If we can make it through this storm
And become who we were before
Promise me we’ll never look back
The worst is far behind us now
We’ll make it out of here somehow
Meet me in the aftermath
– Aftermath, Lifehouse
Thursday, May 9, 2002
AJ looked up from the contract at his brother. “It looks good. What do I have to do?”
Jason shifted and cleared his throat. “Alexis wants you to get it okayed by a lawyer of your own—”
AJ held up his hand, shaking his head. “I trust Alexis, and I trust you.” When Jason’s eyes widened just slightly, AJ understood. This new era of civility was nice, but it was…discomforting after so many years of discord.
But AJ wasn’t interested in anything more than what was fair. “This is exactly what we talked about the other night, Jason.” He tapped the paper. “Increased visitation. I never wanted— I can’t imagine demanding that Michael come live with me full-time right now. That’s not fair to anyone—particularly to Bobbie and Michael. He doesn’t know me, and he’ll need time.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “You’re not angry about the supervised—”
“You have no reason to trust my sobriety, Jase.” AJ looked at the pen in his hands, twirling it. “I’m not always sure I do. I’ve done the steps, you know? I go to the meetings. I’ve been honest about why I drink. But…” He hesitated, but Jason—more than anyone else—deserved the truth. “I’ve seen guys like me there. With families and everything to stay sober for. And one little set back—one stupid thing—and they take a drink. And have to start over again.”
Jason said nothing, so AJ continued. “When Carly—when I heard about the accident, I wanted a drink.” His hands still shook at the memory—at the fierce longing for that dark, bitter taste of whiskey as it slid down his throat.
“The family was fighting again, looking at me to go after Michael, pressuring me—they wanted me to act right then—they were ready to do it without me. I just…I wanted their voices to go away. I drove to a liquor store. And I sat outside for ten minutes, arguing with myself.”
“You need to know this, Jason,” AJ cut off Jason’s uncomfortable protest. “You need to know that I’m aware of my weaknesses. No one has ever put Michael first like you. You had legal visitation and you walked away to make his life easier. I can’t—” His throat tightened. “I don’t know if I could make the same sacrifice. So, you need to know that I still think about it.”
“Okay.” Jason waited a moment. “What stopped you?”
“You,” AJ said simply. “And Courtney. Thinking about what I’d be giving up. How disappointed she’d be if I went in that store. How much I would hate seeing your face and knowing how much better you were—”
“It’s not about being better—”
“It is for me,” AJ interrupted. “And that’s something I’m working on. I don’t want to measure myself against you. I’ve done that all my life. Our parents—Grandfather—they’ve always looked at the two of us and wished—” He looked away. “You think they’re disappointed in how you turned out? Christ, at least you have the accident to blame. I don’t have that. I had all the privileges in the world and I threw them away.”
“It isn’t a contest, AJ.” But Jason looked a bit…uncertain. “But I guess—between Carly and Michael—I can see why you think that way.”
“I don’t have to be better than you to be okay,” AJ said after a long moment. “I know that. I don’t always remember it. And if sometimes—if wanting to be better than you is the reason I don’t take a drink that day, well, I guess that’s not the worst thing in the world.”
“I guess not.” Jason turned in his chair, so that he could see through the glass panels of the door to the dining room where Elizabeth and Courtney were laughing together.
“I didn’t marry her for the best reasons,” AJ said after long moment as they watched the women they cared about fill sugar canisters. “But I got lucky. Because Courtney is the best thing that ever happened to me, and that’s the other reason I don’t take a drink. I never want her to be sorry for a minute she took a chance on me.”
Jason slid the contract closer to AJ. “Take this to a lawyer. I know you trust Alexis, and I’m—I trust you, too. But we need to do this by the book, right? So that Michael is protected. I don’t want—” He hesitated, as if searching for right words. “I want us all to be on the same page.”
“Fine.” AJ hesitated. “Thank you. For giving me this chance.”
