I don’t know where I am
I don’t know what I’ve done
I just go over it and over it again and again and again
I can’t sleep at night
I can’t breathe
– Numb, Airborne Toxic Event
Friday, May 3, 2002
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Sonny scowled, closing the folder of a business plan from Benny he’d intended to ignore anyway. He rose to his feet. “The little punk said what?”
Jason’s expression was tight, the muscles in his shoulders bunched with an unleashed fury. The pragmatic side of Sonny’s brain was relieved Jason hadn’t strangled Zander in broad daylight in front of witnesses when their peace was fragile.
But most of him wished Zander was lying at the bottom of the cold dark Port Charles Harbor. He’d been right to hold him back, right to test him. Goddamn bastard.
“One little setback and this is how he reacts?” Sonny shook his head. “Hothead. No goddamn common sense. Instead of doubling down, trying to prove himself, he mouths off.” He crossed the room the mini bar, but poured himself a glass of water instead of the bourbon he wanted.
He’d found himself turning to liquor more often than not, and while he rarely drank to excess, it struck him as a crutch he couldn’t afford.
He turned back to Jason. “You warn Elizabeth that Zander’s on the warpath? I don’t want him harassing her.”
“I talked to her.” Jason waited a minute. “I had Francis give me a guy to hang out at Kelly’s when Elizabeth works. That’s where Zander would likely catch her. She can handle herself, but—”
“He’s been warned,” Sonny cut in. “He shouldn’t need another damn warning. He shouldn’t have needed on in the first place. Every man in the organization knows—” He stopped, took a breath. “Jason, you know that anyone who’s been around for a few years, they think Elizabeth is—”
“I know.” Jason looked away, but Sonny caught the faint hint of red at his cheeks. “They still think I was—that winter I was shot—”
“When Nikolas Cassadine announced it at the Christmas party, after the bomb in her studio—when it became clear you were staying there—” Sonny tilted his head. “After I put a guard on her after you left. We never made it clear she wasn’t—” He paused. “What I’m telling you is, Jason, that I can talk to Francis, to Johnny. They can spread the word discreetly. If you want it known that she’s not—”
“Would it matter?” Jason asked. He met Sonny’s eyes, then shifted away. “If—if we say anything, it just draws more attention to her. We don’t go after women. It shouldn’t matter who they are. If he’s talking about Elizabeth that way—can you imagine how he’d treat the women who work at the clubs Nico wants him to run?”
“Yeah.” Sonny exhaled slowly, taking note of the fact Jason had declined to clarify Elizabeth’s status. She would remain linked with Jason unless they changed it. That relationship would carry weight with most of their men. And might prove dangerous to those who would use it against them. “We’ll send him a message. And those who work with Nico in general.”
He crossed to his desk, picked up the receiver. “Right now, Zander collects money for Nico. He doesn’t do any of the physical work, but he keeps the rest of the guys in line, particularly for some of the more lucrative bookies. He’s done with that now. I want him back on muscle. Any trust I had is gone now, and I don’t reward dumb fucks.”
“He’s gonna be pissed about that,” Jason said. “Might make it worse.”
“There were witnesses that heard him go after a woman under my protection. Mock you, challenge your authority. I don’t give a shit about Zander’s personal feelings. He wants to come at me? Let him.” Sonny scoffed. “He won’t. He’ll keep coming at weaker targets because he doesn’t have the balls. You let him live once. He crosses us again, we’re not so nice the next time.”
Oasis: Back Office
“God damn it, Zander.” Nico pounded his fist on the table. “You got a fucking death wish, you little shit?”
Zander scowled, slumping in his chair. “What, I’m fired now?” He expected no less after Jason Morgan had nearly strangled him. He’d known it was suicide to insult Elizabeth to his face, but he couldn’t resist the temptation—he knew insulting that bitch would crack Morgan’s legendary cool.
But it hadn’t. Oh, yeah, Morgan had shoved him against the wall, but he’d done with a calm expression. As if he were swatting a fucking fly. Fucker. He hated that bastard. He’d pissed Jason off, but not enough to lose it.
“No,” Nico retorted. “But you’re back to cracking heads and busting knees.” He huffed. “I’m gonna have to find someone else to take over for me when I go to Vegas,” he told Lenny. “I thought this fucker could be fixed—I thought if I gave Sonny some time, but no.” His eyes were like laser slicing through him when he looked back at Zander. “You got a thing for this bitch? Is that why you can’t keep away?”
