I shot for the sky
I’m stuck on the ground
So why do I try, I know I’m gonna fall down
I thought I could fly, so why did I drown?
Never know why it’s coming down, down, down
– Down, Jason Walker
Sunday, August 25, 2002
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
It was just after eight in the morning when Jason stepped off the elevator on the fifth floor and found Bobbie behind the nurse’s station, a pen in her hand, a stack of paperwork in front of her. Her familiar red hair was tugged back, and her face was bare, her eyes exhausted.
She raised her eyes as he approached.
“If it’s possible,” she murmured, “you look worse than I feel.” She capped her pen and gestured to the waiting area. “I’m sorry. I know you were at the Brownstone last night, but I just…”
Jason waited until she had perched on the edge of the sofa before speaking. “It’s okay. It was…” He shook his head. “I don’t even know. I haven’t really…processed it yet.”
“I saw Elizabeth and Gia this morning. They told me that you’d caught up to Carly at AJ and Courtney’s. I—I didn’t tell her the address.” Bobbie hesitated before continuing. “At least, I don’t think I did. I’m not even sure I know the house number, just the neighborhood and what the house looks like—” She cut off, closed her eyes. “I can’t. I can’t think straight. I don’t know how to deal with this either, Jason.”
“I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing with Michael,” he admitted. “I know Elizabeth thinks I am, but I don’t know, she’s never liked Carly—and—” He stopped. “I don’t mean—”
“I know what you mean.” Bobbie took his hand, squeezed it. “You and I are the only ones, I think, that have seen the real Carly. That appreciated the person behind the anger. The desperation. The insanity. Elizabeth…made her peace with Carly, but she never liked her much. And the feeling was mutual.” Bobbie was so weary. So beyond it all.
“I know the length you’ve gone to make sure Carly kept custody of Michael,” she said slowly. “So, if you think leaving him with AJ is the right decision, I’ll defend you. I promise.” She pressed a hand to her cheek, closing her eyes. “I buried her, Jason. Not her body. But I planned a memorial service. I purchased a stone. She’s supposed…she’s supposed to be resting next to BJ. I can’t do this again, I just can’t.”
“I’ll find out what’s going on—”
“From the moment she showed up in my life, there hasn’t been a moment’s peace,” Bobbie continued softly. “Her affair with Tony, her need to ruin my life…Michael’s kidnapping, going away to Ferncliffe…the paternity mess, and God, her accusing you of kidnapping. Marrying AJ. Losing that baby. Turning Sonny into the feds…” She looked at Jason. “I’m exhausted. And my son looks at me like he hates me.”
And for Bobbie to be at the end of her rope—Bobbie who had always seemed to find more patience, more love for Carly—Jason felt less…alone.
Because he and Bobbie were the only ones who had always managed to support Carly. To find the reason, the explanation for the crazy plans and destruction. Because there always had been a reason.
“I don’t know what Carly’s planning,” Jason said after a long moment of silence. “But I’m not going to let her put Michael in the middle. Not again. I—I left Port Charles to keep her from using Michael against me. Robin—” He shook his head, not quite believing he’d come around to knowing Robin had been right.
“Robin told AJ the truth because she thought it meant Carly couldn’t manipulate me anymore. But I’ve let her do it anyway.”
“Michael’s been better for it,” Bobbie said with a sad smile. “Your postcards you’ve sent—and I told him stories while you were gone. Showed him the pictures. I read from those travel books you left for him. He knew you, Jason, when you came back.”
“She thought I would always take her side,” Jason told her. “That I would do whatever she wanted me to do because it was best for Michael. But it’s not this time. He’s…he’s okay with AJ and Courtney. And he was doing okay with you and Lucas at the Brownstone. It’s Carly who’s taken apart his life. I don’t know—I can’t believe she’d leave him willingly, but if she doesn’t tell me what happened…”
“She’s going to force you to take sides, Jason.” Bobbie covered his hand with hers. “I don’t know if it’s going to go to a court hearing, but you know it might. You’ll be asked—”
“And I’ll do what’s right for Michael.” Even if went against everything Jason had fought for all those years ago. “No matter what it is.” He hesitated. “Will you?”
