I’m in a daze stumbling bewildered
North of gravity head up in the stratosphere
You and I roller coaster riding love
You’re the center of adrenaline
And I’m beginning to understand
– The Best Thing, Savage Garden
Sunday, May 5, 2002
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Courtney winced when Elizabeth stalked in from the kitchen and snatched the white apron from behind the counter. “I guess Jason found you,” she murmured as she gently set the carafe of coffee back on the hot plate. “Elizabeth—”
“I told him,” her friend snapped. “And of course, it’s all my fault. What am I supposed to do? Ignore the situation? Maybe I could run away for a year and just pretend everything is exactly the same when I come back—” She stopped and closed her eyes. “Jason,” she continued without opening them, “isn’t thrilled that I don’t plan to sandbag AJ’s character on the stand if I’m asked.”
“Oh.” Courtney bit her lip. “I mean…” She looked at the counter, focusing on a small crack in the laminate surface. “I’m sorry—”
“Why?” Elizabeth asked. “None of this is your fault. You married AJ, Courtney. You get to take his side, particularly when, you know, he’s not wrong.” She hissed through her teeth as she yanked out the ledger and reached the receipts from the lunch rush. “Michael is his son. AJ’s not wrong to do whatever he thinks is best.”
“But Jason isn’t wrong to be concerned,” Courtney said. “I’d be lying if I said I were one hundred percent convinced AJ will never take another drink.” And God, didn’t she feel disloyal admitting that? But this was Elizabeth. The first friend she’d made in Port Charles. Her best friend.
“I guess I just…” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “I don’t know. I thought—I thought if I took that step forward. If I…let myself feel those things for Jason again—”
“Or admitted that you already did.”
“Semantics.” But Elizabeth smiled, a slight shift in the curve of her lips. “I thought if I took that leap—he’d be there waiting. That…it was me holding us back.”
“It’s not. It’s him, too.” She waited a moment. “He doesn’t trust me. Not where it counts. He can’t see that I love Michael, that I want what’s best for him—”
“I think he’s scared—” Courtney lowered her voice when a customer wandered in. “Elizabeth, you’ve said it yourself. He still loves that little boy like his own son. That doesn’t go away. You never stop protecting your children. Maybe the reason Jason is so angry is because he knows you’re right, and he doesn’t want to admit—”
“What am I supposed to do with that?” Elizabeth cut in. “I spent two years of my life running after Lucky, fixing his problems—” she shook her head. “No, this—this is a sign. It’s not enough to care about Jason. It’s not enough that he cares about me. We don’t work. When the rest of the world gets involved—”
“And that is a cop out,” Courtney interrupted, slapping her hand over the ledger, forcing Elizabeth to stop writing, to look at her. “What would Gia say if she were here?”
“Oh, God…” Elizabeth rolled her eyes and sighed. “Courtney—”
“This situation with Michael? Where you’re in the middle? This doesn’t go away if you stop…if you pull away from Jason again. What changes, Elizabeth? Nothing.”
Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Courtney—”
“But maybe that’s not the point. Because if you walk away from what you feel this time, if Jason lets you—” Courtney shrugged, stepped back, and let her hand fall back to her side. “Maybe that’s for the best. Because if you let something that has nothing to do with who the two of you are together—if you let something that’s not even about you get in your way—maybe you were right. Maybe it’s just lust. Residual. Unfinished business.”
“That’s not fair,” her friend managed, her voice weak, even a bit shaky. “He doesn’t trust me—”
“You don’t know that.” Courtney took a deep breath. “I love you. I don’t know Jason that well, but I do see the way he looks at you. I think, before you write this off, before you let fear get inside your head—you owe it to both of you to give it a chance.” She hesitated, but decided to press her advantage. “You both love Michael. AJ loves Michael. I want the chance to love him. We are all good people, Elizabeth. Good people should be able to find a way to make this right.”
Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room
AJ scowled at the sight of his grandfather standing by the fireplace. “Grandmother—” he cast disapproving eyes at Lila, who sat serenely in her wheelchair. “I should have known—”
“Your grandfather has something he would like to say to you,” Lila said simply. “But I will stay right here to ensure that he doesn’t try anything.”
“Lila,” Edward said, a hand over his heart. “After all these years—”
“Stuff it, darling.” Lila arched an eyebrow, still managing to rule the room even in her weakened state. Her husband scowled, but then turned his attention to AJ, who was no less annoyed but unable to say no to Lila.
“Well?” AJ prompted when Edward remained silent. He folded his arms. “I’m waiting.”
Edward scowled. “Boy—”
“Goodbye,” AJ said, turning back to the door.
“I’m sorry,” Edward bit out. “I was…I was impetuous.”
“Impetuous,” AJ echoed with a scoff. “Let me remind you that you convinced Michael’s headmaster to allow you to meet with him. The fact that you were allowed contact with him on school grounds—Let’s set that aside.” He lowered his voice, his blood still running hot at the very thought of what Edward had done.
“You told my son—a five-year-old child—that his grandmother saw him as a burden. That he was going to come live here soon—a house he doesn’t know full of people he doesn’t know—”
“It was wrong, I know.” Edward huffed. “And if Elizabeth Webber didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for me, a judge is going to have even less. Everyone knows she’s a soft touch—”
“Oh, God. You talked to—” AJ pressed a hand to his forehead. What were the chances that Jason hadn’t heard about that? “You stay away from Elizabeth. Jason will take you apart—”
“Come now, AJ. I think you’re overreacting,” Lila murmured. “Elizabeth can take care of herself—”
“Yeah, I know that, and you know that—but—” AJ stopped. If Edward didn’t want to heed his warnings, if his grandmother didn’t see danger—he wasn’t going to waste his breath. “I had to do damage control, Grandfather. Any progress I’d made with Jason—it’s gone now—”
“I don’t know why you give a damn. You’ll win in court, and Jason will have to come crawling to you—”
“I don’t want that—” His hands dived into his hair as AJ struggled to not to howl with frustration. “Michael has a family that he cares about. He has Bobbie, Elizabeth, Lucas. And Jason. He’s lost his mother. The last thing I want to do is anything that changes that. I want to be a part of his life. Add myself. Not take his family away.”
“And it’s the right thing,” Lila murmured. “Darling, I know you and Jason will work this out—”
“Jason doesn’t trust me,” AJ said tightly. “I don’t blame him. I only just managed to convince him I had nothing to do with Grandfather’s mess, but I know that’s because Elizabeth believes me. I need you to stay out of this. I can do this.”
Edward snorted but Lila silenced him with a glare that might have cut glass. “Edward,” she snapped. “You will let this boy handle this. Michael is his son. Jason is his brother. I think they can work this out.”
“I don’t want to go to court. I don’t want Jason to lose,” AJ admitted. “That doesn’t make anything better. Grandfather—”
Edward looked at his wife for a long moment before taking a deep breath. “I don’t want to do anything that ruins your chances,” he said, gruffly. “If you think you and Jason can work things out, well, then I…I’ll give you that chance.”
Which meant he would give AJ space, but for how long?
Elm Street Pier: Yacht
Zander, with some trepidation stepped onto the yacht, before glancing back at Roscoe. “Mickey, what the hell are we doing here?”
“My partner wants to meet you.” Roscoe shoved him forward, toward the stern of the luxurious yacht where a man was seated at a table, a cigar and a martini in front of him on the glass-topped table.
His hair was dark, his skin olive in complexion. His eyes reminded Zander of a snake as the partner squinted at the two in the sunlight. He bit down on his cigar and beckoned for the duo to join him underneath the shaded awning.
“Mickey, this is your secret weapon?” he asked, a tinge of something South American in his accent. Zander bristled as those dangerous eyes looked him up and down, and then looked away.
