Don’t you dare look out your window darling
Everything’s on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold on to this lullaby
Even when the music’s gone
– Safe and Sound, Julia Sheer
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Courtney & AJ’s House: Front Lawn
He had briefly thought of taking Elizabeth straight to the Brownstone where he knew Bobbie must be upset. Gia and Lucas were there, but Elizabeth had a way of comforting Bobbie.
But after they’d dressed in a hurry, as he listened to Elizabeth leave a voice mail for his brother, Jason swallowed the suggestion.
He wanted her with him when he found Carly. He wanted to have her next to him, to keep him grounded. To remember that Michael came first.
Elizabeth would keep him steady even as everything inside him was screaming for answers. For Sonny to be wrong. He didn’t want Carly to be dead, but if she was alive—
What the hell was going on?
He had thought by going straight to AJ and Courtney’s house, they would have time. He didn’t really know what they’d do with that time, but Carly couldn’t know where AJ lived, and there was little chance anyone other than Bobbie would let that slip.
And all Carly knew was that Michael was with AJ. Her inclination should have been to go to the mansion, which would have given Jason a chance to catch up with her. To talk to her.
To find out where she’d been. Why she had put them through all this grief.
But somewhere inside of him there had been a voice that asked—why had Carly gone to Sonny? They were divorced and out of each other’s lives. Michael rarely saw or asked about his Uncle Sonny.
Jason had guardianship. Jason was in control of her son.
So, when he turned his bike around the last corner and saw a small compact car parked halfway in AJ’s driveway, halfway in the street, he wasn’t really surprised.
He pulled the bike to a stop in front of the house, and he could hear voices from the porch. Three figures illuminated in the bright artificial porch lights.
It was real. Carly was alive.
Behind him, he felt Elizabeth climb off the bike, and he switched off the engine. But he couldn’t make his legs move. Couldn’t go towards the house.
“Jason?” Elizabeth soft voice broke into his thoughts. “Hey.” Her cool hand slid into his and he looked down into her worried eyes. “Let’s just get through this. We can…we can deal with the rest of it later.”
And he knew exactly what she meant. Michael had to come first. Jason’s answers would come later. “How did she know where they lived?” he murmured.
And that worry, that nagging suspicion that Carly was up to something gave him a reason to move.
With Elizabeth’s hand in his, they rushed up the drive and the stairs, Elizabeth doubling her steps to keep pace.
But he couldn’t say anything else as his friend turned away from the united couple standing guard in front of their door.
There she was. As bright, as bold, as vivid as ever. Her blonde hair exploding into curls around her face, her brown eyes snapping with anger, her features lined with irritation. With fear.
“Oh my God, she’s really alive,” Elizabeth breathed. “Carly—”
Carly glared at her briefly, but dismissed her almost as quickly. “Jason. Thank God, you’re here. I don’t know what he said to Mama, but he has my son, and he won’t give him back—”
And AJ just closed his eyes at that. At the accusation that somehow AJ must have manipulated Bobbie. What was it like for him to always be guilty? To always be accused of the worst?
Jason swallowed hard. But maybe Carly didn’t—maybe there was an explanation. Maybe she had lost her memory. Maybe she had been wandering around, trying to find home. And when she’d remembered—
Clinging to that, to the only explanation for this that would absolve Carly, Jason asked, “Carly, do you know what the date is? How long you’ve been…away?”
Carly snorted. “I’m not crazy,” she spat at him. And her tone was familiar. He was the idiot here, he was the thick one.
Robin had sounded like that in the end.
“It’s August,” she snarled. “And I’ve been gone since April. I want to see my son!” she all but shrieked, turning her ire back at AJ who just stood there.
“Where have you been?” Jason asked. There had to be another explanation then. Maybe she knew how long she’d been gone, but still—and he closed his eyes. Grimaced.
He had to stop this.
Had to stop making excuses for Carly.
“Where have you been?” he repeated, this time, his voice was stronger. “Five months—”
“That’s none of your business,” she snapped. She started to move past AJ, tried to shove him aside, but Courtney—of all people—shoved her back.
