Oh yeah everything’s all wrong yeah
Everything’s all wrong yeah
Stranger than your sympathy
I take these things so I don’t feel
And all these thoughts from the inside out
Now my head’s been filled with doubt
– Sympathy, Goo Goo Dolls
Friday, September 20, 2002
Quartermaine Mansion: Foyer
Courtney closed her cell phone and stared at it for a long moment. She hated this. She hated every minute of this.
Michael had cried until he’d decided that Jason would come back like his mommy—and how much longer until he could talk to his mother? AJ had tried to keep it together. Had wanted to check in on his family, so they’d packed Michael up and come to the mansion.
But AJ wasn’t letting it out. Wasn’t talking to her. Wasn’t talking to anyone really. Just sitting with his grandmother in the garden today, sharing old stories of Jason. Alan and Monica had gone to work, trying to be normal.
Trying to forget.
And Courtney wasn’t really sure what she was supposed to be doing here.
She turned to find Ned stepping out of the foyer. “Oh. Hey. What’s—what’s up?” She tucked her phone in her back pocket. “Do you guys need anything? I can—”
“We’re okay.” He closed the door behind him. “I left AJ and Grandmother out there, so I can check on Grandfather, but I overheard you on the phone with Gia. I didn’t want to intrude.”
“Oh. No, it’s okay.” Courtney bit her lip. “Gia’s just worried. Elizabeth has been a lot like Alan and Monica since Jason went missing. She was trying to keep breathing, to stop herself from thinking the worst, but now the worst has happened—” She stopped. “I’m rambling.”
“You’re worried about AJ. And I imagine you’re pretty worried about Elizabeth.” Ned folded his arms. “It hasn’t hit him yet, you know? This summer—I think he came as close as he ever probably would to having his brother back and that’s…” Ned looked away. “It’s gone. I have a little brother, too. He’s much younger than me, but I love him. I can’t imagine—” He shook his head.
“I figure it’s gotta be harder for you guys,” Courtney said after a moment. “I mean, it’s not even the first time you’ve lost Jason.”
Ned nodded. “Yeah, I think that’s—that’s what makes this so awful. We lost Jason Quartermaine, and God, I don’t think we ever let Jason Morgan forget it. He ran away from this family because of it. And a lot of other reasons, but that was part of it. You know…” He rubbed his chest absently. “We told ourselves it was a matter of time. He made his choices, this was how it was supposed to be—we all expected him to die violently—” His voice failed. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Courtney folded her arms tightly under her breath. “I didn’t—I only know Jason through AJ and Elizabeth, so I’m sad. But it’s for you guys. And for her. Because he seemed like a nice guy. And even if he had a dangerous lifestyle, it doesn’t make it easier for the people who loved him.”
“No.” Ned exhaled slowly. “No, it doesn’t. Have you spoken to Elizabeth? Grandmother asked about her—”
“She’s…managing,” Courtney said. “Gia’s with her. I just…I don’t know how she’s going to do this. He just…he just asked her to move in with him. She was so happy—” Her voice broke. “Sorry. It’s not even—this just sucks.”
“Yeah, yeah it does.” Ned touched her shoulder lightly. “For what it’s worth, it gives my grandmother comfort knowing he was happy at the end. Elizabeth was good for him, and I’m just sorry they didn’t get to see where it would go. You let me know if she needs anything, all right?”
“Yeah, thanks Ned.”
“And don’t worry about Junior. He’s done a lot of work in the last year or so. He’s battled his demons—I’m not saying he’s won completely, but he’s…. settled. You gave him that, Courtney—”
She shook her head. “He likes to say that, too, but I’m not some kind of miracle. I’m just a girl who rushed into marriage with a man she barely knew on a hope and prayer. We both got lucky it’s working. But Jason told him—he told him at the chip ceremony that AJ did the work. He’s the one that didn’t take a drink.” Her lip trembled. “It meant the world to him that Jason was there, but to say that—God, I don’t think Jason ever knew what he did for AJ that night.”
Ned dipped his head and took another deep breath. “They were so close once. I like to think they could have been again.” He cleared his throat. “I should check on Grandfather.”
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Quartermaine Mansion: Foyer
Elizabeth smiled briefly at Alice, the maid, who directed her to the garden where Lila, Courtney, and Emily were having tea.
And then she couldn’t quite bring herself to cross through the family room out onto the terrace and into the garden.
Because until now, she had been able to stay in a bubble, inside her own world at the Brownstone with Bobbie and Gia.
But she wasn’t the only person who had lost Jason, and she would have to share her pain with others. She had to, because hiding her grief and running from it three years ago had been the wrong choice.