“What?” Zander demanded. “No!”
“I got eyes on you, you moron. I know you went after her at that diner you live at. I know you harassed her—that’s why Sonny called last week.” He lit a cigarette. “You didn’t tell me that happened.”
“It wasn’t important—”
“You ended your career, you dumb shit. You fucked up your life over a whore so I hope you at least fucked her first,” Nico muttered. He sucked in a long drag, then exhaled, the wispy smoke disappearing into the dimly lit room. “Is that what this is about? You wanted her, she wanted Morgan?”
“I don’t—” Zander stopped, took a deep breath. “No,” he said, a bit more calmly. “I don’t care about Elizabeth Webber. I shouldn’t have said anything about her. Or to her.”
“Little late for that.” He looked at Lenny. “Call Ollie. Tell him to send me Paulie.” Nico tipped the ash of his cigarette into a ceramic ash tray at his side. “You can go work for Ollie. Paulie will take your place here. He’s due to move up.”
“Damn it, Nico—”
“If I want Corinthos to give me the go ahead on Vegas,” Nico said, his tone tight, “I gotta toe the fucking line. I already put my neck out for you once, you piece of shit. I ain’t doing it twice.” He leaned back, considered him a long moment. “You play your cards right, Smith, you let Morgan cool off, and you stay away from this woman—maybe when I get to Vegas, I can convince Sonny to send you out to me. But get your head together. Women aren’t worth losing money and power.”
It hadn’t been about a woman. Nothing to do with her. Just what she represented. Who she was to Jason Morgan. The man had everything, but hell if he’d let anyone else get a toe up in this world.
One day, someone was going to put a bullet between Jason’s eyes, and Zander was going to raise a toast in celebration.
Gia and Elizabeth’s Apartment: Living Room
Courtney refilled her glass of Moscato—her third of the evening, and she had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last. “I could learn to hate the Quartermaines.” She could still remember the way they’d looked at her, judged her. Found her wanting. They didn’t care much for AJ, but they sure as hell didn’t think she was good enough for him all the same.
“I’d ask what Jason thinks about all of this,” Gia said, swirling the liquid in her wine glass as she reclined on the sofa, “but I’m not an idiot. You haven’t told him yet.”
Elizabeth snorted, curling up at the other end of the sofa. “I tell Jason that Edward Quartermaine is harassing Michael at school, and I won’t have to worry about being in the middle of a custody battle. I’ll be bailing Jason out of jail for assault and battery.” She blinked. “You think he’d get bail?”
“Well, as long as he doesn’t murder the dumb bastard,” Gia considered, “I think he’d be in clear. They usually only withhold bail for serious felonies.” She lifted her glass in a mock salute. “You start sleeping with him, you’re really going to have start boning up on your criminal law.”
“Haha,” Elizabeth muttered darkly.
“She didn’t deny it this time,” Courtney pointed out to Gia. “Good sign, I think.”
“I don’t see the point in wasting my breath.” Elizabeth sighed and set her wine glass on the coffee table. “I should tell him.”
“Uh, like yesterday,” Gia said. She flicked her fingers at Courtney. “This one is going to tell her husband, I’m sure.”
Elizabeth turned stricken eyes to Courtney. “You’re going to tell AJ?”
Courtney swallowed and shrugged. “I kind of have to, don’t I? I mean, AJ had a huge fight with his grandfather a few days ago after the will reading. And if you’re telling Jason, I think AJ should get a chance to defend himself. What if Jason thinks AJ put his grandfather up to it?”
“Did he?” Gia raised her eyebrows.
“Courtney.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I just—I want to do the right thing. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything to anyone. You don’t tell AJ, I won’t tell Jason—”
“Well, that’s just a stupid reaction.” Gia huffed. “Elizabeth, you have to tell Jason. He’s Michael’s legal guardian, and Edward Quartermaine is screwing with the kid’s mind. I mean, I’m sure he means well, but trying to get in good with the kid behind everyone’s back just screams manipulative.”
“I know, I know. I just—” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I don’t know. It’s been…almost normal. Michael was starting to bounce back a bit. When I tell Jason, his first instinct is going to be to go after Edward. I don’t want that. I don’t want Jason to have to deal with that. He has enough grief with the Quartermaines.”