AJ stood, his hands at his side, and Jason knew—he knew, for certain, that this was a different man. That AJ would have allowed Carly to storm inside his home if Courtney had not been there to physically hold her back. As punishment for Carly’s fall and the death of her second son.
“You don’t get to show up with no warning, call my husband a kidnapper and act like you’re the only one who matters,” Courtney said, her teeth gritted. “We told you. You tell us what the hell is going on and you can see Michael tomorrow when we’ve had a chance—”
“I’m seeing my son now! You have no right, you little goddamn twit—”
“Carly.” Jason took her elbow and almost dragged her backwards when the blonde attempted to launch herself past AJ’s wife again. “Stop it.”
“Why are you helping him?” she demanded as he turned to her, planted himself between AJ and Carly. “I left you Michael because I knew you’d protect him. What, did that little bitch bat her eyes and you didn’t have time for him?” She focused on Elizabeth now, and Jason just sighed. “You trying to step into my life because I was gone?”
“I’m not even dignifying that with a response,” Elizabeth said, and he could all but hear the roll of her eyes in that tone. “Carly, why don’t we go back to the Brownstone. Bobbie must be out of her mind with worry. She was so upset after the accident—”
“She gave my son away!” Carly cried. She met Jason’s eyes, tears sparkling on her cheeks. “You promised me. Get my son. And if you don’t, I will—”
“Legally, you’re dead,” Jason said after a moment. “And AJ’s parental rights have been reinstated, and we have a custody agreement. So, if you want to see Michael, you’re going to have to tell me what the hell is going on. Where have you been? Why did you let us think you were dead?”
“Fuck you!” Carly’s cheeks paled as she took in the rest of Jason’s words. “Custody agreement? You—you did this? You gave my son to him?”
“It’s not that simple,” AJ attempted. “I forced his hand—”
But that wasn’t true, and Jason wasn’t going to let AJ take the heat for this. He cut his brother off by raising his hand. “I promised you I would love Michael and I would always do what was best for him,” he said in a low voice. “That’s what I did.”
“And that’s AJ now? Not me?” Carly demanded, her voice raw.
“Until I know what’s going on. Where have you been?” he demanded again. “Why did you go to Sonny? And how the hell did you know where AJ lived?”
“You,” Carly said, with a lift of her chin. “Can go to hell.” She jabbed a finger at him and then swung around to face them all in turn. “You can all go to hell. I will have my son.”
She stalked away, the clicking of her boot heels harsh against the wooden porch. Her car screeched out of the driveway, nearly clipping the motorcycle, before squealing down the street.
Jason stared after her. He didn’t know what to do next. What to say.
He turned to find to Elizabeth standing beside him, her arm wrapped through his. “Hey. If you want to go after her—follow her, I could stay here—”
No. He shook his head and said it out loud. “No. I—” He looked at AJ. “I don’t know what’s going on but…”
“Carly’s up to something,” AJ finished with the exhausted sigh of a man who had been the target of more than one of Carly’s plans. As her other most frequent target, Jason could understand. “I know—I know she’s always been—”
“Michael comes first,” Jason said, almost to himself. “I meant what I said to her. She’ll have to go to court to get the agreement overturned.”
“And if she doesn’t want to tell a judge where she’s been,” Elizabeth said, “I doubt it will go over well.”
And Carly was stubborn enough to tell the judge to go to hell. “Michael stays with you for now.” He met AJ’s surprised eyes. “He’s safe here. I’ll put a guy on the house to make sure she doesn’t come here and make trouble. But Carly—Carly’s on the warpath,” he said, borrowing Elizabeth’s words from earlier. “And I don’t want Michael to be a casualty. Not again.”
“All right.” AJ looked to Courtney. “You okay?”
“Me?” she repeated with wide eyes. “I’m…I’m as fine as I can be considering my husband’s dead ex-wife just showed up on our front step.” She looked over her shoulder. “I should go check on Michael.”
“I need to go…” Do something, Jason finished, but he wasn’t entirely sure what. He just knew whatever came next couldn’t be found here.
