriend, waiting for the right time to come forward. Now Anthony’s pissed, but Johnny says that the action caused Jason to split with Sonny and take power. But Sonny lost the custody hearing, and he’s going after Jason’s family. Johnny wants his father to back Jason in this power struggle, because Jason saved Johnny’s life.

Anthony isn’t keen to come in on either side of the equation, but he’s old school enough to understand that he needs to back Jason, as repayment for his son’s life. He agrees to supply Jason with anything he needs. And with his support comes other members of the syndicate on the East Coast. The Ruizes will back Sonny until it’s not useful to them anymore—and they want to work with Boston and New York too much to risk it for Sonny Corinthos, a two-bit player from upstate New York.

With the deal in place, and Anthony’s pledge to hold a meeting with the Families to make it clear to Hector Ruiz how the cookie crumbles, Jason returns to Port Charles alone. Johnny remains in Crimson Pointe to keep his father honest, but asks Jason to protect Nadine. She’s like Elizabeth—she’s only in this because she loves him, and she doesn’t deserve to get hurt. Jason agrees.

He returns to the penthouse to find it empty and trashed. And he finds Carly upstairs, bleeding from a head wound. He takes her to the hospital, and she drifts in and out of consciousness. She told Bobbie to get her brother to get the boys to disappear, because once Sonny realizes she sent them away, he’d come for her and she wanted them safe. Did…Sonny do this to her? He asks, appalled. She admits he threw her against the wall when she refused to tell him where the boys are. He’s out of control, she knows it, and she did this. She didn’t think long-term, she just wanted to fix her family, and instead she destroyed them. It’s all she knows how to do.

Shaken at Sonny’s actions—from injuring Carly to threatening children, Jason returns to his penthouse, to make it center of operations. He can’t contact Elizabeth, can’t give away the location of the safehouse. The house isn’t even in his name, or Elizabeth’s, but in Sam’s. He’d initally bought the property the summer before, thinking she’d want to live on her own at some point. And then he’d turned into a fortress to protect his family. Sonny’s not likely to look for Sam’s property. He hopes. He meets with Cody and Max about the situation. They’re trying to locate Sonny, what’s he going to do when he finds him? Jason doesn’t know.

At the safehouse, Elizabeth tells Nadine she wishes she could contact Emily and her brother. She’s sure they’re worried, and while Jason will eventually get around to telling them everything is okay, it’s not high on the list of priorities. Nadine asks how she can be in this life like this? What made her choose to really do this? And Elizabeth responds it wasn’t a choice, not really. She loves Jason. Every bit of him. Even the shadowy dark parts. She won’t say she’s not scared, but the end of the day, her family with Jason is worth it. Nadine admits that she loves Johnny, and she wants to think she’s cut out for this, but this has been such a shock. She hopes she’s strong enough, and Elizabeth thinks she might be. She hasn’t flipped yet.

Jason finds Emily at the hospital, and she’s been worried sick. There were reports of gunshots near the Hardy house, but nothing was found, and she knows about the custody decision. Where are Liz and the kids? Jason says they’re safe, to let Steven know that, too. If anyone asks, they went to California to see some friends Elizabeth made while she was living there. Emily agrees and tells him to be careful. He’s put a guard on her, and on Steven. Sonny might not think of them, but Jason’s not taking any chances.

Bobbie visits Carly in the hospital, and pleads with her to divorce Sonny. Carly agrees, and she’s worried about Jason, his kids, about her boys. They’re safe right? Luke hid them. Bobbie promises that Luke, with Lucky’s help, will protect them. This will be over soon. One way or another. Jason’s not going to let this stand. Carly feels like she’s seeing clearly for the first time in years and she’s destroyed over what she’s done, over what she allowed to happen to Jason, to Sonny. She’s the common denominator. She’s what went wrong. Bobbie can’t deny that.

Jason, in an effort to draw a confrontation, heads to the warehouse. His instincts are right…Sonny is there. And he’s alone. His alliance with the Ruizes is about causing trouble elsewhere—with shipments and the police, and the bookies, hookers. But Jason thought Sonny would deal with him on his own. Sonny confronts him about all that Jason’s stolen from him, and Jasonsays it’s true that he participated in Sam’s scheme to block him from Evie, but Sonny brought that on himself by lying to Carly and not coming forward. He took the business, but Sonny was putting them all in the danger. Jason pleads with Sonny to get help, to find a way back to the surface again, to be that man he knows, that he considers his brother. He knows Sonny, the real Sonny, wouldn’t have sent men after two small children, wouldn’t have thrown Carly into a wall.

Originally, I had this as Sonny’s breaking point, where he goes for his gun to shoot Jason, but instead, I think I need to hit Sonny’s POV during all this. The last time I kind of have anything from his POV is during the custody trial, and I don’t think I need a ton, but this scene needs to be in Sonny’s head, or I have to find a place for it.

Because Sonny’s starting to come down, the Carly bit probably would have been his trigger between the mania and the depression, and Jason’s pleas here might only exacerbate the situation — the depressive part of the cycle is when people are often most susceptible to risks of suicide, so it’s all coming down on him. He’s lost his marriage, his children, his business, his friendship, it’s starting to sink in that he sent men to take Evie, putting Elizabeth’s son at risk — it’s a crushing weight and Sonny turns the gun towards himself.

Jason aims for Sonny’s shoulder, which knocks the gun out of his hand. Sonny wants to know why he just won’t stop, if he were gone it would all be better, and Jason tells him that nothing is better that way. Or something. I’m not articulating the dialogue I picture very well.

So I don’t really know how I would wrap it up after this. I have this vague idea of Sonny going to the island, away from the stress. Carly recovering and taking the boys somewhere, maybe to Courtney in New York. Several months would pass, Emily would have her baby. There’d be some kind of wrap uo with Jason and Elizabeth going down to the island because Sonny has recovered.

I honestly think that there would be a lot more fallout if Sonny tries suicide, and the people around him would need to deal with that. There would need to be wrap up with Carly, because she’s been pretty damaged by all this. Which would have been true if even Sonny died. It might make the story longer, but it would probably be somewhat satisfying. I don’t know.


Surprisingly,  I don’t seem to have any notes for how to rework the story when I got rid of the custody battle. That tells you that it lifted pretty neatly out of the story and I definitely think the story is stronger for having cut it.

I have small snippets of some deleted material that I’m posting next, but if you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into my writing process and the way I thought about this story.

 

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded

I was looking though the various email chains with Cora because I really wasn’t sure at which point exactly I cut the custody storyline and it looks like I literally left it unil July 2015. I sent her the following the email:

So here’s my thing going forward. I’ve changed the end of the story a few times, but all the versions had this concept of Sonny losing it over Johnny, ending up in the hospital, and then having a depressive spiral that ends with him deciding to go after custody of Evie. Which is fine in theory, but as I started to write it, I found myself picturing how the men under Jason and Sonny would deal with this, and it’s always struck me that with Sonny being who he is, Jason represents the stability. Would men like this put up with Sonny putting them in danger? So I wrote them pushing Jason to make decisions, to take over. 
And once I have those scenes, I have to have Jason dealing with it, so I think I’m going to change up how I was going about this. I’m still going to keep elements. So in the chapters I’m going to send you later (I want to tweak them), Jason learns Sonny has Johnny locked up somewhere and isn’t using men from their organization to hold him, which makes Jason suspect he’s getting help from somewhere else. And the danger from Anthony Zacchara isn’t something to sniff at. 
So Jason tries to keep things status quo until Johnny’s situation can be resolved. Elizabeth is dealing with Steven and Audrey, of course. Audrey’s growing weaker, and surgery isn’t an option anymore. Jason is worried about his family being across the hall from Sonny, so Elizabeth suggests Audrey’s house so she can be closer to her grandmother and the kids can be out of the house. They move.
Audrey ends up in the hospital the same night as the shootout, as planned, so that goes that way. Caly pushes Sonny to make changes–she isn’t sold on the mental illness excuse (because it doesn’t really fit her narrative). By this time, Jason has taken control of the organization and told Sonny as such, so Sonny gives him what he thinks is a fair deal. Give back the business and he can keep Evie.  Jason refuses, and Carly and Sonny decided to go for custody, because she’s still convinced it’ll fix everything.
At the same time, Courtney is in the background talking to Bobbie, talking to experts and trying to get Michael and Morgan away from Sonny. She’s had conversations with Sonny that leads her to think his recovery was short-lived. I’m thinking that this could be the catalyst for the end of the story rather than the custody hearing.
So something like Bobbie teams up with Courtney, and they are successful in having a CPS worker come to the penthouse. Sonny’s anger during the interview alarms the worker, and she pulls Michael from school and Morgan who is with Bobbie that day. Sonny, having lost custody of his boys, decides to go after his daughter. Carly seems to get it now, which leads to that confrontation. And it takes place during the same time Nadine has gone to Elizabeth for help. Does that make sense? I need to tweak it a bit, I don’t know if it’ll work, but I don’t know that I want to drag out the story with a custody battle when I can keep the tension up. 
And I’m sorry for some of the spelling errors when I write these long emails, haha, I type fast and then never catch them 😛
By August 2015, the custody battle had been cut. But it stayed in long enough to be part of the final outline I wrote after making an even bigger story decision.

As you can tell if you’ve read the first two outlines, I had always planned to kill Sonny at the end of the story. It seemed like the natural narrative ending and I was suuupppper pissed at Sonny because at the same time I was outlining this story, he had just killed AJ on screen.

But then I started writing the story and I had to write Sonny’s illness in the story.  I had to write from his POV and the way characters reacted and I actually started to root for him. So I stopped to ask myself some questions and see what would happen if I kept Sonny alive.

So I wrote the following:

If I didn’t kill Sonny, where would the change happen? How would that work?

I could have him attempt to get help after his discussion with Elizabeth, but not really knowing where to go with it. Maybe he doesn’t tell anyone he’s trying because he doesn’t want to admit there’s something wrong.

But I want to keep the custody hearing because I want that black moment where Sonny goes for his daughter. So something needs to convince him he was wrong, there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s everyone else.

So what kind of treatment is rec’d for mixed bipolar I disorder?

Suicide is a major risk. Maybe that can contribute to the black moment. There’s a higher risk for substance abuse, there’s alcohol.

Maybe he doesn’t like the idea of taking mood stabilizers. Does he try them? Doesn’t like how it makes him feel? Maybe he could be on anti psychotics, which can lead to numbness. Antidepressants can aggrevate mixed episodes.

So therapy is less of a key for this. So let’s consider medications that may aggravate his condition. He could go during a low point in the cycle, Elizabeth’s visit could send him into depressive mode. Which might lead to him being put in anti-depressants.

This could ramp up the problems, which might lead to his shooting at the warehouse with Johnny. After that, his therapist could try the anti psychotic, but Sonny could really hate the way it makes him feel. Numb. Not like himself, so he could go off that around Evie’s birthday. He could tell himself he’s trying to get help, Jason should see that, and therefore he’s met the requirement. How should Sonny rationalize this? Which medications should he be on?

Anti-depressant: Paxil

Anti-psychotic: Abilify or Seroquel

Need to look up the side effects of these.

Bipolar disorder II is commonly misdiagnosed, which makes sense. Sonny gets a visit from Elizabeth, which makes him depressed. He wishes he could by the man she talks about, doesn’t believe he can be, so he goes to New York where he is much less known. Talks to a doctor who diagnoses him with depression and prescribes Paxil. This is mid-July.

Custody battle stuff, tweaked for the changes. Rest of story stays exactly the same, until the shootout at warehouse where instead of Jason killing Sonny, Sonny has a moment of lucidity and turns the gun on himself. He wants to make it all stop. Jason stops him by shooting Sonny himself. There has to be some changes to the Carly part of the story. I want them to get divorced, Sonny should probably head off to the island to get some help. Not clear on the details.

 

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded

With Cora’s feedback, I moved into writing the next outline. It set out my version of the universe and attempted to keep an outline.


Back Story & Details To Keep In Mind Before Story Starts

Picks up April 2004, after Elizabeth leaves for California.

Elizabeth, April – December 2004
Elizabeth goes to stay with relatives in San Francisco until Cameron is born. Her mother’s sister lives there, they were close until the woman moved to San Fran when Elizabeth was 13. Fell out of touch, but occasionally exchanged letters. She didn’t want to be completely alone.

Ric sent her money as a precursor to their divorce settlements, which were relatively amicable. Elizabeth agreed to the money only for a year, to give herself time and space to have Cameron and find something else to do.

While in San Fran, she started therapy, trying to understand how she married Ric again. The therapist encouraged her to get back into her art, to let out her bad feelings, her bad memories.

June 2004. Elizabeth is sketching, sitting on a pier with Cameron. What is she sketching? A door in the wall sliding open. An art dealer peers over her shoulder, makes her an offer for the finished sketch. They begin talking, and Elizabeth stays in touch.

July 2004. Elizabeth goes home briefly for Lila’s funeral. She’s nominally stayed in touch with Emily, but wanted some time and space. She learns that Jason is having a child with Sam, but Emily confides her suspicions about Sonny. She signs the divorce papers from Ric. She returns to San Fran, believing she may actually stay there permanently.

The art dealer sees some of the canvases she’s prepared — the hands stretched for Cameron, the red shoe, the chapel, the hospital, and tells her he has connection in New York. She needs an agent.

August 2004. Elizabeth’s new agent is negotiating a show in New York. Elizabeth has been talking with Emily and her grandmother. Her brother has recently accepted a position at GH. She begins to think about coming home.

November 2004. Elizabeth receives a call from Emily. She’s so upset — Sam gave birth to a little girl, but then passed away from bleeding. She’s worried about her brother. He hasn’t admitted that he’s not the baby’s biological father, and Sonny’s hanging around the hospital. In another call, Elizabeth learns Jason has taken the baby home, and with Emily’s help, named her Evangeline Grace.

She decides to go home for the month of December to see her grandmother, brother, and offer Emily some support.

December 2004. Elizabeth steps off the plane and decides to move home.

Jason’s April-December 2004
April 2004. Courtney files for divorce. Carly moves home with the boys, Sonny breaks off the affair with Sam. She learns she’s pregnant.

May 2004. Jason switches the paternity results, to Sonny and Sam’s annoyance. Carly doesn’t believe it, but appreciates the sacrifice to save her family. Sam agrees to go along with it because she thinks Sonny will change his mind. Sonny does so to save his family. Jason isn’t really considering the long-term. Courtney decides to move her foundation to New York.

June 2004. His divorce is final. He feels bad for Sam, who watches Sonny and Carly trying to work on their marriage. But Sonny comes over once in a while. Courtney moves to New York.

July 2004. Lila dies. Jason takes Sam to the funeral to bolster the image of them having a child together. He sees Elizabeth talking with Ric.

Later that month, he notices that Sam disappears from long periods of time. He suspects she’s having an affair with Sonny again.

August 2004. Sam is hysterical, telling Jason that Sonny wants to set her up like a mistress. Well, that’s it. He’s not getting near her child again. Jason thinks this mean she’s going to keep to the plan, and stay away from Sam.

Carly doesn’t know about the second affair, only that Sonny is distant with her. She thinks a child will fix that and decides to try to get pregnant.

November 2004. After Sam dies, pleading for Jason to raise her daughter, Diane Miller visits him. Sam tricked Sonny into signing a termination of parental rights petition, which has been filed. Sam wrote a will at the same time, leaving Jason guardianship of her daughter if anything happened to her.

Sonny learns from Jason what Sam did, and he’s pretty angry, but he realizes that this is his best chance to preserve his family with the boys. Carly, however, does know the truth, but would prefer to have her own child to fix her family. Sam’s daughter would be a constant reminder.

Emily’s suspicions are further confirmed when Jason struggles naming the child. She offers a name: Evangeline Grace. He agrees, and they call her Evie.

December 2004. Jason isn’t sleeping much. Sonny’s making a lot of demands on his time, he hasn’t had time to hire a nanny to watch Evie, so she goes to the penthouse a lot, and he’s conflicted about the choices he’s making because it’s creating tension in his relationships, but he’ll never forget Sam’s heartbreak and her pleas.

Part Divisions
Part 1 (Sanctuary) – Setup – Beginning to first bike ride (ostensibly the real beginning of their romance, everything else is just foreplay, even if they don’t agree)
Part 2 (Redemption)- Build – Emily sets Wedding Date – Engagement (the slow boil of the tension, the development of their active relationship)
Part 3 (Salvation) – Climax – Engagement Announcement – End

Part titles are just working titles at the moment. I may come up with something better at some point.

Act One – December 2004 – March 2005

Jason is on the docks, taking the free afternoon Emily has insisted upon. He’s just dropped Evie at Wyndemere and is on the bench, staring at the water. He’s exhausted, should probably sleep but reluctant to return to the penthouse where Sonny and Carly could and usually do pop in at any moment. He’s thinking about the situation, thinking about his choices.

Elizabeth calls out to him—she’s standing at the bottom of the stairs with her hot chocolate. It’s the first time he’s seen her since a brief glance at Lila’s funeral in April. He greets her, and the conversation is light at first. Emily said told him she was home for the holidays. Elizabeth nods, says it didn’t feel right not to have snow for Christmas after Boulder and Colorado. He asks her how she likes California. She likes it. San Fran is gorgeous. Has he ever been? Once, he went to Alcatraz. She finds that funny that as a tourist, he went to a prison. He thinks he’s always enjoyed this about their friendship—she has a way of making him talk about things that are light and trivial, lightening his own burdens.

Elizabeth tells him she saw him in July, had thought about going over to him, but wasn’t sure if it was right. He mentions he saw her, too, with Ric. She tells him they were just finalizing their divorce. She hesitantly tells him she was sorry to hear about Sam. He thanks her, but he feels awkward because he doesn’t really want to lie to her about this.

Elizabeth tells him that she’s on her way to pick up Cam from Wyndemere. Emily offered to baby-sit. Jason tells her that’s where Evie is. Elizabeth says she thought it was a pretty name when Emily called her in November. She’s quiet for a moment, because she says that’s when she realized how much things had really changed and ended between them. She’d heard about the birth of his child from her friend, and if he knows anything about her son, it’s also from Emily. Once, they would have talked to each other. He admits that’s true. She tells him it’s mostly her fault. She was so angry for so long, but she’s working through it now. She’s moving back home—decided when she saw her grandmother at the airport. It’ll be easier to be closer to New York, because she’s having an art show. He’s genuinely happy for her, knowing how much her art means to her.

Still hesitant, Elizabeth remarks on how tired Jason looks. She mentions she felt the same way after Cameron was born. He doesn’t really want to talk about that, so he remarks on her kid’s name. Cameron, after Zander’s father. Elizabeth knows a brush off when she hears it, and lets him. She’d thought about naming him Alexander for Zander, but she thought Zander might not have wanted to saddle his son with that. Better to go with Cameron, so she can tell her son that his grandfather was a kind and caring man who’d lost his life trying to save others. Being a mother is everything she never knew she wanted. She suspected how much she wanted it when she had her miscarriage, but Cameron’s birth opened up everything inside her. She thanks him for helping her last winter, with the charges and Capelli. Jason shrugs it off. She tells him that despite everything, he’s always been there when she needed him. She knows a lot of time has passed since they were really friends, but maybe that doesn’t have to matter. They’d gone a year without speaking before. He realizes he wants to tell her everything—from switching the results down to his suspicion that the choices he was making now were only going to make his relationship with Sonny worse, but he doesn’t want to lay any of that on her.

Still, he tells her that he’d like it if they could be friends as well. He misses her. Just sitting here, talking with her for the last half hour or so has made him feel a little more alert, a little more present. She’s glad, because it was always the reverse back when they were first friends. He disputes that. She was really the only person he ever spoke about Michael to. She smiles sadly, and then says words he’s not expecting. Is he afraid it’s going to happen again? That he’s going to fall in love with a child whose biological father will come for later? He’s wary, but Elizabeth just shrugs. She’d had her suspicions when Emily told her in July, and Emily has her own. Who else would she speak to it about?

Jason reluctantly admits the suspicions are true. Elizabeth encourages him to talk to Emily about it. His sister loves him so much, she’ll support him however he wants to be supported, but he needs to let people help him. He can’t do this alone. Jason tells her he’ll think about it. She tells him she’s got to pick up Cam, but reminds him not to be a stranger. He won’t. As she walks towards the launch, she turns back — you know what the best thing about being home for Christmas is? (being in Port Charles, being in New York, etc.) What? She smiles. The smell of snow. He laughs. Snow doesn’t smell, he teases. She grins. Yes it does.

Thinking about Elizabeth’s words for the rest of the day as he goes through the motions at the warehouse and avoiding Sonny and Carly, he decides she’s right. If nothing else, Emily deserves the truth for the unwavering support she’s offered him for months.

When he picks up Evie at Wyndemere, Nikolas is off at a meeting. He tells Emily about running into Elizabeth, and Emily thinks it’s awesome that Liz had the guts to just ask him straight out. She would never have done that. Is he mad she confided in Liz? No, Jason replies. It made it easier, because he’s never liked lying to Elizabeth, or her. Emily always understood. She just wants to help. He’s so tired and running on empty. Jason asks her for her help in hiring a nanny for Evie so she’s not disrupted by his schedule. Emily tells him anything.

Later, she tells Nikolas about the conversation, relieved her brother has opened up, and finding it lovely that Elizabeth was the reason she did. She always thought they’d be good for one another, and this is the first time she’s been in town with both of them being single. She wants to help. Nikolas is less on board with this plan. Isn’t Jason dealing with enough? And is it good for Jason to get attached to a child that isn’t hers? Emily tells him that Jason is the better man, the better father. Sonny isn’t the man she knew growing up. Carly ruined something in him that isn’t fixable. Nikolas tells her after the year the two of them had, anything to make her happy.

By the Christmas Eve party at the hospital, things are better. Sonny has relaxed his demands, and Evie is settling in with her new nanny, Nora. Elizabeth, Cam, Steven and Audrey go to the hospital party. Steven borrows Cam to hit on some nurses, possibly reference Nadine specifically, maybe even Leyla. I kind of want to give Lucky a very very far in the background piece of happiness. Nothing that would get its own scene, but that maybe at the engagement party, Lucky comes with Leyla, Emily references it. Just add more depth. Anyways.

Emily brings Elizabeth to introduce her to Evie. And then promptly abandons her with Evie and Jason to talk to Nikolas. Jason tells Elizabeth he took her advice and told Emily the truth. She’s relieved and he looks so much better. She oohs and aahs over Evie’s pretty velvet dress, which he tells her Emily picked out. She laughs, teases him about the image of him picking out little delicate lacy baby girl clothes. It’s a light, fluffy moment.

Sonny leaves Carly with Michael, Morgan, Courtney, and Bobbie and comes over to them, ostensibly to welcome Elizabeth home, but the look in his eyes makes her wary. He says he saw Cam across the room—he’s a cute kid, it’s just a shame he’s got a jackass for a father. Jason is annoyed on her behalf, but Elizabeth senses this isn’t about her. Sonny’s not even looking at her as he continues saying that while it was sad she had that miscarriage last year, it was for the best she wasn’t permanently connected to Ric. Now she is upset, and Jason is pissed. He tells Sonny to knock it off. Their problems are their own, and he has no business bringing Elizabeth into it. Maybe he should walk away.

Courtney notices the tense situation, and wonders what’s going on. She’s been out of the loop in New York. Carly tell her that Jason and Sonny are still having issues since it turned out they were both screwing Sam at the same time. Courtney grimaces at the reminder, but shrugs it off. Time in New York has convinced her that she’s better off. She mentions that she thinks it’s nice if Jason and Elizabeth are close again. Carly looks at her like she’s high, and Courtney just ignores that. Distance makes the truth clearer. She tells Carly she’s worried about Sonny. He doesn’t talk to her much, doesn’t return her phone calls. Is everything okay in their marriage? Carly admits they’ve been trying to get pregnant, but it’s not happening. Carly thinks privately that if she can’t have another child, Sonny may think he should go after Evie. Carly doesn’t want that—the reminder of Sam, to take away Jason’s child, it’s just a complication that isn’t worth it at this point. She can fix this on her own.

After the confrontation with Sonny, Jason pulls Elizabeth away from the crowd, and apologizes. He knows this was about him, Sonny shouldn’t have said it. Elizabeth says it was odd, like Sonny was trying to remember Elizabeth had had connections with men Jason hated. He agrees that’s what it was like, but he can’t think of why. Emily returns to their side and points out the mistletoe. Elizabeth flushes, and is annoyed, but Jason kisses her on the cheek and says it’s good to have her home. She grins and says this turned out much better than the last hospital party they attended together. She returns to her family. Emily tells Jason that Cameron is absolutely gorgeous, and she’s so happy for Elizabeth’s success. She’s sorry Jason doesn’t have someone in his life like she has Nikolas. Someone to make life a little…easier. He eyes her suspiciously, but she just smiles at him.

After the holidays, Emily comes to Jason’s penthouse and brings Cameron so Evie can meet him. She and Steven are splitting Cameron for the week Elizabeth is in California. She’s so happy things are better, that he confided in her. Thank God Elizabeth came home when she did. She feels guilty for Elizabeth being a singler mother, she could have handled the Zander situation so much better and maybe he’d be in his son’s life. Jason says Elizabeth looks like she’s handling it well.

The Christmas Party still on Carly’s mind, she goes to Dr. Meadows, who agrees that Carly is going to struggle to get pregnant. It could still happen, but probably not. She’s not sure how to fix her family. Sonny’s drowning in guilt over Evie, and she thinks maybe if Evie lived with them after all, Sonny would come out on the other side. But…what would happen to Jason. How could she do that to him? She just can’t. She has to think of another way.

The brief respite from tension (marred only by the Christmas Party) ends when Sonny reports that Johnny Zacchara’s been seen at Luke’s. He’s sure Anthony Zacchara’s son is up to no good, but Jason disagrees. He’s not involved with the business, and it’s more likely he’s trying to annoy the crap out of his father.

Elizabeth returns from California, having wrapped up loose ends and arranged for her belongings to be shipped. She wants to find a place for her and Cam, but is willing to wait to find the right place. She sold a few things in California in advance of her show, and has the money to pursue her dream. Audrey is relieved to have her settled.

Nikolas throws Emily a birthday party that’s children friendly, so Alexis will bring Kristina, Jason Evie and Elizabeth, but Ric stays home. He knows Emily has her eye on Jason and Elizabeth being together, and he also feels guilty about Zander, so he wouldn’t mind seeing her happy. Monica and Audrey coo over the babies, so Jason and Elizabeth have some space to talk. He looks so much better than this last month—like a normal single parent. He thanks her for her suggestion to talk to Emily. They talk about her art show. She tentatively asks about his relationship with Sonny and Carly. He admits it’s not good. He doesn’t spend much time with Michael or Morgan anymore, because he’s trying to keep distance between Sonny and Evie, and he feels like he’s turning his back on promises he made to Michael. He’s thinking of moving to put geographical distance. Elizabeth agrees he’s chosen a difficult path, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Elizabeth is discussing who to invite to the art show with Emily. She suggests Jason. He might not come, but it would be a good reminder of their friendship. Elizabeth agrees—he was always so supportive of her art, even when he couldn’t understand it.

Sonny and Jason discuss recent developments — some minor shipment issues, bookies taking off out of town. Sonny thinks it has something to do with Johnny Zacchara. Jason thinks it might be related the Ruizes. Alcazar was always connected to them, maybe he pointed them in their direction after he and Carly got back together. Sonny eventually accepts Jason’s thinking, but wonders if Jason remembers who’s in charge.

Carly learns from Dr. Meadows if she really wants to conceive, she’s going to have to do extra — like in vitro. Carly calls Courtney, who asks if it’s really a good idea to bring another child into their marriage. Things haven’t been right since Carly came home from South America. Is there really a marriage there to fix? Carly is angry because Courtney doesn’t understand it. A baby would give Sonny a reason to focus on their family. Courtney says if Michael and Morgan aren’t enough, then it’s not really a new baby’s job. Carly hangs up on her, because Courtney doesn’t understand.

Jason talks to Emily about the invitation to Elizabeth’s opening. He’s apprehensive about going. He’s glad he and Elizabeth are starting to reconnect, but it’s not really his scene. Emily tells her that she should to support her. It’s what friends do, and it’d be good for them all to get away from PC. And hey, maybe Jason could help — Audrey and Steven are going, but in order for Elizabeth to take Cameron and not leave him at home with a baby sitter for several days, or split him between Audrey and Steven, who couldn’t go to the opening together, Jason’s nanny could help. Jason decides to go. Emily is pleased, Nikolas rented an entire floor at the hotel so there’s a rooms available.

The day of the opening, Elizabeth stops by Jason’s suite to thank him for coming. They talk about the show and Jason asks what time she’s dropping Cam off with Nora. Elizabeth is confused, and Jason realizes Emily never said anything to her. He’s beginning to see Emily’s plan. He tells her that Em mentioned Audrey and Steven were splitting baby-sitting duties. He brought Nora so he could go to the opening and Evie could be okay. It’s no trouble for her to watch Cam. Elizabeth is hesitant but eventually agrees and thanks him.

At the opening, Elizabeth greets the PC contingent. Lucky is there with Leyla, the nurse from the hospital. Audrey and Steven are excited for her, and Audrey says how nice it was for Jason’s nanny to help out. Jason is the last one to come in, after Nikolas and Emily. Elizabeth tells him if he doesn’t mind, she’s going to stick with him for much of the night. People are already asking her about some of the paintings, and she’s having trouble deflecting some of the more personal questions. He’s intimidating, no one will bother her. Amused, he agrees. He’s going to need her help understanding the paintings anyway. She asks him where should they start? With her favorite. She tells him it’s the one she did, trying to recapture a moment in which her arms are outstretched, ready to hold Cameron for the first time, trying to capture the love, fear, and anticipation of finally being a mother.