“You earned it,” Jason admitted with a bit of a grimace. He stood immediately. “I have to get back to work.” He went inside the diner, where AJ watched him talk to Elizabeth for a moment before disappearing through the back, likely to the alley where he had parked his bike.
Courtney emerged from the diner, a hopeful smile on her face. “Did it go well? We didn’t hear any shouting.”
“It—” AJ tilted his head, considering the custody agreement in front of him. “It went better than I could have hoped for.” Maybe…he and Jason could be better than civil strangers. He wouldn’t hope they’d ever be brothers, but…he’d settle for friends. Maybe.
“I think we should get to know the plan,” Zander said as he took a seat in front of a heavy mahogany desk in the dark paneled room.
“In good time, Smith.” Alcazar drew in a deep drag of the cigar. “You talk to Dominic Savarolli?”
“Yeah, yesterday.” Zander shifted slightly. “He’s pretty pissed at me about how I got fired, but he’s got no love for Corinthos or Morgan. He’s looking to move out to Vegas, and Morgan gummed up the works when he came back.”
“So, the word on the street is right — Nico’s still dealing and Corinthos doesn’t know shit,” Roscoe said, with a grin of satisfaction. “He’s a dumb fuck, always has been—”
Zander didn’t roll his eyes, but came close. This was why Moreno and Sorel had fallen apart—why no one got close to overthrowing Sonny Corinthos. Refusing to participate in the drug trade was the primary reason Sonny had charmed the citizens of Port Charles—and it was a handy way to test the loyalty of one’s soldiers.
“Nico’s been all right funneling the profits through the strip club because Sonny’s business guys didn’t notice the extra money,” Zander said, ignoring Mickey. “But lately, there’s too much profit to hide cleanly. And everyone knows Jason Morgan has a head for the numbers. With him back, it’s just a matter of time. Nico wanted to get to Vegas and dump the crap on me.”
Alcazar lifted his brows in surprise. “You knew you were to be the scapegoat?”
“I’m not an idiot,” Zander muttered. “He wants to put me in charge of all the gambling in town? I mean, it’s not Vegas or Atlantic City, but it’s not nothing either. And he’d be leaving me with the drug trade. I got nothing against dealing—people are gonna do it whether I give it to them or not. I might as well make money from it.”
He lifted a shoulder. “I figured he was gonna leave me holding the bag. I had a plan. Go to Sonny as if I had just figured it out. Sonny rewards whistle blowing. I might not be able to stay in charge, but I was willing to gamble it’d be good for my career.” Lot of fucking good it did him now. He’d waited Nico out, let the son of a bitch set him up, and now Zander was out in the cold looking for a pay day.
Nico would pay for fucking him over. When the time was right.
Roscoe eyed him now. “So, Morgan’s back to act as a fancy auditor?” He snorted. “Some lethal—”
“Shut up, Mickey.” Alcazar leaned forward, stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray. “Morgan’s looking into the books?”
“Yeah. Benny Abrams is the best in the business, but he’s got his hands full with all the expansion and merger shit Sonny’s been dumping on him. He handles the legitimate stuff, and he’s gotta make sure it all looks clean. He don’t got time to make sure everyone is dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Jason’s always been his back up. Used to do the books for a bunch of Sonny’s stuff when he was starting out. At Luke’s and the warehouse when they first opened it.”
Alcazar nodded. “You say Nico’s on board?”
“He wants to get rid of Morgan as much as the rest of us,” Zander replied. “He says whatever you need, he’s got you.”
“Good. Good.” Alcazar nodded. “I’ll be wanting to cause trouble for them. Nothing…too drastic. Test their reactions. Find the weak spots in their network. I have…an idea for luring Jason into that ambush, but I still have to…work out what comes after.”
“I don’t know why we don’t just pick Sonny Corinthos off,” Roscoe muttered. “He’s an open target—”
“Because then Morgan tracks you down and tears you into small pieces,” Zander said, disgusted. There was a reason Moreno and Sorel hadn’t had patience for this dick head. “And then he takes over, and then you’re really shit out of luck. Most of the higher ups—they like Sonny fine. But some of them would walk through fire for Morgan.”