Dismissed. Fuck him. He didn’t need this shit. He’d put his cards on the table, and if he didn’t like the pitch, he was out of here.
“Mickey says you want to destroy Sonny Corinthos,” Zander said before Roscoe could say a word. “But you haven’t been able to do dick about it. His men are too loyal to turn, and those who aren’t are too fucking scared of Jason Morgan.”
The man raised his eyes. “And you’re different from them?”
“I don’t give a fuck about loyalty,” Zander retorted. “I did everything that son of a bitch wanted me to and he still tossed me out like a dog because Jason Morgan took exception to my treatment of his property.”
“His girlfriend, you mean.” The man sat up. “Perhaps it’s time we introduce ourselves, and I’ll be requiring your real name, not the alias Corinthos and Morgan were satisfied with.”
Zander hesitated, but if getting his revenge meant surrendering a secret, then he was game. “Alexander Jerome. From New York City. Bastard son of Victor Jerome.”
“What the fuck, Smith…” Roscoe thumped him in the shoulder. “You’re shitting me—”
“It’s a useless name. Jerome’s been gone nearly a decade and he never acknowledged me. He didn’t care for my mother’s antecedents,” Zander sneered. “There’s no currency in the name, so why fucking bother using it?”
“Fair enough.” The man set down his cigar. “Alcazar. Luis Alcazar.” After a moment, he continued. “Now why don’t you tell me why you’re of any use to me?”
“Because Morgan isn’t gonna touch me. I used to—” And here Zander hesitated, because the moment called for crude talk, for frankness, but to use her this way, it was uncomfortable. She was the only sweet, bright spot in his life. “I dated his sister for a while. And Morgan loves his sister.”
“Fair enough. But the fact that you’re breathing doesn’t make you valuable—”
“You’re never going to destroy Sonny Corinthos until you eliminate Jason Morgan,” Zander told him. “And you’re gonna have a fucking hell of a time doing that.”
“He’s got weaknesses,” Roscoe scoffed. “The girl? He’ll do anything to keep her safe—”
“You think you can go after Elizabeth Webber and break Jason that way?” Zander snorted. “You don’t get it. You kidnap her, you kill her—doesn’t matter. Jason will put his emotions in a little box inside his head, hunt you down and tear you into little pieces for touching her. He’s not Sonny. Sonny falls apart when threatened. He survives because of Jason.”
Alcazar picked up his cigar and examined it for a long moment. “We’d considered kidnapping Elizabeth Webber in exchange for control of some piers. In Mickey’s name, of course.” His smile was nothing more than an upturn of one corner of his mouth, but it seemed to be in response to a joke that neither of them were privy to. “I’m a silent partner.”
“I think you overestimate Morgan,” Roscoe began.
“I can’t stand the son of a bitch,” Zander replied with a dark scowl. “He’s the reason I’m here. That bitch insulted me, clawed at my face, and I got fired for defending myself. But you’re a fucking moron if you don’t give him credit, Mickey. You know I’m right. When Sorel sent that bomb a year ago? Jason Morgan hunted down the explosives experts, the courier—he took them apart. He doesn’t react to attacks the way you think he will. I’m telling you, you’re not going to get anywhere with Sonny Corinthos unless Morgan is gone.”
“So we kill the right-hand man. Simple,” Alcazar said. “A drive-by—”
“Good luck.” Zander shrugged. “You won’t be the first to go after him and you won’t be the last.”
“Well, how would you suggest we take care of the problem?” Alcazar demanded, his patience finally dissipating. “Or are you telling me Sonny Corinthos is indestructible?” He sat up, put down his cigar. “All I’m hearing is what I can’t do.”
“The closest anyone ever came to killing Jason Morgan was the ambush when Moreno died,” Zander returned. “His sister told me he was shot and nearly died. You ambush him with more guns, make it impossible for him to escape. And when he’s gone, you can start taking Sonny Corinthos apart, piece by piece. He has a sister he’s not close to, but he’s not gonna put up with any threat to her. He likes Webber well enough, and he’ll feel obligated to protect her once Morgan is gone. You make him fail in that, you put his ex-kid in danger? He’ll self-destruct on his own.”