She turned to find AJ emerging from the dining room. “Oh. Hey.”
“Hey.” He approached her, his hands in his pockets. “I won’t ask how you’re doing. It’s a stupid question, and—I can see it.”
“Yeah?” Elizabeth asked with a sigh. “Am I that transparent?”
“You’re thinking about how to keep it together for Grandmother and my sister. So that Courtney doesn’t have to worry about you, too. Or am I just…projecting?” He shrugged. “Because what’s what I’ve been doing since the second—” AJ looked down. “Anyway. I wanted to call, but Courtney said you were mostly…keeping to yourself.”
“Yeah, for the last two days.” Elizabeth crossed her arms, closed her eyes. “I fell asleep for the first time last night. Bobbie wanted to have Tony give me a prescription for something, but I didn’t want to close my eyes. I didn’t want to wake up in a world and know—I could lie to myself when he was just missing. But I can’t now.”
Her eyes burned as the first tear slid down her cheek. “He’s not here, and I just—I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How to breathe. I guess it doesn’t matter, because I keep doing it. But it’s like every breath I take is…. a shock. How can I breathe without him?”
Elizabeth wiped her tears as AJ said nothing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—I’m okay. I mean, I’m not. I’m…managing—”
“There were a couple of moments there that I thought…” AJ said slowly, “this summer…I mean…I thought if Jason and I had enough time…maybe we could be brothers again. It was a stupid dream, and I know he’d never claim me that way. But I thought it. And I just—it’s never gonna happen now. He’s my little brother and he’s gone, and I can’t seem to wrap my head around it.”
“I know. I’ve been through this. I know what the shock feels like, but somehow—” She shook her head. “It still feels brand-new.” She managed a short laugh. “My grandmother called this morning. She…she called a few days ago, too, but I ignored it. I almost ignored it again this morning, but for some reason, I wanted to hear her voice, and you know what she said? She said…it was hard to believe it right now, but that there would someone else someday. I mean, hadn’t I learned that after Lucky was gone?”
“God.” Elizabeth dug her heels into her eyes. “Like it’s the same. I was a teenager. This—this is different. This—I don’t know how to explain it. She, of all people, ought to know you can’t compare grief.”
She exhaled slowly. “I should get out to the garden before they send a search party.” She hesitated. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even ask about Michael—”
AJ shrugged. “We talked to a counselor yesterday. Right now, Michael is convinced it’s going to be like Carly.” He rubbed his temple with his thumb. “That we’re all just mistaken. It’ll sink in for him. Or it won’t. He’s almost six, but…”
“One day, he won’t even remember Jason,” Elizabeth murmured. Her chest ached, and she just wanted to go home. To curl up in her bed, draw the curtain, and ignore the world.
But that wouldn’t solve anything. Wouldn’t make it better.
“God, I hate knowing that’s true.” AJ cleared his throat, looked away as his eyes glittered. “You need anything, Liz. You just let me know.”
Quartermaine Mansion: Terrace
Emily’s eyes were swollen and rimmed with red, while Lila was clutching a handkerchief in her hand. Courtney was quiet, solemn.
And Elizabeth wanted to be anywhere else.
“Elizabeth.” Her best friend rose to her feet and crossed to the doorway. “Oh, God.”
“Hey.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, struggled to keep back the flood of tears that threatened to swallow her whole. She had to get through this moment. Had to get through this day.
She clung to Emily for just a moment before stepping back. “It’s good to see you but I wish it were for any other reason.”
“Yeah.” Emily swallowed as they sat down on the long iron bench adjacent to Lila’s wheel chair.
“Mrs. Quartermaine,” Elizabeth said as she took one of Lila’s delicate hands in hers. “Hey.”
“Oh, my darling—” Lila’s voice was thin and shaky. “Thank you for coming. I cannot imagine—” She closed her eyes. “I just cannot accept any of this is real.”
Elizabeth dragged the heel of her hand under her eyes, sweeping away her tears. “I know. I keep thinking it’s a nightmare I’m gonna wake up from, but…then I realize it’s not.”
“I talked to him just a few weeks ago—” Emily managed, her voice raw. “He sounded…God, Elizabeth, he was happy. You made him so happy.”
“Thank you,” Lila murmured. “For giving him that. It hurts so very much right now, my darling. But someday, knowing the love you brought to one another, it will bring comfort.”
She closed her eyes. Pressed her hands to the lids. “I want to believe that. I just can’t seem to think past right now. It hurts so much.”