He understands that. He has a photo of Sam holding Evie for the only time. Emily took it. He’s keeping it for Evie. He’d had to help her hold her, Sam was so weak, but she’d needed that moment. It’s why he’s honoring his promise to her, because Evie should know how much he loved her and tried to protect her. Even though it created issues with Sonny? He says he knows Sonny will come for her, he’s not stupid. It’s not going to go away, but what is he supposed t do? Pretend Sam’s wishes didn’t matter. He’d kept that promise to Carly, too. And he admits that he doesn’t think Sonny is a particularly good father. That sometimes he sees Michael and Morgan as possessions, rather than people. Well, he she knows that’s not how he sees Evie, and she’s in the best place possible.

Across the room, Nikolas is trying to decide which painting he wants to buy. He likes so many of them, but he’s drawn to one of a woman sitting in a bed, her hands at her head. The devastation, the loss. He knows its Elizabeth, and he wonders when it would been. Emily says softly that it’s the day she woke up after her pulmonary embolism, knowing what Ric had done. Nikolas doesn’t want that one now. He sees another one…and he knows it. It’s the fountain in a desolate winter scene, one lone red shoe with its strap broken laying by a bench. He doesn’t want that either. How can she paint these moments and sell them?

Emily thinks it’s Elizabeth’s way of letting those moments go. Putting them on canvas, and freeing them. He finally decides on one—a chapel scene, with candles lit in the forefront, two shadowy figures sitting in a pew. He knows it’s from Emily’s cancer scare. Emily sees her brother and Elizabeth in a deep conversation. She hopes she’s not meddling too much, she just feels like they might not decide on their own to reconnect—both too far away from another. Nikolas wonders if she should force it, but he’d like to see Elizabeth have less of these painful moments to paint, if Jason can help her do that, well, he’s not opposed.

Elizabeth has taken Jason to see some of the landscapes she painted while in California when someone she doesn’t recognize comes over, towing a reluctant blonde. He introduces himself as Johnny Zacchara, and he just wanted Jason to know he was there, in case it was mentioned later. He doesn’t want this to be a thing. He introduces Nadine as his girlfriend and compliments Elizabeth on her work. After they walk away, Jason looks pained. He says that Johnny is the son of an associate, and he’s been hanging around PC lately. He can see why now. Elizabeth asks if she should be worried, and he doesn’t think so. He just…doesn’t like it when that part of his life touches her. She rolls her eyes, and says he’s been singing that tune for years. The first time he saved her, the guy ran because of who Jason was. If they’re going to be friends, she’s not putting up with that nonsense. Jason understands, and it’s not like he can pretend his life is too dangerous, since he’s raising a child. Damn right, she snarks.

When Jason returns from New York the next day, Sonny demands to know where he went. Jason sees no reason to hide it — he was in New York. Is Jason picking out a new mother for *his* daughter? Sonny demands. Jason doesn’t know how to answer that. To himself, he’d be lying if he didn’t think of Elizabeth in a romantic way, he alwys had in some fashion, but he doesn’t think Sonny’s interested in Jason’s love life — it’s about the life Jason is creating for Evie, that has nothing to do with Sonny. He calls Diane Miller, and asks for a realtor. He needs to be away from the penthouse.

Sonny is annoyed about Jason reconnecting with Elizabeth and complains around Carly. Carly asks what problem he’s got with that, and Sonny doesn’t know how to answer her. He can’t tell her what’s really wrong. He just tells her that Jason gets distracted when he’s with Elizabeth. He should be focused on his job and Evie. Carly can see the guilt swimming in Sonny, and hesitantly brings up her pregnancy plans. Sonny isn’t interested in vitro.

Elizabeth and Jason run into each other on the docks a few weeks later (maybe a week and a half) She thanks him again for coming to the show. He had a really good time, he tell her, and he’s really happy for her. She sold almost half her paintings, and she made an insane amount of money. She won’t even know what to do with it all. He can see that she’s a little troubled, and she tells him it’s uncomfortable knowing that some of her darkest memories are on other people’s walls. She tells him why she started painting some of the scenes she had, that a therapist in California had rec’d it. It was her way of making them go away, to get them out of her head. But the painting of the park, with her red shoe? Someone bought it, and it went for over three hundred grand. She’s not sure how she feels about that. It was freeing to paint it, as if she’d really let go of that broken girl in the snow, but at the same time…

He says if she’s let it go, then why does it matter? She’s just wondering why someone chose that painting. He says maybe it spoke to something in them, and isn’t that supposed to be the point? He admits he bought the painting they’d looked at, of her arms looking for Cameron, because it reminded him of her, and of Sam and Evie. He thinks Evie will look at it one day, and he can tell her what the artist was thinking, and he can put how Sam felt that day into words better. She’s touched by that, and admits that Nikolas bought one she’d almost hoped wouldn’t sell — she’d painted the chapel, the night they thought Emily would die. They’re shadowy figures behind some candles, and she knew Nikolas bought it for the memory of Emily, but she liked that memory. That they could be there for each other. She knows he’s right, and she’ll adjust. Maybe the red shoe painting does hold a special meaning for the owner. He offers her a ride home, and she asks if he has his bike. He laughs at her, and tells her some things never change. She’s excited by the prospect of a ride, and replies that the best things never do.

Act Two – March 2005 – August 2005

During a conversation with Courtney, Carly reluctantly admits that Evie is Sonny’s daughter. Courtney is unsurprised. She and Jason had their issues, but they hadn’t quite ended their marriage at the point Evie was conceived. Why did Sonny give her up? Save their marriage, but Carly’s beginning to believe it can’t be saved as long as Sonny is swimming in guilt about Evie. Courtney gets it, but Sam left her to Jason, and Jason honored the promise, despite the complications. Maybe Carly should realize there’s not a marriage left to save.

Emily tells Elizabeth that she and Nikolas have finally set the date for their wedding in spring. She hopes Elizabeth will stand up for her, but she doesn’t want her to feel uncomfortable because Lucky is Nikolas’s best man. Elizabeth says that while she and Lucky are friends, that ship has sailed. They’re barely in each other’s lives now, and she prefers it that way. It’s easier for her to have people like that in her past. She rarely runs into Ric, as if he goes out of his way to avoid her, and she likes it that way. Emily is curious — so Elizabeth would rather have reminders of her past romances, how does she explain Jason? Jason’s different. And it’s not like they’re close like they used to be. Emily argues it’s exactly like it used to be. They run into each other, talk. He takes her for rides. Isn’t that how it started? Elizabeth is startled, she hadn’t thought about it that way. But Emily doesn’t push.

Lucky and Nikolas discuss his upcoming wedding, and Lucky admits he’s also uncomfortable that someone bought the painting of Elizabeth’s shoe. It was beautiful, like everything else, but that moment is so enshrined in his head, like a nightmare. Nikolas asks if he’s sorry Elizabeth and Lucky didn’t work out, and Lucky admits yeah, but mostly because he remembers how perfect life was before the fire, and how he hates that he ruined their friendship. They both did, by grinding their romance into the ground. They’d tried to so hard to recapture those moments that they’d destroyed each other. Maybe they’d have had a chance if they’d tried to get to know one another again, but instead, they’d tried to be those teenagers again. He hopes Elizabeth finds happiness, and admits he knows she’s been reconnecting with Jason. He’s been seeing Leyla for several months. He’s unsurprised Elizabeth and Jason are drifting back towards one another. It seems they always will until they get it right.

The little issues in the business are still present, but this time Sonny has more trouble accepting Jason’s answers about the Ruizes. Johnny is still hanging around the town, Luke’s, Kelly’s, Jake’s. Jason is unconvinced, and is concerned Sonny is talking about dealing with Johnny Zacchara. It’s a not complication the don’t need. He’s acting erratically.

Carly has also noticed the erratic behavior ramping up—she knows it’s because of Sonny’s guilt about Evie. She begins to think the only way to save her marriage is to get Evie back from Jason, but how can she do that? She tentatively tries to talk to Jason—maybe if he realizes how difficult Sonny is being, how much trouble he’s having with everything, he’ll volunteer to give Evie back. She gingerly asks him how things are going, even swallows her pride and asks about Elizabeth. Jason isn’t very forthcoming but Carly knows his face. Something’s going on. Maybe Elizabeth can help him if Jason has to give up Evie.

It’s now April. Elizabeth discusses moving into her own place with Audrey. She wants more room, a place for her studio. Audrey is happy to see Elizabeth settled. They talk about Jason a little, and Elizabeth admits she thinks something might be happening, but she’s not going to stake her future on it. It’s never worked before. She’s just going to let it unfold and hope for the best. She’s thinking of taking Cameron to Italy in the summer.

Jason has looked at a few places, asks Emily what she thinks. She supports him getting geographical distance from Sonny and Carly, but might it just make things worse? He’s not sure how to avoid it. Sonny’s acting erratically, and he’s not sure what Carly’s thinking. He doesn’t really see Michael or Morgan anymore, which he feels bad about. He wonders if Carly suspects—some of their recent encounters give him that feeling. Emily isn’t sure what to say to him. It’s a bad situation all around, with no easy answers.

Elizabeth runs into Jason in the park with Evie. She has Cameron. They sit and talk, watch Cameron share his toys with Evie. She talks about her search for a place to live, he admits he’s doing the same, but agrees with Emily that it might create more problems than it solves. Things with Sonny are deteriorating rather than getting better. Is he sorry he started this? Back with the paternity results? He admits if had thought it through back then, he might not have done it, but he loves Evie. He doesn’t know what to do now. He’s honoring Sam’s wishes. He shows Evie pictures, and tells her about her mother. He knows Sonny and Carly won’t do that, that Carly hated the other woman too much. He thinks Carly knows the truth, and the fact that she’s keeping it to herself worries him.

Elizabeth knows that means Carly has a plan, which never ends well for Jason. She wishes she could say something helpful, but there isn’t really anything to say. Has he thought about talking to Sonny about Evie’s custody? Jason has, but he thinks if he brought it up now, Sonny would want to take her, and Jason isn’t sure how he could justify keeping her if that were true. Is it better that they’re hiding all of this? She asks. It’s not his usual mo to stick his head in the sand. He’s used to confronting things. That’s not him anymore, he admits. He’s not sure when it became easier to just to pretend things were different than they were. He didn’t even know he could do that. She says that she used to do that, that she spent a lot time pretending that she could fix Lucky, that she could save Ric, but it was a mistake. He knows she’s right, but the last time he faced a situation like this, he walked away from Michael and now look at his life. Could he sentence Evie to being Sonny’s daughter?

Emily tells Nikolas she’s frustrated Jason and Elizabeth are moving at a snail’s pace. Because they’re perfect together. What the hell. Nikolas sighs, being the voice of reason, and tells her that it’s better this way. They’re not trying to recapture old feelings, trying to be who they were before Ric or Courtney. But they’re reconnecting as they are now. He reminds her Lucky and Elizabeth forced themselves into being someone else in order to be happy together. He knows Emily wants them to be happy, but if they’re going to be together, it has to be on their own terms.

Carly is also frustrated. She’s beginning to believe Evie is the answer to their problems, and if that’s true, she’ll have to figure a way to get Jason to give her back. But she can’t do that to him, unless he won’t be alone. But he’s not making a move to be with Elizabeth. She tries to confide in him about Sonny’s growing anger, to plant seeds, but Jason asks her point blank if she knows what Sonny is angry about, why he and Sonny are so far apart. Carly is hesitant, because she knows she’s given herself away. She just tells him she wants things to be as they were once, when Jason and Courtney were planning their wedding, and Sonny and Carly were happy. She wants that back. Jason tells her to stop living in the past and accept the situation as it is.

A period of peace for a bit. Problems in the business stop, but Johnny Zacchara is still hanging around. Jason tries to tell Sonny it’s because he’s seeing a nurse at the hospital, but Sonny doesn’t accept it. Jason distances himself from Sonny, who begins to delegate to other men in the business. He’s not cutting Jason out, but it’s not too far from the mark.

Elizabeth offers Jason an invitation to Cameron’s first birthday in the park. She wants him to bring Evie, He’s not sure, as he’ll be around her family, and she understands but it’d be nice for Evie to be socialized with other kids, wouldn’t it? Cameron will be there, and so will Alexis’s daughter, Kristina. Jason agrees, he just doesn’t want make anything difficult for her. He’s really not, she promises. They’re friends, and they both have young children.

At the party, Audrey is slightly dismayed to see Jason with his daughter, and wonders to Steven if Elizabeth is getting involved with him again. Steven reluctantly thinks if they’re not dating, it’s not far off. He’s seen the way they look at one another when no one’s looking, but he doesn’t think either will make a move. Emily overhears this and complains to Nikolas that she understands his point, but they’re both so hesitant. She’ll figure out something at their wedding at the end of the month. Jason hangs out until the party is over and tells Elizabeth he’s glad he came, that Evie had fun and it’s good for her to be around other kids. She’ll have a difficult life as his daughter, and he wants to make it easier.

Carly and Sonny’s marriage is still falling apart. They’re not arguing, but they’re not really communicating. Michael and Morgan are completely miserable, and she really thinks Evie would help. It would give Sonny someone to focus on, something good and fresh. She’s just not sure how to make it happen. She knows the cards she could play—she could tap into the growing distrust Sonny has for Jason, but part of her really rebels at that. She loves Jason. She also knows it can’t last — it’s either her marriage or Jason’s friendship, she’ll have to decide what’s more important. When she tries to explain to Courtney, Courtney is appalled by her reasoning. How could she exploit the problems to get what she wants? Carly tries to explain to her that it’s Jason’s fault. Jason’s the one refusing to help. If Jason just gives Evie back, Sonny will be okay. There won’t be any distance. Courtney tries to warn her that all Carly is going to do is make it worse.

At Emily’s wedding, Elizabeth is maid of honor, Lucky is the best man. Emily wishes her brother was the type to dance, but, eh, such is life. At the reception, Elizabeth makes a lovely toast about her friends and their love for one another, and how lucky they are to be able to spend forever with the right person. Emily tosses her bouquet and lands her target—Elizabeth. She tells Nikolas to aim the garter at Jason. Nikolas balks, because…no. But he reluctantly throws the garter wild, in Jason’s direction away from the crowd. It lands on his shoulder. Score! Emily insists Elizabeth and Jason dance because it’s her day, and damn it, she gets her way.

Jason and Elizabeth agree, and they’re both awkwardly amused, because they both realize what Emily’s been hinting at them for months. Jason hesitantly tells her that he’s thought about her a lot, that he’s glad she came home and they’re friends again. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed her, talking and taking rides until she was back in his life. Elizabeth admits the same thing, and they both know they’re admitting some a bit more than that, but neither really know what to do about it.

Emily is satisfied that something moved forward and leaves for her honeymoon in Greece, happy she’s put them in the right track. She knows that Sonny and Carly aren’t going to lay dormant, and Jason needs Elizabeth more than ever.

A few days after the wedding, Jason and Sonny have another argument about Johnny Zacchara. Jason gives him proof that Johnny is dating one of the nurses. Sonny insists its a cover. Zacchara’s coming for them he’s just taking his time. Jason doubts it, as Anthony Zacchara is a lunatic who wouldn’t know patience if it bit him in the ass. Sonny can’t understand why Jason doubts him. Hasn’t Sonny given him his daughter? Shouldn’t Jason want to keep him happy? And Jason is frustrated, because Sonny only agreed to let Sam’s con stand, not give Evie away. He storms out, and heads to Jake’s.

Elizabeth is also having a rough night. She’s run into Ric, who reluctantly admits that he and Alexis are having a child. He wants her to be happy, he hopes she’s moving on. He wants to make amends. She has moved on, but it’s the first time since she’s been home that Ric is bringing up the past, and she just wants it to stay there. She also heads to Jake’s.

She finds Jason already there, and she can tell he’s annoyed, frustrated, looking for a fight. Instead, she challenges him to a game of pool, promising she remembers the lessons he gave her once. He’s been drinking a little, just slightly buzzed. She tosses back a few as well. They start to play. She tells him that she remembers that day like it was yesterday and sometimes she wonders what might have happened if Lucky hadn’t shown up. He tells her he knows what he would have wanted to happen. She grins, and says she knows exactly what he means, but tonight, there’s an audience. It’s a shame they’ve both been drinking, it’s a perfect night to take out the bike. All she ever has to do is ask. She sighs, because that’s true, and wistfully she tells him she wishes he’d ask sometime. It seems like the decisions are always up to her. He knows what she means, but says nothing. They finish their game and head outside. His buzz is basically gone—once she’d shown up, he’d cut out drinking knowing they’d end up this way. He offers her that ride, and she agrees. But she wants to take the long way. Cam is with her grandmother, and already down for the night.

He agrees and takes her to Vista Point, and she looks up at the stars. She can’t believe how much it’s like it used to be. Just being easy with one another, taking rides, and yet sometimes they’ll walk right into an old memory. She can still remember the last time they were here alone. All the times they were here and he walked away from her. And asks him what might have happened if she’d chased after him one of those times? He doesn’t think in what ifs, he wants to think in this moment. He pulls her close and kisses her the way he’s been thinking about for months. And she kisses him back the way she’s thought about for nearly as long.

Emily returns from her honeymoon and makes a beeline for Elizabeth, who admits that she and Jason are seeing each other. Emily is beyond thrilled, and tells Liz that’s exactly what she’d been hoping for. Elizabeth tells her how…odd it feels to finally be on the right page, to have finally gotten the timing right. He’s not pushing her away, she’s not running toward anyone else. It’s just the two of them. Emily thinks she looks so happy.

Carly has also noticed the changes and decides she’s going to, at the very least, confide in Sonny that she’s always known. She tells Sonny that she knows they’re not happy, so she wants to start fresh. They shouldn’t have secrets, so she admits she’s known since before Evie was born she was Sonny’s. Sonny doesn’t know Carly’s bothering, and she just tells him it’s a sign of faith—a sign she wants them to be a family. She knows he’s unhappy. What’s wrong? He doesn’t feel like he can trust Jason anymore. Carly remembers Courtney’s warning, and isn’t keen on playing up the problems but she knows it might work, and it’s not like she’s creating the distrust. It already exists. And isn’t Jason the one betraying them? He can see Sonny is sliding towards the edge, and he’s refusing to help. Evie would fix everything, but Jason refuses to see it that way. She’s actually becoming angry, having talked herself into believing she and Sonny are the victims, and Jason the villain.

A few weeks pass in which Jason and Elizabeth spend a lot of time together.(collection of scenes, not sure exactly how to do this yet, would nail it down in storyboarding, depending on the flow of the story) Audrey is reluctantly approving, since it’s clear Jason’s good for her granddaughter, but she’s just worried. Still…Evie is adorable. Elizabeth spends a lot of time at the penthouse with Cam, and recently, she’s been spending the night several times a week. Audrey tells Monica that she’s aware that it’s just a matter of time before Elizabeth moves out. Monica is overjoyed—Elizabeth has always been her favorite, and she’s a great buffer in the awkward moments with Jason. Plus, there’s Evie and Cam.

In fact, Jason is thinking about the best way to ask Elizabeth to move in with him. Not to the penthouse, but to start looking for a place of his own. Because he knows Emily loves him, he reluctantly asks his sister for advice. Emily is overjoyed and tells him to just be honest about how much he wants her with him, and why he wants to do this. She tentatively asks him if he’s thought about marriage. He’s less sure about that. They’ve both been married and divorced, and it might not be a road either is in a hurry to walk down. Emily agrees, but tells him not to rule it out. It’s more than a piece of a paper, it’s a promise that means something. It should be, and she thinks with them it would.

Carly runs into Elizabeth who is in the park with Evie and Cam. She wonders why Elizabeth is with Evie, and Elizabeth says Jason is meeting them later. They’re both wary of one another, because Carly doesn’t want to alienate Elizabeth—she needs her to stick by Jason, but she also doesn’t want her playing mommy to the little girl Carly plans to bring into her family. She leaves, and Elizabeth is perturbed. She tells Jason of the encounter, and he thinks she has a plan, but they’re so far apart now, he doesn’t know what to do about it. He knows he should talk about it, but he’s beginning to think that won’t solve anything. He promised Sam to take care of her daughter, to love her as his own. He does now, and Sonny let him do that. How can Sonny take that back? Elizabeth says they have to do what’s best for Evie. She knows Michael is having issues in school, has been acting out. That Morgan is probably as unhappy—his entire life has been in turmoil. Is it fair to Evie? Jason admits that’s what’s hardest about this. If they brought out into the open, he’d still want Evie to stay with them.

Audrey has been feeling ill for several weeks, and finally is forced to admit to Steven that she’s having heart issues. It’s nothing serious, but at her age, she has to be careful. She doesn’t want to tell Elizabeth just yet. She’s hoping Jason and Elizabeth will move forward, so she can be confident that Elizabeth will be happy with someone. Steven reluctantly agrees.

Elizabeth and Jason are in bed one night, and he asks her to move in. Not here, but somewhere. He wants to be with her and Cam all the time. She’s hesitant, because she loves him, but everything is so perfect, what if moving in changes things and it stops working? Why would it, he asks? And naturally she’s just worrying, because she has no answer to that. She’s just…not been this happy in so long, she wants to hold onto it. He agrees, but he thinks it could be even better. He wants to adopt Cameron, and maybe she could adopt Evie. They could be a family. They could get married if she wants, if that will make her feel more secure. She doesn’t want to get married to feel secure. She wants to get married because that’s what he wants. He wants to be with her, to be a family. He remembers what Emily said about making those promises, and he tells her he’d like to make those to her. She starts to smile, because is this a proposal? Are…they seriously getting engaged? He grins, because yeah that’s what this sounds like.

Elizabeth calls Emily and asks her and Nikolas to come to her grandmother’s house the next evening for dinner. Emily agrees and tells Nikolas she thinks she knows what it is—after her conversation with Jason earlier. Nikolas thinks that’s great. By the way, how about they start working on their own family?

Carly talks to Sonny again about Jason, and Sonny’s feeling a bit better. He doesn’t know why he thought he couldn’t trust Jason. Jason’s just doing what Sam asked, what Sonny told him to do. Love Evie as his own. He can’t take that from him. Carly agrees, but she’s still not sure, because this could be one of Sonny’s cycles. She’s worried if he doesn’t resolve this Evie thing, he’s going to sink back into it.

Elizabeth gathers her grandmother, her brother, Emily and Nikolas, and Jason reluctantly invites Monica. They announcement their engagement. The shrieking from Emily is quite loud, but everyone seems genuinely happy for the couple. Monica thanks Jason for the invitation. Audrey wants to throw them a real engagement party, something special for them. Jason doesn’t really want that, but he sees Elizabeth looking at him, and he decides she does, so he agrees.

Carly finds out about the engagement when Audrey books Club 101 for the party. She had bought back into it during her separation from Sonny, and Jax sold her the remaining interest then. Audrey booked Carly’s club because she knows Jason and Carly are friends, andshe tells Carly she wants Elizabeth to know how much she accepts them. She’s so thrilled, really, which surprises her. But Evie is so delightful and she’s happy that Elizabeth is going to adopt her, and Jason going to adopt Cam. Carly knows her chances are sliding away.

Elizabeth thanks Jason for giving into her grandmother’s party idea, and he tells her it’s not his favorite idea, but he knows it makes her happy, and it’s not like it’s not something to celebrate. She just wants to be engaged for a while, and not rush into the changes. She wants to find the perfect place to settle down in, the perfect home. He tells her not to concentrate on perfect and just what feels right. He’s so literal sometimes.

Carly tells Sonny about the engagement and Jason’s plans to allow Elizabeth to adopt Evie. Sonny is annoyed. He’d been sure all along that this was going to happen, and if Jason is picking a mother out for Evie, he really plans to raise her forever. To be a family with her. He can’t figure out why this makes him so angry when he’s known the deal all along. Carly tells him that maybe he was right not to trust Jason—after all, he sure didn’t ask Sonny if that was okay, or tell them about the engagement. Sonny agrees with that. Maybe it’s time to remind Jason how life works.

Elizabeth convinces Jason to send Sonny and Carly invitations. The tension between them can’t go on forever, and they’re both tied up in knots about what they might do. Jason agrees it wouldn’t be good to leave them out, and agrees.

Emily is practically prancing with happiness because she has some amazing news—she’s pregnant. Nikolas is thrilled, but confused—did they just start trying? Silly boy, she tossed the birth control after the wedding. A little Cassadine running around, won’t that be awesome? Suddenly he feels ill.

The night of the party, Elizabeth is practically glowing. Evie and Cam are at the party initially, and even Kristina. Carly sees Kristina and Evie near one another, and is stricken because they have similar dark hair. She remembers that other secret she’s keeping and takes a hasty sip. Everyone is in awe at how gorgeous the kids look in their party wear. Emily insists on family photos and Sonny watches as Jason and Elizabeth pose, each other with the other’s child. It’s beginning to gnaw at him now. The nanny takes them both home. They’re celebrating Emily’s pregnancy, the best friends are over the moon about this.

Steven asks Audrey if she’s planning to wait until after the wedding to tell Elizabeth about her health problems, and Audrey says she’s not sure. They haven’t set a date yet, and she’s not sure how long she can hold off. She’s growing more tired. Steven is concerned. He’d like her tell Elizabeth after the party if possible. Audrey agrees.

Sonny approaches Jason to offer his congratulations. Jason is wary, knows he’s right be when Sonny tells him they’re going to have sit down and talk about how things are going to change now that Jason has a family of his own. Jason doesn’t think the situation should change, except he and Elizabeth are looking for someone to live that has room for her studio.

Jason tells Elizabeth that he thinks the situation with Sonny is going to get worse, and she’s sorry for it, but they’ll get through this together. As they’re dancing (because Jason finally gave in), there’s a commotion from the other side of the room. Audrey has collapsed.

She tries to play it off, tries to convince Elizabeth she’s all right, but Elizabeth isn’t stupid. She tells Audrey that if as a nurse, she doesn’t think she should go to the hospital, then Elizabeth will accept that. Audrey catches Steven’s eye and reluctantly nods. The party breaks up, as Elizabeth, Jason, Emily and Nikolas head for GH.

Act Three – September 2005-December 2005

Audrey admits that she’s been having heart issues, but she didn’t want to worry Elizabeth until she had to. Elizabeth is upset her grandmother didn’t confide in her, but reluctantly accepts the situation. The tests return and it’s not great news. Her heart isn’t pumping efficiently (mitral stenosis) and her medications haven’t controlled it as well. The only thing left is surgery. Elizabeth asks her to have the surgery, to be around to see her great-grandchildren, but Audrey feels the surgery and recovery time is dangerous at her age. She’s not going to have it.

Jason and Elizabeth return to the penthouse, and she’s weeping. To be so happy and know that in a matter of months her grandmother might be gone. Jason reminds her she’d been worried about her grandmother’s health, and it was why she’d moved home. She sighs, because of course he’s right.

The minor business problems are cropping up again, and Sonny is convinced that the Zaccharas are playing with their heads. Jason disputes that, the evidence points towards the Ruiz family. Sonny is annoyed Jason isn’t taking him seriously. Who’s in charge here, anyway? Jason doesn’t want to challenge him, but he’s conscious that if Sonny goes after the Zaccharas, it puts them all in danger, when they’re not even sure anything is wrong. He’s recognizing the signs of the breakdown beginning. He talks to Carly about it, but Carly tells him it’s Jason’s fault. Jason used to be someone Sonny could trust, and now Jason stole his daughter and he’s trying to usurp him. Carly has firmly talked herself into this position, believing Jason could have avoided all of this and was selfish instead. Troubled, Jason leaves the penthouse.

A few weeks later, Audrey passes in the middle of the night. Jason is distracted with Elizabeth’s grief and helping her and her brother with funeral arrangements. After the funeral, the will is read. Audrey has split her estate evenly between Elizabeth, Steven, and Sarah, but has left the house to Elizabeth in hopes she might raise her family there and be as happy as Audrey and Steve were.

Elizabeth asks if it’s something they can do, if they can secure the house. Jason isn’t sure about the long-term, but reasons they can keep the penthouse for when security is heightened. He agrees to move their family to Audrey’s home.

There’s a fire at the warehouse that’s ruled accidental, but Sonny accuses Johnny Zacchara of setting it. He tells Jason to eliminate the Zacchara boy. Jason refuses, because it was an accident, and he’s not starting a war. Sonny seethes and goes after Johnny Zacchara himself. There’s a shootout, and Johnny escapes. He holes up with his girlfriend, Nadine, dropping out of sight. Sonny ends up in the hospital.

Jason reluctantly tells Elizabeth that Sonny is out of control and making decisions that will put them all at risk. He asks her, not that he wants to discuss such things with her, but he’s not left with much of a choice–if she would remain with him if he took over the business, because he’s not sure Sonny will ever be stable enough to handle things again, and he has too much too lose. Her, the kids, and he even wants to protect Michael and Morgan. She fell in love with all of him, and she honestly suspected this day might come.

Jason visits Sonny in the hospital and tells him he’s done, and the men are already behind him. They’ve been behind him for years, and Sonny’s pissed, because he’s known for a long time the men were more loyal to Jason than him, and remained with Sonny because Jason did. This isn’t over. Carly comes by after, and Sonny is ridiculously pissed. He took care of the problem. Zacchara is dead, and Jason retaliates by taking things from him. This wouldn’t have happened, Carly tells him, if Sonny hadn’t let Jason keep Evie. It’s time Jason understood who has the real power. Sonny is pissed, but he still doesn’t feel ready to go for custody of Evie. His moods are bouncing, but he hasn’t quite hit the bottom yet.

