Chapter Two

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Bittersweet

Last time I talked to you
You were lonely and out of place
You were looking down on me
Lost out in space
We laid underneath the stars
Strung out and feeling brave
I watched the red orange glow
I watched you float away

Somewhere Out There, Our Lady Peace


Friday, April 19, 2002

Brownstone: Living Room

 The room didn’t look any different than the last time Jason had been here—the same comfortable pieces of beige furniture, the first fresh flowers of spring, the photos of Bobbie’s family on the mantel.

There were a few signs that an active five-year-old boy resided here: a set of crayons and coloring book on the table. A small activity table set near the television.

Jason stood in the middle of the room, feeling awkward. Out of place. His chest was two sizes too tight to hold his lungs. Carly’s mother—Bobbie Spencer—sat on the sofa, looking pale, a bit lost and faded.

It would take some time for the courts to deal with the legalities—it would be nearly almost a month before a funeral service could be held. Though there would be no body to put to rest, Carly would have a marking stone a few paces from BJ, the adopted daughter Bobbie had buried eight years earlier.

“I’m just not sure what to do,” Bobbie murmured. “She’s only been in my life for, what, six years? And barely four as my daughter…” She closed her eyes. “What do I do, Jason? How do I raise that little boy?”

“The same way you raised Lucas and BJ.” Jason took a seat next to her, almost perching on the edge of the sofa. “Bobbie, I don’t know what Carly wrote in her will—”

“She’ll have left everything to Michael, in a trust. Alexis wrote a will for her after they settled the divorce.” Bobbie’s eyes met his, some warmth in them. “You and I are the executors, but guardianship—she’s left that to you.”

Which didn’t surprise him at all, but it was a terrifying prospect nonetheless. “I don’t intend to change his living arrangements,” Jason told her. “I know he’s been with you the better part of the year. The last time I spoke to Carly, she said Michael was doing well in kindergarten, that he loved being here.”

“It’s been a good year,” Bobbie murmured. “The divorce was difficult on them both. Sonny managed to get AJ to terminate his rights, but I think they were right to stop the adoption. If Carly was ever going to have a life away from Sonny, a chance—” She stopped, her eyes closing again. “But she won’t now. It’s over.”

“Bobbie—”

“I’m okay.” She took a deep breath. “I know the coming months are going to be difficult. I’ve had some guarded conversations with Alan at the hospital, Edward stopped by to offer his condolences—Elizabeth stopped him from speaking to Michael.”

Jason put that information aside for the moment. “I’m surprised they haven’t filed anything yet. It’s been almost a week—”

“Lila convinced them to give me space. She sent a lovely note of condolences.” Bobbie patted his hand. “I don’t know how long she’ll be able to hold them off, so you should be prepared.” She hesitated. “Elizabeth is close to AJ’s new wife, Courtney. She might be able to give you a better idea as to whether AJ intends to follow his grandmother’s dictate.”

Jason wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to see Elizabeth, not this soon. He knew that something had happened on New Year’s Eve—that rather than marrying Lucky as planned, she’d left him at the altar and moved into the Brownstone with Bobbie. But he’d never pressed Sonny for details. Whatever he might have shared with her was over. She’d made her choice.

A reluctant choice, he knew. One made out of obligation and loyalty, not love. But a choice nonetheless.

But Bobbie had a point—Elizabeth might be able to give him some insight into AJ’s plans, and that was worth taking the risk of seeing her again.

“Is she at work?”

Bobbie frowned and looked at her watch. “Yes, if I remember her schedule correctly. She had some morning classes, but she’s working the lunch and dinner shift at Kelly’s today.” She rose to her feet. “I don’t know what I would have done if Elizabeth hadn’t moved in a few months ago with Gia. She was here, that morning when we found out. She stayed with Michael until Lucas brought me home from the station.”