Alcazar exhaled slowly before looking at Mickey. “It’s not a bad plan.”
“How do you lure Jason Morgan into an ambush?” Roscoe demanded. “He’s got lightning reflexes—”
“You get someone to lure him to place where he thinks he’s gonna be safe. That’s the hard part,” Zander said. “You’re gonna need to turn someone else. Someone he trusts. Or trick them. He’ll go anywhere Elizabeth asks him to, but she’s not an idiot either, so good luck with that.”
Alcazar smiled then. “Oh, I think I can take care of that. A few more weeks to allow certain things to fall out the way I expect them to, and I’ll have the perfect candidate.” He flicked his eyes to Roscoe. “Good job, Mickey. He’s not a bad secret weapon. I’ve learned more about Corinthos and Morgan in the last ten minutes than I have in the last three months.”
Zander started at that pronouncement—Luis Alcazar had been targeting Sonny for three months and was only now making his move? What the hell was going on here?
He was gonna have to watch his back. Zander and Roscoe went back a way, but Luis Alcazar didn’t give a shit if he lived or died. He was on his own. Nothing new there.
Jake’s: Upstairs Hallway
Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath before knocking on the door. She had to…she had to do this. To talk to him. To just…make sure that walking away was the right decision.
Courtney was right—if something that had nothing to do with who they were together could affect their relationship, it wasn’t strong enough. It was smart to stop now. To get out before they ruined each other.
She hadn’t been smart before. She’d hung on, clung to the dream so long that there had been nothing left but ashes when she’d finally woken up.
Not this time.
She raised her hand to knock before it was yanked open, and Jason appeared, about to step over the threshold. He stopped, obviously not expecting her. “Elizabeth—”
“Oh.” She chewed on her lip, taking in the jacket he wore and the keys in his hand. Reprieve. “You’re—you’re leaving. I can—”
“I was going for a ride.” He shifted back, stepping to the side so she could enter. When Elizabeth didn’t move, his hand tightened on the edge of the door. “Elizabeth—”
And now that she was standing in front of him, ready to call the whole thing off—
“I’m a good person,” she said, softly. He furrowed his brow, opened his mouth to respond. “And you’re a good person.”
“And so are Courtney and AJ.”
He sighed and dipped his head. “Elizabeth, don’t—”
“Good people should be able to work together.” She swallowed hard. “I love Michael, Jason. I tried to stay out of this, I did. But I can’t. Because Courtney is my friend, and I’ve known AJ for years. And I love that little boy. We are good people who want the best for that little boy—I have to believe that we can work together—”
He looked away and shook his head lightly. “Elizabeth—”
“Because I care about you,” she said in a rush of words. “I always have, but I mean—I just—” She licked her lips. “If this were before, if this was Lucky—” He scowled, but she continued. “I would have done whatever he asked. Whatever made him happy. Because that’s how I judged my life. If Lucky was happy, if I did what he wanted—I can’t do that anymore—”
“Elizabeth—” Jason’s voice was quiet, but there was anguish there. “That’s not—I’m not—” He stepped back. “Come in. Please.”
Hesitantly, she stepped over the threshold and waited for him to shut the door. He dropped his keys on the dresser and looked at her. “I’m sorry about today.”
“I’m not trying to box you in. To convince you to give up—”
“No, I know.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “You weren’t saying anything you haven’t before. Nothing Alexis or Bobbie hasn’t said. My chances in court are next to nothing, and dragging Michael through it would just…”
Her throat felt raw as she forced the words out. “Jason—”
“But you never have to tell me what I want to hear, or do anything because I—” He sliced a hand through the air. “I don’t want that from you. I saw—” He stopped and looked away, swallowing. “I saw you do that before. Last year, I watched you twist yourself around to be what Lucky wanted. I would never—”
She exhaled slowly. “And I know that. I do. Here.” She gestured at her head. “It’s just…it’s hard to believe it everywhere else. I have a lot of…damage from before—”
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” he cut in, his eyes fierce. “Elizabeth—”
“Baggage then,” she continued, with a hesitant smile at his complete faith in her. At least one of them had it. She bit her lip. “It’s there. And I can’t pretend it isn’t.”