Courtney arrives at the hospital, and Carly tells her that she’s done waiting for Jason to do the right thing. She’s going to make sure that Sonny gets what he needs, and he needs his daughter. Courtney tries to talk to her out of it again, talks to her brother. She begs him to get help, but Sonny doesn’t see a problem.

Jason and Elizabeth plan a birthday party for Evie, and it’s a low-key celebration at Audrey’s. It’s slightly somber, as Audrey has only been gone about a month, but Elizabeth is determined to make the best of it. She and Emily decorate, and make plans for Emily’s child, who is going to be a boy. He and Cam are going to be the best of friends. It’s well-attended by everyone that loves Jason and Elizabeth: Monica, Steve, Emily, Nikolas, Lucky, Leyla, Alexis, Kristina. Bobbie shows up with a present, but she doesn’t want to stay and complicate things. She just loves Jason so much.

At the penthouse, Sonny is reflecting on the last year and Carly arrives to report with some annoyance that she’d picked Morgan up from Bobbie’s as her mother was wrapping a gift for Evie. A year he’s missed of his daughter’s life. He tells Carly he doesn’t want to miss anymore. He’s thought about what she suggested. He wants to file for custody. Finally, Carly thinks, and she’s bolstered by Sonny’s quiet demeanor, not realizing that he’s in the depressive part of the cycle.

Elizabeth admits to Emily that things have been difficult since Audrey’s death, though they’re getting through it by trying to talk it out. Jason and Sonny are as far apart as ever, and she’s sure Carly’s been ready to turn on Jason for months. Emily agrees that the situation is about to explode, but she’s been expecting it for almost a year.

Jason and Elizabeth are tentatively discussing setting a date, just to have it done, not wanting to put off being married for too long when Diane Miller calls them to report that she’s received notice from Jordan Baines, Sonny’s lawyer, that he’s filing for reversal of the termination and to vacate Jason’s guardianship. Elizabeth takes the phone from Jason, who almost eerily quiet, sets up a meeting with Diane for the next day. They need to figure out what comes next. Jason isn’t sure. In his heart, he knows that Evie is where Sam would want her, that Sonny only sees her as something that belongs to him, but he also knows that by keeping her, it’s making things worse, that Sonny will spiral into a breakdown possibly, and without Jason to stabilize him, Carly’s liable to make it worse, and everyone’s in danger then. Elizabeth isn’t unsympathetic, but at the end of the day, is that the home he wants to send Evie too? No, he admits, and if he thought he could, he’d get Michael and Morgan away from them as well. So that’s it. They’ll tell Diane they’ll fight for custody, and she thinks they’ll win.

Carly tells Courtney about the custody suit and asks her to testify on their behalf. Courtney is shocked, but puts Carly off about testifying. Carly is angry, because her own mother isn’t going to testify, not wanting to pick sides.

Meanwhile, Johnny Zacchara is pretty pissed at the world. He was maintaining a low profile, to keep his girlfriend Nadine from becoming an issue for his father, and now he’s been shot for his troubles. Nadine is fretting, because she knows if Johnny’s father finds out about this, it’s going to be very very bad. Johnny tells his father he’s taken off for Mexico to give himself some to figure things out. He can’t just heal and pretend nothing happened, because Sonny’s fucking insane. Nadine completely agrees, but she’s heard gossip that Jason took over things after Sonny was shot. Johnny’s ears perk up, maybe. But he wants to lay low to make sure, because he’ll have to ask her to make the contact and he’s not thrilled about that. Neither is she. He’s lucky he’s cute.

Emily meets with Jason and Elizabeth before the meeting with Diane, and she wants to make it clear that she’ll corrall all the character witnesses she can find. Sam left details with Diane as to Sonny’s behavior towards the baby. Monica and Steven will testify. Bobbie has tentatively agreed to testify, worried for her grandsons. Sonny and Carly have no one. Emily has other ideas for character witnesses.

Diane agrees with Emily’s assessment. This should be clear. Sonny did nothing to take back custody in Evie’s first year. He signed a termination agreement, and it’s not Sam’s fault if he didn’t read it. Sam made it clear to Diane that she was planning to raise her daughter with Jason, and she signed a will to that effect, leaving guardianship to Jason. She hopes not to put Jason on the stand, but she doubts Sonny’s lawyer will cross him too much — Sonny’s arrest record is longer and more colorful, which will get Sam’s last wishes in. More importantly, Jason is connected to the Quartermaines, and his fiancee is well-loved and well-respected. It’ll come down to Elizabeth and Carly, and Diane plans to prove how crappy Carly is at motherhood. Jason feels marginally better, but is gulty at having to drag Carly through the mud. Elizabeth hopes he’ll wake up— that Carly was pushing this the last few months. She waited until she thought Jason would have Elizabeth and her son, trying to justify it. He knows that, and it’s…maybe he should have seen this coming. She pretended to be his best friend, but at the end of the day, Carly worries about herself.

The custody battle seems to open a line of attack—and problems become slightly worse. Shipments are outright stolen, drugs are on the streets, some hookers are beat up. Jason’s trying to keep it under control, but he wonders if Sonny is behind some of the issues. He wonders what happened to Johnny Zacchara’s body, and how long it’s going to be before Anthony comes for them.

Courtney stops by the house before the hearing, and she and Elizabeth have a long talk. She begins by telling Elizabeth that she’s not going to testify for Sonny and Carly. She’d prefer to testify for Jason, but that might create more problems than she needs with Sonny and Carly. She honestly believes Jason and Elizabeth are the better parents, she’s just not sure she can get on the stand while Sonny is crashing like this and tell him he’s a bad father, and that Carly is, at best, a mediocre mother. She still loves them. However, she’s going to the hearing, because if at any point she thinks it’s going against Jason and Elizabeth, she’ll step in. Elizabeth is grateful, and knows Courtney is in a difficult position. They talk a little about the situation, how Courtney understands how it all unfolded, how she understands how Carly talked herself into this, that she always knew Jason hadn’t cheated on her. She admits to Elizabeth that she’s happy they’re together—she feels terrible that she trashed their friendship and used everything Elizabeth told her about Jason to win him for herself. Elizabeth admits none of them were stellar, but she’s not bitter. Without the way things unfolded, they wouldn’t have Cam and Evie. At some point, she hopes Courtney can be in Evie’s life, she’s her aunt. Courtney would like that, but she’s not sure how they could make it work.

Elizabeth tells Jason about Courtney’s visit, and he’s relieved she won’t testify. He’s also relieved she never believed he cheated. He should have talked to her, but he knew she’d disapprove. He tells Elizabeth he loved Courtney, but they were never going to work. She didn’t see him. Elizabeth does, she always did.

At the actual custody hearing, Diane leads with Elizabeth, establishing her role in Evie’s life, her art career, her own son. Jordan skips over much of the bad stuff, knowing that much of it isn’t admissible. Ric was never charged or prosecuted for Carly’s kidnapping, so there’s not much they can do on that end. She brings out that Elizabeth has been married twice to the same man, but there’s just not much dirt there. Diane puts Jason the stand, bolstered by Jordan’s light-going on Elizabeth, and asks him to describe the situation about the paternity change and the guardianship. He describes Sam’s last words, and talks about how he tells Evie stories about Sam all the time, and how Elizabeth painted a portrait of Sam and Evie for Evie’s room at Audrey’s home. Yes, Elizabeth plans to adopt her, to be a mother figure, but he plans for Evie to always know her mother.

After a parade of character witnesses who wax poetic about Jason raising Michael—even Robin Scorpio has flown in from Paris, after Emily explained the situation—to discuss Carly as a mother and Jason as a father, Jordan reluctantly puts Sonny on the stand to explain why he didn’t contest guardianship initially. Sonny’s story doesn’t really make him come across well (hiding it from his wife, having a second affair, with it’s clear from Carly’s expression she was unaware of), but then Diane rips him apart on the stand—talking about the shooting of Carly the night Morgan was born, Michael’s long absences, the faking of his death. She keeps pushing at Sonny, and he’s growing angrier and angrier as if he’s about to explode, and then Diane abruptly calls off the questioning and sits. The hearing is over, the judge will return with a determination in a few days, but there are very few people that don’t think Sonny and Carly have lost—Sonny may be the only one. After all, blood is blood.

Carly is worried — none of this is happening the way she thought it would, and now she can see Sonny is sliding toward an edge he’s never gone over before, and she doesn’t know how to make it stop.

There’s no air of celebration as the Morgan side of the courtroom separates and heads to their homes. Jason and Elizabeth will surely retain custody of Evie, but there’s no winners here.

Jason and Elizabeth head back to Audrey’s, and her heart is breaking for him, because she remembers Sonny once, and how wonderful he was to her, to Jason, how much Sonny meant to Jason. To see them at odds like this, she wishes they could have found a way to avoid it. He does, too, but he thinks the decision was made the moment he honored his promise to Sam over his loyalty to Sonny. It’s almost the same thing that happened with Robin in some ways. His promise to Carly resulted in falling in love with Michael, and he couldn’t see how things were falling apart with Robin until it was too late. But it’s complicated because of Sonny’s mental problems, that he’s never received treatment for, and the business.

Nadine has kept Johnny informed about the custody battle, and he’s decided it’s time to make his move, and throw in his lot behind Jason. He thinks he can get his father on the right side if he does it right. He needs Nadine to make the contact, because it’s not safe for him in public with Sonny on the loose. She suggests going to Jason’s fiancee, Elizabeth. She goes to Kelly’s, she thinks that might work. Johnny agrees but makes her promise not to take any chances. He doesn’t think Jason will hurt her, but he can’t guarantee about Sonny.

Sonny’s reaction once they get home is disturbing to Carly. He doesn’t seem to realize how badly it went, as if he just doesn’t see it. She’s angry about the way it’s falling apart, that Sonny had another affair with Sam, and she’s angry that Jason didn’t help them avoid this breakdown. She sends Michael and Morgan to stay with Bobbie for a few days, not wanting them in the house.

Jason is trying to get things under control, but the word on the street is that Hector Ruiz’s son Javier has been seen in the area—that Ruiz is working with someone. Jason’s almost sure that Sonny’s gone to the Ruizes for manpower, which was a sign that Sonny was near the edge — the Ruizes were doing the minor sabotage to begin with. Jason’s walking a very thin tight rope, which he knows will snap when Sonny loses custody. He cautions Elizabeth, tells her to take a guard with her, and that the kids aren’t leaving the house until further notice. He can’t take them to penthouse because that’s where the threat is, and the other safehouse he’d been working on isn’t ready yet. He gives orders to Cody and Francis to work overtime making it ready. They’re going to need it soon.

Nadine approaches Elizabeth at Kelly’s. She tells her that it’s important she speaks to her, that it’s about Johnny Zacchara. Elizabeth is hesitant, remembers Nadine from the gallery, and steps into the courtyard for a quiet chat. Nadine tells her that she’s been dating Johnny for nearly a year, and that Sonny thought Johnny was up to something when he kept coming to town—he was coming to see her, after they’d met at a party in New York City. The night Sonny thought he killed Johnny, he came to her, she’s been hiding him, but Johnny wants Jason’s help getting out of this, and in return, Johnny will keep Anthony Zacchara from blowing them all up. Elizabeth didn’t know most of these details ,but she knew there as direct source of disagreement. She immediately brings Nadine to the warehouse.

Nadine repeats her story to Jason and Jason agrees to offer protection. He knows he’s going to need Anthony Zacchara on his side if Sonny is going to bring Hector Ruiz’s sons into this. Javier is more old school, like his father, but Manny is a fucking lunatic. He tells Nadine and Elizabeth stay exactly where they are. He’ll get Johnny to a safehouse, but he wants them safe in this room until Johnny’s out of Nadine’s apartment. He leaves.

Carly and Sonny are in the penthouse, and she’s wondering what she should do when the news comes down. She’s never been as good at helping Sonny in breakdowns. She’s tried to talk to Bobbie about what might be wrong, but the only thing that will fix Sonny is therapy and medication, neither of which he’s ever been open to. She thinks she’s opened a gate that she can’t close, and she’s aimed him directly at Jason. It’s a little late for regrets, she knows, but man, if Jason had just told her Sonny had had an affair with Sam while Carly was living across the hall, she would have left him. They’d been separated before but they’d been together. It would have been the end.

Probably. Maybe. But at least she could have made the decision, so maybe it was little his fault.

Carly gets a call from Jordan, and the judge has delivered her decision. They’re upholding the termination of Sonny’s rights, and approving Elizabeth’s petition for adopting Evie, subject to finalization after the wedding. They’ve lost custody. And…the judge recommends social services be involved with Michael and Morgan. Sick to her stomach, she hangs up and reluctantly begins to prepare to tell Sonny the truth.

At the warehouse, Nadine is on pins and needles. She was so nervous about approaching them, and Johnny hated her doing it, he hated her being involved but it wasn’t like they had a choice. She hadn’t saved his life and nursed him back to health to see him screw it up now. Elizabeth completely understands. She hid Jason once while he was shot, and it was less dangerous in some ways, but one of her well-meaning friends started a fight with him that ended up reopening his wound. Also, he pushed himself. She tells Nadine not to worry. She trusts Jason to keep them safe. She gets a call from Diane, who gives them the joyous news. Elizabeth is relieved, but admits to Nadine she’s kind of terrified. The other shoe is going to drop.

At the penthouse, Sonny has flipped the minibar and Carly is terrified, because she’s never seen the look in his eyes before. He flips the coffee table, and then throws a vase. It crashes past her, and she’s cut by the shards. And his words begin to penetrate that haze. Jason is a traitor. Jason’s going to pay. He’s going to get his daughter. He doesn’t care who gets in his way. He storms out. Shaking, Carly calls Jason’s phone. No answer. She leaves him a message, and the texts him. Get the kids out. Move the kids. Sonny’s slid over the edge.

At the warehouse, Elizabeth and Nadine are startled when the guards rush in and rush them to waiting car. They’re going to the safehouse now. Elizabeth is upset, where’s Jason? What about the kids? Francis doesn’t know what to say. And then Elizabeth is quiet, because she doesn’t think she wants the answers.

At the safehouse (which is a compound outside of Port Charles with stone walls, security cameras, electric fences — Jason wasn’t kidding with making it safe.) Elizabeth and Nadine go inside, but Jason still isn’t there, and they’re still not answering her questions about the kids.

At the hospital, Emily is worried, talking with Steven and Leyla. Leyla’s friend Nadine hasn’t come for her shift, and she’s been dating Johnny Zacchara. Emily says she just heard from her mother that Sonny and Carly lost the case. Quartermaine connections at the courthouse meant they knew before even the participants. Steven wonders what Sonny Corinthos is capable of.

The door burst open at the safe house, and its Johnny with Cam in his arms, and their nanny, Nora with Evie. Elizabeth is relieved, but Jason’s not with them. Where is he? What happened? She takes Cam from Johnny, who rushes to Nadine. Cody tells them Jason is in the car behind them.

Jason comes in, and he looks haggard. There’s a cut on his forehead. Elizabeth doesn’t understand what’s happened. Were they attacked at Nadine’s? Jason says he’ll explain, but they need to get the kids calmed down and settled. And Elizabeth realizes they’re too upset for them just to have been picked up on the way from Nadine’s. But she gets Jason. Leaving Johnny and Nadine, she and Jason and the nanny take the kids upstairs. They get them calmed down. Jason apologizes to Nora for this, but she responds she knew what she was getting into.

Once Cam and Evie are calm and in the nanny’s safe hands, Jason and Elizabeth return downstairs. He tells her that Diane called him as they were in the car going from Nadine’s to the safe house. And three minutes later, he received a call from Carly. He ignored that, but then he got her text. He turned the car around immediately, and called the security at the house. By the time Jason and Johnny arrived, the car was outside, and the men were inside the house. The kids heard guns as the nanny and Cody were rushing them out the back, and men died.

Elizabeth is wrecked that Sonny sent armed men to the home they share with the kids, to her grandmother’s home. He would have killed the nanny, probably Elizabeth, would he have hurt Cam to get to Evie? She’s devastated, and looks like she’s going to crumble.

Instead, she turns away, takes a deep breath, and when she turns around, she looks steely-eyed, with a sense of resilience Jason didn’t even know what she had. She tells him okay, now she knows the situation. What’s next? Jason exchanges a glance with Johnny, and Elizabeth can see he’s about to send her and Nadine out of the room. She balks. Not after her babies were threatened, after gunmen went to their home. This isn’t business, it’s personal. Jason reluctantly sees her point. Sonny has allied himself with the Ruizes for their resources. Elizabeth gets it—Jason needs back up, he needs help. She looks at Johnny. It’s got to be his family to help, since Johnny coming to town to avoid his father is fed into this mess. Johnny agrees, and he’s already pledged his help to keep Anthony from retaliating. It’s not enough, Elizabeth tells him. She looks at Jason, Because he knows she’s right. He’s going to have to ally with Zacchara against Sonny. Johnny tells him he can convince his father to do that. He’s never liked Sonny anyway—because you know, Trevor Lansing and all.

Jason takes Elizabeth into his office. Nadine wants to know how much more dangerous this is going to get. Johnny tells her it’s going to get worse before it gets better. He can send her away, do something extra to make her safe, but she says she’ll call out of work for a few days and if Jason is okay with it, she’ll stay here. If he thinks his kids and his fiancee are safe here, she’ll be fine. Johnny agrees. He’s sorry about this, it’s hardly what she signed up for. She signed up for him, and whatever comes with that. Again, though, he’s lucky he’s cute.

Jason apologizes to Elizabeth for this getting so out of hand, could they have avoided it if he’d talked to Sonny earlier? Elizabeth isn’t sure. Sonny might have snapped earlier, there’s no way to tell. They have to concentrate on the now. She’ll stay here, with the kids, to stay safe. But he has to come home to her. They’ve come too far for them to lose each other now. He tells her he’s not going to make her promises he can’t keep. He’ll do what he can.

Jason and Johnny leave immediately for Crimson Pointe to make the deal with Zacchara and secure his resources. He only takes Francis with him as security. Everyone else stays in Port Charles. Nadine asks Elizabeth how scared she should be, and Elizabeth tells her somewhere under terrified. She should have known it would get this bad. Carly was involved, and she just knows Carly kept pushing and pushing until Sonny was too far gone to control. She wonders at Michael and Morgan’s safety, and Carly’s location. Despite everything Carly has done to Jason, she knows Jason will take it badly if she’s hurt in the crossfire. Nadine doesn’t know Carly that well, but she’s never seemed that stable. Elizabeth blames Carly entirely, because she thinks Sonny started to change because of her. Because, maybe to with someone as destructive, selfish and needy as Carly Benson, Sonny need to kill that part of himself that was generous and warm. He’s never been the same since he hooked with the walking hurricane. Jason was smart to get himself away from that while he could. If Carly’s selfishness is the reason Jason doesn’t come home, Elizabeth will destroy her.

Jason and Johnny meet with Anthony Zacchara and Trevor Lansing. Johnny quickly explains that he’s been hanging out in PC, not in New York, he’s been seeing someone. Anthony figured, but he decided to let Johnny annoy Sonny. Well, unfortunately, Johnny admits, he annoyed Sonny a little too much, and Jason had to step in—not that Johnny knew this. Had Jason come to him, he would have figured something out. Jason’s annoyed by this, because, yeah, there’s a point, but let’s focus. He admits that Sonny shot him, and Johnny hid out for six weeks with his girlfriend, waiting for the right time to come forward. Now Anthony’s pissed, but Johnny says that the action Jason to split with Sonny and take power. But Sonny lost the custody hearing, and he’s going after Jason’s family. Johnny wants his father to back Jason in this power struggle, because Jason saved Johnny’s life.

Anthony isn’t keen to come in on either side of the equation, but he’s old school enough to understand that he needs to back Jason, as repayment for his son’s life. He agrees to supply Jason with anything he needs. And with his support comes other members of the syndicate on the East Coast. The Ruizes will back Sonny until it’s not useful to them anymore—and they want to work with Boston and New York too much to risk it for Sonny Corinthos, a two-bit player from upstate New York.

With the deal in place, and Anthony’s pledge to hold a meeting with the Families to make it clear to Hector Ruiz how the cookie crumbles, Jason returns to Port Charles alone. Johnny remains in Crimson Pointe to keep his father honest, but asks Jason to protect Nadine. She’s like Elizabeth—she’s only in this because she loves him, and she doesn’t deserve to get hurt. Jason agrees.

He returns to the penthouse to find it empty and trashed. And he finds Carly upstairs, bleeding from a head wound. He takes her to the hospital, and she drifts in and out of consciousness. She told Bobbie to get her brother to get the boys to disappear, because once Sonny realizes she sent them away, he’d come for her and she wanted them safe. Did…Sonny do this to her? He asks, appalled. She admits he threw her against the wall when she refused to tell him where the boys are. He’s out of control, she knows it, and she did this. She didn’t think long-term, she just wanted to fix her family, and instead she destroyed them. It’s all she knows how to do.

Shaken at Sonny’s actions—from injuring Carly to threatening children, Jason returns to his penthouse, to make it center of operations. He can’t contact Elizabeth, can’t give away the location of the safehouse. The house isn’t even in his name, or Elizabeth’s, but in Sam’s. He’d initally bought the property the summer before, thinking she’d want to live on her own at some point. And then he’d turned into a fortress to protect his family. Sonny’s not likely to look for Sam’s property. He hopes. He meets with Cody and Max about the situation. They’re trying to locate Sonny, what’s he going to do when he finds him? Jason doesn’t know.

At the safehouse, Elizabeth tells Nadine she wishes she could contact Emily and her brother. She’s sure they’re worried, and while Jason will eventually get around to telling them everything is okay, it’s not high on the list of priorities. Nadine asks how she can be in this life like this? What made her choose to really do this? And Elizabeth responds it wasn’t a choice, not really. She loves Jason. Every bit of him. Even the shadowy dark parts. She won’t say she’s not scared, but the end of the day, her family with Jason is worth it. Nadine admits that she loves Johnny, and she wants to think she’s cut out of this, but this has been such a shock. She hopes she’s strong enough, and Elizabeth thinks she might be. She hasn’t flipped yet.

Jason finds Emily at the hospital, and she’s been worried sick. There were reports of gunshots near the Hardy house, but nothing was found, and she knows about the custody decision. Where are Liz and the kids? Jason says they’re safe, to let Steven know that, too. If anyone asks, they went to California to see some friends Elizabeth made while she was living there. Emily agrees and tells him to be careful. He’s put a guard on her, and on Steven. Sonny might not think of them, but Jason’s not taking any chances.

Bobbie visits Carly in the hospital, and pleads with her to divorce Sonny. Carly agrees, and she’s worried about Jason, his kids, about her boys. They’re safe right? Luke hid them. Bobbie promises that Luke, with Lucky’s help, will protect them. This will be over soon. One way or another. Jason’s not going to let this stand. Carly feels like she’s seeing clearly for the first time in years and she’s destroyed over what she’s done, over what she allowed to happen to Jason, to Sonny. She’s the common denominator. She’s what went wrong. Bobbie can’t deny that.

Jason, in an effort to draw a confrontation, heads to the warehouse. His instincts are right…Sonny is there. And he’s alone. His alliance with the Ruizes is about causing trouble elsewhere—with shipments and the police, and the bookies, hookers. But Jason thought Sonny would deal with him on his own. Sonny confronts him about all that Jason’s stolen from him, and Jasonsays it’s true that he participated in Sam’s scheme to block him from Evie, but Sonny brought that on himself by lying to Carly and not coming forward. He took the business, but Sonny was putting them all in the danger. Jason pleads with Sonny to get help, to find a way back to the surface again, to be that man he knows, that he considers his brother. He knows Sonny, the real Sonny, wouldn’t have sent men after two small children, wouldn’t have thrown Carly into a wall. He knows it. But Sonny’s only hearing that Jason is criticizing him, undermining him. He shouts at him—he wants his life back, he wants what Jason stole, his kids, his business, his life. And when he goes for his gun, Jason is quicker.

After killing Sonny, Jason reluctantly returns to the safe house, and to Elizabeth. He looks in on Evie and Cam before sitting in a chair, watching Elizabeth asleep. She becomes aware of it, and wakes up. She knows, without speaking, what’s happened, and knows how wracked with guilt he must be. Jason asks how can she love him, he’s nothing but a killer, and Elizabeth knows she has to tread lightly, because he needs to know that she knows him for who and what he is and loves him anyway. She tells him that she knows that he’s killed people, with or without Sonny’s orders. She knows he’s capable of violence. But he exists in a world that isn’t black or white, but in shades of gray. She tells him that he has taken lives, but he is not a killer. It’s not the same thing. Today, he took Sonny’s life, but there was no choice. Sonny sent men to take their daughter, a daughter he never cared about until it was too late, until she knew Jason to be her father. He sent armed men into the home Jason shared with his family, either knowing or not caring Elizabeth would have given her life to protect Evie. In their world, by the rules Sonny himself taught Jason, what should Jason have done? Left Sonny alive so he could keep coming after their family? She grieves for the man she knew once, who loved Jason as a brother, but that man has been gone for so long. If Jason had died tonight, where would that have left her, Cam and Evie? It is the first time they have spoken about the nature of his job, of what he does, and though he know it shouldn’t, it soothes him.

The storm has passed. Johnny comes to Port Charles, to the compound to retrieve Nadine and tell Jason that Anthony, with the help of Boston and New York, has put the Ruizes in their place. They’re pulling out of PC, particularly in the wake of Sonny’s death. Johnny takes Nadine to meet his father, a terrifying prospect. Jason knows he’s going to owe Anthony Zacchara, which doesn’t entirely sit well.

Jason visits Carly in the hospital and tells her that after this moment, he’s out of her life. He understands what she did, and he’s glad she’s not hurt more seriously, but after this, they’re done. He can’t have someone in his life that’s capable of turning on him. Wherever Luke hid the boys, maybe Carly should go with them. She agrees.

Elizabeth is reunited with her brother and Emily. They were so worried for her, and Elizabeth admits that she was also scared. Steven says he knew she didn’t go to California, and he’s not going to say a thing about Jason. Just happy she’s safe. Emily tells Elizabeth that she has a pretty good idea what happened, and she’s relieved Jason has her to help him deal with this. He would never open up to her, but to to Elizabeth, he may. She can’t wait to have her kid in February, so they can raise them together.

Courtney comes to the hospital, stricken over Sonny’s death and Carly. Carly tells Courtney she was right all along, and she wishes she’d listened. She’s taking the kids and she’s going. If Jason will let her, can Courtney stay in Evie’s life? To tell her the good things about her father. Sonny wasn’t always the man he was at the end. Courtney agrees, and she’s just sorry she couldn’t stop this from happening.

Jason takes his family back to the house, and Elizabeth is relieved that it looks the same. They get the kids settled and Elizabeth realizes it’s two weeks until Christmas. She blinks and realizes it’s a year almost to the day that she sat next to him on the bench, to draw him out of his exhaustion. What a year it’s been. Does she have any regrets, he asked? She thinks about answering that question honestly—that she wishes she’d pushed him to resolve things with Sonny and Carly, that she had made a move on him sooner, that they could have found a way to get Sonny help. But instead, she tells him she doesn’t believe in regrets. She believes in looking forward. To tomorrow. To their family, to their lives together. This year has been tumultuous, insane, and amazing. I’m hoping I can write myself into an ending line about the best thing about their future. It’s my plan to write that phrase in a few times, but I don’t plan on forcing it.

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded

Cora and I went back and forth in a few emails which I summarized in my Scriv file. Her questions are in bold, my answers are in italics, and then her responses to my responses  (heh) are in bold italics.