“It’s cute how concerned she is about a guy who’s not her sex toy,” Gia told Courtney. She looked back at Elizabeth. “Listen. You can’t not say anything. You’re gonna feel guilty. And if you keep quiet, Edward Quartermaine is just going to keep going to Michael’s school. They won’t turn him way—too much money. Too much influence. He’s gonna keep confusing and upsetting Michael, and eventually, it’s going to come out that this is happening, and that you knew.”
Elizabeth dipped her head. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. I just—” She bit her lip. “I don’t know. It’s stupid to think I could stay out of this—I just don’t want to fall into bad habits.”
“Bad habits?” Courtney echoed, but Gia was shaking her head.
“You know telling someone is the right thing. You know it, because you’ve always been a goody-two shoes—”
“Oh, shut up—”
“Gia,” Courtney tried to break in, because she didn’t like the tone in either woman’s voice or their flushed cheeks. But it was if she wasn’t there.
“So, you wanting to remain silent is about this stick you have up your ass about Jason. You think I haven’t noticed you pretending you’re going to keep him at arm’s length? You’re doing the same bullshit now you did last year, only you don’t have Lucky to blame anymore.”
Elizabeth shot to her feet, her eyes dark with anger. “What the hell does that mean?”
“It means,” Gia began as she carefully got to her feet, “that you’re still telling yourself you don’t want Jason that way. You’re being his friend, but you’re sending the same damn signals you sent last year. I watched you when he came to see you a few days ago. He’s giving you the same looks, and you’re not shutting it down—”
“That’s not true—”
“What the hell are you so afraid of?” Gia shot back.
“Gia, come on,” Courtney murmured, standing. She didn’t want them to fight like this. She touched Gia’s arm. “Don’t—”
“You have no right—” Elizabeth stopped, and closed her eyes. “Gia—” Her voice broke, and so Gia’s face softened.
“I don’t know how we ended up being friends or roommates,” Gia continued, “but here we are. I don’t want to be like the idiots who pushed you at Lucky last year. That’s not what I’m trying to do, Elizabeth. I just—” She bit her lip. “You were miserable last year going after that modeling job, dating Lucky. You were pretending to be someone you’re not. When you left Lucky, when we decided to do this new life thing together, what did you tell me?”
“I—” Elizabeth sighed and sank onto the sofa. She closed her eyes. “That I didn’t want to pretend anymore. I didn’t want to be someone I wasn’t.”
Gia sat next to her. “If you really don’t want anything romantic with Jason, that’s fine. But you’re sitting here, contemplating not telling him something about Michael you know he has to know, and you’re doing it because you can’t pretend when you’re with him. As long as you don’t see him, you can play this game.”
“Elizabeth,” Courtney said, a bit uneasy. “I don’t know everything that happened with Lucky, and I don’t expect you to tell me. I just—I think Jason should know Edward is around Michael. I’m going to tell AJ, so he can do something about it. Jason and AJ want to put Michael first. We should help them do that.”
“I know.” Elizabeth lifted her wine glass to her lips. “Hand me my cell phone.” She looked at Gia. “That’s why we ended up friends. You’re the only one who ever called me on my bullshit. Once that stopped scaring me, I realized how important it is.” Her lips twitched. “Bitch.”
“Skank.” Gia handed the silver phone over to her. “I won’t wait up.”
Brownstone: Front Step
When Jason pulled up, Elizabeth was sitting at the top of the steps.
“I’m sorry to call you so late,” she said, shifting a bit to the side to make room.
“It’s okay,” Jason responded as he climbed the steps to take a seat next to her. “You said something was wrong.”
“I wrestled with telling you this for a lot of reasons,” Elizabeth said. She twisted so that she was half facing him, her back against the cool stone. “Most of them aren’t important, but I mostly just…I know it’s going to make everything worse. You’re going to be so angry…”
“Elizabeth…” He leaned forward, trying to capture her eyes but she kept them down, looking at her lap. “Did something happen? Are you okay?”
“It’s not about me,” Elizabeth replied. “It’s…I pick Michael up during the week. Two days, sometimes three. Today, he was in a bit of a mood. Not a bad one, just…quiet. He’s been quiet since Carly…but it was different today. It took some prying—Jason, Edward arranged for Michael to come to the headmaster’s office.”
Jason sat up, his shoulders tensing. “He harassed Michael at school?”