“We’ll talk tomorrow,” Elizabeth said to AJ. “Jason has to go to Sonny’s, and I meant what I said. I want to check on Bobbie. Let’s…try to get some sleep. We’ll…we’ll figure it all out tomorrow.”
“See, when you say it, it almost sounds possible.” AJ sighed again. “But yeah, let’s…let’s just figure this out tomorrow.”
He went back inside and closed his door.
Jason walked Elizabeth back to the motorcycle and handed her the helmet, but he didn’t dig his keys out of his pocket or climb on.
He stood there.
“Hey.” Elizabeth touched his shoulder. “Jason. Look at me.”
He did so, finding her eyes in the inky darkness. They were merely shadows, lit by the streetlight across the street. “Elizabeth—”
“You told me once that sometimes…things happen that are just…they’re too big to deal with at once, right? So, we just…we take a moment a time. We live through them slow. Right now…I don’t know what to feel about Carly. Angry because she’s…clearly not telling the truth. And worry. Fear. I know what she’s capable of.” She pressed a hand to his chest, to his heart. “And she doesn’t even matter to me all that much. So, I know what I’m feeling is a hundred times worse for you.”
“I just—” He sucked in a deep breath. “I thought I had changed my life, so Carly couldn’t wreck it anymore. I went away so she would stop—and I stopped loving her. I had to. It was the only way to survive. Because this is what she does. She gets hurt and she runs away. She gets angry and she decides to punish people.”
And all that anger, that pain, that grief he’d felt after finding her with Sonny, waltzing down his steps… That had been the last time, he had promised himself, that he would let Carly use him.
“She thinks you betrayed her,” Elizabeth murmured.
“She’s right. And I’m not sorry. I’d do it again. It was the right thing to do. Michael is safe and he’s happy, and that is the only thing I ever promised her that I would do.”
And some of the shock was burning away. The pain was fading. He was used to this. Used to Carly finding new ways to destroy his life.
“I have to go to Sonny’s,” he said. “Something isn’t right about any of this, and we need to know what’s going on.”
“And I should go to the Brownstone,” she said again. “Not just because I’m worried about Bobbie, because I am, but maybe Carly said something. Bobbie might not have noticed it, but Gia and Lucas like Carly a whole lot less. So maybe she let something slip.”
Jason scrubbed his hands over his face, then nodded. “Okay. I’ll drop you off there. And—” He hesitated. He wanted to tell her he’d see her tomorrow, but…
“When you’re done with Sonny, come by,” she murmured. “I doubt either of us are going to sleep much tonight.”
Elizabeth watched as Jason drove away, her heart aching. How could she fix this for him? How could she even begin to know what was next?
“What happened?” Gia demanded from the stairs. From the living room, Lucas rose to his feet, his eyes rimmed with exhaustion, irritation…and fatigue.
Another man who had seen the damage Carly could do when she put her mind to it, even if Lucas had always been an indirect target.
“I called my dad to give Mom a sedative,” Lucas said, his voice tight. “Because she has to go to the hospital tomorrow and people who matter more than that bitch need her. I want to know what the hell is going on right now.”
Elizabeth pressed her heels into her eyes and took a moment to gather herself. “God. Let’s go talk where no one else can hear us.”
“You mean my brother?” Gia said with a raised eyebrow, but she followed. “He heard the nonsense earlier and headed straight to the PCPD to see if they could find out what’s going on. He tried to follow Carly when she left—he’s probably harassing Sonny as we speak.”
“Great. That’s just what this night needed.”
“Elizabeth—” Lucas began.
“I don’t know much more than you do at this point. Sonny called Jason at the same time you called me, Gia. I just don’t know how the timeline—”
“She must have gone there when she left here,” Gia said to Lucas. “I could hear yelling down here, but I didn’t come down right away.”
“I came up to get you,” Lucas told Elizabeth. “When Carly stormed out of here, I went up to see if you were home. If Jason was with you.”
“And Bobbie was so upset—it took Lucas and I time to get her calmed down. She wanted to rush after Carly—”
“I don’t think she stayed long with Sonny,” Elizabeth murmured.