Pacing/Arrangement of Events:

  • The pacing of the story flows and the timeline of events makes sense.
  • Is the part about Sam dying and the whole arrangement with Jason/Sonny going to be written as a chapter 1 to the story or in flashbacks throughout?
    • Right now, everything before Elizabeth coming home is just backstory. I wrote it into the outline so I could keep the version of events in my head. Some of it will probably be flashbacks during the custody hearing.
  • Do you plan on going back to the conversations between Jason/Sonny/Sam (i.e. Sonny agreeing to let Jason claim paternity) in the later chapters – specifically when Sonny has his breakdown? I think it’ll show Sonny’s erratic mental state if you go back and forth.
    • I know that Sonny needs to yo-yo more. I really want this to be about his illness in a way the show almost touched on in 2006 but wussied out. I’m doing some research on bipolar, and they said the depressive episodes can last 6-12 months, with manic episodes spruced in there. So I want this to be almost a tragedy, and that’s why Jason tries to plead with him at the end to get help, because that man is still in there. At the same time though, I can’t ignore that Sonny changed after Carly came into his life. So I really have to get Sonny just right

Characterization & thoughts about characters

  • The actions are true to the characters. The only character whose actions I’m having trouble reasoning is Carly. It makes sense for her to want her family with Sonny to work out but I’m having a hard time seeing how she can easily turn her loyalty away from Jason to Sonny. Perhaps she is torn between the two? It seems that way in certain scenes and then in others she seems very vindictive towards Jason. Are you channeling the way Carly was during the period she married AJ to keep Michael? If I remember correctly, she still loved Jason during that time so it’s hard to understand why she would think turning Sonny against Jason would be okay.
    • Carly’s going to be difficult to nail, which is why I’m trying to build her frustration. Her inability to get pregnant to fix her family needs to fester more, I’m just trying to figure out how long to draw it out. I think some scenes of seeing Jason with his daughter to drive home the fact that she needs to fix her family. I do need the decision to turn on Jason to be more organic, as an inevitable. She loves him, but her children, her family means more, and in her head, I think I need her to feel betrayed. Can’t Jason see that this is what her family needs? Hasn’t he always given her what she needed before? She almost feels like he’s being selfish. Didn’t she wait until Elizabeth was in his life, until Jason had someone to help him? The scenes with Sonny when she feeds his distrust of Jason are going be tricky, because I don’t want her to actively trying to push Sonny, but just that she knows which buttons to push, you know? And then for her to have the realization once she’s in the custody hearing that Sonny’s going over the edge, it’s her fault, and she can’t stop it.
      • If you can show Carly’s frustration and her sense of betrayal, her actions will make perfect sense. Also, I like that you are waiting for Jason to be with Elizabeth so Carly can justify her actions. In a sense it’s like her telling him “You have someone to lean on and you will be getting a son in Cameron, can we have Evie now?” haha. Seems very Carly-like to want Jason to be taken care of before she “takes” Evie away.
  • I like your inclusion of the Zaccharas and Nadine. The pages prior to page 15 only mention Johnny in passing. Are you going to include any scenes between Jason/Sonny/Johnny beforehand or only after Sonny and Johnny both get shot?
    • There needs to be more Nohnny in some sense, but I like the idea of them remaining background until Sonny makes them the issue, as Jason is correct all along — Johnny’s just hanging around to date Nadine. It’s nothing to do with Sonny. So in my head, since this is more Jason’s story, Johnny’s just not a factor until Sonny tries to kill him. But that may not work in reality. He may need more to do later, or there may need to be a confrontation.
      • Perhaps you can insert Johnny into the scene for Elizabeth’s art show? Introduce him that way? He takes Nadine out to the show and purchases a painting for her or Claudia? I feel like the red shoe/park painting would be something Claudia might own. That’s one way to incorporate more Nohnny.
  • Great choice of antagonists. I like the introduction of the Ruiz clan but there’s no mention of Alcazar. How do you plan on writing off his character since he was tied to both Sonny and Carly during that time period? Perhaps you can mention Alcazar when you have Emily think that Carly ruined some part of Sonny? Carly’s actions with Alcazar could also explain why she is trying so hard to work it out with Sonny.
    • I think I’m planning to write Alcazar out at some point. I liked him and Carly, but once she goes back to Sonny and makes that commitment, maybe he takes off. Even puts the Ruizes in place to go after Sonny and make his life miserable.
  • Will you be including any scenes in regards to a relationship between the Corinthos’ boys and Evie? I would think Michael would want to visit his “cousin” and Jason would let him because he loves Michael. Also, since Morgan is one – two years old when this takes place, wouldn’t Carly want to socialize Morgan with Evie?
    • I don’t think I’ll be including much of Michael and Morgan, mostly because the story is really about the distance between Jason and Sonny, and in some ways, Jason trying really hard not to put Evie in their orbit. He’s torn because part of him knows his actions are disloyal to Sonny, but he knows his promise to Sam means more in the long run. So in the beginning, one of his big frustations is that Sonny is overworking him, he can’t hire a nanny for Evie, so when Sonny calls him, he has to take the little girl to Sonny and Carly. Her schedule is disrupted, it’s just a mess, and he knows Carly resents Evie for what she almost represented (and Carly never really sees Evie as a little girl in her own right, it’s always just a way to fix Sonny, to fix her marriage, so she really does resent her early on before she admits she knows the truth). So maybe a few scenes of Jason trying to maintain a fine balance between Michael and Evie, because Michael’s old enough to know better. Sometthing work adding to a Liason scene, maybe.
  • You mention Courtney is passing in the story but not much else. What happens to her character? In April 2004, she hit Jason in the head so he wouldn’t kill Alcazar. Does she fall off the face of the earth afterwards? I don’t mind that choice because I loathe her but did you mention what happens to her character and why she doesn’t appear in the fic? Not sure if I missed it or not.
    • Courtney’s insigificant in this fic, though she really shouldn’t be. I have a difficult time adding her in all these years later, haha. I’ll probably have her moving to New York. She’d mostly cut ties with Sonny by this point anyway.
  • Jason & Elizabeth: I enjoy that Jason and Elizabeth’s friendship is rocky when they see each other again because there wasn’t much friendship when she left for CA. The show seemed to be rebuilding the friendship during the scenes from early 2004 but it was nowhere near the level of friendship from 1999/2000. So, it’s realistic that Jason wouldn’t just outright confess his problems to Elizabeth. I like that you chose Emily instead. It just makes more sense.
    • I’ve always wondered if they had planned to reunite Jason and Elizabeth in 2004 before it became clear that Jason and Sam had chemistry. I really think Sonny/Sam was the original plan — they oozed chemistry and Sam was written to be in love with Sonny. I don’t blame them for going to with JaSam — I even liked parts of the initial first few years. I just hated that Sam was Sonny’s leftovers. So yeah, having them establish their friendship worked in my head and once I had the scene at the gallery in my head, I think I knew it had to be that way.
  • The buildup of their relationship is a nice pace. I enjoy that they slowly rebuild their friendship before embarking on a romance despite Emily’s nagging.
  • I’m looking forward to the Elizabeth/Nadine scenes. You are doing a great job paralleling Nohnny to Liason but still letting Nohnny have their own characteristics/relationship traits.

Thoughts about the plot:

  • I really like the plot points you have for TBT. You cover everything from weddings, birthdays, engagements, deaths, and shootings. I like that Cam’s birthday is celebrated. How about Evie’s?
    • I realized I had missed Evie’s birthday when I wrote the ending to be in December, so I’ll have to juggle that in. How do you celebrate in the middle of chaos? I haven’t nailed down the timeline too much, but it’s important her birthday be included.
      • I think Evie’s birthday could be a catalyst that also sends Sonny over the edge. Jason / Elizabeth throw her a party and Sonny gets really upset about missing Evie’s first year. He can be tormented with guilt and just blows up. It can be lead to one of Sonny’s manic episodes.
  • I like the idea of the custody battle but I’m a bit confused at how it comes about. Is there a reveal that Jason is not Evie’s father before the custody battle begins? If so, when does it occur? Additionally, who is listed as the father on Evie’s birth certificate? I would assume Jason had to fill it out since Sam was on her deathbed. Wouldn’t he have put his name down to keep up appearances and hide the baby’s true paternity? Using the logic from “Damaged” (Britt/Ben/Dante/Lulu) wouldn’t the custody battle be moot? I’m a bit confused about the paperwork switcheroo that occurs. Does Sonny sign two documents unknowingly? Two documents: One that sets up the trust and another that terminates his rights. Or does he sign only one document?
    • Well, the custody hearing is necessary since Sonny has to reverse his termination of parental rights. I think I’ll eliminate the part of about him appointing Jason as guardian, or figure out a way to make that work. Initially, Elizabeth was going to be a nurse at the hospital who had known the truth all along and encouraged Emily to encourage Jason to get guardianship papers signed for medical reasons because she wanted to protect him, but haha, her nursing schedule wouldn’t have allowed her fot flit all over all like this, so I went to her being an artist. But if Sonny signs the termination, and Sam leaves custody to Jason, then yeah.
      And the paternity reveal I guess is something that has to be dealt with, but in a lot of ways I think I’m going to have dropped hints that most of PC figured Jason was cleaning up Sonny’s messes the way he always does. Like Monica knows it’s not her biological granddaughter, but he loves her anyway. So that the custody hearing won’t be much of a shock. Jason is Evie’s legal father, but Sonny’s going to fight the termination of rights on basis of fraud and sue for custody. I’m not sure of the law, but I know that adoptive mothers have sued for their kids long after they terminated their rights and kids were adopted. I didn’t have Jason adopt her outright to maintain the image, so guardianship is a little less permanent and malleable. I have to look up custody law to get it right, but I think it works.
  • I mentioned this as a comment in your outline but does the storyline regarding Kristina’s illness not exist in this universe?
    • Kristina’s illness doesn’t exist. I like the idea of Carly keeping this secret, like she’s keeping her knowledge of Evie a secret. Her entire being is about preservering her marriage, and Evie is the one without a mother, so she’ll divulge that, but Kristina has Alexis, and she doesn’t need that complication. It would just make everything worse. I need her to have a sense of desperation, that she’s justfiying things that just aren’t justifable to anyone else.
  • Great climax for the story. Lots of action – good soap-opera action. I like the way you are planning the fallout to the custody battle. I also like the inclusion Carly’s downfall (aka the realization that her action has horrible, horrible consequences).
  • Is Audrey’s death a plot device to provide the Hardy house for the Morgan-Webber clan? Will you explore Elizabeth’s reaction to Audrey’s death more?
    • Audrey’s death was initially the point of the story. I began it in 2004, right Lila died, with the idea of having Audrey’s death bring home her son, TJ, Elizabeth’s parents, etc. When I picked this back up again in 2014, I just couldn’t figure out how to make the original plot work, but I kept Audrey’s death and Elizabeth’s parents all the way until this version. And then I realized Elizabeth didn’t have time for the parents with fallling in love with Jason. Yeah, Elizabeth’s reactions to Audrey’s death are going to be big in the rest of the story, kind of interwoven throughout. Her grandmother kept her illness from her to allow Elizabeth to build a new life, a life with Jason, and in some ways she considers that her real inheritance from Audrey, so she’s going to do everything she can to protect it.

And then here are my notes for what to do with this conversations and things to work on in the next outline.

– Emphasize Sonny’s yo-yoing. More scenes of him being accepting – this could be his depressed period.
-Emphasize Carly’s motivations. Does she need a confidant? I feel if Courtney were in the story as a full supporting character, she’d talk Carly out of her decisions, so maybe some long distance.
– Love the idea of Nohnny at the gallery. Even a funny moment towards the end — Claudia Zacchara owns my red shoe painting?
– Address Alcazar. How to make it clear he pointed the Ruizes at Sonny?
– Address Michael/Jason relationship. Jason is less close to Morgan. He feels guilty not letting Michael around Evie more, talks to Elizabeth and even Emily about it.
– Courtney as a supporting character from New York.
Scene between Courtney and Elizabeth, coming to terms. Courtney won’t testify for Sonny/Carly, but would if it came down to it. Doesn’t think they should have custody. A growing up scene. A better, brighter Courtney.

– Evie’s birthday in early November. How does the custody battle work out? Nail down timeline. Love the idea of using it as a catalyst.
– Clarify the way Sonny lost custody in the first place.
– Drop hints that PC knows Jason is probably not the father. Carly never really believed it. Emily and Elizabeth suspected. Monica does as well. Courtney knew, but left anyway.
– Sonny’s claiming fraud in regards to the termination papers — have someone remark that it’s ironic because of AJ. Courtney would be a good candidate.
– Audrey’s death, deeper fallout. Have it really make Elizabeth cling to her family, her grandmother sacrificed to give Elizabeth this opportunity.

As I’ve always said when discussing this story, if you like Carly or Courtney in this story at all, it’s because of this conversation.

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded

This is the outline that I sent to Cora back in May of 2014. It’s long and messy and completely unedited for typos. It’s 12,000 words you guys.  Enjoy 😛


Picks in May 2004, begins in December. Elizabeth has left Port Charles, and is living in California. She left Ric in April, had Cameron in mid-May. Comes home briefly for Lila’s funeral.

Jason has claimed paternity of Sam’s baby. Sonny has reluctantly agreed in order to save his marriage. Sam thinks Sonny will change his mind, so she goes along with the project. Sonny does get annoyed, and without Jason’s knowledge, he rekindles his affair with Sam until she presses him for a solution. She can move to the island or somewhere else, and have the baby. He’ll set her up—like a dirty little secret. Pissed, Sam realizes Sonny is never going to leave Carly, so she lets him believe she’s going to do it. She wants to set up a trust for her daughter. Sonny agrees, and he draws up paperwork. Sam draws up her own and substitutes a termination of parental rights, which he signs.

When Sam begins bleeding after the birth of her daughter, she knows she’s going to die. As her strength deserts her, she makes Jason promise to raise her daughter, to make sure her daughter knows her. Jason agrees, because he knows if Sonny and Carly had custody, they would never let her know Sam. Sam dies. Sonny learns then that he signed a termination of rights, and agreed to Jason as a guardian. Jason tells Sonny Sam’s wishes, and that he’s going to support them. Sonny reluctantly agrees, knowing he pushed Sam into this and that if Carly found out about the baby, she’d take the boys and leave. His daughter will be loved by Jason, and it’s easier in the end to let the lie continue. He’s not happy about it.

Carly has always suspected that the baby was Sonny’s, but was content to let the situation stand as it meant Sam would be away from her. She doesn’t want Sam’s baby, because it’ll always be a reminder to Sonny. However, she does think another baby will fix things, so she decides to get pregnant.

Jason has a rough first month in November. Sonny’s not happy about the situation—Carly is pushing him to delegate to Jason so that they can concentrate on their family, and Jason is doing the extra work, because if he doesn’t keep Sonny happy, he might come for the baby, which he has named Evangeline Grace. Emily has actually named, and he accepts it.

Elizabeth returns home for Christmas in early December, and realizes how tired and aged her grandmother appears. Though her life in California is going well—she’s sold some art, and is scheduled for a show in a major gallery in New York in February, she decides she can work in Port Charles. Her brother is there, she wants her son to know Audrey in case she doesn’t have many years left.

She comes across a tired and exhausted Jason on the docks, and she strikes up a conversation. He eventually confides in her about the situation, and Elizabeth offers to help him in anyway she can. He realizes that he can’t do it alone, and tells Emily the truth about Sam, Evie and Sonny. Emily suspected, but she’s of the mind that Jason should raise Evie. Sonny isn’t the man he used to be. Carly ruined something in him that doesn’t seem to be fixable. She helps him hire a nanny, and by Christmas Eve, the situation is better. Evie’s not disrupted, constantly being shuffled around during the night and Sonny has relaxed his demands a little.

Elizabeth, Cam, Steven and Audrey show up to the Christmas Eve party. Steven borrows Cam to hit on nurses, so Emily takes the opportunity to introduce Elizabeth to Evie. While Emily is talking to Nikolas, Jason tells Elizabeth that he told Emily the truth—their conversation made him realize that he can’t do this alone. She’s a little sad they’re so far apart that he couldn’t turn to her, but she accepts it. The old comfort level is still there in a way. She’s holding Evie, they’re talking.

Sonny comes over, ostensibly to welcome Elizabeth home, but the look in his eyes makes her wary. He says he saw Cam across the room—he’s a cute kid, it’s just a shame that he’s got a jackass for a father. Jason is annoyed on her behalf, but Elizabeth senses this isn’t about her. He’s not even looking at her as he continues saying that while it was sad she had that miscarriage last year, it was for the best she wasn’t permanently connected to Ric. Now she’s upset, and Jason is pissed. He tells Sonny to knock it off. Their problems are their own, and he has no business bringing Elizabeth into it. Maybe he should walk away.

Carly sees Sonny talking to them, and she’s worried that Sonny is having second thoughts about Evie. She’s been having trouble conceiving, and realizes if she can’t have another child, Sonny might very well go after Evie.

Jason pulls Elizabeth away from the crowd, and apologizes. He knows this was about him, but Sonny shouldn’t have said it. Elizabeth says it was almost as if Sonny was reminding Jason about the other men in her life, which seems odd. He agrees, they don’t really know what he’s thinking. Emily returns to their side, and points out the mistletoe. Elizabeth annoyed with her friend, but Jason kisses her cheek and says it’s good to have her home. Elizabeth returns Evie to him, and heads over to her family. Emily remarks that Cameron is absolutely gorgeous, and she’s so happy for Elizabeth’s success. She’s sorry Jason doesn’t have someone in his life like she has Nikolas. Someone to make life a little…easier.

After the holidays, Emily comes over to Jason’s penthouse. She and Steven are splitting Cameron for the week Elizabeth is in California. She’s glad Jason’s doing better with Evie, that he felt like he could talk to her finally about it. He tells her about his conversation with Elizabeth. Emily talks about her regrets about why Elizabeth is a single mother. She could have handled the Zander situation so much better, and maybe he’d be in his son’s life. Jason says Elizabeth looks like she’s handling it well.

Carly has an appointment with Dr. Meadows, who agrees that Carly is probably going to struggle to get pregnant, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Try to relax and keep trying. Carly is annoyed. She knows things aren’t solid with Sonny, that they may never be that way again. For the first time, she wonders if she suggests they bring Evie into their family, if it’ll help. But it would leave Jason heartbroken, and it’s just not something she’s willing to consider.

Jason and Sonny’s relationship takes a minor hit when Johnny Zacchara shows up at Luke’s club. Sonny’s sure he’s up to no good, but Jason disagrees. The kid isn’t involved in his family’s business, and it’s more likely he’s trying to annoy the crap out of his father.

Elizabeth returns from California. She and her grandmother discuss her future plans. She wants to find a place for her and Cam, but she wants the right place—with good lighting for her artwork. Having him has made her open so much as an artist, and she has the money now to really pursue her dream. Audrey is relieved to see her settled.

Nikolas throws Emily a birthday party that’s children friendly so Elizabeth and Jason will bring Cam and Evie. He knows Emily has her eye on seeing them get it together, so he’s reluctantly on board. He’d like Elizabeth to be happy—he also feels guilty about Zander. The party is fun. Monica gets to spend some time with Evie. Jason and Elizabeth have some time to talk, and she’s happy he’s looking less haggard. He looks like a normal single father now—one with a nanny. He tells her that it’s because of her that he looked to Emily for support. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to take Elizabeth on her offer, but she’s got her own life. She wouldn’t have offered if she didn’t want to. She tentatively asks if things are improving with Sonny. They’re not. He’s thinking of moving away from the penthouse, to put some distance between Sonny and Evie.

Elizabeth is making a list of people to invite to her showing, and Emily suggests she invite Jason. He may not come down to the city, but it would go a long to reminding him that they’re still friends. Elizabeth agrees, plus Jason was always really supportive of her art, even when he couldn’t understand it.

Sonny and Jason are having issues—just minor ones. Some of the shipments are damaged. A few bookies disappear. Just rumblings. Sonny says it’s not a coincidence about Johnny Zacchara. Jason argues that it is. He’s not going after Anthony Zacchara’s son without evidence. It’s just not smart. Sonny wonders if Jason even remembers who’s in charge anymore.

Carly learns from Dr. Meadows that if she wants to conceive, she’s going to have to do extra work — like in vitro. Carly hesitantly broaches it to Sonny, who doesn’t want to do it. He won’t give her reasons, but she knows he’s regretting giving up Evie. She thinks again about bringing Evie into the family, but how to tell Sonny she’s always known, and it still doesn’t solve the problem of Jason. If his marriage to Courtney had worked out, she could justify it in her head—he could make another family. One of his own.

Jason talks to Emily about the invitation to Elizabeth’s opening. He’s apprehensive about going. He’s glad he and Elizabeth are starting to reconnect, but he’s not sure he should go. Emily tells him that Elizabeth would love the familiar faces, and tells him how supportive Elizabeth said he’d been about her art. He should go, because it’s what friends do, and a night in the city might be good for him and Evie. Get away from PC. She and Nikolas are going, as well as Lucky, Audrey and Steven. He agrees.

At Elizabeth’s opening, it’s going really well. She sees Jason and goes to him, knowing he’s uncomfortable in the setting. She offers to explain any of the paintings to her, and he asks her which one is her favorite. She tells him it’s the one she did, trying to capture a moment in which her arms are outstretched, ready to hold Cameron for the first time, to try and capture the love, fear, the anticipation of finally being a mother. He understands that—he saw Sam hold Evie for the first time,the only time. He’d had to help her because she was so weak, but she wanted to do it just once. It’s the reason he decided to honor her wishes, because Evie should know how much her mother loved her and tried to protect her. Even though it’s created issues with Sonny? He says he expects one day, Sonny will come for her, he’s not stupid. It’s not going to go away, but what was he supposed to do? Pretend Sam’s wishes didn’t matter? He’d kept that promise to Carly, too. And he admits that he doesn’t think Sonny is a particularly good father. That sometimes he sees Michael and Morgan as possessions, rather than people. Well, she knows that’s not how he sees Evie, and she’s in the best place possible.

Across the room, Nikolas is trying to decide which painting he wants to buy. He likes so many of them, but he’s drawn to one of a woman sitting in a bed, her hands at her head. The devastation, the loss. He knows its Elizabeth, and he wonders when it would been. Emily says softly that it’s the day she woke up after her pulmonary embolism, knowing what Ric had done. Nikolas doesn’t want that one now. He sees another one…and he knows it. It’s the fountain in a desolate winter scene, one lone red shoe with its strap broken laying by a bench. He doesn’t want that either. How can she paint these moments and sell them? Emily thinks it’s Elizabeth’s way of letting those moments go. Putting them on canvas, and freeing them. He finally decides on one—a chapel scene, with candles lit in the forefront, two shadowy figures sitting in a pew. He knows it’s from Emily’s cancer scare. Emily sees her brother and Elizabeth in a deep conversation. She hopes she’s not meddling too much, she just feels like they might not decide on their own to reconnect—both too far away from another. Nikolas wonders if she should force it, but he’d like to see Elizabeth have less of these painful moments to paint, if Jason can help her do that, well, he’s not opposed.

When Jason returns the next day from New York, Sonny demands to know were he went. Jason sees no reason to hide it, he went to Elizabeth’s opening. Is Jason trying to pick out a mother for his daughter? Sonny demands. Jason doesn’t know how to answer that, so he doesn’t. He calls Diane Miller, his own separate lawyer he met through Sam, and asks her for the best realtor. He needs to be away from the penthouse.

Carly learns through the grapevine Jason went to Elizabeth’s showing, and as much as she doesn’t like the other woman, she thinks this might be the answer she’s looking for. Elizabeth and her son could help Jason get past losing Evie. She knows, reluctantly, Elizabeth had been there in the aftermath of Michael for him. She begins to seriously consider confiding in Sonny, but she’s not sure how to push him to take Evie away.

Elizabeth and Jason run into each other on the docks, and she tells him that her showing was insanely successful. They sold half her paintings, and she’s actually going to make so much money, she won’t know what to do with it. He can tell she’s a little troubled, and she admits that the painting of the park scene, with her red shoe, sold the most. She’s not sure how to feel that someone owns that memory. It was freeing to paint it, as if she’d really let go of that broken girl in the snow, but at the same time, knowing it’ll hang on someone’s wall is troubling. He says if she’s let it go, then why does it matter? He has a point, and she’ll get past it. It’s just difficult. But still, she’s excited. He offers her a ride home, and she asks if he has his bike. It’s an old reminder, and he grins. Yeah. He takes her home on it.

Emily tells Elizabeth that she and Nikolas have finally set the date for their wedding in spring. She hopes Elizabeth will stand up for her, but she doesn’t want her to feel uncomfortable because Lucky is Nikolas’s best man. Elizabeth says that while she and Lucky are friends, that ship has sailed. They’re barely in each other’s lives now, and she prefers it that way. It’s easier for her to have people like that in her past. She rarely runs into Ric, as if he goes out of his way to avoid her, and she likes it that way. Emily is curious — so Elizabeth would rather have reminders of her past romances, how does she explain Jason? Jason’s different. And it’s not like they’re close like they used to be. Emily argues it’s exactly like it used to be. They run into each other, talk. He takes her for rides. Isn’t that how it started? Elizabeth is startled, she hadn’t thought about it that way. But Emily doesn’t push.

Lucky and Nikolas discuss his upcoming wedding, and Lucky admits he’s also uncomfortable that someone bought the painting of Elizabeth’s shoe. It was beautiful, like everything else, but that moment is so enshrined in his head, like a nightmare. Nikolas asks if he’s sorry Elizabeth and Lucky didn’t work out, and Lucky admits yeah, but mostly because he remembers how perfect life was before the fire, and how he hates that he ruined their friendship. They both did, by grinding their romance into the ground. They’d tried to so hard to recapture those moments that they’d destroyed each other. Maybe they’d have had a chance if they’d tried to get to know one another again, but instead, they’d tried to be those teenagers again. He hopes Elizabeth finds happiness, and admits he knows she’s been reconnecting with Jason. He’s not sure how he feels about that—since breaking the brainwashing, the irrational anger is gone, but he knows that she was falling in love with him, and stayed with Lucky out of obligation. Nikolas admits he agreed to help Emily push them together. Lucky just sighs, and admits what will be will be. He’d like to find someone to be happy with as well.

The tiny little problems in the business are still present, and Sonny is still sure it’s Johnny Zacchara on his father’s orders, because the bastard is still hanging out in town—at Luke’s, at Kelly’s. At Jake’s. Jason is unconvinced, but knows he can’t keep putting off dealing with this. Sonny is starting act erratically, and it’s not good for anyone.

Carly has also noticed the erratic behavior ramping up—she knows it’s because of Sonny’s guilt about Evie. She doesn’t want to push for her until she’s sure that Jason can…well, not exactly replace her, but not be left alone. She gingerly asks him about Elizabeth, and tries to be supportive as she encourages him not to lose out on his feelings. Jason isn’t really forthcoming, but he can’t admit that those long-buried feelings haven’t resurfaced. And it’s not as if he could push away due to danger, not when he’s raising a child of his own. Carly’s satisfied. They’re not there yet, but she feels like she can fix her family and not ruin Jason in the process, even though part of her knows she’s jumping through hoops to justify her plans.

The weather is letting up. Elizabeth tells her grandmother that she’s loved living with her for so long, but she really has to find her own place, with room for her art. Audrey will be sad to them go, but is happy Elizabeth lives in Port Charles again, and seems so happy at it. It’s all she ever wanted. She’s even planning to take a short trip to Italy in the summer, after Cameron’s birthday. She wants to see the light in Venice.

Jason has looked at a few places, has asked Emily what she thinks. She supports him getting geographical distance from Sonny and Carly, but might it just make things worse? He’s not sure how to avoid it. He’s had several uncomfortable conversation with Carly, that makes him wonder if she knows Evie is Sonny’s biological daughter. Emily pushes him to explain himself—and he admits that it’s always suspicious when Carly is saying nice things about Elizabeth. But maybe Carly’s just trying to be a better person. Emily doubts it.

Elizabeth runs into Jason in the park, with Evie. She has Cameron. They sit and talk, and watch Cameron share his toys with Evie. She talks about her search for the right place to live, he admits he’s doing the same, but he agrees with Emily. Leaving might create more problems than it solves. Things with Sonny seem to be deteriorating rather than getting better. Is he sorry he started this? Back with the paternity results? He admits if he had thought it through back then, he might not have done it, but he loves Evie. He doesn’t know what to do now. He’s honoring Sam’s wishes. He shows Evie pictures, and tells her about her mother. He knows Sonny and Carly won’t do that, that Carly hated the other woman too much. He thinks Carly knows the truth, and the fact that she’s keeping it to herself worries him. Elizabeth knows that means Carly has a plan, which never ends well for Jason. She wishes she could say something helpful, but there isn’t really anything to say. Has he thought about talking to Sonny about Evie’s custody? Jason has, but he thinks if he brought it up now, Sonny would want to take her, and Jason isn’t sure how he could justify keeping her if that were true. Is it better that they’re hiding all of this? She asks. It’s not his usual mo to stick his head in the sand. He’s used to confronting things. That’s not him anymore, he admits. He’s not sure when it became easier to just to pretend things were different than they were. He didn’t even know he could do that. She says that she used to do that, that she spent a lot time pretending that she could fix Lucky, that she could save Ric, but it was a mistake. He knows she’s right, but the last time he faced a situation like this, he walked away from Michael and now look at his life. Could he sentence Evie to being Sonny’s daughter?

Emily tells Nikolas she’s frustrated Jason and Elizabeth are moving at a snail’s pace. Because they’re perfect together. What the hell. Nikolas sighs, being the voice of reason, and tells her that it’s better this way. They’re not trying to recapture old feelings, trying to be who they were before Ric or Courtney. But they’re reconnecting as they are now. He reminds her Lucky and Elizabeth forced themselves into being someone else in order to be happy together. He knows Emily wants them to be happy, but if they’re going to be together, it has to be on their own terms.

Carly is also frustrated at the slow pace. Sonny’s becoming angrier, and she’s not sure what to do anymore. She tries to confide in Jason about Sonny’s anger, and Jason asks her point blank if she knows what Sonny is angry about, why he and Sonny are so far apart. Carly is hesitant, because she knows she’s given herself away. She just tells him she wants things to be as they were once, when Jason and Courtney were planning their wedding, and Sonny and Carly were happy. She wants that back. Jason tells her to stop living in the past and accept the situation as it is.

A period of peace for a bit. Problems in the business stop, but Johnny Zacchara is still hanging around. Jason tries to tell Sonny it’s because he’s seeing a nurse at the hospital, but Sonny doesn’t accept it. Jason distances himself from Sonny, who begins to delegate to other men in the business. He’s not cutting Jason out, but it’s not too far from the mark.

Elizabeth offers Jason an invitation to Cameron’s first birthday in the park. She wants him to bring Evie, He’s not sure, as he’ll be around her family, and she understands but it’d be nice for Evie to be socialized with other kids, wouldn’t it? Cameron will be there, and so will Alexis’s daughter, Kristina. Jason agrees, he just doesn’t want make anything difficult for her. He’s really not, she promises. They’re friends, and they both have young children.

At the party, Audrey is slightly dismayed to see Jason with his daughter, and wonders to Steven if Elizabeth is getting involved with him again. Steven reluctantly thinks if they’re not dating, it’s not far off. He’s seen the way they look at one another when no one’s looking, but he doesn’t think either will make a move. Emily overhears this and complains to Nikolas that she understands his point, but they’re both so hesitant. She’ll figure out something at their wedding at the end of the month. Jason hangs out until the party is over and tells Elizabeth he’s glad he came, that Evie had fun and it’s good for her to be around other kids. She’ll have a difficult life as his daughter, and he wants to make it easier.