“He told Michael it was going to be their little secret. His way of getting to know him before Michael came to live with them. So, he wouldn’t be so scared.” Elizabeth shook her head, her voice thickening. “When Michael said he wanted to stay with his grandmother, Edward told him it would be easier at the mansion. More family. It wouldn’t be such a burden to look after him.”
“A fucking burden?” Jason repeated. He lunged to his feet. “He told Michael he was a burden to Bobbie?”
“Jason…” Elizabeth stood. “I know you’re angry, and I’m sorry. I just—you needed to know this was happening. I didn’t tell Bobbie yet. I wanted to see how you wanted to deal with it—”
Deal with it? He was going to go to that damn house and throw Edward Quartermaine into the fucking lake. What the hell was he thinking? “Carly’s only been gone for a few weeks,” Jason managed through a clenched jaw. “He couldn’t wait—”
“Jason…” Elizabeth sighed and wrapped her arms around herself. “I know, and I know you think confronting him is the right thing to do, but—”
“It won’t solve anything,” he muttered. “It’ll make me feel better, but that’s not the point.” He sat back down and dragged his hands through his hair. “What did you tell Michael?”
“I told him that Bobbie loved him, that you loved him. That he was home with her and no one was taking him anywhere.” Elizabeth dropped next to him. “I know I probably stepped out of line, I just didn’t want him worrying that he might—he’s been through so much during this last year. Leaving Sonny’s, losing him out of his life. Coming here. Carly working, then when she died…he can’t handle more instability. He shouldn’t have to.” She hesitated. “I told Courtney and Gia. Courtney is telling AJ about it.”
“Why?” Jason demanded. “He probably put the old man up to it—” He looked away even as he said it.
“You know that’s not true,” Elizabeth murmured. “I don’t want to champion him because, well, I don’t know anything for sure, but if AJ were behind it, he wouldn’t send Edward as his emissary.”
“No,” Jason muttered. “He wouldn’t. He would have gone himself.” He waited a moment. “I’ll have to talk to Alexis again. I want her to be ready to challenge any suit they bring my way. Edward might not wait for AJ to file on his own.” He shook his head. “Michael’s staying with Bobbie. He’s not going anywhere near them—” He glanced over, then frowned. “What? You look like you want to say something.”
“Edward going behind everyone’s back—it looks bad for him. But if AJ wasn’t involved—that’s not going to change his custody case.” Elizabeth asked softly. She closed her eyes. “Jason. I hate this. I hate that I have to say this—but I think you’re running out of time to make a decision.”
Jason flinched. “AJ can’t be trusted. You said so yourself—”
“I know that,” Elizabeth said. “I just…I don’t know, Jason. Maybe you should talk to AJ. Come up with a third solution. I don’t want Michael to go through a custody hearing, have to talk to doctors and judge and watch you and AJ fight over him only for you to lose.”
“You want AJ to have Michael?” Jason demanded. “After everything he’s done—”
“I’m not saying that. And I’ve never said that,” Elizabeth retorted. “And I’m not in any position to judge anything anyone else does, okay? I don’t know. I just—I want what’s best for Michael. I’m just—” She bit her lip.
“Spit it out, Elizabeth.”
“I know all the reasons you don’t want AJ to have custody,” Elizabeth said finally. “And you know I agree with them. Jason, I’m just so scared that a judge isn’t going—he’s not going to take them seriously. If you and AJ fight this out, if you force a judge to rule—” She swallowed. “Jason…”
“I know.” He exhaled slowly, and looked away, looked straight ahead to the other row of brownstones across the street. “Thanks for telling me about AJ. I know—I know you’re not comfortable telling me anything Courtney says to you.”
“Well, I figured it was fair warning.”
Jason hesitated. “Why else?”
She blinked at him. “Why else what?”
“You said you struggled with not telling me for a lot of reasons,” he said slowly. “I can’t—I don’t think they were all about Michael.”
“Jason—” She bit her lip. “No, I guess they weren’t.” She rubbed hands over her denim clad knees. “I just—I don’t want things to be like they were before. I want us to be friends, I do. I just—” She tilted her eyes to the sky. “I’m not sure we can be.”
He sucked in a sharp breath—he hadn’t expected that. “Elizabeth—” He exhaled slowly. “Why can’t we be friends?” he asked. He almost scowled at he saw a tiny smile flit across her petite features. “What? What’s funny?”
“Nothing…it’s usually…I’m used to being the one asking that —” Elizabeth sighed. “Why were we friends in the first place?”