“Why go to Sonny at all?” Gia wondered. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“Carly’s never made sense,” Lucas muttered, but he was frowning, too. “Did you see her, Liz?”
“Yeah. She was already at Courtney and AJ’s when we got there.”
And they both blinked at her. “What?” Gia asked. “How—How could she—”
“That’s what Jason and Sonny are hopefully going to figure out. We confronted her, but she kept trying to get into to see Michael—”
“I swear to God, Liz, if Jason let Carly take my nephew away from AJ again—” Lucas began.
“Carly refused to tell us what was going on, so Jason told her he wouldn’t let her get near Michael.” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. She had been a little surprised when Jason had so quickly declined to help Carly get Michael.
He’d always done what was necessary to keep Carly in Michael’s life. Even after Carly had hurt him.
“Well, I guess he has some sense after all,” Gia replied, folding her arms. “She wouldn’t tell Jason where she’s been?”
“The only thing he got out of her was that she knows what the date is and how long it’s been.” She sighed, remembering the slight desperation Jason had shown asking if Carly knew what the date was.
He’d wanted to give her a reason for all of this, and Carly had failed him. Again.
“He thought she might have lost her memory?” Gia asked.
“If she did and only just got it back, she didn’t say so. She seemed so…” Elizabeth shook her head. “Angry. And not…not in the way you might think. I get that she was pissed AJ had custody, but…she had to know that already.”
“Because she went to their house, which meant she knew they had moved,” Lucas said.
“She knew AJ had Michael,” Gia said slowly, “so why go to Sonny? Why come here and berate her mother?” She met Elizabeth’s eyes. “Oh, hell, Hurricane Carly is gonna make landfall.”
“And God help us all when she does.”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Sonny could feel the exhaustion bleeding through his veins and raised tired eyes to first, Jason, then Benny. “What do we know? Do we know anything?”
“Before she showed up at the Brownstone this evening,” Benny said, “There was no activity on any of her accounts that suggested Carly was alive. We had witnesses, the guardrail—”
“The fact that she was gone,” Jason muttered. “You said no activity before tonight, Benny. How about now?”
“Her credit card was used to check into the Cosmopolitan Hotel about…” Benny looked at his watch. “Twenty-five minutes ago. I already sent over two of our guys.”
“And I put someone at AJ’s place to see if she comes by there again,” Jason said. “But Sonny—”
“I know, I know.” Sonny rubbed his hand against his chest. “How is any of this possible? How did she know AJ had Michael? Why did she come here?”
“She wouldn’t tell me anything tonight, but she’ll be back,” Jason said. He accepted the drink Sonny handed him, which wasn’t like his best friend and partner, but hell, this was that kind of night. “I have legal custody of Michael until Carly goes to the court to get him back. She’s not gonna wanna do that.”
“A judge is gonna wanna know where the hell she’s been.” Sonny sat down. “Benny, if she’s been gone—someone had to help her. Someone had to tell her about AJ getting custody of Michael.”
“I put in calls to some of the representatives, but so far…” Benny spread his hands. “There’s nothing to tell. She vanished in April and was resurrected tonight. That’s all anyone knows.”
“I’ll get answers,” Jason told Sonny. “One way or another. If she’s in trouble, that means Michael’s in the middle. And I’m not putting him at risk. Not again. He’s just getting over losing her in the first place. He’s staying with AJ until I know what’s going on.”
And then Jason grimaced—and Sonny understood. To know that all that Jason had done to keep Michael safe. What Sonny had done to keep Michael away from AJ—
To have arrived at the realization that, at least for now, AJ Quartermaine was the more solid parent. The right place for Michael.
How the tides had turned.
Sonny swallowed his bourbon. “Why would she do this? Why would she fake her death? It just…” He looked back at the mini bar, wanting another drink. Wanting to empty the bottle.