His elbows propped on the desk, his fingers steepled in front of his face, Alcazar considered Roscoe for a long moment. “I want you to keep your ears to the ground. I want to know how Corinthos operates. How he handles mistakes. Who his men are. Not just the ones likely to defect, but those who won’t. We need to know the most loyal soldiers, who to take out first. You’ll be the point man with Nico.”
Alcazar said nothing further, and it was clear he intended those words as a dismissal to Roscoe. The other man muttered something, but left the room.
Zander considered the man for a long time. “You want Nico as the fall guy, don’t you? When you take out Jason, you want to make sure all roads lead to him.”
“Nico has already done that for me. He’s made it clear he’s desperate to get out of town, and there’s little doubt Morgan has found the extra money. Nico already made himself a target.” Alcazar offered a cold smile. “He’s not loyal to Corinthos or Morgan. Nico did you a favor, setting you up in Miami. You’ll be comfortable there, working for my old friend Hector Ruiz. If Corinthos looks further for an accomplice, well—Roscoe won’t be hard to find.” He tilted his head. “It’s possible Nico might name you, but you’ll be alibied by Hector Ruiz.”
It was just crazy enough to work, but Zander wasn’t going to bet his life on a clean getaway. “About that Miami thing—”
“You’ll need to stay gone for a few weeks, and Ruiz is a good connection to make,” Alcazar cut in smoothly. “You’ve done what’s necessary for now. I may need you in a few weeks, but for you to stay useful, you need to stay above suspicion.”
Zander had his doubts about any of this working—not because Alcazar hadn’t taken his advice or was an idiot. But Alcazar wanted his hands clean and to achieve that, he had to put major portions of his plans in the hands of others. Anything could go wrong.
Zander would just have to stay one step ahead of all of them in order to get out of this, but oh—if he succeeded…if he could watch Corinthos fall apart after Morgan was taken out—
That was worth any risk.
Saturday, May 11, 2002
Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room
It was not often that Edward Louis Quartermaine apologized—in fact, Ned could only count perhaps three or four times in his living memory that the old bastard had allowed the words “I’m sorry” to leave his lips—and usually, his grandmother was poking at him.
But this time, Lila Quartermaine had not had to work her magic.
AJ had stopped by to see Ned, to tell his mother that he would finally have his chance—he and Jason had arrived at a custody agreement that put Michael first, but allowed AJ the opportunity to be Michael’s father.
Edward had taken the news with a bit of silence, and Ned had watched the old man with curious caution. How would Edward absorb the news that AJ had solved the issue on his own?
“It seems you knew best after all,” Edward finally managed gruffly as he skimmed the agreement. “You had your own lawyer look at this?”
“Yeah, Alexis gave me a list of a few who specialize in child custody. I called one. She said it was good.” AJ cleared his throat. “She called Alexis, and we all decided—we’re going to file it with the courts. Along with reinstatement of my rights. So legally, I’m—” he hesitated, and he swallowed hard.
“Legally, you’re his father,” Ned finished. He looked at their grandfather. “Junior did good, huh?”
“I’m sorry…” Edward hesitated. “I’m sorry I tried to—” He returned the custody agreement to AJ. “I just—I wanted to know him.”
“I know.” AJ folded the paperwork. “And I know that you have no reason to think I can do this, that I can stay sober, but—” He dipped his head. “In a few months, I’ll get my one-year chip. I’ve never—I’ve never made this long before.”
“The girl you married—Courtney…” Edward hesitated. “She’s part of it. She’s…she’s been good to you.”
“Yeah.” AJ managed a smile. “She saw something in me, and I want—I want to make sure I live up to that.” He rose to his feet. “I want to build a good life for us, for Michael. For the children I want with her. We’re on our way to doing that now. I have a good job.”