“I’m hesitant to do anything that will make Carly…worse,” Bobbie admitted. “But he’s my grandson, and I want better for him. And right now, that’s to stay where he is.” She sighed. “I should get back to work. Do…” She hesitated. “I almost want to ask if you know where she’s staying, but you know what? I don’t think I can deal with it right now. I don’t think I have the energy.”
Brownstone: Living Room
“It’s not that I mind sitting at Bobbie’s all day—she’s got a better cable package than we do—but how do we even know Carly will show up?” Gia said as she flipped through the channels.
Elizabeth grimaced when her roommate found a rerun of Sex and the City to watch and then resumed peering through the lacy curtains at the sidewalk out front. “We don’t. But I doubt she’s going to go near Jason today.”
“Yeah?” Gia tipped her head, intrigued. “You’d think he would have been her first stop. I mean, I didn’t live in Port Charles when she had his balls on a chain around her neck, but I do remember the way she talked about him when I was at Deception.”
“Yeah, well, Carly also has a sense of when to back off. It never lasts long,” Elizabeth added. “And eventually she talks herself into thinking Jason will take her side this time, but…” She sighed and turned away from the window. “I don’t know. I thought she’d grown out of all of this. Reacting first. Never thinking anything through.” She shrugged. “You remember when I told you about that December in my studio?”
“When you were hiding Jason’s gunshot from everyone and letting everyone think you were doing the nasty? Yeah. He and Carly were still…” Gia wiggled her fingers. “Doing whatever.”
“She’d come barging in, trying to intimidate me. Like I gave a shit about what she said. She’d throw Lucky’s death in my face or talk about how I was just a little girl.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “And then Jason would tell her to get the hell out. She’d do it. And then maybe two days later, she’d be back. He was supposed to be in hiding and she knew that. She still pulled the fire alarm to get him out of my building. But she did that with everything. She told everyone Jason was Michael’s father because she panicked. Told the Q’s that Jason kidnapped Michael, basically. Married AJ.”
“One woman walking disaster. Got it. So, she knows how to take Jason’s temperature. Figures the guilt will set in.” Gia nodded. “But coming back here?”
“She also knows Bobbie has a soft spot for her. I remember when it came out that Carly was Bobbie’s daughter.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “It was just…before that Valentine’s Day, so I was still kind into all the gossip at that point, you know? And Bobbie flipped out at first. But…”
“But Carly was her daughter.”
“And Bobbie’s always had a blind spot for her.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I just…I don’t know. You knew Carly this last year. She was different, wasn’t she?”
“I guess.” Gia hesitated. “But you know, she didn’t have a choice, you know? Jason was gone. And Bobbie supports her, but even that has its limits. Sonny just…he never looked back after she pulled that shit last year. Carly didn’t have anyone to save her this time. Anyone to turn to. So, she had to rely on herself. Had to get it together. I would have thought she was doing well, but….” Gia bit her lip. “I just don’t know.”
“Yeah, well, the Carly I saw last night—that’s the Carly I got to know after Jason got shot. She’d ripped his heart out by sleeping with his best friend after marrying his brother and taking away his son. He just wanted her to go away, to give him space. And she just kept going after him. Because she only cared about herself. What she wanted. What was important to her.”
“And Jason has a blind spot for her, too.”
“Always. I could see it last night when he was trying to give her an excuse for what happened. But Carly didn’t see that. Didn’t see how upset he was. Or hurt he was. She never does. It was all about her again.” Elizabeth rubbed her head. “And that’s when she’s the most dangerous, Gia. I don’t know where the hell she’s been, but you know what? I don’t know if I even care. I just don’t want her to go after Jason. She’s never made him a target, you know. He’s always been collateral damage.”
A car door distracted them both from the conversation and Gia parted the curtains with a smirk. “Score one for you, Webber,” she murmured as they watched Carly stalk up the front steps. “You do know her.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth sighed as they heard the locks turn and the door shove open. “God help me, I do.”
Carly turned the corner from the front hallway into the living room, her eyes already snapping with the same anger as the night before. “Where’s my mother?” she demanded.