“She’s always been reliable,” was all Jason could offer. “If you need anything, Bobbie—”

“I know where to find you.” Her smile was wobbly and faded almost as soon as it appeared, but it had been there. “Thank you for coming home, Jason. We needed you.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Elizabeth grimaced when she saw AJ Quartermaine step through the arch connecting the courtyard to the parking lot. Courtney wasn’t working today and it was past the usual lunch shift for dock workers—

Which meant AJ likely had a purpose for coming here that didn’t include a burger and fries.

“AJ,” she murmured as she stacked several dishes into her tub. “You’re a bit late for lunch.”

“I have a guy covering for me. I was hoping to catch you after the lunch rush.” He gestured toward the table she was cleaning off. “Do you have a minute?”

Against her better judgment, Elizabeth sat, resting the tub of dirty dishes in her lap. “AJ, I really don’t want to talk about Michael—”

“I know, and I don’t want you to feel like you’re in the middle. I just—” AJ sat and raked his fingers through his dirty blonde hair. “Look, I know how good you are to him, how much you mean to Bobbie. I just—I wanted to know if you’d heard from Jason.”

Elizabeth raised her brows, her heart beating fast at the name. She knew Jason would be arriving any day now—his travel plans hadn’t been stable, Sonny said. “Sonny talked to him. He’s coming home. He wasn’t sure when.”

AJ nodded. “That’s what I figured. Look, I just—I wanted to make sure you knew that I don’t intend—I’m not going to be like my father or my grandfather. I don’t see Carly’s—” A grimace passed over his face. “I don’t see Carly’s death as an opportunity to get my son back.”

Elizabeth tilted her head to the side, not trusting him. “That doesn’t mean you’re not going to use it. AJ, I know Courtney loves you, but in your own way, you’re as ruthless as any of the other members of your family. You want your son.”

He scowled. “Does that make me the villain then?” AJ demanded. “I never got the chance to screw up. I had him for exactly one year and he was fine—”

“I’m not involved in any of that,” Elizabeth cut in, but she could admit he had a point. Jason and Carly had had their reasons, but AJ had never had a choice in the matter. She even suspected some blackmail or other illegalities had been in play when he’d unexpectedly terminated his parental rights last fall.

“I know, I’m sorry.” AJ drew back and took a deep breath. “Look, Elizabeth, I know how much your friendship has meant to Courtney. You’ve gone out of your way to make her feel at home here. She loves you.”

At the mention of his wife, Elizabeth bit her lip. “And I love her, too. She came into my life when I needed someone new, and I’ve been happy to extend friendship to her. Honestly, AJ, the fact that you had the good sense to fall for her is part of the reason…” That she didn’t think AJ was a complete waste of space, but that didn’t mean she trusted him.

“I get it. I do. I just…yeah, I want my son. I don’t think that makes me a bad person. But I don’t want to make anything more difficult for Bobbie or Michael. They need time, they need space. I’ve told my family that. I can’t control them; I can’t be sure they won’t file a suit on their own. My grandmother is doing what she can to hold them off—”

“But it’s like holding back a freight train,” Elizabeth sighed. “What do you want from me, AJ? Is this just a friendly warning?”

“I don’t want to bother Bobbie right now. I thought if you could pass the message for me—”

“Some things never change.”

They both looked up at the interruption, the tone familiar and annoyed. Elizabeth rose, blinking in surprise as Jason stepped away from the shadow of the arch which had hid him from their view. “Jason? When—”

“Jason, I—” AJ began.

“You’re still getting someone else to do your dirty work.” Jason folded his arms, his stance tense.  “You think you’re a good guy because you’re not going to drag a grieving mother into court the week she buries her daughter?”

“Jason,” Elizabeth began. “AJ was just—” But his scathing glance cut off her words in mid-sentence. He didn’t often look at her in anger, and she wasn’t sure she appreciated it now. What the hell did he even know about this situation?

“I was just telling Elizabeth that I’m going to do what I can to keep Grandfather out of this,” AJ said, waving a hand at Elizabeth as if to tell her he would fight this battle. “But make no mistake, Jason. You’re not going to keep me from my son. Not this time.”