Carly and Sonny’s marriage is still falling apart. They’re not arguing, but they’re not really communicating. Michael and Morgan are completely miserable, and she really thinks Evie would help. It would give Sonny someone to focus on, something good and fresh. She’s just not sure how to make it happen. She knows the cards she could play—she could tap into the growing distrust Sonny has for Jason, but part of her really rebels at that. She loves Jason. She also knows it can’t last — it’s either her marriage or Jason’s friendship, she’ll have to decide what’s more important.

At Emily’s wedding, Elizabeth is maid of honor, Lucky is the best man. Emily wishes her brother was the type to dance, but, eh, such is life. At the reception, Elizabeth makes a lovely toast about her friends and their love for one another, and how lucky they are to be able to spend forever with the right person. Emily tosses her bouquet and lands her target—Elizabeth. She tells Nikolas to aim the garter at Jason. Nikolas balks, because…no. But he reluctantly throws the garter wild, in Jason’s direction away from the crowd. It lands on his shoulder. Score! Emily insists Elizabeth and Jason dance because it’s her day, and damn it, she gets her way.

Jason and Elizabeth agree, and they’re both awkwardly amused, because they both realize what Emily’s been hinting at them for months. Jason hesitantly tells her that he’s thought about her a lot, that he’s glad she came home and they’re friends again. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed her, talkin and taking rides until she was back in his life. Elizabeth admits the same thing, and they both know they’re admitting some a bit more than that, but neither really know what to do about it.

Emily is satisfied that something moved forward and leaves for her honeymoon in Greece, happy she’s put them in the right track. She knows that Sonny and Carly aren’t going to lay dormant, and Jason needs Elizabeth more than ever.

A few days after the wedding, Jason and Sonny have another argument about Johnny Zacchara. Jason gives him proof that Johnny is dating one of the nurses. Sonny insists its a cover. Zacchara’s coming for them he’s just taking his time. Jason doubts it, as Anthony Zacchara is a lunatic who wouldn’t know patience if it bit him in the ass. Sonny can’t understand why Jason doubts him. Hasn’t Sonny given him his daughter? Shouldn’t Jason want to keep him happy? And Jason is frustrated, because Sonny only agreed to let Sam’s con stand. He storms out, and heads to Jake’s.

Elizabeth is also having a rough night. She’s run into Ric, who reluctantly admits that he and Alexis are having a child. He wants her to be happy, he hopes she’s moving on. He wants to make amends. She has moved on, but it’s the first time since she’s been home that Ric is bringing up the past, and she just wants it to stay there. She also heads to Jake’s.

She finds Jason already there, and she can tell he’s annoyed, frustrated, looking for a fight. Instead, she challenges him to a game of pool, promising she remembers the lessons he gave her once. He’s been drinking a little, just slightly buzzed. She tosses back a few as well. They start to play. She tells him that she remembers that day like it was yesterday and sometimes she wonders what might have happened if Lucky hadn’t shown up. He tells her he knows what he would have wanted to happen. She grins, and says she knows exactly what he means, but tonight, there’s an audience. It’s a shame they’ve both been drinking, it’s a perfect night to take out the bike. All she ever has to do is ask. She sighs, because that’s true, and wistfully she tells him she wishes he’d ask sometime. It seems like the decisions are always up to her. He knows what she means, but says nothing. They finish their game and head outside. His buzz is basically gone—once she’d shown up, he’d cut out drinking knowing they’d end up this way. He offers her that ride, and she agrees. But she wants to take the long way. Cam is with her grandmother, and already down for the night.

He agrees and takes her to Vista Point, and she looks up at the stars. She can’t believe how much it’s like it used to be. Just being easy with one another, taking rides, and yet sometimes they’ll walk right into an old memory. She can still remember the last time they were here alone. All the times they were here and he walked away from her. And asks him what might have happened if she’d chased after him one of those times? He doesn’t think in what ifs, he wants to think in this moment. He pulls her close and kisses her the way he’s been thinking about for months. And she kisses him back the way she’s thought about for nearly as long.

Emily returns from her honeymoon and makes a beeline for Elizabeth, who admits that she and Jason are seeing each other. Emily is beyond thrilled, and tells Liz that’s exactly what she’d been hoping for. Elizabeth tells her how…odd it feels to finally be on the right page, to have finally gotten the timing right. He’s not pushing her away, she’s not running toward anyone else. It’s just the two of them. Emily thinks she looks so happy.

Carly has also noticed the changes and decides she’s going to, at the very least, confide in Sonny that she’s always know. She tells Sonny that she knows they’re not happy, so she wants to start fresh. They shouldn’t have secrets, so she admits she’s known since before Evie was born she was Sonny’s. Sonny doesn’t know Carly’s bothering, and she just tells him it’s a sign of faith—a sign she wants them to be a family. She knows he’s unhappy. What’s wrong? He doesn’t feel like he can trust Jason anymore.

A few weeks pass in which Jason and Elizabeth spend a lot of time together. Audrey is reluctantly approving, since it’s clear Jason’s good for her granddaughter, but she’s just worried. Still…Evie is adorable. Elizabeth spends a lot of time at the penthouse with Cam, and recently, she’s been spending the night several times a week. Audrey tells Monica that she’s aware that it’s just a matter of time before Elizabeth moves out. Monica is overjoyed—Elizabeth has always been her favorite, and she’s a great buffer in the awkward moments with Jason. Plus, there’s Evie and Cam.

In fact, Jason is thinking about the best way to ask Elizabeth to move in with him. Not to the penthouse, but to start looking for a place of his own. Because he knows Emily loves him, he reluctantly asks his sister for advice. Emily is overjoyed and tells him to just be honest about how much he wants her with him, and why he wants to do this. She tentatively asks him if he’s thought about marriage. He’s less sure about that. They’ve both been married and divorced, and it might not be a road either is in a hurry to walk down. Emily agrees, but tells him not to rule it out. It’s more than a piece of a paper, it’s a promise that means something. It should be, and she thinks with them it would.

Carly runs into Elizabeth who is in the park with Evie and Cam. She wonders why Elizabeth is with Evie, and Elizabeth says Jason is meeting them later. They’re both wary of one another, because Carly doesn’t want to alienate Elizabeth—she needs her to stick by Jason, but she also doesn’t want her playing mommy to the little girl Carly plans to bring into her family. She leaves, and Elizabeth is perturbed. She tells Jason of the encounter, and he thinks she has a plan, but they’re so far apart now, he doesn’t know what to do about it. He knows he should talk about it, but he’s beginning to think that won’t solve anything. He promised Sam to take care of her daughter, to love her as his own. He does now, and Sonny let him do that. How can Sonny take that back? Elizabeth says they have to do what’s best for Evie. She knows Michael is having issues in school, has been acting out. That Morgan is probably as unhappy—his entire life has been in turmoil. Is it fair to Evie? Jason admits that’s what’s hardest about this. If they brought out into the open, he’d still want Evie to stay with them.

Audrey has been feeling ill for several weeks, and finally is forced to admit to Steven that she’s having heart issues. It’s nothing serious, but at her age, she has to be careful. She doesn’t want to tell Elizabeth just yet. She’s hoping Jason and Elizabeth will move forward, so she can be confident that Elizabeth will be happy with someone. Steven reluctantly agrees.

Elizabeth and Jason are in bed one night, and he asks her to move in. Not here, but somewhere. He wants to be with her and Cam all the time. She’s hesitant, because she loves him, but everything is so perfect, what if moving in changes things and it stops working? Why would it, he asks? And naturally she’s just worrying, because she has no answer to that. She’s just…not been this happy in so long, she wants to hold onto it. He agrees, but he thinks it could be even better. He wants to adopt Cameron, and maybe she could adopt Evie. They could be a family. They could get married if she wants, if that will make her feel more secure. She doesn’t want to get married to feel secure. She wants to get married because that’s what he wants. He wants to be with her, to be a family. He remembers what Emily said about making those promises, and he tells her he’d like to make those to her. She starts to smile, because is this a proposal? Are…they seriously getting engaged? He grins, because yeah that’s what this sounds like.

Elizabeth calls Emily and asks her and Nikolas to come to her grandmother’s house the next evening for dinner. Emily agrees and tells Nikolas she thinks she knows what it is—after her conversation with Jason earlier. Nikolas thinks that’s great. By the way, how about they start working on their own family?

Carly talks to Sonny again about Jason, and Sonny’s feeling a bit better. He doesn’t know why he thought he couldn’t trust Jason. Jason’s just doing what Sam asked, what Sonny told him to do. Love Evie as his own. He can’t take that from him. Carly agrees, but she’s still not sure, because this could be one of Sonny’s cycles. She’s worried if he doesn’t resolve this Evie thing, he’s going to sink back into it.

Elizabeth gathers her grandmother, her brother, Emily and Nikolas, and Jason reluctantly invites Monica. They announcement their engagement. The shrieking from Emily is quite loud, but everyone seems genuinely happy for the couple. Monica thanks Jason for the invitation. Audrey wants to throw them a real engagement party, something special for them. Jason doesn’t really want that, but he sees Elizabeth looking at him, and he decides she does, so he agrees.

Carly finds out about the engagement when Audrey books Club 101 for the party. She had bought back into it during her separation from Sonny, and Jax sold her the remaining interest then. Audrey booked Carly’s club because she knows Jason and Carly are friends, and she wants Elizabeth to know how much she accepts them. She’s so thrilled, really, which surprises her. But Evie is so delightful and she’s happy that Elizabeth is going to adopt her, and Jason going to adopt Cam. Carly knows her chances are sliding away.

Elizabeth thanks Jason for giving into her grandmother’s party idea, and he tells her it’s not his favorite idea, but he knows it makes her happy, and it’s not like it’s not something to celebrate. She just wants to be engaged for a while, and not rush into the changes. She wants to find the perfect place to settle down in, the perfect home. He tells her not to concentrate on perfect and just what feels right. He’s so literal sometimes.

Carly tells Sonny about the engagement and Jason’s plans to allow Elizabeth to adopt Evie. Sonny is annoyed. He’d been sure all along that this was going to happen, and if Jason is picking a mother out for Evie, he really plans to raise her forever. To be a family with her. He can’t figure out why this makes him so angry when he’s known the deal all along. Carly tells him that maybe he was right not to trust Jason—after all, he sure didn’t ask Sonny if that was okay, or tell them about the engagement. Sonny agrees with that. Maybe it’s time to remind Jason how life works.

Elizabeth convinces Jason to send Sonny and Carly invitations. The tension between them can’t go on forever, and they’re both tied up in knots about what they might do. Jason agrees it wouldn’t be good to leave them out, and agrees.

Emily is practically prancing with happiness because she has some amazing news—she’s pregnant. Nikolas is thrilled, but confused—did they just start trying? Silly boy, she tossed the birth control after the wedding. A little Cassadine running around, won’t that be awesome? Suddenly he feels ill.

The night of the party, Elizabeth is practically glowing. Evie and Cam are at the party initially, and even Kristina. Carly sees Kristina and Evie near one another, and is stricken because they have similar dark hair. She remembers that other secret she’s keeping and takes a hasty sip. Everyone is in awe at how gorgeous the kids look in their party wear. Emily insists on family photos and Sonny watches as Jason and Elizabeth pose, each other with the other’s child. It’s beginning to gnaw at him now. The nanny takes them both home.

Steven asks Audrey if she’s planning to wait until after the wedding to tell Elizabeth about her health problems, and Audrey says she’s not sure. They haven’t set a date yet, and she’s not sure how long she can hold off. She’s growing more tired. Steven is concerned. He’d like her tell Elizabeth after the party if possible. Audrey agrees.

Sonny approaches Jason to offer his congratulations. Jason is wary, knows he’s right be when Sonny tells him they’re going to have sit down and talk about how things are going to change now that Jason has a family of his own. Jason doesn’t think the situation should change, except he and Elizabeth are looking for someone to live that has room for her studio.

Jason tells Elizabeth that he thinks the situation with Sonny is going to get worse, and she’s sorry for it, but they’ll get through this together. As they’re dancing (because Jason finally gave in), there’s a commotion from the other side of the room. Audrey has collapsed.

She tries to play it off, tries to convince Elizabeth she’s all right, but Elizabeth isn’t stupid. She tells Audrey that if as a nurse, she doesn’t think she should go to the hospital, then Elizabeth will accept that. Audrey catches Steven’s eye and reluctantly nods. The party breaks up, as Elizabeth, Jason, Emily and Nikolas head for GH.

Audrey admits that she’s been having heart issues, but she didn’t want to worry Elizabeth until she had to. Elizabeth is upset her grandmother didn’t confide in her, but reluctantly accepts the situation. The tests return and it’s not great news. Her heart isn’t pumping efficiently (mitral stenosis) and her medications haven’t controlled it as well. The only thing left is surgery. Elizabeth asks her to have the surgery, to be around to see her great-grandchildren, but Audrey feels the surgery and recovery time is dangerous at her age. She’s not going to have it.

Jason and Elizabeth return to the penthouse, and she’s weeping. To be so happy and know that in a matter of months her grandmother might be gone. Jason reminds her she’d been worried about her grandmother’s health, and it was why she’d moved home. She sighs, because of course he’s right.

The minor business problems are cropping up again, and Sonny is convinced that the Zaccharas are playing with their heads. Jason disputes that, he thinks it might be the Ruizes, it fits them better. Sonny is annoyed Jason isn’t taking him seriously. Who’s in charge here, anyway? Jason doesn’t want to challenge him, but he’s conscious that if Sonny goes after the Zaccharas, it puts them all in danger, when they’re not even sure anything is wrong. He’s recognizing the signs of the breakdown beginning. He talks to Carly about it, but Carly tells him it’s Jason’s fault. Jason used to be someone Sonny could trust, and now Jason stole his daughter and he’s trying to usurp him. Troubled, Jason leaves the penthouse.

A few weeks later, Audrey passes in the middle of the night. Jason is distracted with Elizabeth’s grief and helping her and her brother with funeral arrangements. After the funeral, the will is read. Audrey has splot her estate evenly between Elizabeth, Steven, and Sarah, but has left the house to Elizabeth in hopes she might raise her family there and be as happy as Audrey and Steve were.

Elizabeth asks if it’s something they can do, if they can secure the house. Jason isn’t sure about the long-term, but reasons they can keep the penthouse for when security is heightened. He agrees to move their family to Audrey’s home.

There’s a fire at the warehouse that’s ruled accidental, but Sonny accuses Johnny Zacchara of setting it. He tells Jason to eliminate the Zacchara boy. Jason refuses, because it was an accident, and he’s not starting a war. Sonny seethes and goes after Johnny Zacchara himself. There’s a shootout, and Johnny escapes. He holes up with his girlfriend, Nadine, dropping out of sight. Sonny ends up in the hospital.

Jason reluctantly tells Elizabeth that Sonny is out of control and making decisions that will put them all at risk. He asks her, not that he wants to discuss such things with her, but he’s not left with much of a choice. He asks her if she would remain with him if he took over the business, because he’s not sure Sonny will ever be stable enough to handle things again, and he has too much too lose. Her, the kids, and he even wants to protect Michael and Morgan. She fell in love with all of him, and she honestly suspected this day might come.

Jason visits Sonny in the hospital and tells him he’s done, and the men are already behind him. They’ve been behind him for years, and Sonny’s pissed, because he’s known for a long time the men were more loyal to Jason than him, and remained with Sonny because Jason did. This isn’t over. Carly comes by after, and Sonny is ridiculously pissed. He took care of the problem. Zacchara is dead, and Jason retaliates by taking things from him. This wouldn’t have happened, Carly tells him, if Sonny hadn’t let Jason keep Evie. It’s time Jason understood who has the real power.

Elizabeth admits to Emily that things have been difficult since Audrey’s death, though they’re getting through it by trying to talk it out. Jason and Sonny are as far apart as ever, and she’s sure Carly’s been ready to turn on Jason for months. Emily agrees that the situation is about to explode, but she’s been expecting it for almost a year.

Jason and Elizabeth are tentatively discussing setting a date, just to have it done, not wanting to put off being married for too long when Diane Miller calls them to report that she’s received notice from Jordan Baines, Sonny’s lawyer, that he’s filing for reversal of the termination and to vacate Jason’s guardianship. Elizabeth takes the phone from Jason, who almost eerily quiet, sets up a meeting with Diane for the next day. They need to figure out what comes next. Jason isn’t sure. In his heart, he knows that Evie is where Sam would want her, that Sonny only sees her as something that belongs to him, but he also knows that by keeping her, it’s making things worse, that Sonny will spiral into a breakdown possibly, and without Jason to stabilize him, Carly’s liable to make it worse, and everyone’s in danger then. Elizabeth isn’t unsympathetic, but at the end of the day, is that the home he wants to send Evie too? No, he admits, and if he thought he could, he’d get Michael and Morgan away from them as well. So that’s it. They’ll tell Diane they’ll fight for custody, and she thinks they’ll win.

Meanwhile, Johnny Zacchara is pretty pissed at the world. He was maintaining a low profile, to keep his girlfriend Nadine from becoming an issue for his father, and now he’s been shot for his troubles. Nadine is fretting, because she knows if Johnny’s father finds out about this, it’s going to be very very bad. Johnny tells his father he’s taken off for Mexico to give himself some to figure things out. He can’t just heal and pretend nothing happened, because Sonny’s fucking insane. Nadine completely agrees, but she’s heard gossip that Jason took over things after Sonny was shot. Johnny’s ears perk up, maybe. But he wants to lay low to make sure, because he’ll have to ask her to make the contact and he’s not thrilled about that. Neither is she. He’s lucky he’s cute.

Emily meets with Jason and Elizabeth before the meeting with Diane, and she wants to make it clear that she’ll corrall all the character witnesses she can find. Sam left details with Diane as to Sonny’s behavior towards the baby. Monica and Steven will testify. Bobbie has tentatively agreed to testify, worried for her grandsons. Sonny and Carly have no one.

Diane agrees with Emily’s assessment. This should be clear. Sonny did nothing to take back custody in Evie’s first year. He signed a termination agreement, and it’s not Sam’s fault if he didn’t read it. Sam made it clear to Diane that she was planning to raise her daughter with Jason, and she signed a will to that effect, leaving guardianship to Jason. She hopes not to put Jason on the stand, but she doubts Sonny’s lawyer will cross him too much — Sonny’s arrest record is longer and more colorful, which will get Sam’s last wishes in. More importantly, Jason is connected to the Quartermaines, and his fiancee is well-loved and well-respected. It’ll come down to Elizabeth and Carly, and Diane plans to prove how crappy Carly is at motherhood. Jason feels marginally better, but is gulty at having to drag Carly through the mud. Elizabeth hopes he’ll wake up— that Carly was pushing this the last few months. She waited until she thought Jason would have Elizabeth and her son, trying to justify it. He knows that, and it’s…maybe he should have seen this coming. She pretended to be his best friend, but at the end of the day, Carly worries about herself.

The custody battle seems to open a line of attack—and problems become slightly worse. Shipments are outright stolen, drugs are on the streets, some hookers are beat up. Jason’s trying to keep it under control, but he wonders if Sonny is behind some of the issues. He wonders what happened to Johnny Zacchara’s body, and how long it’s going to be before Anthony comes for them.

At the actual custody hearing, Diane leads with Elizabeth, establishing her role in Evie’s life, her art career, her own son. Jordan skips over much of the bad stuff, knowing that much of it isn’t admissible. Ric was never charged or prosecuted for Carly’s kidnapping, so there’s not much they can do on that end. She brings out that Elizabeth has been married twice to the same man, but there’s just not much dirt there. Diane puts Jason the stand, bolstered by Jordan’s light-going on Elizabeth, and asks im to describe the situation about the paternity change and the guardianship. He describes Sam’s last words, and talks about how he tells Evie stories about Sam all the time, and how Elizabeth painted a portrait of Sam and Evie for Evie’s room at Audrey’s home. Yes, Elizabeth plans to adopt her, to be a mother figure, but he plans for Evie to always know her mother.

After a parade of character witnesses who wax poetic about Jason raising Michael—even Robin Scorpio has flown in from Paris, after Emily explained the situation—to discuss Carly as a mother and Jason as a father, Jordan reluctantly puts Sonny on the stand to explain why he didn’t contest guardianship initially. Sonny’s story doesn’t really make him come across well (hiding it from his wife, having a second affair, with it’s clear from Carly’s expression she was unaware of), but then Diane rips him apart on the stand—talking about the shooting of Carly the night Morgan was born, Michael’s long absences, the faking of his death. She keeps pushing at Sonny, and he’s growing angrier and angrier as if he’s about to explode, and then Diane abruptly calls off the questioning and sits. The hearing is over, the judge will return with a determination in a few days, but there are very few people that don’t think Sonny and Carly have lost—Sonny may be the only one. After all, blood is blood.

Jason and Elizabeth head back to Audrey’s, and her heart is breaking for him, because she remembers Sonny once, and how wonderful he was to her, to Jason, how much Sonny meant to Jason. To see them at odds like this, she wishes they could have found a way to avoid it. He does, too, but he thinks the decision was made the moment he honored his promise to Sam over his loyalty to Sonny. It’s almost the same thing that happened with Robin in some ways. His promise to Carly resulted in falling in love with Michael, and he couldn’t see how things were falling apart with Robin until it was too late. But it’s complicated because of Sonny’s mental problems, that he’s never received treatment for, and the business.

Nadine has kept Johnny informed about the custody battle, and he’s decided it’s time to make his move, and throw in his lot behind Jason. He thinks he can get his father on the right side if he does it right. He needs Nadine to make the contact, because it’s not safe for him in public with Sonny on the loose. She suggests going to Jason’s fiancee, Elizabeth. She goes to Kelly’s, she thinks that might work. Johnny agrees but makes her promise not to take any chances. He doesn’t think Jason will hurt her, but he can’t guarantee about Sonny.

Carly is nervous, because she hadn’t really planned on it going that far. She’d thought Jason would give them Evie, especially once he understood how close to the edge Sonny was. He’d always protected Sonny, and to put them through the custody hearing, Sonny’s going to slide over the edge when they lose—and she’s sure they’ll lose—and after hearing that Sonny had a second affair with Sam last summer, she’s not sure she wants this idea of family anymore. She sends Michael and Morgan to stay with Bobbie for a few days, not wanting them in the house.

Jason is trying to get things under control, but the word on the street is that Hector Ruiz’s son Javier has been seen in the area—that Ruiz is working with someone. Jason’s almost sure that Sonny’s gone to the Ruizes for manpower, which was a sign that Sonny was near the edge — the Ruizes were doing the minor sabotage to begin with. Jason’s walking a very thin tight rope, which he knows will snap when Sonny loses custody. He cautions Elizabeth, tells her to take a guard with her, and that the kids aren’t leaving the house until further notice. He can’t take them to penthouse because that’s where the threat is, and the other safehouse he’d been working on isn’t ready yet. He gives orders to Cody and Francis to work overtime making it ready. They’re going to need it soon.

Nadine approaches Elizabeth at Kelly’s. She tells her that it’s important she speaks to her, that it’s about Johnny Zacchara. Elizabeth is hesitant but steps into the courtyard for a quiet chat. Nadine tells her that she’s been dating Johnny for nearly a year, and that Sonny thought Johnny was up to something when he kept coming to town—he was coming to see her, after they’d met at a party in New York City. The night Sonny thought he killed Johnny, he came to her, she’s been hiding him, but Johnny wants Jason’s help getting out of this, and in return, Johnny will keep Anthony Zacchara from blowing them all up. Elizabeth didn’t know most of these details ,but she knew there as direct source of disagreement. She immediately brings Nadine to the warehouse.

Nadine repeats her story to Jason and Jason agrees to offer protection. He knows he’s going to need Anthony Zacchara on his side if Sonny is going to bring Hector Ruiz’s sons into this. Javier is more old school, like his father, but Manny is a fucking lunatic. He tells Nadine and Elizabeth stay exactly where they are. He’ll get Johnny to a safehouse, but he wants them safe in this room until Johnny’s out of Nadine’s apartment. He leaves.

Carly and Sonny are in the penthouse, and she’s wondering what she should do when the news comes down. She’s never been as good at helping Sonny in breakdowns. She’s tried to talk to Bobbie about what might be wrong, but the only thing that will fix Sonny is therapy and medication, neither of which he’s ever been open to. She thinks she’s opened a gate that she can’t close, and she’s aimed him directly at Jason. It’s a little late for regrets, she knows, but man, if Jason had just told her Sonny had had an affair with Sam while Carly was living across the hall, she would have left him. They’d been separated before but they’d been together. It would have been the end.

Probably. Maybe. But at least she could have made the decision, so maybe it was little his fault.

Carly gets a call from Jordan, and the judge has delivered her decision. They’re upholding the termination of Sonny’s rights, and approving Elizabeth’s petition for adopting Evie, subject to finalization after the wedding. They’ve lost custody. And…the judge recommends social services be involved with Michael and Morgan. Sick to her stomach, she hangs up and reluctantly begins to prepare to tell Sonny the truth.

At the warehouse, Nadine is on pins and needles. She was so nervous about approaching them, and Johnny hated her doing it, he hated her being involved but it wasn’t like they had a choice. She hadn’t saved his life and nursed him back to health to see him screw it up now. Elizabeth completely understands. She hid Jason once while he was shot, and it was less dangerous in some ways, but one of her well-meaning friends started a fight with him that ended up reopening his wound. Also, he pushed himself. She tells Nadine not to worry. She trusts Jason to keep them safe. She gets a call from Diane, who gives them the joyous news. Elizabeth is relieved, but admits to Nadine she’s kind of terrified. The other shoe is going to drop.

At the penthouse, Sonny has flipped the minibar and Carly is terrified, because she’s never seen the look in his eyes before. He flips the coffee table, and then throws a vase. It crashes past her, and she’s cut by the shards. And his words begin to penetrate that haze. Jason is a traitor. Jason’s going to pay. He’s going to get his daughter. He doesn’t care who gets in his way. He storms out. Shaking, Carly calls Jason’s phone. No answer. She leaves him a message, and the texts him. Get the kids out. Move the kids. Sonny’s slid over the edge.

At the warehouse, Elizabeth and Nadine are startled when the guards rush in and rush them to waiting car. They’re going to the safehouse now. Elizabeth is upset, where’s Jason? What about the kids? Francis doesn’t know what to say. And then Elizabeth is quiet, because she doesn’t think she wants the answers.

At the safehouse (which is a compound outside of Port Charles with stone walls, security cameras, electric fences — Jason wasn’t kidding with making it safe.) Elizabeth and Nadine go inside, but Jason still isn’t there, and they’re still not answering her questions about the kids.

The door burst open, and its Johnny with Cam in his arms, and their nanny (still no name) with Evie. Elizabeth is relieved, but Jason’s not with them. Where is he? What happened? She takes Cam from Johnny, who rushes to Nadine. Cody tells them Jason is in the car behind them.

Jason comes in, and he looks haggard. There’s a cut on his forehead. Elizabeth doesn’t understand what’s happened. Were they attacked at Nadine’s? Jason says he’ll explain, but they need to get the kids calmed down and settled. And Elizabeth realizes they’re too upset for them just to have been picked up on the way from Nadine’s. But she gets Jason. Leaving Johnny and Nadine, she and Jason and the nanny take the kids upstairs. They get them calmed down. Jason apologizes to the nanny (who shall one day have a name and a personality) for this, but she responds she knew what she was getting into it.

Once Cam and Evie are calm and in the nanny’s safe hands, Jason and Elizabeth return downstairs. He tells her that Diane called him as they were in the car going from Nadine’s to the safehouse. And three minutes later, he received a call from Carly. He ignored that, but then he got her text. He turned the car around immediately, and called the security at the house. By the time Jason and Johnny arrived, the car was outside, and the men were inside the house. The kids heard guns as the nanny and Cody were rushing them out the back, and men died.

Elizabeth is wrecked that Sonny sent armed men to the home they share with the kids, to her grandmother’s home. He would have killed the nanny, probably Elizabeth, would he have hurt Cam to get to Evie? She’s devastated, and looks like she’s going to crumble.

Instead, she turns away, takes a deep breath, and when she turns around, she looks steely-eyed, with a sense of resilience Jason didn’t even know what she had. She tells him okay, now she knows the situation. What’s next? Jason exchanges a glance with Johnny, and Elizabeth can see he’s about to send her and Nadine out of the room. She balks. Not after her babies were threatened, after gunmen went to their home. This isn’t business, it’s personal. Jason reluctantly sees her point. Sonny has allied himself with the Ruizes for their resources. Elizabeth gets it—Jason needs back up, he needs help. She looks at Johnny. It’s got to be his family to help, since Johnny coming to town to avoid his father is fed into this mess. Johnny agrees, and he’s already pledged his help to keep Anthony from retaliating. It’s not enough, Elizabeth tells him. She looks at Jason, Because he knows she’s right. He’s going to have to ally with Zacchara against Sonny. Johnny tells him he can convince his father to do that. He’s never liked Sonny anyway—because you know, Trevor Lansing and all.

Jason takes Elizabeth into his office. Nadine wants to know how much more dangerous this is going to get. Johnny tells her it’s going to get worse before it gets better. He can send her away, do something extra to make her safe, but she says she’ll call out of work for a few days and if Jason is okay with it, she’ll stay here. If he thinks his kids and his fiancee are safe here, she’ll be fine. Johnny agrees. He’s sorry about this, it’s hardly what she signed up for. She signed up for him, and whatever comes with that. Again, though, he’s lucky he’s cute.

Jason apologizes to Elizabeth for this getting so out of hand, could they have avoided it if he’d talked to Sonny earlier? Elizabeth isn’t sure. Sonny might have snapped earlier, there’s no way to tell. They have to concentrate on the now. She’ll stay here, with the kids, to stay safe. But he has to come home to her. They’ve come too far for them to lose each other now. He tells her he’s not going to make her promises he can’t keep. He’ll do what he can.