“Not here,” Elizabeth said plainly, remaining seated in the arm chair. “Can I help you, Carly?”
“You—” Carly took in a deep breath. “You can tell me why the hell my son is with that asshole—”
“I’ll be happy to tell you anything you want to know,” Elizabeth said with a friendly smile. “But you have to answer my questions too—”
Carly snorted. Dismissed with a wave of her hand “Whatever little girl—”
“You’re underestimating me, Carly. Again.” Elizabeth tipped her head. “I live with your mother. I babysat Michael. I’m dating Jason. Courtney is one of my best friends. I know exactly why Michael is with AJ.”
Carly hesitated at that, her eyes narrowing. “You’re dating Jason.”
“And it’s all thanks to you, Carly,” Gia said. “If you hadn’t died, Jason wouldn’t have come home.”
“Gia—” Elizabeth looked at her. “Don’t help.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist.”
“I want my son,” Carly said flatly. “Unless you’re going to help me with that—”
“Carly, Bobbie buried you,” Elizabeth cut in. She rose to her feet. “She ordered a headstone and laid you to rest next to BJ. So, let’s cut the bullshit. I don’t know where the hell you were, and as I was just telling Gia, I don’t particularly care—”
“Of course not. You know that I’m a threat to you.” Carly flipped her hair over her shoulder. “I’m single. Jason’s home—”
Gia burst into hysterical laughter while Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “It’s like time travel,” she told Gia. “She still thinks Jason is some sort of toy you can take from someone. You know what she told me once?”
“Damn it,” Carly hissed.
“What?” Gia asked, ignoring Carly.
“She told me she’d gotten rid of one little angel, and I was next—” Elizabeth offered a sickly-sweet smile at Carly. “Haven’t gotten rid of me yet, have you?”
“Day’s still young,” Carly growled, stepping towards her. But Elizabeth never backed up. Never gave an inch.
The first rule of dealing with Carly was to never show weakness. She would only use it against you later.
“Bobbie buried you,” Elizabeth repeated. “And Jason grieved. Michael cried. For days. Do you know what it’s like to explain to a five-year-old about Heaven?”
At that, Carly blinked and closed her eyes. Her shoulders slumped. “Is he okay?”
“Yeah. We all worked hard to make sure that Michael was okay.” Elizabeth folded her arms, looked away. Because this was the Carly that always seemed the most genuine—the one who did honestly love her son. “Lucas played video games with him. I colored. Jason read to him. Bobbie cuddled him. We’ve tried to fill the void, Carly. But he loves you. He misses you.”
“I want my son,” Carly said, but this time her voice broke. “I want him back.”
“Then I need you to think about what you’re doing right now,” Elizabeth told her. “You showed up in the middle of the night, flipping out on everyone. We’re not idiots, Carly. You knew AJ had him before you showed up here. Which means you went after your mother just to attack her. You went to Sonny so that he damn well knew you were alive. And then you went to a house whose address you could not have possibly known.”
“I—” Carly pressed her lips together. “You don’t understand.”
“I don’t have to. It’s not my decision to make. You left Jason guardianship, Carly. And I know you didn’t do that just to stick it to AJ. You did that because Jason loves him. So I need you to remember how much Jason loves Michael—”
But it was the wrong angle to pursue, and whatever ground Elizabeth had gained was lost.
“He promised me that he would make sure I always had my son,” Carly said, her teeth clenched. The anger back in her eyes. “He promised me that AJ wouldn’t—”
“You were dead. And the situation changed,” Elizabeth said bluntly. “If you want to know how and why, then I’ll tell you. But you need to tell Jason where you’ve been. You need to tell him what’s going on. He can’t help you if you don’t talk to him.”
“I don’t need him to help me.” Carly turned abruptly and headed for the door.
“I want my son back,” Carly shot back. “You tell Jason that if he doesn’t give me back my son, I’ll make him. And he’ll be sorry he lied to me.”
The door slammed so hard that the frame cracked.
“Well, that could have gone worse,” Gia said with a bright smile. “Time for the wine?”