“I’d like—” Edward also stood. “I’ll release your trust fund. I shouldn’t have taken it from you, and—”
“I appreciate that, Grandfather,” AJ said, holding up a hand. “And I’ll likely to dip into it so Courtney and I can move somewhere bigger, somewhere for Michael to have his own room. But it doesn’t—I can’t come back to ELQ. Or this house.”
Edward pressed his lips together, but his eyes were sad. Not angry. “I trust you to know what’s best for your sobriety, my boy. I hope one day that may change, but for now, I can accept that.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll go find your grandmother and give her the good news.”
“You should go to the hospital,” Ned told AJ once Edward had left. “I’m sure Alan will be relieved to hear that his sons are working together.”
“Yeah.” AJ nodded, took a deep breath. “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”
Friday, May 17, 2002
Elizabeth flashed a smile at AJ and Courtney as they left for the night, and she turned down their protest about leaving her there. She’d be fine. Jason had promised to pick her up around midnight and that was only a half hour away.
She could clean up and total the night’s receipts, then drop them at the night deposit box on their way…wherever. In the few days since their relationship had changed, they’d spent three of the four nights at Jake’s and just one at her apartment. Possibility because of the proximity to Taggart, who lived a floor above them, but she knew Jason still wasn’t sold on Gia, but time would change that.
Gia had a way of growing on you like a fungus.
“Your boyfriend late?”
Elizabeth snapped her head up at the sound of Lucky’s irritated voice. Why was he still doing this? “Lucky—”
“I know, I know. I’m supposed to use the back entrance,” he muttered, emerging from the shadows by the stairs. The diner was dim—she’d left two of three switches flipped off and now she wished she’d left it blazing.
Not that Lucky would hurt her.
She would just feel better.
“You never gave a damn before he came back.”
Elizabeth sighed and set the receipts down. She was tired of this. Tired of feeling guilty. Of feeling like somehow…she was at fault.
“Why are we still doing this?” she asked. “It’s been four months—”
“It was always him.” Lucky gestured towards the empty doorway as if Jason stood there. “Always, wasn’t it? You didn’t give a damn about me when I came home. If you had—”
“What would have been different?” she demanded. “You weren’t the same boy. I wasn’t the same girl. We both changed—”
“I was brainwashed, kept captive!” He pressed a hand to his chest, his nostrils flaring, his eyes bulging. “Locked up. You moved on with the first guy who looked at you twice—”
Her eyes burned as she stood up. “That is not true, and you damn well know it. I nearly drowned myself in grief for you. I couldn’t get out of bed some days—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, forced back the angry words. “I’m sorry, Lucky. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. How hard it must be. But I’m done apologizing.”
“How do you think it makes me feel to know I was nothing more than obligation or pity?” he demanded, taking a step towards her. “Knowing that every minute you were with me, you wanted to be with him—”
“Not every moment,” she murmured. She exhaled slowly. “It wasn’t like that, Lucky—”
“Then what was it like?” He spread his hands out at his side. “You stayed with me. You got engaged to me. But you wanted him.”
How could she ever explain how twisted it all had been last year? How she had struggled knowing she wasn’t in love with Lucky anymore, the guilt of not living up the promises she’d made—
There would never be a way to make him understand. She could barely manage it herself.
“We made promises when we were too young to know any better.” Elizabeth said after a moment. “And yeah, I feel like hell knowing that I—” Her stomach rolled. “That I fell in love with someone else while you were alive somewhere, being brainwashed. If I had known you were alive, Lucky, I would have tried to find you—”
“Bullshit. Nikolas told me you couldn’t wait to get into bed with Jason. You think I believe you weren’t screwing him when he was at your studio?”
Elizabeth shook her head and turned away from him. She would get her things together and walk to the Brownstone. Jason could pick her up—
Lucky grabbed her elbow and swung her back to face him, his fingers digging into her skin. “Let me go—”
“Stop walking away from me!”
“Lucky—” Her breathing hitched. She didn’t recognize him anymore. The light in his eyes, the anger on his face. “Lucky, let me go.”
“What the hell was so wrong with me that you couldn’t love me?” he growled. “What the hell does Jason have that I don’t?”