Jason and Johnny leave immediately for Crimson Pointe to make the deal with Zacchara and secure his resources. He only takes Francis with him as security. Everyone else stays in Port Charles. Nadine asks Elizabeth how scared she should be, and Elizabeth tells her somewhere under terrified. She should have known it would get this bad. Carly was involved, and she just knows Carly kept pushing and pushing until Sonny was too far gone to control. She wonders at Michael and Morgan’s safety, and Carly’s location. Despite everything Carly has done to Jason, she knows Jason will take it badly if she’s hurt in the crossfire. Nadine doesn’t know Carly that well, but she’s never seemed that stable. Elizabeth blames Carly entirely, because she thinks Sonny started to change because of her. Because, maybe to with someone as destructive, selfish and needy as Carly Benson, Sonny need to kill that part of himself that was generous and warm. He’s never been the same since he hooked with the walking hurricane. Jason was smart to get himself away from that while he could. If Carly’s selfishness is the reason Jason doesn’t come home, Elizabeth will destroy her.

Jason and Johnny meet with Anthony Zacchara and Trevor Lansing. Johnny quickly explains that he’s been hanging out in PC, not in New York, he’s been seein someone. Anthony figured, but he decided to let Johnny annoy Sonny. Well, unfortunately, Johnny admits, he annoyed Sonny a little too much, and Jason had to step in—not that Johnny knew this. Had Jason come to him, he would have figured something out. Jason’s annoyed by this, because, yeah, there’s a point, but let’s focus. He admits that Sonny shot him, and Johnny hid out for six weeks with his girlfriend, waiting for the right time to come forward. Now Anthony’s pissed, but Johnny says that the action Jason to split with Sonny and take power. But Sonny lost the custody hearing, and he’s going after Jason’s family. Johnny wants his father to back Jason in this power struggle, because Jason saved Johnny’s life.

Anthony isn’t keen to come in on either side of the equation, but he’s old school enough to understand that he needs to back Jason, as repayment for his son’s life. He agrees to supply Jason with anything he needs. And with his support comes other members of the syndicate on the East Coast. The Ruizes will back Sonny until it’s not useful to them anymore—and they want to work with Boston and New York too much to risk it for Sonny Corinthos, a two-bit player from upstate New York.

With the deal in place, and Anthony’s pledge to hold a meeting with the Families to make it clear to Hector Ruiz how the cookie crumbles, Jason returns to Port Charles alone. Johnny remains in Crimson Pointe to keep his father honest, but asks Jason to protect Nadine. She’s like Elizabeth—she’s only in this because she loves him, and she doesn’t deserve to get hurt. Jason agrees.

He returns to the penthouse to find it empty and trashed. And he finds Carly upstairs, bleeding from a head wound. He takes her to the hospital, and she drifts in and out of consciousness. She told Bobbie to get her brother to get the boys to disappear, because once Sonny realizes she sent them away, he’d come for her and she wanted them safe. Did…Sonny do this to her? He asks, appalled. She admits he threw her against the wall when she refused to tell him where the boys are. He’s out of control, she knows it, and she did this. She didn’t think long-term, she just wanted to fix her family, and instead she destroyed them. It’s all she knows how to do.

Shaken at Sonny’s actions—from injuring Carly to threatening children, Jason returns to his penthouse, to make it center of operations. He can’t contact Elizabeth, can’t give away the location of the safehouse. The house isn’t even in his name, or Elizabeth’s, but in Sam’s. He’d initally bought the property the summer before, thinking she’d want to live on her own at some point. And then he’d turned into a fortress to protect his family. Sonny’s not likely to look for Sam’s property. He hopes. He meets with Cody and Max about the situation. They’re trying to locate Sonny, what’s he going to do when he finds him? Jason doesn’t know.

At the safehouse, Elizabeth tells Nadine she wishes she could contact Emily and her brother. She’s sure they’re worried, and while Jason will eventually get around to telling them everything is okay, it’s not high on the list of priorities. Nadine asks how she can be in this life like this? What made her choose to really do this? And Elizabeth responds it wasn’t a choice, not really. She loves Jason. Every bit of him. Even the shadowy dark parts. She won’t say she’s not scared, but the end of the day, her family with Jason is worth it. Nadine admits that she loves Johnny, and she wants to think she’s cut out of this, but this has been such a shock. She hopes she’s strong enough, and Elizabeth thinks she might be. She hasn’t flipped yet.

Jason finds Emily at the hospital, and she’s been worried sick. There were reports of gunshots near the Hardy house, but nothing was found. Where are Liz and the kids? Jason says they’re safe, to let Steven know that, too. If anyone asks, they went to California to see some friends Elizabeth made while she was living there. Emily agrees and tells him to be careful. He’s put a guard on her, and on Steven. Sonny might not tihnk of them, but Jason’s not taking any chances.

Bobbie visits Carly in the hospital, and pleads with her to divorce Sonny. Carly agrees, and she’s worried about Jason, his kids, about her boys. They’re safe right? Luke hid them. Bobbie promises that Luke, with Lucky’s help, will protect them. This will be over soon. One way or another. Jason’s not going to let this stand. Carly feels like she’s seeing clearly for the first time in years and she’s destroyed over what she’s done, over what she allowed to happen to Jason, to Sonny. She’s the common denominator. She’s what went wrong. Bobbie can’t deny that.

Jason, in an effort to draw a confrontation, heads to the warehouse. His instincts are right…Sonny is there. And he’s alone. His alliance with the Ruizes is about causing trouble elsewhere—with shipments and the police, and the bookies, hookers. But Jason thought Sonny would deal with him on his own. Sonny confronts him about all that Jason’s stolen from him, and Jason it’s true that he participated in Sam’s scheme to block him from Evie, but Sonny brought that on himself by lying to Carly and not coming forward. He took the business, but Sonny was putting them all in the danger. Jason pleads with Sonny to get help, to find a way back to the surface again, to be that man he knows, that he considers his brother. He knows Sonny, the real Sonny, wouldn’t have sent men after two small children, wouldn’t have thrown Carly into a wall. He knows it. But Sonnys only hearing that Jason is criticizing him, undermining him. He shouts at him—he wants his life bakc, he wants what Jason stole, his kids, his business, his life. And when he goes for his gun, Jason is quicker.

After killing Sonny, Jason reluctantly returns to the safe house, and to Elizabeth. He looks in on Evie and Cam before sitting in a chair, watching Elizabeth asleep. She becomes aware of it, and wakes up. She knows, without speaking, what’s happened, and knows how wracked with guilt he must be. Jason asks how can she love him, he’s nothing but a killer, and Elizabeth knows she has to tread lightly, because he needs to know that she knows him for who and what he is and loves him anyway. She tells him that she knows that he’s killed people, with or without Sonny’s orders. She knows he’s capable of violence. But he exists in a world that isn’t black or white, but in shades of gray. She tells him that he has taken lives, but he is not a killer. It’s not the same thing. Today, he took Sonny’s life, but there was no choice. Sonny sent men to take their daughter, a daughter he never cared about until it was too late, until she knew Jason to be her father. He sent armed men into the home Jason shared with his family, either knowing or not caring Elizabeth would have given her life to protect Evie. In their world, by the rules Sonny himself taught Jason, what should Jason have done? Left Sonny alive so he could keep coming after their family? She grieves for the man she knew once, who loved Jason as a brother, but that man has been gone for so long. If Jason had died tonight, where would that have left her, Cam and Evie? It is the first time they have spoken about the nature of his job, of what he does, and though he know it shouldn’t, it soothes him.

The storm has passed. Johnny comes to Port Charles, to the compound to retrieve Nadine and tell Jason that Anthony, with the help of Boston and New York, has put the Ruizes in their place. They’re pulling out of PC, particularly in the wake of Sonny’s death. Johnny takes Nadine to meet his father, a terrifying prospect.

Jason visits Carly in the hospital and tells her that after this moment, he’s out of her life. He understands what she did, and he’s glad she’s not hurt more seriously, but after this, they’re done. He can’t have someone in his life that’s capable of turning on him. Wherever Luke hid the boys, maybe Carly should go with them. She agrees.

Elizabeth is reunited with her brother and Emily. They were so worried for her, and Elizabeth admits that she was also scared. Steven says he knew she didn’t go to California, and he’s not going to say a thing about Jason. Just happy she’s safe. Emily tells Elizabeth that she has a pretty good idea what happened, and she’s relieved Jason has her to help him deal with this. He would never open up to her, but to to Elizabeth, he may. She can’t wait to have her kid in February, so they can raise them together.

Jason takes his family back to the house, and Elizabeth is relieved that it looks the same. They get the kids settled and Elizabeth realizes it’s two weeks until Christmas. She blinks and realizes it’s a year almost to the day that she sat next to him on the bench, to draw him out of his exhaustion. What a year it’s been. Does she have any regrets, he asked? She thinks about answering that question honestly—that she wishes she’d pushed him to resolve things with Sonny and Carly, that she had made a move on him sooner, that they could have found a way to get Sonny help. But instead, she tells him she doesn’t believe in regrets. She believes in looking forward. To tomorrow. To their family, to their lives together. This year has been tulmultuous, insane, and amazing. She tells him that the best thing about their future…is it’s still unwritten and she can’t wait to find out what’s next.

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series The Best Thing - Discarded

The Best Thing actually began as an Elizabeth story in 2004. After Lila’s death, I started a story about Audrey’s funeral and how it would bring the Webbers and Hardys back to Port Charles. I wrote seven chapters (some of which were pretty good) but then a computer crash ate the story and I never got back to it. The Sonny/Carly/Jason baby plot was actually a subplot initially.

When it came to pick the next project in 2014 after completing A Few Words Too Many, I put up a poll and included this idea for fun. I started playing with a plot, bringing it back to that original vision with Audrey’s death. I was going to skip forward to May 2005 after her death with Jason and Liz already engaged, with her family providing conflict to go along with Sonny. But I ended up cutting the Webbers entirely, only keeping Steven.

When I started to write out the background to explain how Jason and Liz were going to get back together, I was also reading LeaB’s Worlds on Fire, one of my favorite ensemble stories ever. And I adored the slow build she gave them, working on their friendship first with everything falling apart around them. I was inspired to try something similar with The Best Thing, so I rewrote the outline and added the first 10 or so chapters where Jason and Elizabeth reconnect.

In this small series, I’m going to post my first outlines and then the changes as my beta Cora and I worked on the pacing and the rewrites. Act 3 ended up being rewritten entirely.

I’ve already written a little about my plotting on this and how I used the characters themselves to drive story forward, so if you’re interested in reading about that, check out my Fanfiction 101 series. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the next post!

May 20, 2019

Hello! I’ve finally gotten a chance to edit and add my GHWhoDunIt mystery to the site. I had hoped to do it two weeks ago, but my schedule got away from me. And then my computer broke down over the weekend. I’m still not done reinstalling all my programs and settings from the reset so Death by Candelight doesn’t have a banner on the Alternate Universe page. Hopefully I’ll get that done later this week.

I’m starting a writing blog over at my other site, Dear Isobel, where I talk about my writing projects. I did that a little bit during the doomed NaNoWriMo from November 2018, so if you’re looking for any insights into what I’m writing or maybe even slight spoilers. I want to cut down on the “check in” posts here. I mean, they’re useful I guess, but I’m sure a lot of you would be happier if you only got emails from me with actual content updates. This is going to be a happy medium. You can sign up over there for blog updates. (You’d also get any other blog posts I make, though. Sometimes I write about Days or GH or post romance reviews.)

I’m setting a target date to complete Book 2 for Mad World by June 30, which would hopefully mean I could start posting it around August 1. Between now and then, I’m definitely going to be doing more flash fiction, cleaning up some old stories, looking at some of the older features and working on them. Maybe I’ll get back into doing the ebooks. I don’t know. I’ve got the time on my hands now. I’m officially done school and all I have to do now is going to work 😛

So check out the blog! If you read Death by Candlelight over at the Liason Haven, there aren’t any changes. I just cleaned up some grammar and spelling issues I missed the last time. I Iiterally wrote and posted a lot of that story while I was preparing for my orals and I think I was really stressed out about getting it edited and posted on April 15 before leaving for my exam that day. Crazy. But it’s done! If you didn’t read DbC because you didn’t want to join the message board, then here it is for you.

The Liason Haven runs a monthly mystery series in which authors take turns writing short stories split into two parts, asking the readers to guess whodunit. This has been merged into one short story, but you’ll probably be able to guess where the parts were originally split.

This is set in Victorian London, using the Jack the Ripper murders as a backdrop. You don’t really need to know anything else, but if you’re at all familiar with this time period and those murders, it should be fun for you. I read a TON of a Victorian romance novels and I specialize in 19th century British history so any time I get to pull that stuff out, I’m always happy.

A few notes on terminology: Liz is Jason’s secretary, which at this point is more like an executive assistant and would have traditionally been done by a man. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.

I hope you guys enjoy!


1

Early October 1888
Fleet Street, London

Morgan Publishing: London City Press 

Elizabeth Webber furrowed her brow as she scrutinized the broad sheet from the offices of the Central News Agency. Though it had been in business longer than she could remember, the distribution service was not always entirely reliable, and it was important to her employer that their newspaper stay above reproach.

Of course, the Press was fighting a circulation war with every other major newspaper in the city over these terrifying murders, and any scrap of news was published no matter how dubious. Still, a letter from the purported criminal himself? Surely it was a hoax.

She heard footsteps climbing the steep stairs to their second story suite of offices, and her heartbeat picked up slightly. Every morning for the past two years, she had listened to those steps and raised her eyes to the door, looking for the first sight of the man who had taken a chance and given Elizabeth a job that was typically reserved for a man. Women did not work as secretaries to the sons of the nobility, even if that family had been in trade and publishing for the better part of two generations.

And women who were themselves the daughters of baronets did not typically hire themselves out to work for men, but like the Morgan family, Elizabeth’s family wealth had disappeared decades earlier. Jason Morgan had turned a deaf ear to anyone who said that men and women could not work together in close environs without scandal, and for two years, they had proven it to be true.

The door opened, and Jason entered, removing his hat as he did so.  He rarely remembered to wear a hat of any kind during the daylight hours, much less a formal top hat which meant his mother, the duchess, had likely made a surprise visit to his town home in Bloomsbury.

She sighed. If Her Grace had mentioned marriage or the name of a suitable young lady on this visit, then Jason would be rather irritable which did not bode well for her day.

“Good Morning, Miss Webber,” Jason said with a nod. He removed his hat. A piece of wheat colored hair slid over his forehead. He nodded at the sheet in her hand. “I see the Central News is at it again.”

Elizabeth rose, straightening her snow-white shirt waist as she did so, and followed him into his office, leaving the door open two inches behind them. “They claim to have received letters from the Whitechapel murderer. We went to print with the story, but—” She handed him the sheet. “You said any and all news—”

“I know.” Their fingers brushed as he took the paper from her, the slight touch sending shivers down her spine. She lived for these small moments, these small touches, for these glimpses into what it might be like if things had been different.

Fifty years ago, when both their families had had wealth and fortune and traveled in the high echelons of society, she might have entertained an actual future with him. It would not have been out of the question for the younger son of a duke to marry into the lower gentry—

But now, with both their families diminished, there could be no question of marrying down for his family. Even if Jason was a radical black sheep who espoused crazy things like support for unions and suffrage for women, he would be the laughingstock of Fleet Street if he so much as glanced at his secretary.

And newspapers often rose and fell on the reputation of their owners.

“You sent it to print?” he echoed, taking a seat behind his large mahogany desk and flipping through some paperwork.

“Yes. You said—”

“I know. Well, if it proves to be a hoax, at least all of London will go down with us.” He glanced at her, their eyes meeting for a moment. He had such lovely blue eyes— “If Her Grace calls, I am not available.”

She nodded. “Yes, sir—”

“In fact, if any member of my family calls—”

“You are not available.” She chanced a half smile and a question. “I take it from the hat you never remember to wear that you had a family visit this morning.”

“She shoved it into my hand as I was attempting to flee,” Jason muttered. “She came armed with the names of American heiresses. She should be going after my brother, but I imagine I was easier to reach since I wasn’t drinking myself to death in an East End brothel—” He coughed. “At any rate, these—” He gestured at the broadsheet. “Jack the Ripper murders have all my attention.” Jason scowled. “That’s a ridiculous name.”

“Well, what he does to those women is not ridiculous.” Elizabeth tapped her pencil against the steno notebook in her hands. “Mr. Morgan—”

“Your lodgings—the boarding house—” He looked up. “Clerkenwell is not far from Whitechapel. Has your landlady looked after you? The safety of the building?”

“Yes, sir. And we have a police district building just down the road.” She cleared her throat. “Mr. Frank has asked about the illustration department again.”

The pen which he was scribbling notes stilled in his hands, but he did not look up. “He renewed his offer?”

“Yes. He liked the work I did for the Parliament gathering when Mr. Dexter missed his deadline. I told him I was not interested but he—” She bit her lip. “I wish that you would speak with him. I have already said no.” And being asked again and again to take a position that would allow her to draw all day long was terrible torture.

But if she moved downstairs to the illustration department, she would give up these moments with him and she just—wasn’t ready to do that yet.

Jason set the pen down and looked at her. “Is it the salary? If you want him to match—”

“No, I am simply…” She held his eyes for a long moment. “I am happy where I am.”

After a long moment, he looked away. Coughed, then nodded. “I will speak with him, then. Thank you, Miss Webber. I—I don’t know what I—we—would do without you here.”

Her spirits lifted slightly, she offered him a smile before returning to her desk and work.

2
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home For Young Ladies: Front Parlor

“She is simply the worst.”

Elizabeth fought the urge to roll her eyes as pretty, blonde Starr Manning complained about her beau’s overbearing mother. Since childhood, Starr had expected to marry a boy from her village who had come to London the year before to read law at University College London, and Starr had followed him here. Unfortunately, Michael Benson had refrained from proposing marriage because his harridan of a mother hated Starr.

Elizabeth commiserated with the younger woman, of course, but it was exhausting to share tea with her each day. At nineteen, Starr was dramatic as any Drury Lane Actress.

She exchanged a knowing glance with her roommate, Emily Bowen, a typist at a local solicitor’s office. They were both half a dozen years older than Starr and the other woman sharing tea with them, Maximilliana Jones, who shared Starr’s penchant for dramatics. Maxie and her younger sister, Georgiana Jones, had come to the boarding house three months earlier.

The front door opened, allowing the blustery October winds to swirl in the entry hall. A moment later, a trio of women entered, two brunettes and a sunny blonde.

Nadine Crowell, an Irish emigre, took a seat next to Starr and poured herself a cup of tea. In her lovely lilting brogue, she declared, “Britt and I are going to see that medium you all laughed at me about.”

Britta Westbourne wrinkled her nose as she poured tea for herself, then for Robin Scorpio, Starr’s roommate. “I can’t let her go alone,” she offered as an excuse. “The last time Nadine went without supervision, she surrendered a week’s earnings.”

Nadine scowled. “And if you had let me pay the man, then he would have contacted my mother as he promised. But I had to keep looking—”

Elizabeth shifted slightly on the lumpy sofa. Seances and mediums were all the rage these days, and rarely a week passed without Nadine trying to convince them all to attend one. She saw Emily’s brown eyes light up with interest, and she sighed. The thought of being able to contact her own mother always made Elizabeth’s best friend go slightly crazy.

“We ought to ask about these murders,” Maximilliana, better known as Maxie, declared. She shivered, gesturing to a copy of the London City Press on the table next to the tea service. Elizabeth always brought home the afternoon edition after she finished work for the day. “He might be in Whitechapel today, but what is stopping him from coming this way?”

“Oh, does that mean you’ll come instead of laughing at me for a chance?” Nadine asked. “Emily, you’ll come, right?”

“I—” She saw Elizabeth’s look and sighed. “I shouldn’t but…what do you know about her?”

“Absolutely nothing as usual,” Robin said with a roll of her eyes. She, along with Britt, worked at the London Hospital, and neither had very little patience for anything that science could not prove. “But that will not stop her.”

“It will be fun. We’ll make an evening of it. We can see a show at Covent Garden—it’s nearby—and maybe even have some dinner. Oh, come on, don’t be such fusspots.” Nadine’s laughing eyes challenged them all. “We work hard all week with so little to show for it. Let’s kick up our heels and have some fun on Saturday night.”

When she put it that way, it was hard to argue with the other woman. They all worked in respectable jobs, but living at the boarding house with Barbara Jones, their landlady, and her strict rules, there was not a lot of room for fun. What was the point of being one of these new girl-bachelors if they couldn’t step out on the town once in a while?

“I’ll go,” Elizabeth finally agreed. “But only because Nadine is likely to get herself into trouble if we’re not there with her.”

3
Grosvenor Square, London

Quartermaine House: Dining Room

Once a month, Jason attended a family dinner at his family’s sprawling London home, still located in Mayfair. The duchy had lost a great deal of the family wealth ages ago, but through shrewd investments and sheer will, his grandparents, followed by his parents had been able to sustain appearances. There had also been some hope either Jason or his elder brother, the heir, would marry one of the wealthy American heiresses that haunted the haut ton.

But his brother was a wastrel who spent what little coin was left in brothels and gambling clubs, and Jason—

Jason managed to keep his temper in check at these monthly dinners as his mother and grandmother paraded some close family friends in front of him. He hadn’t been interested in the blonde heiress to a soap fortune last year, and this year, Samantha McCall was the frequent visitor. Her family was in railroads, and it was clear that his mother favored her and her father’s bank account.

When dinner had concluded, Jason hastily joined his father in the study while his mother, grandmother, and Samantha’s mother took the younger woman into the parlor.

Alan Morgan, the current Duke of Quartermaine, lit a cigar and offered the box to his son. “I told your mother not to invite the McCall ladies again, but she is nothing if not relentless.”

Jason grunted, turned down the offer, but accepted the sifter of brandy. “As long as she doesn’t do anything insane like send a notice of marriage to the paper, she can invite all the women she wants to dinner.”

Alan hesitated, pressing his lips together. “I know you’re the not the heir, Jason, but it’s likely that the line will continue with you. Even if your brother manages to get married—” His face was pale as he spoke bluntly about the likely death of his eldest son. “I can’t afford to be patient or not ask you if you have any plans for marriage or children. The tenants—”

“I know.” Jason felt the tension set on his shoulders as he wandered across the room, towards the large bay window that overlooked the square. “They might not bring in much income, but we have our obligations.” He looked at his father. “I don’t know.”

“Your mother has mentioned the young woman who works in your office—”

“She’s my secretary, “Jason said quickly. “And you know I hired her to prove a point.” He sipped his brandy.

“And if you were to show any sort of marital interest in a woman that worked for you, it would prove men and woman cannot work together.” Alan arched a brow. “And it’s worth it to be alone? To turn your back on someone you might care about?”

“I never said—” Jason turned back to his father. Then he shook his head. “It’s not about me. You know how this world is to women without family. Without connections. She wants a profession. To paint and illustrate.”

“Ah, and any chance of that requires a good reputation. So, you’ve discussed this with her. She’s willing to give up being your wife to work for her living?”

“I don’t know how she feels at all. We’ve never spoken—she doesn’t know—” Jason cleared his throat. “She might not realize what she’d be giving up, so I’ve never—”

“Oh, so you’ve decided to be self-sacrificing without even asking her what she wants?” Alan smirked. “You used to torture your grandfather with talk about the equality of women—how they should be able to divorce their husband, have their own wages and property—even have the vote. But I suppose you’re not quite the radical you make yourself out to be.”

Jason scowled. “What does that mean?”

“You’ve made this decision for her without even once asking what she thinks. I don’t have your radical credentials, my boy, but even I know that sort of thing isn’t fair to her—”

Jason opened his mouth to argue, but the door to the study opened and his family’s long-time butler entered. “I apologize, Your Grace, but a letter has just been brought for Mr. Morgan. An express from the paper about some murders?” Reginald held out a white sheet.

Jason crossed swiftly, took the sheet, and scanned. He exhaled shortly. “Someone has sent half a kidney to the leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, claiming it belongs to one of the victims. I have to get to the office—this has to be in the morning edition.”

He nodded to Reginald, tucking the letter in his coat pocket. “Please make my excuses to Mother and Grandmother.”

He strode out without waiting for Alan’s reply.

4
Fleet Street, London

London City Press: Jason’s Office

The next morning, Elizabeth scowled at the illustration of a man opening a package and something falling out of it — supposedly depicting the kidney that George Lusk had received the day before. She set the paper down, reached for the sketchbook she kept in a drawer and started to draw her own illustration.

She didn’t notice Monica Morgan, the Duchess of Quartermaine, until the older woman gently cleared her throat. Elizabeth dropped her pencil and hastily got to her feet, smoothing down her simple black skirt. “Your Grace. I apologize, I did not—”

“You were quite absorbed in your work.” Monica removed the pin holding her elaborate ostrich feather hat in place and removed her hat. “Is my son in yet?”

“Oh. No. He was here until almost dawn, getting the edition together.” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “The Press was able to get an exclusive—and—”

“I’m sure that explains why he ran out on our dinner last evening,” his mother said dryly. “He did not even give his regards to his grandmother, not to mention his complete abandoning of our guests.” Monica’s brown eyes met Elizabeth’s. “It’s a shame. I was hoping Jason might make a connection with the young woman we entertained.”

Her throat tight, Elizabeth merely nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” she said because she could tell Monica wanted something from her.

“She’s precisely the kind of woman I was hoping one of my sons would marry,” Monica continued. “She carries herself well, from a good family—” she tilted her head. “He’s met her a few times. Has he mentioned her at all? Samantha McCall?”

“I—we only speak of work, Your Grace. I’m sure it wouldn’t be proper for us to…” Elizabeth swallowed hard. It sounded as if his mother was warning her against something. Did Jason—Oh, God, did he know how she felt? Had he asked Monica to let her down gently?

Her cheeks felt hot as she looked down on her desk. Belatedly, she realized her sketch and the newspaper were still sitting out. She reached for them, but Monica got to the sketch book first.

“Jason mentioned you were an artist.” She pursed her lips as she examined the drawing. “Are you unhappy with the work Mr. Frank’s department is delivering? Yours seems quite good. If a bit…gruesome…” She sighed. “I’m surprised you’re wasting your talents upstairs, as a secretary.”

“No one would hire a woman illustrator when I was looking for employment,” Elizabeth managed. “But Mr. Frank has offered me a position,” she felt it necessary to add.

“Oh? Jason will be sorry to lose your services, but it might be a good idea for you to be somewhere where you can be happy.” Monica held the book out for Elizabeth to take but did not immediately release it when Elizabeth attempted to. “I can see from just that sketch that you aren’t fulfilling your potential.”

She drew back as footsteps thundered up the stairs, and Jason burst into the outer offices, sans hat. “We’re on our third printing already, Elizabeth—” The tumble of words halted, and the excited light in his eyes bled away as he saw his mother. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Clearly.” Monica smiled fondly as she ran her fingers through his dark blonde hair, smoothly the wind-tousled locks. “You left your hat at home again. What will people think?”

“I’m sure I don’t care.” He looked at Elizabeth, still standing behind her desk. “Good morning, Miss Webber.”

“Mr. Morgan.” Elizabeth took her seat and reached for his appointment book. “I found your note and canceled your meetings—”

“Thank you. Mother—” He gestured towards the door to his office. “Why don’t we go in here—”

He closed the door behind it, then turned to face his mother whose bland expression only irritated him further. “Why are you here? And why did Miss Webber look upset?” Her face had been pale, those beautiful blue eyes stark against the pallor of her fair skin.

“I’m sure I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I merely pointed out the talent of the sketch in her little book and wanted to know why she was wasting her talents here.” Monica arched a brow. “You know she’s staying in this position for you.”

“She has a lot of loyalty,” Jason muttered as he crossed the room and sat at his desk. “I gave her a good position when no one else would even interview her—”

“She’s in love you with, my dear.” Monica waited until he looked at her. “And she will waste the best years of her life away in that room, just to keep your appointment book. And you will allow her to do so because you love her, too. You’re both idiots.”

She pinned her hat back atop her blonde hair. “She has an offer from Mr. Frank. She mentioned it,” she added when Jason just blinked at her. “You should encourage her to take it. Or one day, she will resent you and loathe herself for staying here, hoping for something that will never happen. Is that what you want?”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Good day, Mother.”

“You know I’m right.” Monica opened the door. “Miss Webber, lovely to see you as always. Have a nice a day.”

“Your Grace,” came a murmur from the outside office. Then his mother closed his office door, leaving him alone.

5
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home For Young Ladies: Parlor

Stepping off the omnibus that had carried her from Fleet Street to Clerkenwell Green, Elizabeth wrinkled her nose as fat drops of rain hit the brim of her hat and slid over the edge until they splashed on the sidewalk in front of her.

At least it had waited to rain until she was only minutes from her front step, but the walk only reminded her how unrealistic her dreams had been. Jason had a carriage that stayed in the mews while they were at the office, then it took him home to Bloomsbury, straight to his front door.

He was not being drenched as he made his way home.

She pushed open the front door of the boarding house and removed her sodden coat and hat, setting both on a peg in the hall. Her dress had escaped most of the damp; only her hem was slightly muddy.

Inside the parlor, she could hear the mixture of voices from her roommates, and her irritation only grew as she recognized the slightly penchant voice of Starr. She liked the younger woman, but Elizabeth was not in the mood for her dramatics. Skipping tea would only encourage questions, so Elizabeth plastered a smile on her face, then turned the corner into the room.

Starr was surrounded by Nadine, Emily, and Britt, all of whom looked up at her footsteps. Emily’s smile faded as she tilted her head to the side. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Elizabeth said, but even she could hear the edge in her tone. She sighed.