“Shit.” Elizabeth looked at her watch. It was only noon, but — “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”
AJ & Courtney’s House: Living Room
Michael took the news with a bit of confusion. He thought people didn’t come back from Heaven, and if his mommy could, did that mean his little brother could? And how come his grandma Bobbie’s other daughter couldn’t come back?
These were not questions AJ could answer, but thank God, Courtney had managed to tell Michael that they had all been mistaken. That Carly hadn’t been in her car, so she’d never gone to heaven in the first place.
Okay, Michael had said, but then where had his mommy been?
And for that, Courtney couldn’t bring herself to lie. And neither could AJ. So they’d just…given that time-honored answer you’ll understand when you’re older and that Michael could see his mother as soon as everyone agreed on a good time.
“Should I be concerned that he took that so well?” AJ asked as he watched Michael’s uncle Lucas lead him into the family room, an Xbox game under his arm. Thank God for Lucas Jones, who somehow always knew when to show up with a video game.
“I think he’s been through so much that it’s just another event. And he’s young,” Courtney offered, biting at the nail on her thumb. “Children are resilient.”
He shouldn’t have to be resilient, AJ thought bitterly, and he spent every minute of the morning terrified Carly would show up to take him. That Jason would change his mind. He had visitation with Michael as long as Jason allowed it. That was the agreement, and AJ had been okay with it.
It had been a way to give Jason control over Michael’s safety. For them all to learn how to trust one another. And now…and now it was different.
Carly was back.
Oh, God, he still couldn’t wrap his mind around this.
“Jason isn’t going to change his mind,” Courtney said, dragging AJ out of his dismal thoughts. “And even if he did, we’d wouldn’t be back to square one.” She tugged him down on the sofa and sat next to him. “You have your parental rights back. And a year of sobriety under your belt. If Jason changes his mind, he’ll have to take Michael away.”
“He could do it,” AJ murmured, clasping his hands in front of his mouth, resting his elbows on his knees. “He could—”
“And then we’ll go to court. And Carly is the negligent parent right now,” Courtney said. “She’s the one who’s been gone for five months. And she’s the one who showed up with no word, won’t tell us where she’s been. AJ—”
“I’m sorry. I can’t seem to—”
It had been only three months since Michael had been back in his life. A month since the little boy had looked at him with hopeful eyes, calling him Daddy. AJ had showed him pictures of the brief year that he’d been allowed to be Michael’s father.
And the overnight visits had been fun, and it had seemed easy to be his father again. To watch Courtney happy and smiling with his son. To think of maybe…maybe having more children.
God, he wanted the chance to be a father from the ground floor.
“I get it’s hard for you to trust that Jason sees you differently,” Courtney said. “And maybe it’s easier for me since I didn’t know him before. But he doesn’t lie, right? That’s supposed to be his thing. And I know how hard he struggled to give you a chance. He and Elizabeth argued. I argued with her. He made the choice to support you, AJ. He came to your chip ceremony.”
AJ’s chest eased then and he closed his eyes.
“You’re the one who didn’t take the drink…you did the work.”
She rose to answer the door when someone knocked, leaving AJ to think about that. To consider actually trusting that he’d done enough this time to make Jason look at him as a new person. As someone other than the asshole who’d nearly killed him.
AJ looked up to see Courtney showing Ned into the living room. He rose to his feet. “I guess…I guess you heard.”
“I did. It’s in the newspapers.” Ned held up the headlines. “They must have rushed to get the story published. Grandfather almost had a coronary, and Alan and Monica are…concerned. I told them I’d come over and check on you.”
Which meant the rest of the family would be held at bay. AJ hesitated and then gave Ned a quick recap of Carly’s erratic visit the night before—and Jason’s support in leaving Michael asleep in his room.
“You won’t just have Jason in your corner,” Ned said, tossing the newspaper down. “I know you’ve had your issues with the way Grandfather…shows his love. God knows I have, too. But he was proud of you getting your chip. And Grandmother is, too. And you impressed him…winning Michael’s custody on your own.”