The echoes of words she’d wondered about herself, wondered why everyone loved Sarah. Why her parents and her grandmother seemed to value Sarah more—
“You know it’s not like that. It’s not that easy.” She tried to step back, to pull her arm free, but he just tightened his grip and jerked her forward. “Lucky—”
“You were supposed to love me forever—”
“Lucky, let her go.”
They both turned to see AJ in the doorway, Courtney just behind him, her eyes wide with worry. AJ stepped over the threshold. “Let her go,” Jason’s brother repeated.
Lucky scowled, but released her with almost a shove, and Elizabeth stumbled backwards into one of the counter stools. Courtney started to push past AJ to get to her, but her husband held her back with his arm.
“Go upstairs, Lucky, and be glad it was me that walked in here and not my brother.” But AJ’s eyes hardened. “Don’t touch her again.”
Lucky blinked at him and then looked at Elizabeth, holding her arm. “I—” He shook his head. “I didn’t mean—”
“Go upstairs,” Elizabeth said flatly. “And pack. I want you out of here by the end of the week. This is your notice.”
“Yeah—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “Yeah, that’s probably—” But he stopped talking and moved towards the stairs. When they heard a door close upstairs, Courtney ducked past AJ.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth looked down at her arm, at the angry red blotches. “You—you came back.”
“Courtney had a bad feeling,” AJ said simply. He tipped his head. “Get your stuff, we’ll drop you at the Brownstone if you want.”
“I—” She started to tell him no, that she would wait for Jason. But the words wouldn’t come out.
What would Lucky have done if AJ and Courtney hadn’t come back? If— She swallowed a sob that bubbled up her throat.
“Elizabeth?” Courtney asked softly. She started tucking the paperwork back in a file. “Call Jason. Tell him you’ll be at the Brownstone—”
“I—” She closed her eyes.
“What’s going on?”
Over AJ’s shoulder, Jason stood there, his eyes scanning the diner, taking in his brother and his wife—and looking at her. Standing with her arm clutched against her chest.
AJ stepped aside as Jason moved forward. “Elizabeth?”
“I—” Elizabeth couldn’t speak as he reached her and gently took her arm in his. She winced as his fingers brushed the finger marks. “I was—I was waiting for you.” But she couldn’t make herself go on.
“I left her here to wait for you,” AJ admitted as Courtney silently tucked Elizabeth’s things in the tote bag. “But Courtney—and I—we just didn’t feel good about it. We came back, and Lucky Spencer had her by the arm—”
Jason pressed his lips together and looked down for a long moment. He was standing so close to her that she could feel the way his muscles tensed, the anger seeping through. “Are you okay?” he managed, somehow his voice sounding tender. Concerned.
But she could see the anger in his eyes. “Yeah. It’s—” She swallowed the excuse that she’d been okay, that she hadn’t been in any danger, but she couldn’t manage that lie.
She’d lied enough for Lucky.
“Thank you,” she told AJ. “For coming back. I—I want to say I would have been okay. I just—I don’t know.” She looked at Jason. “I evicted Lucky. I told him to get out. I had to give him a week legally, but—”
“He’ll be gone tomorrow,” AJ said with a steel note in his tone she hadn’t heard before. “I’ll make sure of it.”
“You—” Jason looked at him. “What?”
“If you go near him the way you look right now, Jase, Elizabeth will be bailing you out of jail. I’ll make sure he goes.”
Elizabeth squinted at Jason’s brother—because for the first time, she could see a resemblance between them. And understood that the ruthlessness she knew Jason was capable of…he’d come by it naturally. “I don’t want you to fight with Lucky.”
When Jason just shook his head, she touched his chest with her fingertips. “It’s not like before. I just—AJ’s right. I don’t want you to get into trouble because of him. It’s not worth it. I want him gone. That’s it.” She sighed, exhausted. “I’m done apologizing, feeling bad for what I did. He stepped over a line tonight, and I’m just…I’m done.”