AJ looked at Elizabeth, apology in his eyes. “I’ll see you around.”

When he was gone, Elizabeth turned to Jason, scowling. “Was that necessary? How long were you standing there?”

“Long enough to hear him try to con you,” Jason retorted. “Don’t you know better by now? AJ is always playing an angle—”

“I’m not an idiot,” she shot back. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and reminded herself that this feud between the brothers was bitter, long-lived, and had nothing to do with her. That Jason had likely been traveling for days, was dealing with the death of a close friend, with acquiring the guardianship of a little boy he loved more than life. “I don’t want to fight with you, Jason.”

His features smoothed out a bit and he dipped his head. “I’m sorry. I just—”

“See red when the topics of AJ and Michael come up, yeah. That’s not news to me.” She reached for the tub of dishes and perched it on her hip. “When did you get in? Sonny wasn’t sure—”

“This morning. I stopped at Jake’s to get a room.” Jason held the door open for her, then followed her inside. The diner was relatively deserted—their main fare at Kelly’s were the dock workers and high school students. A couple sat in the back, nursing some milkshakes and a college student was pouring over a biology textbook with a large mug of coffee at his side.

She dumped the dishes behind the counter and nodded to Don. “You can take your break. I’m all done in the courtyard for now.” To Jason, Elizabeth said, “Did you want some coffee? Something to eat?”

“Ah, sure.” Jason sat on the stool, his elbows on the counter. “I saw Bobbie. She looks…all right, I guess.”

“Because she can keep busy.” Elizabeth set the mug of black coffee in front of him. “She’s planning the services, signing papers for the trust Carly set up. Fielding calls from reporters, dealing with the cops—”

Jason frowned. “The cops? Wasn’t it ruled an accident?”

“It’s still ongoing, according to Mac and Taggart. I mean, I can’t see how it would be anything other than accident. Sonny told Bobbie there’s nothing to worry about it, but you know the PCPD and the newspapers—”

“Yeah.” Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “Yeah, I know.” He hesitated. “AJ. Earlier—”

“Let’s…” Elizabeth took a deep breath. Better to set the boundary lines now. “If AJ says something to me, I’m comfortable passing it along, even without him saying so. We’re not friends, and I’ve never pretended otherwise.  But Courtney is my friend, and unless she gives me the okay—”

Jason held up a hand. “I get it. I have no problem with that—”

“AJ didn’t really say anything more to me than you than you overheard. He’s planning to give Bobbie some space, I guess wait for Michael to, I don’t know, adjust to not having Carly, but—”

“He’ll be filing for custody.” Jason exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I guess that’s not much of a surprise. I guess he thinks he’s being the hero for giving Bobbie five seconds to mourn her daughter.”

“By Quartermaine standards?” Elizabeth arched her brow. “Considering I’ve already had to chase your grandfather and father away from the Brownstone more than once?” At his scowl, she rolled her eyes. “Look, you don’t have to be friends with them, but you’re about to go in front of a judge to argue why you need to keep Michael with you. The fact you are, technically, his biological uncle, is going to be a point in your favor—”

“They’re not my family,” Jason said darkly.

“Jason—” She sighed. “No one is asking you have Thanksgiving with them, but if you walk into that court room and talk about how they’re not your family, you’re going to look petty. Immature. I can’t imagine it’ll reflect well on you.”

He was quiet for a moment, before grimacing and shaking his head. “If I go into a court room with AJ on the other side—”

“Hey…” Elizabeth reached across the counter to touch his hand, hesitant at first. This wasn’t part of the plan, but she couldn’t stand that look on his face. “Look, don’t worry. You’ll have Alexis on your side—”

“I lost before—”

“Because—” She bit her lip. “Because Carly was in the picture then. And she and AJ—”

“Were a united front.” He nodded. “Okay, I get it. I just—Michael’s been through so much.”