“I’m not asking you to.”
She could do this. She could be honest with herself, with him. About anything. This was Jason. He was safe.
Elizabeth stepped forward until she stood just before him, tilting her head up to meet his eyes. “Last night, in the alley—today—”
“If you’re not ready—”
“It felt right,” Elizabeth interrupted. “And it felt good. And I wished—” She shook her head. “No. No regrets. If it had happened last year, I wasn’t ready to do anything about it then. I am now. I want to be with you.”
She hesitantly reached out, her fingertips brushing the soft cotton of his black shirt. She flicked her eyes back at him. “And not in some…abstract sense. I mean…” She pressed her hands against his chest, his skin warm under the cotton. “Now. Tonight.”
She slid her hand up slightly to cover his heart. She’d felt it before—could remember checking it during that winter in her studio. He slept so soundly, so little movement, she would often lean over at night to check his heartbeat.
And it was quicker now, his breath had changed. She had never really let herself believe a man like Jason would want her—would find her attractive, but he did. She could see it in his eyes, feel it in the way his body had tensed.
“But maybe you would rather go out for a ride,” she teased as she slid up on her toes and pressed her mouth to his quickly. “You know I like the bike—”
She moved, as if going towards the door, but he laughed, the sound low and rumbling through his chest as he lightly tugged her back, letting her almost stumble into him. Her answering grin was swallowed by his mouth as he dipped his head, speared his hands in her hair and kissed her.
This. This feeling, this sensation, this dizzy, intoxicating sensation—this was why she had to give this a chance. She wanted to drown herself in him, in his touch, in the way everything just ignited inside her when he was with her. Elizabeth slid her hands up his chest again, moving under his jacket so she could shove the leather from his shoulders.
She fisted her hands in his shirt, pulling him backwards toward the bed. Jason hesitated when her knees brushed the edge. His hands resting at her hips, his thumbs brushing the skin just under her shirt, he raised his head and licked his lips. “Elizabeth—” he began, his voice a bit rough. “We don’t—”
She raised a brow, and swiftly turned so that she could lightly shove him on the bed before climbing on top, her denim-clad thighs straddling him on either side. “Do you know how long I’ve been thinking about this?” she asked, her tone idle as the tip of her fingers lightly danced on his abdomen, on the bared skin where his shirt had tugged up.
His eyes were dark in the dimly lit room as he braced himself up on his elbows. “Not as long as I have,” Jason managed.
“I should have felt guilty,” Elizabeth mused with a smile that felt wicked even as it slid across her face. “I mean, you were hurt and I was supposed to be taking care of you, but every time I changed your bandage…” Her fingers traced the scar that bullet had left. “I had this crazy thought about just…” She bit her lip, but what the hell? “Licking you.”
He didn’t laugh at her, didn’t even smile at the thought of that silly girl thinking such naughty thoughts about a bullet-ridden older man in her care. Instead, Jason sat up, tugging her closer, bringing her into closer contact with all of him. Her breath caught—she could feel him, even through two layers of denim. “If you had,” he began, but stopped and shook his head. “I want this to be right for you,” he said, finally, his lips feathering along her jaw.
“Being with you makes it right,” she murmured. “You are—this is what I want.” She rocked back lightly, heard his breath hitch. “I’m not going to pretend anymore.” She leaned down, nipped at his mouth. “Are we done talking yet?”
He answered with a light growl that had her giggling as Jason dipped her to the side, her back against the mattress. “I think we’ve talked enough,” he told her with a wicked grin before he took her mouth again.