Emily wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and Elizabeth leaned into her. “I can’t even pretend it’s going to be okay,” Emily said softly. “Because I can’t accept that it ever will be. It’s not supposed to be this way.”
It is for me, Elizabeth very nearly said, but she could hear the wallowing in those words, the self-pity, and she bit them back. Emily and Lila didn’t need her devastation. They had their own.
But she was never going to be allowed to be happy for more than a moment in time, and it was time Elizabeth learned to accept that. If she could just stop…dreaming she deserved more, maybe the fall wouldn’t hurt so damn much.
Monday, September 23, 2002
Bobbie touched Gia’s shoulder. “You mind if I take this seat?” she asked indicating the chair across from her. “I wanted to grab a quick lunch between shifts at the hospital.”
“Oh, yeah.” Gia pushed her notebook aside. “I have a class in an hour, so…” She shrugged. “Not that I can seem to concentrate. I mean, it’s stupid. I didn’t lose anyone. Jason didn’t even like me all that much.”
“You’re an acquired taste,” Bobbie said with a small. She gave her order to Penny and sighed. “I can’t tell if Elizabeth is managing or pretending to manage. She’s always been good at putting up a front.”
“She keeps it together for a while, and then something breaks her down. It’s only been three days, so I think she’s still kind of in shock.” Gia picked up her iced tea and sipped it. “I feel like this is my fault. I pushed her at him.”
“She wanted to lie to herself, to pretend she wasn’t interested, and I forced her to admit that she was. I told myself I was just living up to our promise, you know? No more lies, not to each other and really not to ourselves. I told her I didn’t care if she pursued him, but she shouldn’t lie to herself.”
“And what? You think it made it worse because she—she lost him—” Bobbie caught her breath. Pressed a fist to her chest. “I’m sorry. It’s still…it’s catching me. I didn’t—I loved him like one of my own, and I just—I keep expecting him to walk through the doors. To come to the Brownstone.”
“I tried to tell her at least she had this time, but how much more did it suck that she got a taste of what it could be like?” Gia’s eyes burned. “I hate this. I hate this caring about people bullshit. I should have just seduced him or something. She’d hate me for that, and then I wouldn’t care, and I wouldn’t feel like shit—”
“That wouldn’t have solved anything.”
“No, but—” Gia sighed. “I don’t know. I just—I don’t think I pushed her like everyone did with Lucky last year. I don’t feel like that. I just didn’t want her to…lie to herself. And then when she admitted it, yeah, I kept encouraging it, I guess. You know, maybe I was jealous. I wanted someone like that, you know?”
“Someone like what?”
“Someone whose entire existence is made better because you’re there. You know how he looked at her, how he talked to her, about her. The way he was around her.” Gia sighed, pushed her French fries around her plate. “She had this chance at that kind of love, and I didn’t think she should throw it away. Nikolas, even when it was good, he never looked at me like that. Like the world disappeared when we were together. I wanted that in my life, so I pushed her towards it, and I just…I feel like what she’s going through is my fault.”
“It’s tempting to think…it would have hurt less if they hadn’t been dating,” Bobbie said slowly. “But I wonder if it would have given her more anguish…to know she had lost that chance forever. I think…I think we regret the roads we don’t take more than the ones we do.”
“You’re hurting for your friend, Gia. That’s not a bad thing. She was happy, and now she’s not. And…maybe one day…this summer will be a comforting memory.” Bobbie pressed her lips together for a moment. “She had him for a brief moment, but it was a shining moment. And… before Jason died—” She couldn’t finish. Had to start again. “At the end, she brought him love and joy.”
“I wish I could believe that,” Gia said slowly. “But all I can think of is that…she had that before. With Lucky. Why the hell would the universe do this to her again?”
“Well…that I can’t answer.” Bobbie sighed. “I don’t know why the universe does anything. When I lost my BJ, my darling, sweet, amazing BJ—I still had Lucas. But it wasn’t the same. Having another child didn’t fill the hole, didn’t mend the pain. The universe gave me another daughter.”