“She was doing good,” he continued, mystified. “The club. Michael. She was…she was on her own. Doing well. The divorce…it was the right decision.” He met Jason’s eyes. “This…I know Carly is capable of a lot of things but—”
“She’s stayed away before,” Jason said roughly. “After Michael was born, she left. But…” He shook his head. “Not since then. She’s never left him. Not willingly.”
“Then why come back like this?” Sonny shook his head. “Maybe she didn’t go on her own, but this? Whatever happens from this night on, it’s on Carly. She could tell you what’s going on. She could come to me. But if she doesn’t—”
“She will.” Jason closed his eyes. “She always tells me the truth. Eventually. Just…not usually in time for me to stop her.”
Brownstone: Front Steps
Elizabeth had stayed with Gia and Lucas in the front room for another hour or so to be sure Bobbie wouldn’t wake up.
That Carly wouldn’t come back.
Then Lucas had gone to sleep, and Gia had gone upstairs.
It was nearly four in the morning, and her eyes felt gritty. She had had the opening shift the day before at Kelly’s and had been awake for nearly twenty-fours now. She should have gone to sleep, but Jason had said he would come by.
And she wanted to see him. To know he was okay.
She hadn’t really been around the first time Carly had blown up his entire world when she’d taken Michael to the Quartermaines and declared Jason a kidnapper before marrying AJ. Hadn’t seen the initial firestorm.
But Elizabeth had been there for the aftermath, for the excruciating pain Michael’s loss had caused. She could still picture him, standing on the docks, watching AJ and Michael looking at the ELQ crane, looking at them as if he’d been sucker punched.
And though she hadn’t known it at the time, she had been there when Carly and Sonny had blown it up again when they’d slept together.
It hadn’t been hard to connect the dots when Elizabeth learned Carly was carrying Sonny’s child. It was the only reason she had to explain Jason’s trek to the boxcar the night he’d been shot and nearly died.
And now Carly had blown his world up again.
Maybe not as cleanly or neatly or as totally as she had in the past, but she’d been dead. And now she wasn’t. And Michael was, again, in the middle of it all. Carly had looked at Jason, the man who had never abandoned her even when she had damn well deserved it…and attacked him.
As if any of this was Jason’s fault.
So, she sat here on the steps, a cup of bad coffee in her hands in a desperate attempt to stay awake. Waiting for him.
Elizabeth heard the rumble of the motorcycle when he was still several blocks away—it was the only sound breaking the silence of the quiet summer night.
He drew the bike to a stop, switched it off, and then swung his leg over the side. Jason stopped when he saw her sitting there.
“Hey. You—” He blinked at her as he drew closer, stood on the bottom step. “You shouldn’t have waited up.”
“I said I would.” She rose to her feet and stepped down two more steps until she was in his arms, his face buried in her neck. “I wanted to see you.”
Elizabeth wasn’t sure how long they stood there in silence before he drew back, his thumbs smoothing her hair back over her forehead, drifting down her cheeks. “Hey,” she murmured, tightening her arms around his waist. “Can you talk to me?”
“Yeah.” He swallowed and then they sat on the step, her chin resting on his shoulder. “She’s at the Cosmopolitan. But we don’t know anything we didn’t know before I went to Sonny’s.”
“Tony came over to give Bobbie a sedative,” Elizabeth told him. “She has work in the morning and she just—she couldn’t. It was too much, I think. So, I don’t know if Carly said anything. She came here first, though.”
“That matters,” Jason murmured. “She knew when she left here that AJ had Michael, but she still went to Sonny’s. And he didn’t know where AJ lives now. So, she already knew where Michael was.”
“Which means everything she did tonight was calculated. Planned.”
“Yeah.” Jason exhaled slowly, his breath almost shaky. “I can usually—I can usually talk Carly down. M-Maybe I still can. I don’t know. I just…” He looked at her, his eyes wet with tears she knew to be rare. “I don’t know what she’s going to do. Where she was. Why any of this—I don’t know what she’s going to do,” he repeated. “And that means I don’t know how to stop her.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. “I don’t have the words,” she confessed. “I don’t know how to help you.”
“Just…just be here.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “For me. For Bobbie. And Michael. Just be you. That’s always enough.”