“Even I can tell something is wrong,” Nadine said with a half-smile, “and you know I’m not good at that.”

“Don’t pry,” Starr snapped. “If she doesn’t want to talk about it, then we shouldn’t force her.” Elizabeth flashed her a grateful smile, feeling bad about her earlier thoughts. Starr was dramatic, of course, but she was also incredibly sensitive when she wanted to be.

Britt rolled her eyes and scoffed. “By all means, let’s talk about your problems some more.”

Starr’s teacup hit the saucer with a clatter. “I beg your pardon,” she snapped.

“Well,” Nadine said, a bit more kindly. “How many times can we hear about Michael and his mother?”

Starr’s faced paled as Emily winced. “It’s different today,” the younger woman declared, her teeth clenched. “Something happened that made it all worse.” Her brown eyes watered.

Emily sighed. “Starr—”

“He said he’s thinking of leaving his studies so he can support us because he’s tired of waiting for his mother to support us. But how can I let him give up his mother and his dream for me?”

Britt leaned forward. “Carly Benson is not worth your time or your energy. Even the doctors Robin and I work with at the hospital hate asking her to consult with the patients who want a midwife.”

Emily pursed her lips. “Don’t you think that’s probably more about the doctors being all men who hate women working there in the first place?”

“That’s not the point,” Britt retorted.

Before Emily and Britt could keep debating the subject, Elizabeth interjected. “Starr, if Michael decides to leave his law course and give up being a solicitor, that’s his choice. It’s not your fault—”

“Like you refusing that illustration position with Robert Frank?” Emily demanded. “You’re giving up your dream for something that will never happen. Yes, Starr. Blame the person making the choice. They’re the one making the mistake.”

Elizabeth glared at her best friend. “Are we doing this again?”

“Wait.” Nadine furrowed her brow. “Are we arguing? Why are we arguing?”

Elizabeth looked at the blonde, then sighed. “No. We’re not.” Turning her attention back to Starr, she said, “If Michael makes that choice, it makes it his fault. But that doesn’t mean he won’t make it yours at some point. Maybe it’ll take five or ten years, but yes, he might wake up one day and resent you. He might not. It’s up to you if you want live with that possibility.”

She hesitated, then met Emily’s eyes. “I’m going to ask Mr. Frank tomorrow if the position is still available.”

“Really?” Emily’s eyes widened.

“I’m not doing what I love, and the reason I applied for the position as Jason’s secretary was to show him my work and end up in illustrations. I forgot that for a while.” She bit her lip. “But I remember it now.”

Nadine, seated next to her, took her hand. “You should look happier about it.”

“Did Jason get engaged?” Starr asked. She reached for the society pages of the London Times, her favorite section of the paper. “I didn’t see anything, and you know the Morgans would definitely place a notice—”

“No.” Elizabeth managed a smile. “But he will. He likes to pretend he’s not part of all of that, that he earns a wage like the rest of us, but he loves his family, and he’ll do what’s best for them.”

Nadine cleared her throat, patted Elizabeth’s hand. “Then you will definitely need a distraction. We’re seeing Madame Jerome tomorrow. You’re still coming, aren’t you?”

Her blue eyes were hopeful, and Nadine was such a bright and friendly person, that Elizabeth didn’t have the heart to tell her how little she wanted to visit a spiritual medium. She smiled at back Nadine. “Someone has to keep you giving away your entire week’s wages.”

6
Covent Garden, London

Jerome Town House: Parlor

The next evening, only Maxie and Georgie remained at the boarding house with Bobbie Jones, their landlady. Everyone else took the omnibus to Covent Garden where they watched some live entertainment in the square and purchased food from the variety of food vendors available.

Elizabeth almost felt like her normal self as the group trudged towards the small side street where Ava Jerome had leased the first floor of a town house. The house itself was four stories tall, wedged tightly between a butcher’s and a florist shop. These houses were old and tiny, barely one room wide but three or four rooms arranged along a dark, cramped hallway.

A butler showed them in, the six of them barely fitting along the hallway, illuminated by only one or two gas lights on the wall. He opened a door to reveal a room with a wide circular table that took up nearly every inch of the room. Eight chairs were arranged around it.

The table was covered in a thick, white, tablecloth with a large bronze vase filled with decaying flowers in the middle. Elizabeth wrinkled her nose at that.

A tiny woman dressed entirely in black, her silvery blonde hair swept up in an elegant chignon stepped forward. “Welcome to my home. I am Ava Jerome,” she announced with a sweep of an arm, her voice low and throaty. “What knowledge do you seek?”

Britt elbowed Nadine, who stepped forward, clearing her throat. “I want to speak with my mother,” she said hesitantly. “And…these are my friends. They’re here for support. I read someone if the spirits have a lot of energy to pull from–”

“Ah, yes.” Ava nodded. “Before we begin, I must consult individually. We cannot have any negative energy from skeptics or nonbelievers.”

Britt rolled her eyes as Emily muttered under her breath, but when Nadine shot them all a dirty look, no one dared to say anything out loud. Nadine followed Ava through the door.

“You know we’re going to be thrown out of here in about five minutes once that lady gets a load of us,” Britt said to Elizabeth to Robin. “Nadine and Starr are gullible and—”

“And I’m what?” Emily demanded, planting her hands on her hips.

“Impressionable,” Britt said finally.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in believing in the afterlife,” Starr muttered. The group fell into an uncomfortable silence as, one by one, they went into the room with Ava. Nadine returned, and refused to tell them what had happened. Then Britt, then Emily, then Robin, and Starr. Finally, Elizabeth went in.

The room was set up like smaller parlor with two wooden chairs arranged under a lamp and next to table. Ava, already seated, gestured for Elizabeth to take the other seat.

“How does this work?” she asked warily as she gingerly perched on the edge of the seat.

Ava tilted her head. “Do you believe?”

Wanting to scoff, but also knowing this was important to Nadine, Elizabeth just sighed. “I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of things about the world we don’t understand. But I’m not sure I believe we can talk to dead. I hope so. Nadine’s been searching for a long time for someone.”

Ava nodded. “Mmm…so you are afraid to deny, but not brave enough to believe.” Her lips curved into a smile. “I can work with that.”

As Elizabeth was the last one, Ava followed her back into the room and told the women to take a seat at the table. Emily leaned in close.

“She barely met with you. What happened? Everyone else talked with her for five minutes—”

Elizabeth shrugged. “I don’t know—”

“All right, ladies. Please join hands. We must see if my spirit guide is willing to see the other side.” Seated at the head of the table, Ava extended her hands to Robin and Britt on either side of her.

As all their hands met, the lights in the room dimmed. Elizabeth glanced around, but no one was there to turn them down. She looked at Ava who tilted her head up to the ceiling, her pale skin like snow in the dark. A breeze ruffled her blonde hair, tendrils swaying in the air.

Elizabeth looked up, then around as Emily and Starr did the same, but there was nowhere that the air could have come from. Nadine, Britt, and Robin were all staring at Ava.

“Whom do you seek?” Ava asked, her voice lowered.

“My mother, Margaret. She promised me a dowry,” Nadine said in a rush, “but she died before—”

“Margaret…” Ava murmured. She turned her head from side to side. “Margaret.”

From behind her, a knock sounded, and Elizabeth twisted slightly to see—but there was nothing behind her. Just the smooth wall. Another knock came…then more from the other walls. From the ceiling. From the floor.

The wind picked up again, and then was a long, low moan that caused the hair to stand up on Elizabeth’s neck.

Then, just as abruptly as it had begun…the sounds ceased, and the gas lights turned back up to full force.

“I’m…I’m so sorry.” Ava opened her eyes and looked at Nadine. “The spirits couldn’t find her.”

Tears were already sliding down Nadine’s cheeks. “Couldn’t you try again?”

“I must—” Ava swept her gaze around the table, resting on each woman in turn for a moment. “I must not have rid the room of negativity.” She slumped in her chair. “Please. Leave me now. We can try again at another time.”

“But—” Nadine started.

Britt put her hand on Nadine’s shoulder. “Let’s just go, Nadine. We can come back.”

7
Fleet Street, London

London City Press: Jason’s Office

On Monday morning, two days later, Elizabeth tapped her pencil restlessly against Jason’s appointment book, staring at the smooth surface her desk.

She didn’t hear the steps on the stairs or the door open until Jason cleared his throat in front of her. She jumped, startled.

“Mr. Morgan—”

“Are you all right?” Jason asked as he removed his coat and set it on the peg next to the door.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Morgan—”

“I told you to call me Jason when it’s just the two of us,” he told her as she rose to her feet and followed him into his office, their normal morning routine.

“I don’t—” she cleared her throat as he closed the door behind him.

Closed it entirely, rather than leaving it ajar as he did every other morning.

“I don’t know if that’s proper,” she murmured as he passed around her and went to his desk. He did not sit down, just kept his eyes on her.

“Did—” Jason hesitated. “Did my mother say something to you last week? Robert Frank told me just now that you’ve asked him about taking that position after all.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth pressed a hand to her throat, her fingers touching the cameo fastened there. “She just complimented my work, and I realized—but Mr. Frank said I had missed my chance—”

“He was irritated because you had turned him down twice.” Jason pressed his lips together. “I can make it available if that’s—”

“I don’t want any special favors,” Elizabeth interrupted, her heart pounding.

They were silent for a long moment, just staring at one another before he spoke again. “I could ask a few other publishers. I’ve seen your work. You deserve to be doing what you want—to be happy—”

“It’s not that I’m unhappy here,” Elizabeth said when he didn’t continue. “I know you took a chance in giving me in this position—and Mr. Frank said if he would let me know if the opportunity arose again.”

He still looked distressed, and she hated that he might be blaming himself somehow for this, so she hurried to change the subject. “I was wondering if you might think about the Press looking at seances and mediums.”

Jason furrowed his brow, tilting his head slightly. “I didn’t realize that was still popular since the Fox sisters revealed it was all a con—”

Happy he was allowing the topic shift, she shook her head. “On, every week, there’s a new medium or a spirit guide setting up somewhere. One of the women in my boarding house visits every single one she can find, trying to speak with her mother. We went to one on Friday.”

Jason’s brows lifted. “Really?” he asked with some amusement. “I wouldn’t have thought that would be something you’d be interested in—”

“I’m not—not really. But Nadine is determined, and we try not to let her go alone.” Elizabeth hesitated. “One time, one of these people convinced Nadine to give him her entire paycheck, and another time, we had to stop her from getting on a train with one of them.”

“That—” Jason scowled. “That doesn’t seem safe. You—you go with her?”

“We go in groups,” Elizabeth assured him. “Never less than three of us. This time, it was a woman in Covent Garden—Ava Jerome. She was better than most, but she still didn’t give Nadine any peace. I was just wondering…”

He nodded, gesturing for her to take a seat. He never sat at his desk if she was still standing, no matter that she was his employee. When they were both seated, he continued. “You don’t like seeing your friend taken advantage of.”

“No,” Elizabeth said.

“I can ask Spinelli to look into it. He covered the Fox sisters last year,” Jason said. He reached for a pencil, checked the tip. “Ava Jerome, in Covent Garden?”

“Yes, but I don’t know how long she’ll be there. I wish I could convince Nadine to stop going to these people, but I’ve buried my parents, too. I know how hard it is to be alone in the world. These people are taking advantage of her grief.”

Jason met her eyes, held them for a long moment. “You’re not alone, Elizabeth.”

Her cheeks felt hot as she bit her lip, looked away. “N-No, of course not. I just—I know how it feels to lose your parents, I mean.”

“I don’t know if I can give you any good answers, but we can try.”

8
Whitechapel, London

London Hospital: Courtyard

After work, Elizabeth took the omnibus to the London Hospital where Robin and Britt both worked, Britt as a nurse and Robin as an assistant physician. The three of them had plans to meet Emily and Nadine at Drury Lane to see a theater that night, and Elizabeth had promised she would not travel to Covent Garden alone after dark.

She decided to wait inside the courtyard, just off Whitechapel Road, not interested in going inside the septic halls of the hospital. She had never been inside this building, but her parents had died in a hospital five years earlier, the victims of a nasty strain of typhoid fever that swept through their Devonshire village.

As Elizabeth waited for her roommates, a blonde woman made her way down the steps of the hospital and towards her. She was rail-thin with a narrow features, her mouth arranged in what had to be a permanent scowl—Elizabeth had never seen her smile.

Caroline Benson, known to all of them as Carly, Michael Benson’s harridan of a mother and Starr’s mortal enemy, wrinkled her nose.

“Aren’t you one of the sad women who lives with the idiot my son wants to marry?” she demanded as she drew in front of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth lifted an eyebrow. “Do I live at the same boarding house as Starr Manning, your son’s betrothed? Yes.” She met the older woman’s dark, angry brown eyes, extended a hand. “Elizabeth Webber—”

“They haven’t made any official announcements yet, so I’ll thank you not to spread rumors,” Carly interrupted with a snap.

Elizabeth sighed and shifted her weight from one foot to another, letting her hand fall to her side. Where were Robin and Britt? “Are you all right?”

“What?” Carly demanded, folding her thin arms across her dark-colored coat.

“Well, you’re at the hospital.” Elizabeth gestured towards the looming stone building behind them. “I thought you might be feeling ill—”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” the other woman sneered, lifting her chin, “but I’m here to consult with some of the city’s best physicians. They’re enamored with my work.”

“Your work?” Elizabeth repeated, dubiously. Carly was a midwife who had followed her son to London. Most physicians were still men and almost never gave women with any medical training the time of day. Robin, despite her credentials, was treated as little better than hired help.

“They’re impressed at how few of my patients die in childbirth. They wanted my expertise.” Carly glared at her, as if daring Elizabeth to mock her or say something insulting.

“That sounds like really important work, Mrs. Benson,” Elizabeth said, causing Carly’s eyes to narrow because Elizabeth sounded sincere—which she was. Her brother’s wife had died in childbirth before Steven himself had passed away from grief and alcohol. Her grandmother had also died giving birth to her father.

“Yes, well…” Carly sniffed. “I’m meeting my son and that insipid girl—”

“Starr really is very nice, Mrs. Benson—”

“I promised myself the day my son was born that he would have only the best.” Carly swept past her and out the gate. Over her shoulder, she called, “And Starr Manning is not the best.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and turned back to the entrance, relieved to see Robin and Britt striding towards her.

“Hey,” Robin said, with an easy smile. “Have you been waiting long?”

“No, but I had the singularly unpleasant experience of running into Carly Benson.”

Britt groaned. “Oh, her.”

“They’re doing a city-wide research study,” Robin told Elizabeth. “She’s been here for like a week and it’s literally the worst. I can’t wait for her to disappear.”

“Let’s start with not talking about her anymore. I don’t want to miss the omnibus to Drury Lane.”

9
Bloomsbury, London

Morgan Town House: Study

Most evenings, one could find Jason hard at work in his study and most of his staff knew not to disrupt him after he had eaten dinner. There were always a thousand things for a newspaper publisher to do, even after dark. The morning edition wouldn’t put out itself, and it was one of the reasons Jason had been among the first to install a telephone line that ran between his home in Bloomsbury and the Fleet Street offices.

When his butler, Max, knocked on the door, Jason almost growled at him in irritation until he saw his mother in the entrance hall. He sighed and gestured for Max to let her in.

“You missed tea with your grandmother,” Monica said with a lift of her brow. “Thursday tea with Her Grace is not optional.”

“It is for AJ,” Jason muttered, petulantly but grimaced when his mother only sighed and sat on a chaise lounge underneath his window. “I’m sorry. I’ve been busy—” He gestured at his desk. “These murders—”

“Thankfully, there hasn’t been a murder in weeks, and you have a quite capable staff. You’re angry at me because of what I said about or to Elizabeth Webber.”

“I really don’t want to talk about that, Mother.” Jason took his seat and decided to ignore her, but Her Grace, Duchess of Quartermaine, was not so easily dismissed.

“I want to see you settled with someone. Samantha McCall is from a good family—”

“You can stop shoving rich women in my face—” He hesitated. “Robert Frank is going to offer Elizabeth a position in the illustrations department, and this time she will probably accept. Once she’s no longer working for me directly—” He met her eyes, ready for an argument. Ready to defend himself. “I intend to ask her to marry me.”

His mother said nothing, only lifted that damn brow again.

He frowned at her. “You don’t seem surprised.”

“You were never going to take a step towards her as long as she worked as your secretary. Pushing her into wanting to leave merely moved things along.” She rose to her feet. “I’m only sorry I didn’t think of it sooner, but I also didn’t think you’d be so damn stubborn for two years, my boy.”

Jason was speechless as his mother swept out of the room.

10
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home For Young Ladies: Bedroom

Elizabeth closed her drawer in the small dresser that she shared with Emily. They had been roommates since they’d both showed up at the house within two weeks of one another almost three years earlier, and now it was hard to imagine life without Emily.

Her friend was sitting on her bed, drawing a comb through her long, deep brown hair. “I can’t believe you convinced Jason Morgan to investigate Ava Jerome.” She set the comb on the small table between their beds. “How long before the story is in the paper? Does he know anything yet?”

“No,” Elizabeth sighed. She climbed under her blanket and waited until Emily turned down the gas lamp, plunging the room into darkness. “It might be another week, maybe more. Jason hasn’t said a lot. He’s been…weird since he found out I’m planning to take the next spot with Mr. Frank.”

“Maybe he’s thinking about how much he’s going to miss you,” Emily teased. Elizabeth heard rustling as Emily climbed under her own blanket.

“Em—”

“You’ll be happier doing what you love, and he’ll miss you enough to realize how perfect you are, and he’ll run downstairs—”

“We’re not doing this again. Go to sleep!”

Emily giggled, but it was a drowsy one, and soon they both drifted off to sleep. Outside, rain began to fall, gently at first, a pitter patter against the cobblestone streets and roof, gradually building into a late fall storm.

A clap of thunder jarred Elizabeth out of a sound sleep. She opened her eyes as the room was illuminated briefly by a strike of lightning. She turned on her side, away from the window and towards Emily’s bed.

A blood-curdling scream jarred her fully awake, and she heard Emily next to her cursing loudly.  Emily rolled right off her bed and hit the floor with a thud as Elizabeth stubbed her toe reaching for the gas lamp. She winced but managed to get to her feet.

There were more screams—more raised voices—footsteps rushed past their door, heading for the third floor, but the screams continued from just down the hallway—

Emily was pulling the door open as Elizabeth managed to light the lamp. In the dim hallway, they could see a door ajar—and more screams emerging from that room.

Footsteps continued from the first floor as Bobbie rushed up them. Behind Emily and Elizabeth, they heard Starr’s panicked voice as she and Robin came down from the third-floor attic rooms they shared across the hall from Nadine and Britt.

They all rushed towards the open door where they could now near Maxie’s voice screaming shrilly. Elizabeth and Robin both had lamps in their hand, so they went first—

Inside the room, Maxie was standing in front of the window, her white nightgown streaked with blood, screaming and pointing at the other bed where her sister, Georgie, lay still, her blonde hair soaked dark with blood.

Robin cursed and shoved the lamp at Emily, rushing towards Georgie as Starr went to Maxie.

“We need the constables—” Bobbie spun on her slippered feet and went back the way she came.

“Robin,” Elizabeth began, but her friend shook her head. What hell was going on? How could–

“She’s gone.” Robin straightened, looked around the room. Maxie had calmed down to merely sobbing in Starr’s arms. “Where’s—” She swallowed hard. “Why aren’t we all—”

Elizabeth turned, expecting to see Nadine or Britt—and then she remembered there had been footsteps running past her door. Another set of screams came from the floor above them, directly above them–Nadine and Britt’s room.

“Stop! Stop—”

And then the sound cut off abruptly.


11

Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home for Young Ladies: Bedroom

Elizabeth never remembered exactly who reached the door first, she or Robin—but one of them shoved the door open. Lightning flashed, illuminating the room and the dark figure of Britt standing over Nadine’s bed with her arms raised. The light hit the blade of the knife as Britt brought the it down toward Nadine’s silent body.

Elizabeth screamed as Robin stumbled back against the door frame. “Oh my God!” the brunette shrieked. “What are you doing?”

Elizabeth didn’t know what made her so brave, but she just knew she couldn’t let Britt stab Nadine again. She rushed at Britt as the woman raised her arms again, and tackled her at the waist, throwing them both to the floor into the small space between the beds. She heard the blade hit the ground.

Britt screeched, grabbed a chunk of Elizabeth’s hair and pulled it hard, dragging Elizabeth towards the heavy post of at the end of the bed. Elizabeth kicked wildly until her foot connected with Britt’s abdomen. Britt sucked in a deep breath but released Elizabeth’s hair.

“Have to finish,” Britt grunted. “Have to finish!” She rolled towards Elizabeth again, but Elizabeth managed to grab Britt’s hair and smack her head against the bed frame. Britt slumped to the floor, her eyes closed, her hands limply at her sides.

Elizabeth struggled to her feet to find Robin lifting the gas lamp over Nadine. “Nadine—” Elizabeth sobbed, her breathing ragged, her heart racing. “Please, Robin—”

Robin’s face was pale as she looked up and silently shook her head. Tears streamed down her face. “Oh my God, what is going on?”

A long moan drew their attention as Britt started to stir. Elizabeth rushed for the knife, which had been kicked under the nearby dresser, but when Britt sat up, she looked around. Her eyes were unfocused, her words slurred. “What happened—”

She looked around and her dark eyes fastened on the bloody body lying on the bed, the laughing blue eyes empty. “Oh my God, oh my God. What have I done?”

She curled into a fetal position, sobbing repeatedly, “What have I done?”

Elizabeth embraced a crying Robin as men’s heavy footsteps pounded up the stairs.

12
Bloomsbury, London

Morgan Town Home: Breakfast Room

It was nearly six the next morning as Jason perused the morning edition of his competitors, sipping his coffee as he did so. It was a quiet morning in the square, populated as it always had been mostly by professional and white-collar workers. Most of the lawyers, bankers, and physicians wouldn’t start their day for another hour or two.

When the hooves of a horse clattered along the cobble stones outside, Jason looked up. He could tell the rider was galloping—and then the sound stopped in front of his house.

He was already on his feet, crossing to the door when one of his best reporters rushed through them, ahead of an annoyed but resigned Max. Damien Spinelli was a small, slight young man with a fast way of talking and a nervous energy—but Jason knew him well enough to know this was different.

“Spinelli—”

“I was at the office when the crime bulletin came in—” Spinelli shoved paper at Jason who took it even as he continued to speak. “There’s a notice from Clerkenwell—”

Elizabeth’s borough, and if Spinelli was rushing over—Jason looked down at the slightly crumpled paper. “Two women murdered at 3 Penton Rise—”

His stomach dropped. 3 Penton Rise. “Elizabeth lives there.”

“I thought so—I rode to the station, but they wouldn’t tell me anything.” Spinelli swallowed hard. “They said a woman went crazy at a boarding house, killed her roommate, and another resident. Someone else was injured. But they refused to give me names. I tried to tell them I worked for you—”

“Max, have Hugo saddled,” Jason said, cutting Spinelli off. He looked at his butler. “Now.”

She was all right. She had to be.

13
Clerkenwell, London

Clerkenwell Police Station

Jason arrived at the station before Spinelli, the younger man having less experience on a horse. He took a deep breath and steeled himself for what he knew he’d have to do to get any information out of the notoriously closed lipped City Police. They did not like reporters, but he wasn’t merely the publisher of the London City Press, and for the first time in his entire life—

He was relieved to be the son of a duke.

He strode into the station with all the swagger and authority he had seen on his uncles and elder brother. The young man behind the desk stared at him, his brown eyes wide.

“Uh, can I—”

“Lord Jason Morgan,” Jason said, shortly. “I demand to know the names of the women involved at the Penton Rise murders.”

The officer coughed and started to flip through paperwork on the desk. “Uh, yes, my lord.”  He cleared his throat. “Inspector Capelli is—”

“The names,” Jason repeated, coldly.

“Oh.” The officer looked up. “We arrested Britta Westbourne for the murders of Nadine Crowell and Georgiana Jones—”

“And the injured woman?” Jason demanded, even as relief coursed through his veins. She was alive. “The bulletin—”

“Maximilliana Jones. We’re holding several other women for questioning—”

“Including Elizabeth Webber?”

The officer visibly gulped as he nodded. “Yes, my lord. Should I fetch the inspector?”

“I want to see him, yes, and I want Miss Webber released now.”

The younger man scrambled to his feet and bowed shortly before disappearing into another room. Spinelli arrived a moment later, his face red, his breathing labored from the long morning spent on horseback.

“Did you find out about Miss Webber, sir?” Spinelli asked.

“She’s alive and being held for questioning.” Jason tapped his fingers restlessly against the counter. “They arrested one of her roommates.”

“But she’s alive,” Spinelli repeated, taking in a deep sigh of relief.

The officer returned, followed by a taller man dressed in a suit rather than the police uniform of the officer. They were alone—no Elizabeth.

Visibly irritated, Jason tried to restrain himself. If he needed to drag his father, a noted supporter of the city police, out of bed to get Elizabeth out of here, he was prepared to do that.

“Where is Miss Webber?”

“I am Inspector Andrew Capelli,” the man drawled “and we aren’t done questioning her yet.” He paused and smirked. “My lord.”

“You have the woman who committed these crimes. What else could you possibly need?” Jason retorted. He lifted an eyebrow.

Capelli hesitated, and the officer next to him cleared his throat.  “Uh, sir,” he said to Capelli, his voice hushed but still clearly audible. “His Grace, the Duke of Quartermaine—”

“I know who he is, Barrett,” Capelli snapped. He turned his attention to Jason. “I am not satisfied that Miss Webber, or her friends have told me all that they know.”

That was very possible since Jason knew how much Elizabeth loved her roommates, and at least one of the victims was the woman Elizabeth had felt so protective of. But that didn’t change anything for him. He wasn’t leaving without her.

He took a deep breath and dialed back his anger and irritation. “But you are convinced you have the murderer.”

Capelli grimaced. “Yes, my lord. There is no doubt.”

“Then you can release Miss Webber—and the other women—now.”

The inspector clenched his teeth. “And what is your connection to this case, my lord?”

Jason hesitated. He could simply tell the truth—that Elizabeth was his employee—but the inspector might refuse to release her or anyone else. He could call on his father or any number of uncles or cousins who held government positions—but all of that might take time and he couldn’t stand the thought of Elizabeth being held for questioning when he knew how devastated she must be, how scared and upset—

“Mis Webber is my fiancée,” Jason said. Spinelli, to his credit, didn’t even blink.

A muscle near the corner of Capelli’s mouth twitched. “I see. I will…of course…release them. Do I—” He grimaced. “Do I have your permission to question Miss Webber if the need arises?”

“We’ll see,” Jason said. The inspector scowled but then disappeared into the backroom, followed by Barrett.

Spinelli raised a brow at him, but Jason just glared at him. A few moments later, the door opened a gain, and several women emerged. Jason was stunned to see that they were all still dressed in their nightclothes, all of them splattered with different amounts of blood. Oh, God, how close had she been to the murders? Had she been in danger—

Elizabeth emerged from the middle of the group, her long dark hair tangled, her cheeks tear stained, and a dark bruise blooming underneath her left eye. “Jason?”  she managed. She stared at him for a long moment before striding forward and throwing herself into his arms.

Jason leaned his cheek against her hair, taking in the way she felt in his embrace. “Are you all right?” he murmured into her ear.

She drew back slightly, tears still clinging to her lashes. “No. No, I’m not.”

14
Bloomsbury, London

Morgan Town Home: Study

The long hours at the police station combined with the still devastating events of the previous night left all of them feeling a bit numb and unsure exactly what came next.

The police still would not let them back into the boarding house, so after a little discussion, Jason arranged for several of the women to go with Bobbie to her brother’s home, who had showed up at the station after having gotten word from Bobbie’s neighbors.

Emily didn’t want to be parted from Elizabeth, and Elizabeth…

She wanted to be with Jason, so when he offered to give them a place to sleep and rest, Elizabeth agreed to go to his home.

His housekeeper showed she and Emily to rooms upstairs where they were able to bathe and change into some readymade clothing that simply appeared on the beds. Emily stayed in their rooms while Elizabeth ventured downstairs to seek out Jason.

The first time since this entire terrible ordeal had begun that she had felt safe was when she saw him at the police station, when she knew that he had done something to get them out of those rooms and away from that nightmare.

The butler, Max, showed Elizabeth to the partially open door of the study where Jason sat behind a large mahogany desk, deep in thought. He sprang to his feet as Elizabeth closed the door behind her. She blinked at the large room and the daylight streaming in from the large windows that overlooked Bloomsbury Square.

How could it still be daylight? Hadn’t a thousand years passed since she’d woken in the night to screams and terror?

“Are you and Miss Bowen all right?” Jason asked, his blue eyes on hers.

“Yes…” Elizabeth touched the cuff of the white shirtwaist she now wore. “Thank you for seeing to the clothing. I—I couldn’t stand being in that nightgown any longer—”

The nightgown stained with Maxie, Georgie, and Nadine’s blood. Oh, God.

“I sent Spinelli, and I asked him to make sure your landlady and friends had everything—” He stopped, his hands falling to his side. Jason looked so unsure, so uncertain—it was so unlike him.  “I don’t know what to say to you.”

“I don’t know if there’s anything that can be said.” She sank onto an ornate chaise lounge arranged beneath the window. “When the inspector came to get us, he said my fiancé had arrived.” Elizabeth swallowed. “I should be angry that you said a thing because I’m sure linking your name to all of this will ensure the rumors will spread, but I also—I know you did it to get us out, and I couldn’t—” She closed her eyes. “I couldn’t stand being there another moment.”