“What?” He lifted his brows. “When? Last year?”
“Ever. You felt sorry for me and gave me a ride. How did…” She looked at her fingernails, painted some sort of dark shade he couldn’t make out by the light of the street lamps. “How did that turn into everything else?”
“I—” Jason hesitated. He’d never really thought about how they’d become so close. They just…they just were. Or had been. “I don’t know. I guess you were just…you were someone I could talk to.”
“Maybe it was that morning I found you in the snow. Maybe that’s when it changed.” She sighed. “I always felt like I took advantage of you. Like…you were there because I saved your life once and you just…”
“We weren’t friends because I felt obligated,” Jason finished her thought. “That’s not what I do. Yeah, after that winter—after you dragged me to your studio and forced soup down my throat, sure, if you’d needed something, I would have done it. You saved my life. But that’s not why—” Not why he’d been so scared the night the bomb was in her studio. Why he’d felt as torn about cutting things off after that…
Why saying goodbye a few weeks later had hurt so much.
“Why does it matter?” he said instead. “Do you need to know why I care about you?”
“Because I did take advantage of you last year,” Elizabeth said.
He shook his head. “I don’t see it that way—”
“Oh, come on…” She rolled her eyes. “Don’t—don’t do that. Don’t pretend I didn’t—” She bit her lips. “Anyone else would have called me a tease or something worse—”
“I’m not anyone else.” He took her chin in his hand, forcing her to look at him. “And you don’t get to tell me what happened last year. I was there, and I know what you were going through—”
“And you can’t keep punishing yourself. Is that this is about?” He released her and got to his feet. “We can’t be friends because of what happened?”
She stood. “Because there’s no place in my life for you.”
He took the hit and didn’t flinch. “If that’s true, Elizabeth, then I can respect that. But I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t get to tell me how to feel,” she shot back, echoing words he’d once spoken to her. “I can’t go back. I can’t do any of that again—”
“Any of what?” he challenged, feeling the frustration crawl up his throat. “Damn it, Elizabeth, what did I do—”
“I’m never going to be broken again, do you get that?” Her voice cracked, a tear slid down her cheek, iridescent in the pale streetlight. As soon as the words left her mouth, her shoulders slumped, the anger slid out of her posture.
Jason closed his mouth, because he didn’t know how to respond to that. How to argue with that. He didn’t even know why he was pushing this except— “I—”
Elizabeth sighed and scrubbed her hands over her face. “I’m sorry. I don’t—you didn’t—I did it to myself. I let people tell me how to feel, how to live. I let them direct my life. I’ve worked my ass off for the last five months to be the person I was supposed to be. I can’t…I can’t go back. I can’t be that person again. After the rape, after losing Lucky, after the wedding—I keep starting my life over again. I can’t do it again. I just can’t.”
“I’m not asking you to. I just…” Wanted to see her. Be around her. Take her to the cliff roads. “I just—”
“But it hurts too much…” A tear slid down her cheek, glinting in the dim light. “It all hurts, and I can’t stand it. I hate this. I hate that when I see you, it’s like nothing has changed—”
He took her by the elbow and drew her in closer. “Elizabeth—”
“Even the way you say my name—” Her voice broke and she dipped her head, leaned into him. “I just want to be…” She trailed off, as if she didn’t know how to finish that.
“I want you to be whoever you want to be,” Jason told her, running his hand from her elbow to the top of her shoulder then back again. “You’re still putting pressure on yourself. If that’s because of me—”
“It’s because of me…” Elizabeth sighed again and stepped back. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m making things into a huge deal. What did you used to say? A solution doesn’t have to be complicated to be right? Maybe…I just have to stop.”
“There’s no law that says we have to do anything or be anything,” Jason told her. He tipped her face, so their eyes met. “You keep telling me you’re a different person now.”
“A better one,” she said with conviction. “And maybe it’s time I show you.”
He tilted his head toward the street. “How about a ride?”
“Perfect.” As they started towards his bike, she asked, “What are you going to do about Michael? About Edward?”
He sighed, as he handed her the helmet strapped on the back of his bike. “I don’t know. I suppose I’ll call Alexis in the morning to see what she recommends. I might want to go…” Yell at someone, break something… “But it won’t solve anything. I have to do what’s good for Michael.”
Though if Edward making this move at Michael’s school was the reason Elizabeth had finally started to tear down the walls between them, well, maybe he might even find room to be grateful to the old bastard.