“Yeah, the universe was feeling pretty salty that day,” Gia muttered. “Sorry—”
“I love my daughter because I gave birth to her,” Bobbie said slowly. “I forgave her for what she had done to my marriage because I recognized that same self-destructive streak in her that I have fought against my entire life. I could understand the way her mind worked. The way she just reacted—the damage she could do. I could live with all of that because I knew she had inherited it from me—”
“And you’ve been blaming yourself for Carly ever since,” Gia said bluntly. “I get Carly. I used to be Carly. I used to hate the world—” She stopped. “My brother left home when I was still a kid. I’m a lot younger than him—I think you know that. When he left, things didn’t stay okay. My mom was always looking for another guy to fill the space that Marcus’s father, that my father had left her—”
“It doesn’t matter.” Gia shook her head. “I learned to look out for myself. To always put myself first, because I was damn sure the only one who could. I thought what I wanted meant more than anyone else. Carly’s like that, Bobbie. Except she managed to hook up with a bunch of people who just excuse that kind of selfishness as a character flaw. As something to overlook. I hated Elizabeth. You know that. I did awful things to her. Said them to her face. Behind her back.”
Bobbie’s eyes softened. “Gia, she doesn’t—”
“Because I didn’t see her, you know? I just saw the way everyone else reacted to her. They treated her like this precious porcelain that belonged to Lucky Spencer, and Laura was bending over backwards to give her the modeling contract that I damn well deserved—I knew about Tom Baker. And I used it against her.”
Bobbie exhaled slowly. Sat back and just looked at her. “That’s pretty cold.”
“Yep. And I didn’t have a problem with that. She wasn’t right for the job. I was. Take what you want, that was my motto. And then I overheard Nikolas and Lucky talking about her the day of the wedding. Talking about how Lucky didn’t love her anymore, but he owed her this. And I just got pissed off. Because everyone had lied to me, and I was supposed to swallow it to go along with it. But now they were lying again. So, I went to her because I wanted to throw it in her face.”
She paused, took a sip of water. “I wanted to show her I was a better person. That I wouldn’t keep her in the fucking dark like she did to me. And so, I told her with hatred in my heart that her precious Lucky didn’t even love her. That he only pitied her. Like she was a dog.”
“What happened then?” Bobbie asked quietly.
“She looked at me, with tears in her eyes, and she thanked me. She said she’d been having her doubts, but that she thought she owed this to Lucky. But now…now I had set her free. She didn’t have to sacrifice her life anymore. I was going to shove her face in it, but she looked at me like I was doing her a favor. Like I was some kind of sign from the universe.”
“And three days later, you asked to rent the apartment from me. To live together.” Bobbie tipped her head. “What changed?”
“I stopped looking at her as the enemy, and she stopped seeing me as the bitch who blackmailed her best friend. Because being with Nikolas had only made me more selfish, and I was starting to hate myself. When I realized that I had gone into that room to destroy Elizabeth’s life just because I didn’t like her—I knew I was taking it too far. I didn’t want to be that girl anymore. She didn’t want to be who she was either. So, we figured, fuck it, let’s try and save each other.”
“It’s not your fault, Gia, that Elizabeth is hurting right now.”
“And it’s not your fault, Bobbie, that Carly is who she is. You gave her love, compassion. Understanding. A place to raise her son. What else were you supposed to do to keep this from happening?”
Bobbie closed her eyes. “I can’t look at her. I haven’t seen her much since Jason went missing. She’s avoiding me, and that means she’s involved. Somehow, someway. And she knows I’m at the end of my rope.” She sighed. “But you’re right. This isn’t my fault either. I have to let her fall. Let her hit rock bottom. She needs to have that moment, Gia, where she doesn’t like that person she sees in the mirror. And right now, she’s still the victim. It’s still someone else’s fault. Someone else’s responsibility to fix.”
“Until that stops, there’s nothing you can do.”
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Elm Street Pier
Elizabeth stepped off the last stair and turned to the left. There it was. The bench where she and Jason had sat so often in those early days. Where she had poured her heart out.
Where he had left her only months later.
Where they had been reunited.
Where she had betrayed him for the first time when she had thought he had attacked Lucky.
She sat down and looked out over the harbor, out at Spoon Island. She hadn’t thought about Nikolas Cassadine in months. He still lived out there. Still lived in Port Charles. But he was removed from her life, and she grieved for that. They had been through hell together once, and she’d thought that meant she was important.
That she deserved honesty. And respect.
She knew Gia was back at the apartment, her classes completed for the day. She knew she had to really go home. To try and do some of the studying she’d been ignoring. Pretending to do. If she was going to use her degree to distract her, it was probably time…to actually use it as a distraction.
But she just couldn’t.
If she tried to bury her grief, it would drown her. She knew that. She had to get through it. She had to live it, but…
Jason was dead. He was dead. They were having a memorial tomorrow, burying him on Friday. Three weeks after she’d last seen him, he would be in the ground.
Jason was dead.
And she still couldn’t wrap her mind around that.