“I’m confident, that between you and Bobbie, you’ll do right by Michael.” Their eyes met. Held. After a long moment, she released his hand and stepped back, feeling her cheeks warm. “I wanted to say how sorry I was about Carly. She was doing so good these last few months. You would have been proud.”

“She sounded good the last time we spoke.” He finished his coffee. “I need to stop in to see Sonny.” He reached into his wallet and dropped a twenty next to the coffee mug. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I didn’t—I don’t want to fight with you.”

“It’s fine.” She paused. “I don’t want to fight with you either, Jason.” And because she needed to say it—for both their sakes, she continued, “I want us to be friends.”

He looked at her, tilting his head slightly in that way she’d always loved, then nodded as if he’d heard the words she’d left unspoken. “So do I. I’ll see you around, Elizabeth.”

When he gone, she picked up his empty mug and tucked the twenty into her apron. She managed a smile as Penny Reyes arrived for her shift.

“Hey, Liz!” the pretty Filipino girl said with a bright smile to match the vibrancy of the new pink streaks in her dark hair. “Sorry, I’m late but I was at the salon.”

“No problem, Penny. We’re dead, anyway. I like the hair.”

“Thanks—hey, was that Jason Morgan I saw leaving?” Penny tied her apron around her trim waist. “He looks even sexier than the last time I saw him. Some men age like fine wine, and man—” She wiggled her eyebrows. “Didn’t you used to date him?”

“Not exactly,” Elizabeth murmured. She often forgot that most of the town believed she and Jason had had a brief affair during that winter in her studio when he’d been shot.

“If I were you, I would get me a piece of that.” Penny picked up the carafe of coffee and moved to refill the biology student’s cup.

“Well, you’re not me.” Elizabeth reached under the counter for the receipts from the morning shift and headed to the back table to update the books.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

This was not the way he’d hoped his old friend would finally return home.

Sonny offered Jason a bourbon—an offer that was often extended, but rarely accepted. Today, however, Jason took the tumbler. “Is there any chance this wasn’t an accident?” Jason demanded.

Sonny sighed and, bourbon in his hand, crossed to the window. Though the building’s name boasted of its view of the harbor, Sonny had chosen to live in the penthouse that overlooked downtown Port Charles.

From his vantage, he could see the park, the ritzy neighborhood that held wealthy families like the Quartermaines—he could see General Hospital, the way the Port Charles Hotel still towered over most of the skyline—though some of the newer apartment buildings and office buildings were starting to compete.

Port Charles had been changing, growing for more than a decade. Sonny had encouraged it, invested in it. The larger the city was, the less time the police had to focus on him.

Now he wondered if it had grown too large to control. He’d merged his territory with the swath of town Sorel and Moreno had controlled, folding their men into his, taking over some of the piers and holding companies they had utilized. There were pieces he didn’t know as well, areas he hadn’t been personally involved in.

But Jason was home now. He could take a breath. He could depend on Jason.

He turned back to Jason. “Accident investigators didn’t find any evidence,” Sonny said finally. “Bobbie hounded Scott Baldwin and Mac Scorpio. She refused to give up, even when the Coast Guard had declared it impossible. An expert from the state agency finished up his own look yesterday.” He sighed. “Our source got it to us. Carly was taking the corners too fast, she didn’t brake in time—”

“But you looked into it anyway, didn’t you? Anyone could have messed with her brakes,” Jason said. “Sonny—”

“Without her car to look at, to confirm…” Sonny tilted his head back. “Yeah, I wondered. I have our guys looking into Mickey Roscoe. He’s the only holdout from the merger. Seems to think he can take me down. He doesn’t have the backup. There’s nothing to be gained from taking out Carly. It’d be suicide for him.”