“I didn’t—” AJ nodded. “I mean, I guess I did. But Jason gave me a chance—”
“Another factor which has not gone unnoticed. Monica is particularly pleased that her children might yet like one another at the same time in the same room.” Ned offered a half smile. “I don’t know what Carly is up to, but I’ve known her long enough to be sure it’s something. Grandfather wanted me to tell you that however you want to handle this, you tell us. And we’ll follow.”
Courtney blinked at that and then looked at AJ. “Seriously?”
And even though AJ had told himself he didn’t want or need his family’s approval—knowing he had it—that he had their trust—something inside him relaxed.
It was different this time. He was a better man. A sober man. A man worthy of having his son. And for the moment, he had allies.
“Right now, we’re sitting back,” AJ told him. “Jason’s right. Legally, Carly’s will has gone into probate. The court has recognized him as Michael’s guardian. My parental rights were reinstated. The custody agreement simply states I get visitation when Jason gives it. And for now, he’s leaving Michael here. I think he wants to see what Carly will do next.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Ned picked up the newspaper again, studied the photo of Carly above the fold. “And this…this next part isn’t a quid pro quo, it’s just…”
“The Quartermaines want to see Michael,” Courtney said flatly.
“It’s not a condition for their support,” Ned told AJ. “It’s just…you’re not the only one who lost Michael when Carly divorced you. He lived in that house for a year. Grandmother fell in love with him. And so did Alan and Monica. And you know Grandfather—”
“I know.” And AJ could understand that. “It’s something I’d want to talk to Jason about, and to be honest—”
“You’ve got enough on your plate. Well, just keep it in mind and let us know if we can do anything.”
When Courtney came back from walking Ned out, she bit her lip. “I guess it’s because I know they still don’t really like me—”
“You’re suspicious,” AJ said with a nod. “I am, too. But I think it’s because I’ve never had unqualified approval from my family. They’ve always had a string attached. I hope that’s not true this time. Ned’s right. The entire family lost Michael when my marriage fell apart. But I promised Jason that if he gave me a chance with Michael, I’d make sure he never had to be under that pressure.”
He exhaled slowly. “And that’s one promise I’m going to keep. Michael is never…for one moment…going to think he has to do anything to earn my love. All he has to do is exist.”
Brownstone: Front Steps
Elizabeth had a glass of wine in her hand when Jason parked his bike. That was probably not a good sign. His men had followed Carly to the Brownstone earlier that day—the blonde had stayed for all of ten minutes before storming out.
And Elizabeth had told him she would be at the Brownstone most of the day in case Carly came back.
“Hey, how was your day?” Elizabeth asked, with a smirk as she finished the last of the liquid in her glass. “Pretty sure I can make it worse.”
Jason climbed the steps and sat next to her. “Well, you talked to Carly and I didn’t, I’m sure that’s true.”
She offered him the wine bottle. “You want some? It might make it better.”
He shook his head, though if she’d offered vodka or a beer, he might—he might have taken it. It wasn’t often that he understood why AJ and people like him drowned their problems in alcohol, but tonight—
Tonight, he had never understood AJ more.
“So the guard on Carly said she didn’t stay long.”
“No. I didn’t—” Elizabeth hesitated. “I didn’t mean to fight with her, Jason. I was just—I wanted to tell her about Bobbie grieving. And I thought if I could just tell her how sad Michael was—but she came in all pissed off and angry. And she was…” She bit her lip. “Bitchy.”
Jason sighed, dipping his head. It was too much to hope that Elizabeth would have been able to get through to Carly. The two women had been at war for years, and he’d seen how the normally kind and compassionate Elizabeth could go toe to toe with Carly without blinking.
“What happened?” he asked.
She tensed. “She wanted me to tell her why Michael was with AJ, and I told her I would. We talked about that. That I would tell her about the chances you were facing in court if I saw her before you—”
“I know, Elizabeth.” And because he could see the unhappiness in her eyes, the slump in her shoulders, Jason took her hand in his. “Hey. I know you and Carly don’t get along. I didn’t think it would magically solve anything for you guys to talk. And I know that Carly has a way of making people—”
“She just—” She huffed. “It’s not important. I told her that I would tell her if she told you where she was, and I guess—I mean I was trying to convince her that I would have those answers, so I told her we were dating—”
Yeah, that probably hadn’t helped though Jason wasn’t sure how it could have been avoided.