“Okay,” Jason said finally. He looked at his brother. “If you could…do whatever you could to encourage him to be gone tomorrow, I would…appreciate it. But if he’s not—” He looked at Elizabeth. “If he doesn’t go—”
“Then you can do whatever you want,” Elizabeth agreed. “Can…we just go? I want to go.”
“You need anything else done?” Courtney asked as she handed Elizabeth her tote and purse. “Washed? Locked?”
“No, I just have to put the chairs on the table—”
“We’ll do it,” AJ said, stepping forward, sliding an arm around Courtney’s waist. “We’ll lock up.”
And Elizabeth was too tired to care. “Can we go?” she repeated to Jason. “Please.”
“Yeah.” He looked at AJ. “Thank you.” When AJ just shrugged, Jason shook his head. “No, I mean it. Thank you for coming back. If it had been me who walked in—”
They would all be revisiting the summer of Dead Ted, Elizabeth thought, trying to find a way to dispose of Lucky’s remains. And she wondered it said about her that she probably wouldn’t have cared much.
Elizabeth & Gia’s Apartment: Living Room
“Gia is staying with her mother in Buffalo,” Elizabeth told Jason as she unlocked the door. “She didn’t really get to see her much during the last year, so when she finished her finals—” And she was babbling.
Jason nodded and followed her in. He stripped off his leather jacket and tossed it over the back of the sofa. When she switched on a lamp and took off her own jacket, he reached for her arm again.
The marks weren’t disappearing—and were in fact, darkening. “You’re going to bruise.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth looked at the marks. “He’s angry because I moved on while he was being brainwashed. Apparently, I was supposed to be a psychic and know he was still alive,” She stepped away from him, running her hands up and down her arms, trying to chase the chill from her skin. She walked towards the window.
From here, they could just see the dim waters of the lake and several of the piers, including Jason and Sonny’s coffee warehouse.
“Don’t make excuses for him—”
“I—” She blinked at his irritated words. “I’m not. I’m…pissed at him. At myself. I didn’t know he was alive, Jason. I can’t be held responsible for not knowing that. There was a body. And I—I did my time. I grieved for him. You know that. He just—” Elizabeth bit her lip and looked back at the window.
“I don’t know. He didn’t come back. Not all the way. Even with the brainwashing broken, there’s nothing left of the boy I promised to love forever. My Lucky never would have touched me. Hurt me.” A tear slid down her cheek. “I nearly killed myself grieving that sweet boy. And then this angry stranger comes back with his face and what…I’m supposed to worship him forever because I used to love the boy?”
She shook her head. “To hell with that. I mourned. And I grieved. And I picked myself back up. If he hadn’t come back, if he’d stayed dead, I would have moved on.”
She turned to look at him, but his expression was shuttered. “I kept looking for that boy, Jason, because he was the first person to love me for me. And I guess…it was hard to walk away from that. But that boy is dead. And he never came home.”
She met his eyes. “He thinks you and I were together already. That winter at the studio. He’s angry with me because he thinks I spent two years lying to him about you. And then for me…to walk away from him at New Year’s and now…to be here with you, it’s a betrayal to him. And I just—I don’t understand it. I can’t…” She looked away, because Jason was remaining silent. “He’s not wrong. I did spend two years lying to him. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“I stayed almost another year drowning in misery. I nearly married him.” She tilted her head back, looking at the ceiling. “I don’t know. I’m sorry. I’m doing it again. And you’re probably wondering why the hell you’re even bothering—”
“Hey—” Jason reached out to take her hand and drew her to him. “I remember Lucky before the fire. I remember you and Lucky. I know what you meant to him, Elizabeth. I could see it. You were both young, but anyone who looked at the two of you could feel it.” He used his thumbs to wipe her tears as they slid down her cheeks.
“And I saw you the night you lost him. And in all the months that followed. I know what it did to you. When he came home, how could you have done anything else but try again?”