“Right, but—”

“I thought about the Quartermaines,” Sonny cut in. He turned back to meet Jason’s eyes. “After I…convinced AJ to terminate his parental rights, he was livid. He…convinced my sister to run away with him, told me that if I didn’t make sure he got his son back, he’d…” He chuckled. “He’d marry her.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Not much for revenge, I guess. He’s not a…” He waited a beat. “That’s probably as villainous as he could get. I can’t see him—or anyone else in the family—going after Carly. It might get an obstacle out of the way, but Alan and Monica—they’re close to Bobbie. And as ruthless as the old man is—”

“Outright murder isn’t their style. I mean, I’m not saying they wouldn’t ever arrange an accident—I’ve heard some stories about them—particularly Alan—that would turn your hair white. I’m saying I can’t pin this on them.”

“So an accident,” Jason said after a moment. He tossed back the rest of the liquor, grimacing.

“We’ll keep our eyes and ears open, Jase.” He hesitated, looking down into his glass. “Carly was a fighter. I can’t stand to think—” He stopped. Neither of them needed the image of Carly’s death in their heads.

They were both quiet for a long moment, remembering the woman that had changed both their lives so drastically.

Sonny cleared his throat. “I imagine you’ll be sticking around.” He settled himself at the dining table, feeling exhausted down to his bones. “With Michael involved—”

“AJ already made his intentions clear.” Jason joined him, his hands clenched in fists as they rested on top of the table. “I found him pleading his case to Elizabeth at Kelly’s. He’ll give Bobbie some time, but he’s going after him.”

Sonny pursed his lips. “Yeah, I can see where he’d think she would be his best bet. God knows, she’s too nice for her own good. Probably hoping she’ll put in a good word with Bobbie.” He eyed his friend. “Or you.”

“She knows better,” Jason muttered. He looked away. “She’s still living at the Brownstone?”

“Did you think she would be back with Spencer by now?” Sonny asked. When Jason didn’t answer, he continued, “Yeah. Lucky’s not too fond of his aunt—maybe if Elizabeth had been stuck at Kelly’s, she might have drifted back. But Bobbie gave her and Gia a place to stay and as far as I know, a clean break from all of that.”

“She looked better than the last time I saw her,” was all Jason offered. “I got a room at Jake’s for now. But I’m sticking until Michael’s custody is settled. Probably longer.”

“Yeah, the Quartermaines will still be hassling Bobbie for visitation until Michael’s children are in college,” Sonny muttered. He considered a moment. “I’ve been expanding certain areas of the business. Considering some legitimate options here in Port Charles, looking into beefing up the Atlantic City casino. Maybe even going into Las Vegas with one of the guys out there.”

Jason hesitated. “You might be stretching yourself a bit thin, Sonny.”

“Not if I have the right guys in place,” he replied. “I’m concerned that some of the men I inherited from Sorel and Moreno aren’t exactly…game players. Dominic Savarolli, do you remember him?”

“Yeah, didn’t you two come up together with Frank Smith?” Jason squinted. “He ran numbers for Frank, then Moreno. He stuck with Sorel until he didn’t have a choice. You don’t trust Nico?”

“I’m concerned because he’s pushing the expansion,” Sonny clarified. “And he’s been pretty vocal. Maybe you look into Nico and his crew. That’s where most of Sorel’s men are. Johnny and Tommy didn’t want them, and you know Francis prefers to hire his own guys to train.”  He shrugged. “If I expand, and maybe you don’t want to stick around Port Charles, you can always go deal with things out west.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Jason handed him back the tumbler. “I’ll give Benny a call and get some background. Thanks, Sonny.”

Brownstone: Kitchen

Bobbie set a cup of tea in front of her…well, in front of the only daughter she had left. Elizabeth had come into her life as a terrified victim, someone her nephew wanted to look out for. To protect. And for the love of her nephew, Bobbie had stepped in to provide support. That special, sweet boy was gone, but Elizabeth…

Elizabeth had remained, claiming her own spot in Bobbie’s heart, to the point she had faced down that same irate nephew after the disastrous wedding. And now, with the loss of Carly, she was clinging to this makeshift family she’d constructed in the Brownstone with Lucas, Michael, and Elizabeth.

“Did Jason stop by Kelly’s?” Bobbie asked, casually, as she took a seat next to Elizabeth with her own cup of tea. “I meant to call you.”