She felt him sit next to her, then he reached for her hand, enveloping it between both of his own. “Elizabeth…”

“It was so wrong, sitting in that room. It was cold, and it was dark. They separated us. I just wanted it to be over, I wanted it—” Her voice broke. “I wanted it never to have happened.”

“I’m sorry. Spinelli brought the bulletin as soon as he saw it—”

“I know.” She opened her eyes and looked at him. “I tried to ask for you. I knew—I knew you could help, but they refused. I would have done anything to get out of there.” A sob rumbled out of her throat. “Nadine—she’s gone.”

“I recognized her name. I’m so sorry.” He drew her close to him, she felt his lips press against her hair. “’I’m sorry.”

“I just—I don’t understand. Britt was our friend. She was Nadine’s roommate. We were a family.” Tears slid down her cheeks.

“What happened?” Jason asked quietly. “Unless you don’t want to talk about it—”

“Maybe talking it through—I tried to answer their questions, but they never let me talk. They kept interrupting. I just—” Elizabeth knew she should pull away, that she should put some distance between them. If she’d been an unsuitable match prior to this, being a witness or suspect in several violent murders would only make things worse. But she wanted to feel safe.

And Jason made her feel like nothing could hurt her.

“We went to sleep like any normal night, but that storm—there was thunder and lightning. It woke me up—and then I heard screams.” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “Emily and I ran to Maxie and Georgie’s room, but Georgie as already—” She shook her head. “We heard footsteps running past our room—just before we got our door open. It was so dark, and we couldn’t see without the lamp—God, if we had just gone into the hall a moment earlier—”

Her shoulders shook with the force of her sobs. A moment earlier and Nadine would be alive.

“If we had followed the footsteps—”

“She might have killed you…” Jason drew away, turning her so that she faced him. His voice sounded different, rougher. “You stopped her from hurting anyone else.”

“Why would Britt hurt anyone? Why Georgie and Maxie—we barely know them—”

“Sometimes we don’t understand…” But Jason trailed off, shaking his head.

Elizabeth sighed, brushing at her cheeks. “Maybe the police will find a clue. Maybe they’ll tell us when we can go back home.”

Jason stared at her for a long moment. “Are you—are you really going back?”

She tilted her head to the side, not understanding. “It’s my home.”

Their eyes met, and she was surprised to see that he was a bit nervous. “It doesn’t have to be.”

Her heart seized and breathing became more difficult. She drew her hands away from him, standing and starting across the room. “I appreciate your help, Mr. Morgan—”

“Jason.” She turned to find him on his feet as well, those eyes dark with irritation. “My name is Jason.”

She sighed. “Jason. I appreciate your help, but—”

“I don’t want you going back there,” he said, firmly. “You can stay here. Or-or with my mother and grandmother. Anywhere else but there.”

She looked out the window, taking in the lovely square and the stately homes that surrounded it. Her family had never been at the levels of society that Jason had grown up in, and maybe he simply didn’t understand that the only way for the rumors to subside was to not give anyone more to talk about.

“You told the inspector I was your fiancée. That won’t stay out of the papers, and if I were to stay here or with your family, it would make it harder not to believe it .”

“Not if—” Jason stopped. Waited a moment. “What if it were the truth?”

“I—” She pressed her lips together, their eyes meeting again. Holding. She wanted to say something about not needing that kind of protection, that it was nice of him, but she didn’t need saving.

Except he did not look like a polite friend or acquaintance offering a marriage of convenience to save her reputation. She swallowed hard. “Jason.”

“I was going to wait until you took the position with Robert Frank, so that you wouldn’t technically be my employee, but—”

Her eyes welled up. “I don’t know if I can do this today.” She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes. “Jason.”

He slid his fingers over her hands, drawing them away from her face. “I couldn’t handle it if anything happened to you,” he told her quietly. She looked at him and bit her lip. Had he felt the same as she did? How had he hidden all of that away?

She leaned up, slightly on the tips of her toes and kissed him, giving into the urge to feel his lips against hers, the scent of the coffee he drank every morning. She didn’t like the taste of it for herself, but she could learn to love it if it came with his kisses.

“I was going to wait,” Jason repeated when he drew back. He tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear. “I just—I didn’t know if you were okay until I made it to the station. The thought of you going back to that house, even with the others—”

She leaned into his embrace, letting her forehead fall into the crook of his neck. She could live happily here, in this moment, in his arms, forever, and he was offering her that chance. Offering her the life she had dreamed of for so long—

But—

Elizabeth took a deep breath and stepped back. “They’re not going to let Britt go. And Bobbie needs us. I need my friends right now. And you need to be sure of what you’re saying. So, if after all of this…you still feel the same…”

“Elizabeth—”

“We’ll talk about it again.”

15
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home for Ladies: Parlor

The next morning, the inspector sent word to Jason’s town home that they would be able to return to the boarding house. Jason arranged for transportation for all of them, but he didn’t accompany them home.

Elizabeth wasn’t ready to return to the question Jason hadn’t quite been able to ask her, but she saw that he was no longer pretending they were just friends. The lingering looks he gave her as he walked her and Emily to the carriage, the way his hand didn’t let go of hers right away—

It gave her something to think about, to focus on that was outside of the nightmare currently taking over the rest of her life, and in that way, she was grateful Jason had taken the opportunity to change their relationship. But with everything else changing so fast, she wasn’t sure that she was ready.

Bobbie, Robin, and Starr were already outside the house when they arrived, standing just at the corner between Penton Road and Penton Rise, where their street dipped into a steep hill towards the river. The trio looked tired, but relieved to see Emily and Elizabeth.

They hugged as if they had been parted for much longer than twenty-four hours, and of course, Starr was already crying. They went inside, and Elizabeth managed to keep herself together long enough to help Bobbie and Robin clean up the rooms where Nadine and Georgie had been…

Afterwards, they joined Starr and Emily in the parlor, cognizant that half their number was missing entirely. Bobbie, with her hands shaking, poured out tea and handed it to her tenants, her face pale.

“It doesn’t feel real. Even after…” She stirred some honey into her cup.

“I was at the hospital yesterday,” Robin told them. “I wanted to see Maxie…and her parents arrived on the train from Yorkshire. They were crying so hard, and screaming at the hospital for hiring…” She swallowed hard. “It was awful.”

“I just…” Emily’s voice wobbled. “I just don’t understand. Britt was one of us. And to hurt Nadine—” She pressed a closed fist to her mouth.

“I didn’t—” Starr sucked in a deep breath, trying to talk through her tears. “I didn’t want to say anything earlier but…Michael came to see me last night, and he was so upset. He talked to his mother, and I don’t know what he said, but Carly finally said I can come live with them.” She managed a smile. “We’re going to start calling the banns on Sunday.”

“Oh!” Emily exclaimed.

There were several murmurs as everyone attempted to be happy, knowing how long Starr had dreamed of marrying Michael and starting a family.

“I’m sorry,” Starr continued, “and maybe I should stay. Maybe it feels like I’m running away—”

“Don’t—” Emily leaned over, squeezing the younger woman’s hand. “Don’t. I…I’ve been thinking about it and…well, I think I’ll be going home, as well.”

“What?” Elizabeth demanded, sitting up straight. “Em—”

“Oh, dear,” Bobbie murmured with a sigh.

“I came to London to save money and help my father with the shop back home. I think—I think this is a sign I should go back. And I do miss the cliffs and the ocean in Cornwall. The river just…isn’t the same.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Elizabeth asked, stricken.

Emily bit her lip. “I hadn’t decided, but then I talked to Bobbie, and—” She traded a look with their landlady who sighed again.

“I guess this is as good a time as any—I’ve decided to stop taking in tenants.” She shook her head, staring down at her teacups. “I was never able to have children, so my girls were my family.  I just don’t know if I have it in me to do this again. To open my heart again. I’m going to stay with my brother for a while.”

She looked out the window, out into the dreary gray streets of Penton Rise and the October London rain. “I just can’t seem to picture going on like nothing ever happened.”

“I sent my uncle a telegram yesterday,” Robin admitted, slowly. “Asking him what he thought about me coming to Boston. He has his pub there and he’s always telling me that female doctors do better in the States.” She sighed. “If I don’t have this place anymore, then I guess the best place for me is with my uncle and his family.” She looked to Elizabeth. “Where will you go?”

Elizabeth sighed. “I don’t know.”

16
Covent Garden, London

Jerome Town House: Street

Later the next afternoon, Elizabeth decided to talk to Jason again about his proposal—not that he had made one, but saw Emily stepping into her own hack outside their boarding house. When she heard the address on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, Elizabeth sighed. Emily was going back to Ava Jerome.

She hailed her own hack and delivered the same address, arriving just behind Emily’s driver.

“Here, miss?” Elizabeth’s driver asked. “That’ll be five guineas.” She handed over the coins and stepped down onto the sidewalk.

Emily turned the sound of her heels on the cobblestone and furrowed her brows. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard you giving the address—what are you doing here and why didn’t you tell me?”

Emily sniffled; her eyes rimmed in red. She, along with Starr, had been crying all day as they had helped Starr pack up and leave for Michael’s home, and then assisted Bobbie in closing the house. They would only have one more night before Bobbie left for her brother’s in Knightsbridge.

“I know this is all nonsense,” Emily said, slowly. “But I just—I don’t understand how this happened, and if there was any way to explain it—if there was something that Ava Jerome could do—”

“Em—” Elizabeth sighed and stopped. Who was she to deny Emily comfort wherever she could find it?

“I would have asked you,” her roommate continued, “but I know you asked Jason to investigate her. I was worried about your negative energy.”

Elizabeth grimaced. “Never mind my negative energy. If this is will help you, then we should do it. I can be open minded.”

They went up the stairs and knocked on the front door. The same butler from their previous visit answered and showed them into the room where they had waited before. It felt like hours before Ava Jerome swept in, still dressed in dramatic black.

She lifted her slender brows. “Ladies. I wasn’t expecting you. Where are your friends?”

Emily took a deep breath. “That’s why we’re here. Something awful happened two nights ago. One of our roommates killed two of the other girls.”

Ava gasped, pressing a hand to her chest. “That’s terrible.”

“And we just—” Emily continued, shaking her head. “I don’t know, I thought maybe we could find Nadine or Georgie and they could—”

Ava narrowed her eyes. “N-Nadine and Georgie—who are they?”

Elizabeth tilted her head to the side. “Our roommate, Britt, killed Georgie. Another girl at our boarding house. She tried to kill Georgie’s sister, then killed her roommate—Nadine. You met Nadine and Britt. Nadine wanted to find her mother—”

“No, no, of course I remember Nadine. I just—” Ava sank gracefully onto a high-backed sofa, pressing her lips together. “Britt was the tall, dark-haired girl…She killed…them?”

“It was terrible,” Elizabeth admitted, touching Emily’s shoulder as her best friend started to cry again. “Britt was still…stabbing Nadine when we found her.”

Emily sniffled. “Britt looked like she didn’t know what she’d done, but the police were there, and we never got to ask her. And now—we just don’t know anything. Our landlady is closing our home and we’re all going to be leaving.”

Leaving?” Ava echoed. “Scattering to the winds?” She straightened. “That’s just terrible.” She rose to her feet, and Elizabeth frowned at how upset the medium appeared to be.

“Can you help us?” Emily asked.

Ava pressed her hand to her chest again. “I can try, but we’ll need to meet individually again.” She eyed Elizabeth skeptically. “Just to be sure—”

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Elizabeth started, but Emily stepped forward.

“I’ll do it.”

Elizabeth watched as they disappeared into the backroom and prepared herself for a bit of a wait, but no more than five minutes had passed before Emily emerged in tears.

“We have to go,” her friend sobbed. “She said she can’t help us.”

“What? Why?”

Emily just shook her head and rushed outside. Elizabeth threw another considering glance at the closed door. She followed Emily outside and they hailed a hack to return home.

17
Bloomsbury, London

Morgan Town Home: Study

Jason asked his butler to repeat himself when Max announced his visitor. Jason rose to his feet, furrowing his brow. “Miss Webber—are you sure?”

Max stepped aside to reveal Elizabeth, wringing her hands.

“I’m sorry,” she began as Max stepped out of the study and closed the door, leaving them alone. “I know it’s inappropriate for me to come to you, but—”

“Are you all right?” he took her hands in his, a bit alarmed at how they were shaking. “What happened?”

“I—” She shook her head and a tear slid down her cheek. In a choked voice, she told him about her return home—about cleaning up the blood left by the murders, Bobbie’s decision to close the house, and everyone else leaving London. “And then I found Emily on her way back to see Ava Jerome—”

“The medium you asked me to look into?” Jason asked, as he led Elizabeth sit on the chaise lounge beneath the window. “I didn’t know that Emily took that seriously—”

“She never outright made fun of it the way the rest of us—” Her voice broke. “Britt, Robin, and I—we never took it—but I guess we’re all so upset. I don’t blame her for trying to find answers, but there was just something not right about it all.”

“How so?” he asked.

“Ava seemed upset when we told her what happened, but she didn’t really seem to remember Nadine or Britt right away. She met with Emily—but then she refused to help us. You said you were going to have Spinelli look into her, but you haven’t told me what he found.”

“He’s still investigating her background,” Jason told her. “But how could she have anything to do with this?”

“I don’t know.” Elizabeth chewed her lip. “Maybe she blackmailed Britt or put her up to it or something.”

“I’ll send for Spinelli right now,” he told her, rising to his feet. Elizabeth stood as well, grabbing his arm to stop him from going to his desk and the telephone.

“No, no. I sound crazy—Ava probably refused to help because she didn’t think she could fake talking to a murder—” She pressed her hands to her face. “I’m sorry.”  She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I just…” She met his eyes. “I wanted to see you. I was on my way here earlier when I saw Emily leaving.”

“I’m sorry that the boarding house is closing,” Jason offered as they sat back down.

She managed a small smile. “You didn’t want me to go back there.”

“That doesn’t mean I wanted you to lose your home. I know how much everyone there meant to you.” He hesitated. “I know it seems as if I only proposed because of what happened, but I promise I was going to ask—”

She pressed her fingers to his lips to quiet him. “You have never, not once, lied to me. I believe you. And I think…” She hesitated as their eyes met. “I hope you know that my…” Her cheeks flushed as she tried to find the right words. “That my feelings are the same.”

“I hoped they were.” He brushed his lips against her temple. “But you still aren’t prepared to say yes.”

“Well, you haven’t asked me yet,” she reminded him. “It’s also not that simple. I know your family had their heart on you marrying someone who…” She hesitated, “who was better situated. Add this scandal to my other shortcomings—I doubt your parents—”

“My mother only invited those women to dinners to prove a point to me.” He looked at their hands, their fingers laced together. “She probably knew how I felt before I did. And I know there were might be other issues, that there will be people who won’t approve.” He hesitated. “And I also know that those people will take out their disapproval on you, not me. So, it’s not enough to say that I don’t care about them. But, all the same, I don’t.”

“Thank you.” She smiled at him. “I felt so awful when I got here, but I feel better now. About everything. And you don’t have to worry—if I say yes, it won’t be because I have nowhere to go. Bobbie has offered me a place with her at her brother’s house until I know what I’m doing next.”

She got to her feet. “But I should go home now. While it’s still there. Tomorrow is our last night and I want to spend as much as time as possible with everyone before it’s all over.”

18
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home for Young Ladies: Front Parlor

Their final supper and tea the next evening came much more quickly than Elizabeth would have liked. They gathered for the last time, their numbers already reduced by one—Starr had taken her things to Michael’s home several streets away, closer to St. Paul’s and the river.

“I’m glad we were able to see Mr. and Mrs. Jones to the train station before they went home with Maxie and…” Emily trailed off. “And Georgie.”

“I don’t blame Maxie for going back home,” Robin said. She looked around at all of them. “I will miss all of you and this place, but at the same—I like the idea of a fresh start. Away from everything that’s happened.”

Elizabeth squeezed her landlady’s hand. “Thank you for allowing me to come to your brother’s home, but I…” She smiled at the other two women. “I won’t be there for long. I had a letter from Her Grace, Jason’s mother. He’s offered marriage, and she wanted me to know I was welcome there.”

“Oh!” Emily exclaimed; her eyes lit up for the first time in days. “Oh, how lovely! I knew something had changed between you.”

“He says he was always planning to ask once I took a position elsewhere, but with everything that’s happened—”

“He was worried about your reputation,” Bobbie said with a smile. Emily’s tears started again.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. “This is just—it’s exactly the kind of news Nadine would have loved.”

Tears stung her own eyes. “I know. I know. I wish she were here, and I feel terrible knowing that Jason decided not to wait because we lost her, but—”

“But this is your chance for happiness,” Bobbie cut in, squeezing Elizabeth’s hand. “Take it. And never look back.”

19
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home for Young Ladies: Bedroom

Not long after Elizabeth’s news, the remaining residents retired for their last night in the boarding house. Bobbie disappeared into her first-floor rooms, Robin trudged to her third-floor attic rooms, while Elizabeth and Emily went to the second floor. For the last time.

As they changed and got ready for bed, Emily sighed, wistfully. “I wish I knew why Ava wouldn’t help us.”

Elizabeth kept her skepticism to herself as she set her comb back on the dresser and climbed into bed.

“Nadine said she was so nice when she and Britt went back,” Emily continued as she tucked herself in.

Elizabeth blinked and sat up. “When did they go back?”

“A few days ago,” Emily told her. “I think—I think it must have been the day it all happened. Nadine said she felt like they got so close to her mother, and Britt was crying—”

“Why didn’t they say anything?” Elizabeth demanded.

Emily shrugged. “Maybe Britt felt uncomfortable about believing since you and Robin are so against it all.” She sighed and laid back against her pillows. “I wish we could understand what happened, but maybe everyone is right. Maybe sometimes people just go crazy and there is no reason.”

20
Bloomsbury, London

Morgan Town Home: Study

Jason had returned from dinner with his family, feeling close to happy for the first time in a long time. His wastrel brother had not made an appearance—again—but he’d been happy to learn that his mother had done exactly as he’d hoped when he’d told her about his proposal. She’d sent Elizabeth a letter, inviting her to tea and to stay with the family.

He was so close to having the future he had wanted almost since the day Elizabeth had come to work for him, and he hoped Elizabeth would be able to put the horrors of what had happened with her roommates behind her. Maybe once he could put her mind at rest about Ava Jerome—

He glanced over when he heard a commotion at the front door, but by the time he reached his study door, Spinelli was charging past Max and towards him.

“That report you were waiting for,” he said, breathing hard. He braced his hands on his legs, leaned over. “It arrived by express.” He grabbed something out of his suit jacket and shoved it at Jason.

Jason scanned it, scowling as the words sunk in. “Ava Jerome is trained in hypnosis? Are you sure?”

“I am sure, sir. And while most people don’t believe in talking to dead or ghosts—”

“Hypnosis is proven,” Jason finished, grimly. “And Elizabeth said Ava Jerome met with all of them individually—” He blinked. Emily and Elizabeth had returned the day before, according to Elizabeth. And Ava had met with Emily. Alone.

“Why would she go after the women at the boarding house?” Spinelli asked, confused. “Why?”

“I’ll worry about motive once I know Elizabeth is safe.”

21
Clerkenwell, London

Miss Jones Home for Young Ladies: Bedroom

Elizabeth had trouble falling asleep that night—she couldn’t quite let go of the information that Nadine and Britt had visited Ava Jerome the very day that Britt had brutally murdered her roommate and tried to kill a pair of sisters neither of them knew very well.  Thunder crashed outside, jarring her out of a fitful sleep.

She yawned and rolled her, then jerked back just as the blade of a knife sunk into the mattress where she had just been laying. “What the—”

She fell off the bed, and in a flash of lightning, she saw her best friend standing over her bed, a knife clutched in both of her hands, raised over her head. Just like Britt.

“What are you doing?” Elizabeth screamed as she stumbled to her feet. She tried to dart around Emily, but her roommate blocked her escape. Elizabeth tried for the window, but they were several flights off the ground—she’d never survive the fall.

“Have to do it,” Emily mumbled, her words nearly drowned out by the rain pounding against the cobble stones. Lightning flashed again, and Elizabeth saw her only chance—to jump across both beds to reach the other side of the room.

“Have to finish,” Emily chanted as her dark figure came closer.

Help!” Elizabeth screamed again, but she was alone on this floor, and she wasn’t sure if anyone would be able to hear her over the rain. “Help!” she screamed out the window. As Emily lunged towards her, Elizabeth darted left and scrambled over the beds, tripping over Emily’s and crashing to the floor.

The door was thrown open just as Elizabeth reached it, and Robin stood there, Bobbie behind her. Robin lifted a lamp, her eyes huge with fear as she took in the room.

“What’s going on?” she demanded.

Emily tried to swing around as if to lunge after Elizabeth again, but her foot caught in one of Elizabeth’s discarded blankets. She stumbled backwards into the window frame, slamming her head against the wood. The knife fell from her hand as Emily slumped to the floor, moaning and clutching her head.

“Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth turned at the sound of Jason’s voice. She heard footsteps pounding up to the second floor, then Jason and Spinelli were there. She threw herself into Jason’s arms as Spinelli ventured in the room along with Robin.

Robin went to check on Emily who was curled up in a fetal position, sobbing her heart out while Spinelli grabbed the knife to keep it out of Emily’s clutches.

“What is going on?” Bobbie demanded as Robin looked at Emily’s bleeding forehead.

“The medium,” Spinelli managed, his face pale. “She’s trained in hypnosis.”

Elizabeth jerked away from Jason. “What?” she retorted. “What?”

“Spinelli got the report tonight,” he told her. “And I realized you told me she met with all of you alone—that you and Emily went back—”

“Oh, God, Nadine and Britt went back again before—” Elizabeth covered her mouth with her hands as Emily limped towards them, her face haggard.

“I don’t know what—” she choked out. “There was just a voice and it was screaming at me to kill everyone, kill everyone!” She looked at Elizabeth, shaking her head violently. “I would never hurt you—”

“Ava Jerome did this,” Elizabeth said, her body still shaking from adrenaline and fear. “She hypnotized you. She must have done it to Britt, too. But why? Why does she want us all dead?”

Jason took a deep breath. “There’s only one way to find out,” he said grimly.

22
Covent Garden, London

Jerome Town Home: Parlor

Elizabeth refused to stay home while Jason and Spinelli went to see the medium. She dressed while Jason sent for a footman from his home to look after the women—no one was quite convinced that Emily’s hypnosis had been truly broken or wouldn’t be triggered.

Along with Spinelli, the two of them took Jason’s carriage through the dark streets of London towards Covent Garden and the house on Maiden Lane. The town home was dark, no lights lit within.

Jason didn’t bother waiting to knock—he shoved the front door open, Elizabeth and Spinelli on his heels. But the front rooms were empty, papers strewn all over the study with large holes in the walls—likely where she had hidden the machines, she used to carry out her work.

“She’s gone,” Jason said.

“I’ll check below stairs. Maybe there’s a servant somewhere,” Spinelli said. Jason and Elizabeth continued to read through the papers littering the floor, looking for some sort of clue.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Elizabeth said. “None of us even knew here—at least—” She hesitated. “At least no one admitted to knowing her. And she met with all of us—”

Jason frowned at a news sheet. “This is from Harrow. The report said Ava lived there most of her life—”

“Harrow?” Elizabeth repeated. “That’s where Starr grew up. She met Michael there as a child and followed him to London when he came to study law. Starr left the house yesterday to go stay with Michael and his mother. They’re only a few blocks away from the boarding house.”

“Do you know where?” Jason asked, but before Elizabeth answered, Spinelli rushed in.

“I found a maid packing up in the kitchen,” he reported. “She said Ava left here no more than twenty minutes ago.”

23
Clerkenwell, London

Benson Town Home: Front Room

They were too late.

When their carriage rattled to a stop in front of one of the tall, wedged in buildings that dotted King’s Cross Road, there were lights already on in the rooms of the ground floor. The front door was open.

Jason led the way, followed by Elizabeth and Spinelli. They could hear maniacal laughing from inside the front room where Ava Jerome was presiding over a massacre.

Elizabeth gasped, her fingers clutching Jason’s suit jacket. Michael Benson, the blond love of Starr’s life, lay slumped across a small table, blood trickling from several wounds in his back. On the floor, near the stairwell, Carly’s thin body was nearly unrecognizable through the blood that stained her dress and hair.

And in the center of the room, Ava stood over Starr’s dead body, a knife in her stomach, her hand still lightly clutching the hilt.

“It’s done! It’s finally done!” Ava cried when she saw them. Her eyes were bright with a dangerous light and Jason put his arm out as if to keep Spinelli and Elizabeth back.

When he stepped towards her, Ava pointed a revolver at him—he hadn’t even seen it his hand, but then—he’d been distracted by death.

“Oh my God,” Elizabeth sobbed as she took in the dead body of another friend. “Oh, God. Not Starr. Why? Why?”

“She killed my baby!” Ava sneered. “And now I’ve finally had my revenge!”

“Oh my God—” Elizabeth shoved Jason’s hand away. “This was all about Carly? You did all of this to get back at Carly?”

“Carly?” Jason repeated, stepping in front of Elizabeth again.

“Carly is—” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “Carly was a midwife.”

“She swore it wasn’t her fault,” Ava seethed. “Babies die every day, but my little girl was kicking until that bitch came to my home. When that little brat told me all about her feud with Carly, I knew my chance had come. I knew I could finally have justice. She killed my baby, so I killed hers—”

“But—” Elizabeth shook her head. “But why all of us? What did Britt or Nadine—”

“So, there would be no trace,” Jason said quietly as he watched Ava’s lips curve into a cruel smile. “Starr to take care of Michael and Carly, and after all, didn’t you tell me how much Carly and Starr argued? But she must have realized when you all came in a group, some of you might not accept Starr committing murder.” He looked at her. “It’s over now. You’ll never get away with it.”

Ava just smiled as Elizabeth turned her eyes on the medium. “You hypnotized Britt to kill everyone in the home, then herself? So that no one would—how could you be so cruel—”

“It’s done now,” Ava said. “I’ve finally avenged my little girl. My beautiful Avery.”

She was insane, and Jason wanted Elizabeth as far away from her as possible. He turned slightly away from Ava, taking Elizabeth by the shoulder. “Get the police—”

“No, stop!” Elizabeth screamed, but even as Jason turned, Ava shoved the revolver in her mouth and pulled the trigger.

24
Bloomsbury, London

 Morgan Town Home: Parlor

A month later, Elizabeth found herself standing in Jason’s parlor—their parlor, she corrected herself with a bit a bewilderment. She was now—technically—Lady Jason Morgan, a courtesy title she knew she would never ever use.

She had spent the last four weeks living with his family, getting to know his grandmother and mother, his father—and somehow, never meeting the mysterious brother that everyone seemed to pretend didn’t exist.

The scandal of the boarding house murders somehow never attached themselves to Elizabeth—his father had apparently made a few arrangements, and her name was kept out of the papers. Jason had been credited with solving several murders—he didn’t care for the notoriety, but their circulation numbers had risen above the London Times for the first time, and that had cheered him up. She had been glad to have something else to think about.

Then Jack the Ripper had struck again, killing poor Mary Kelly in early November, and all the attention turned away from them, finally.

They had been married at the local parish church in Clerkenwell rather than St. George’s, opting for something quiet. Jason’s extended family more than filled the church, as her side was limited to Bobbie and Robin. Spinelli had sat with them for to make the numbers less sad.

Afterwards, they returned to Bloomsbury for the reception and Elizabeth found herself standing with Robin, not entirely comfortable with playing hostess.

“I’m glad you waited to leave for Boston,” Elizabeth said as she hugged her last remaining roommate. “I wish you’d change your mind—”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget finding Emily and Britt with knives in their hands, trying to kill the people we love,” Robin said softly. “Emily couldn’t even wait twenty-hours to go home to Cornwall.”

Jason joined them as Robin spoke, sliding an arm around Elizabeth’s waist. He handed her a glass of champagne. “She was worried,” he said, “if she stayed—”

“She might finish Ava’s plan,” Robin said with a nod. “I know. I’ll write.” She hugged Elizabeth again, then joined Bobbie across the room.

“I’m sorry, I wish she’d stay for you,” Jason told her. “But you’ll still have Bobbie.”

“I wish we’d been able to help Britt, but—”

“My father is trying to her sentence changed, to send her to a hospital, but…” He shrugged. Murder by hypnosis hadn’t impressed the police and the duke hadn’t quite known how to explain it.

“I know. I appreciate it.” She leaned up to kiss him. “I’m glad I have this chance to start a new life with you and to put everything behind us.”

From across the room, Robin sighed and sipped her champagne. She would miss her best friends, would miss seeing Elizabeth living her dream—but…

She closed her eyes, and she had a flash of the nightmare she’d had for weeks. Running down the hall. A knife in her hands, stained with blood.

Hiding that knife under the mattress while Starr lit a lamp so they could rush downstairs to the screams—to the room Robin had only just fled.

Robin opened her eyes and looked at Bobbie’s kind eyes. “I’ll miss you.”

“There’s still time—”

“No, it’s—” She took a deep breath. “It’s for the best. I need to go. I need to be as far away from this place as possible.”

THE END

Author’s Note: If you’re a frequent romance novel reader, some things might have felt familiar to you. I was definitely inspired by the work of Amanda Quick, Courtney Milan, and Laura Lee Guhrke, so check out their books if you’re into historical romance!

Second, I might have been overly specific about London geography — those of you who read me over at Crimson Glass might remember I reopened the site the year I lived in London to study at UCL. I actually gave Liz’s boarding house my old address at Penton Rise and Jason lives just a block away from my university. It was a lot of fun revisiting London for this story! I hope you liked it!