“I should have stopped—”
“I know what it’s like to stay with a person long past the time you’re any good for one another,” he said gently. “Robin and I did that. She was my first friend. The first person who gave a damn about Jason Morgan. She taught me what it meant to be in love. But it changed. We were different people, going different directions. And we kept trying. And at the end, I think we almost hated each other.”
Elizabeth managed a shuddering breath. “He was my best friend. And we killed any chance of having that again. And I hate it. I hate that I couldn’t see it. We nearly destroyed each other, and I’m trying to walk away from that. He’s stuck in it, and I think that anger is going to eat at him until it explodes. I—” Her breath hitched. “He scared me tonight. And it’s just…I think—”
She leaned forward, pressed her forehead to his chest. “I think I’m grieving all over again. For what we had. For who he was.”
She felt his lips press against the top of her hair. “I’m sorry. I wish…” he trailed off. “I don’t know. I’m just sorry.”
“Me, too.” Elizabeth drew back and managed a shaky smile. “Let’s…let’s talk about something else.”
“Okay.” Jason followed as she led him to the sofa where he sat down, and she curled up next to him. “AJ…actually came by the warehouse earlier today.”
“He signed the contract—the custody agreement.” Jason watched as she traced a pattern on his palm. “He, uh, asked me…to go to…”
“His chip ceremony,” Elizabeth said when Jason trailed off. “Courtney said he wanted to ask you. One year sober. She’s really proud of him.”
“Yeah. I guess. He said he’s never made it that far before.” Jason hesitated. “I don’t know. He said he was inviting some of the Quartermaines, and I just—”
“I know all the reasons you walked away from them,” Elizabeth said slowly. “But it’s good that AJ is trying to work them back into his life. They’re his triggers, aren’t they?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess—”
“He can’t walk from them forever, so it’s good he’s figuring out how to bring them back in.” She bit her lip. “You should go.”
Jason looked away, squinting his eyes. “I don’t know. We’re in a better place, I guess. For now. But—” He shrugged. “I don’t know. He still sees us as brothers, but—”
“Maybe you’ll never get there again,” Elizabeth murmured. “But you both love Michael. And…” She hesitated. “I know it would mean a lot to him for you to be there. But that’s all I’m going to say. He invited me, too.”
He looked back at her. “He was there for you tonight,” Jason said after a moment. “And he’s been honest with me about his addiction. I know…he still blames himself for the accident. For…I guess killing Jason Quartermaine.”
“His brother loved him,” Elizabeth murmured. “And he knows he’s the reason that’s not true anymore. It’s probably one of the worst triggers. I’m—I’m not trying to pressure you—”
“But it would be good for him if he could put the accident behind him,” Jason finished. “And if I…went…I guess that would help.” He rubbed his temple for a moment. “I don’t blame him. Not…the way I used to. I still…worry that he might drink and drive again. But…I don’t remember the life I had. And I like the one I have now.” He brushed a kiss against her mouth. “So…I’ll go.”
“Who knows?” Elizabeth managed a light smile. “You might end up liking him.”
“Don’t—That’s not funny—”
Their lighthearted banter was shattered as the sky lit up with orange and red and an earth-shaking BOOM shattered the windows that looked out towards the harbor.
Jason pushed Elizabeth to the ground, and reached behind him to draw out the gun he always kept there. Motioning for Elizabeth to stay down, he crept towards the window.
The roar of flames, the smell of sulfur permeated the air. “Jason—”
Jason looked out the window and then his shoulders slumped. “It’s okay—I mean—it’s not. But it’s not here. It’s…”
A few blocks away, the warehouse and some of the surrounding areas were engulfed in flames.
“It’s down at the pier,” he murmured. “The warehouse just blew up.”
“What—” Elizabeth jumped to her feet and joined him, stepping gingerly around the glass. “That’s what that was? I’ve never heard—”
“Maybe it was a gas line,” Jason murmured, as he wrapped an arm around her waist and drew her close. He didn’t believe it.
He knew that sound, and Elizabeth might have been familiar with it, too. If her studio had exploded the night the bomb had been planted.