Elizabeth offered a half smile. “No, you didn’t.”

“No, I didn’t want to warn you,” she admitted. “I thought it might be more awkward if you were expecting him. You haven’t said much about the fight you had last year, but I know it’s pained you. I hope you and Jason can work it out.”

“Nothing to work out,” the brunette responded. “We’re friends. That’s it. He’s worried about you and Michael, and it didn’t help that he got to Kelly’s at the same time AJ was telling me he was going to give you some space before he filed for custody.”

Bobbie closed her eyes. “Oh, those boys. They never do anything the easy way. I’m sure Jason was livid.”

“It certainly wasn’t the best reunion they could have had.” Elizabeth hesitated. “I know it’s none of my business, but I don’t think keeping AJ out of Michael’s life is going to be as easy as it’s been in the past. When AJ asks for custody, I think a court might seriously consider him.”

“So I do,” Bobbie sighed. “He’s been sober for the better part of a year. He has a good, stable, and steady job. His wife works, and we both know Courtney is lovely. She’d be a wonderful stepmother. When you add in the fact that technically AJ voluntarily surrendered his parental rights—at least as far as the court is concerned—”

“Would it be so bad?” Elizabeth asked. “I mean, look, I wasn’t around when Carly was pregnant, when she was keeping Michael from AJ. I don’t know what she went through then. I only know AJ through Emily and Courtney, and to be honest, while I’ve always seen the destructive behavior, I’ve never—”

“You’ve never seen AJ as the villain my daughter painted him to be.” Bobbie leaned back in her chair. “I loved Carly, I did. I saw myself in her, which is why I think I was able to look past the worst of her behavior. She was so…terrified of being rejected first, of being hurt—”

“So she put up a wall,” Elizabeth cut in. “A brittle facade that looked indestructible to others, but when it came right down to it, was easily shattered.” She stared down into her tea, an empty expression in her eyes, but Bobbie knew better.

She sighed, tilting her head toward this young woman who, God help her, reminded her so much of herself. “Elizabeth…”

“Why did Carly work so hard to keep Michael away from AJ?” Elizabeth asked. Her eyes were warm now, as if the brief moment hadn’t happened.  But they would have to come back to this—Elizabeth wasn’t ready to talk, and Bobbie wasn’t one to push.

“Carly,” Bobbie continued, “was not concerned in the slightest about AJ or his drinking when she was pregnant. She just knew…she saw what we all saw—Tony was hanging by a thread then. He’d lost BJ, he’d let himself be seduced by a younger woman. He’d talked himself into a life with her, this baby was his second chance. And I think Carly wanted the stability Tony offered. The idea of a family.”

“And AJ was an obstacle to that family.”

“He was. So she schemed to keep him from learning the truth, but then he…he threatened to take her to court. To demand a paternity test. And Carly panicked because she thought the Quartermaines would take her baby. She went to Jason, who was struggling after the accident in his own way. He promised to protect her and the baby from his family, because he saw them as ruthless and amoral. This was never about AJ.”

“But it is now,” Elizabeth said. “After Carly lost her son—” She hesitated. “I never believed he pushed her, you know? I can see them arguing, I know he was drunk at the time, but still—”

“I think Carly made herself believe he pushed her, because then she didn’t have to blame herself. I think she lost her balance and fell. It’s a twisted, horrible situation, Elizabeth, and I’m not sure anyone will be happy with the outcome.”

“Is anyone?” Elizabeth lifted her brows, her expression a mixture of wry humor and resignation. “You know, I’m here if you and Michael need anything.”

“I know.” Bobbie leaned over to squeeze her hand. “And I’m so grateful to have you.”

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Comments

  • Love it so far

    According to Pwrmom2 on August 18, 2016
  • Love that I found this today and only have a couple more days to wait for the next update. Oh please tell me that you have enough written that we will likely still see chapters posted once school starts.

    Very cool on the research, btw.

    According to Living Liason on August 24, 2016