“—so she said that I was threatened by her because she was single and you were home—and Gia sort of actually laughed at her—”
And to that, Jason couldn’t help himself. He smiled. He had never been good at imagining things, at creating pictures in his head. But sometimes…sometimes he could. And he could actually see Carly going up against Elizabeth and Gia and being pissed that she hadn’t won.
“But then I did get to tell her about Michael, and how we’d had to explain Heaven to him. She seemed—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “She seemed to listen to me then. For a minute. I told her we’d tried to be there for him. But that he missed her. And she just wanted him back, she said. So I…” She sighed. “I mean, I told her that we knew something was wrong, and that if she’d just tell you what was going on, you could help her.”
“And that didn’t get you anywhere?” Jason asked, a bit surprised. Usually Carly leapt at the chance to lay her problems at his feet. Maybe she’d been pissed last night, but—but it was a day later.
Why hadn’t she called him? Asked him for help?
“It actually seemed to make her mad again,” Elizabeth admitted. “And she left—but she said she didn’t want your help. That you were going to be sorry you lied.”
“That I lied?” Jason repeated.
“You promised her you’d always make sure she had Michael. I tried to tell her that it hadn’t been so simple—she’d been gone—I mean, maybe I could have been nicer about it, but damn it, Jason…” Elizabeth rose to her feet and stalked down the steps. She whirled around to glare at him. “I don’t like Carly.”
“That’s not news to me—”
“I thought I did. I thought—I thought I could almost understand her because you know, I’m really good at lying to people and making dumb ass choices and looking to you to fix them—”
“And I thought she was different before the accident, but you know what? She’s not. She’s still the same selfish bitch who destroyed Bobbie’s life and—” Elizabeth looked away. “You know what I would give to have a mother like Bobbie? Someone who always seemed to find something worthwhile in me? Whatever Bobbie’s faults, she’s stood by Carly. And this is how she repays her.” She looked at him. “And I know you don’t need me to be pissed on your behalf, but I am. I remember how much she hurt you before and maybe you forgave her, that’s your business—but I haven’t forgotten how you looked when you lost Michael. How you left town because of it.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth—”
“And I’m sorry because how I feel about Carly isn’t important.” Elizabeth’s hands fell to her side. “And you don’t need this right now. So I’m sorry about that.”
“I—” he hesitated. He just stared at her. “What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t want you to do anything,” she said with an irritated roll of her eyes. “I just—I’m sorry. I don’t know if I made it worse. Maybe I shouldn’t have had Gia in the room. It probably didn’t help for Carly to feel ganged up on. I just…” She bit her lip. “It’s none of my business, really. I guess.”
And he frowned at that. “Are we back to this again?”
“I love you,” he told her, and if he’d thought the second time he’d told her that, he’d be angry with her, he wouldn’t have believed it. “But—”
She narrowed her eyes. “But what?” Elizabeth said with a bite in her tone Jason wasn’t sure he’d ever had directed at him. “But I can be a bitch sometimes?”
“No.” Jason stood. “But—” His cell phone rang, and he dug it out of his pocket to give himself time to think. And he just stared at the screen. Carly. She…still had her cell phone. Which…didn’t make sense. Her car was supposed to be at the bottom of Lake Ontario.
“Jason…can we talk?”
“Yeah.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. Turned away from Elizabeth. “Yeah. Where are you?” he asked.
Her laugh was short. Bitter. “Like you don’t know.”
“I’m at the hotel. We need to settle a few things.”
She hung up first, and he put his phone back in his pocket. “Carly wants to talk.”
Elizabeth stared back at him with just a tip of her head. “That’s good.”
He exhaled slowly, and then walked down the steps until he faced her on the sidewalk. “I’ll call you—”
“I’m opening at Kelly’s in the morning—I have to pick up some of Courtney’s shifts. She wants to be close to the house for a few days.” Elizabeth brushed a kiss against his cheek. “So, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
And without another word, she walked up the stairs, opened the door to the Brownstone, and closed it behind her.