It was the first time, even in her own mind, that she had acknowledged it. Jason was dead. Shot to death in some filthy warehouse. Left to rot in the harbor. His funeral would require a closed casket—
A sob bubbled out of her throat and she fought it back. She was tired of losing it. Tired of the tears. They didn’t change anything.
There were some footsteps just around the corner, where the pier met Bannister’s Wharf. And then she saw the figure that bled out of the early evening shadows.
Zander Smith walked towards her, hands in the pockets of a light jacket, his dark hair cut short. She hadn’t seen him since the bar fight, since Jason had told her he’d been fired and gone to Miami.
He stopped in front her. “Hey. I—I didn’t expect to run into you here.”
She frowned. Narrowed her eyes. “I thought you left Port Charles.”
“I did.” Zander swallowed hard. “I had to. It was…” He looked away, shaking his head. “I kept looking around, seeing Emily, and hating it. I wasn’t good enough for her, but I wanted to be. And every day I was here, I was reminded of that.”
Elizabeth slowly got to her feet. “Why do you think I’d care—”
“Because I was an asshole to you, and Morgan—” He closed his mouth. “I got what I deserved, but I—my boss set me up in Miami. And so, I heard about him. And I knew…I just…I knew Emily would be home—”
“You thought you’d come back, try to slide into her good graces?” Elizabeth demanded.
“You are nothing,” she hissed. “Nothing. You’re not half the man Jason is—was—” Her voice broke. “I wish it were you. I don’t understand why it’s not. How can you be alive and someone like Jason—”
Zander just stared at her. “I know you’re upset, but c’mon, I only—I only bothered you for a like a minute. Why—”
“Because he’s dead. And you’re here. Trying to use it like he was just—an obstacle.” She strode towards him and shoved him. Hard. He fell back a few steps. “You think you can worm your way back into Emily’s life—what, is Sonny next? Do you think that Jason is gone, and you can just step right back in? Back to your goddamn corner office and promotion?”
“What the hell—”
“He’s dead—” Elizabeth whirled away, dragged her hands through hair, trying to draw back some of the anger. “And you’re like a fucking scavenger. A vulture here to pick at the pieces before his body is even cold.” She faced him again. “What is wrong with you?” she cried.
“Look, I never—” Zander shook his head. “I don’t want to make this worse for you. I’m sorry. I didn’t—” He looked away. “I’ll send Emily a letter or something. I was gonna go tomorrow, but I don’t—it’s not worth it. I’m sorry, Elizabeth.
“You’re only sorry he ever came home and screwed up your cozy life,” she snarled. “Go to hell.”
“You know what?” Zander shot back, his face flushing. “I had it right the first time—you’re a fucking bitch—”
“Back off!” The unexpected growl came from the top of the stairs, and Elizabeth saw just a blur as Lucky Spencer took the steps two at a time and shoved himself between the two of them. “What the hell is wrong with you, you piece of shit?”
“Oh, of course.” Zander sneered. “Here you are. Think you’re going to lap up Jason’s leavings? She’ll just jump back to you like she jumped to Jason—”
Lucky took Zander by the collar, his knuckles white. “Walk away. You stay away from that memorial tomorrow. You stay away from Emily, from Elizabeth. From all of us.”
“Go to hell,” the other man growled, but he jerked away from Lucky and stalked in the opposite direction, the way he came.
Lucky turned back to Elizabeth, dragging his hand through his hair. “Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”
“What are you—” Elizabeth cleared her throat, trying to process his presence. “I thought you were in New York.”
“Emily called when Jason went missing…and then she told me—” Lucky swallowed. “It’s not what Zander said, I’m not trying—I just…”
He waited a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. “Emily told me what happened, and all I could think was that I had to make sure you were—I don’t know. That you weren’t alone. We were friends for so long, Elizabeth. You held me together when my entire family fell apart. Every time my world fell apart, you were there. Even when it hurt you.”
“So, I just…I don’t know. I wanted to be here for Emily, too, but I just—I wanted to try to see if I could be a friend to you again.” Lucky hesitated. “So here I am.”
“Okay.” Elizabeth folded her arms tightly. She looked back out over the lake as the sun set behind them, casting the Gothic mansion into shadows. “We’re burying him in two days, Lucky. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do this again,” she admitted.
He put his arm around her shoulders, and for just a minute, she could remember what it had been like once to lean on him. To trust that he would be there for her.
“The thing about you, Elizabeth Imogene Webber,” he said, and smiled when she grimaced at the sound of her hated middle name, “is that you never give yourself enough credit. But let me say that it’s bullshit that you even have to do this again.”
She sighed and let him walk her towards the steps and away from the bench.