Wish I’d died instead of lived
A zombie hides my face
Shell forgotten with its memories
Diaries left with cryptic entries
And you don’t need to bother, I don’t need to be
I’ll keep slipping farther
But once I hold on, I won’t let go til it bleeds
–Bother, Corey Taylor
Tuesday, October 8, 2002
Port Charles Hotel: Penthouse Suite
Hector Ruiz had arrived in Port Charles the day before, accompanied by his eldest two sons and Zander Smith, as well as several men he had agreed to loan to Nico Savarolli and Mickey Roscoe. It had been generally understood that no attempt on Sonny Corinthos could be made when Hector and the other members of the East Coast syndicate were nearby. No one wanted that kind of attention.
But Nico and Roscoe were not men of their word, and the gunshots outside the restaurant had sent everyone in the back private dining room diving for cover. Shaken, angry, Hector and his representatives had retreated to the hotel while Hector’s men had gone to investigate.
Several hours later, only one of those men had returned—they had been ambushed at the Oasis Lounge where the rendezvous with Nico had been set—which meant that either Corinthos’ men had gotten very lucky, or they’d been tipped off.
With time and space to settle down, Hector had regained his perspective and now needed to be sure his volatile, eldest son was reined in. Kept under control. Javier had always been quick to anger, quick to act, slow to consider—and the news from the lone survivor had only tapped into his always simmering rage.
“Alcazar disrespected us, Papi. He set us up to fail!” Javier snarled. “Our best men ambushed, taken captive—”
“They’re already dead,” Manny murmured. The middle son, the eldest of a pair of twins was the heir Hector wanted, the one he deserved. If only Manny was not so…cruel and brutal, Hector could convince himself to dispose of Javier.
“We don’t know that,” Hector murmured. “Corinthos and Morgan could be questioning—”
“They would have said nothing.” Manny rose to his feet. He looked to Zander who had also remained quiet. “How soon will they dispose of them?”
Zander hesitated. “It would depend,” he admitted. “Sonny was clearly expecting something to happen—he wore a vest. They would have had an area set aside to question anyone they caught. And if Morgan were there to do it, he knows when a man won’t talk. Or how much they’ll take.”
“But Morgan was in hiding. We suspected it—” Hector tilted his head. “You convinced me we could act.”
“I was convinced Elizabeth didn’t know Jason was alive,” Zander corrected. “No way she gets left out. But Sonny could have put everything into motion once Jason was injured.”
“That’s his partner,” Javier snarled. “You telling me he destroyed his partner’s life without so much as asking him?” He turned back to his father. “You buying that?”
“I buy it.” Hector nodded. “Let’s sit back, my boys. Take stock of what we’ve learned. One, Luis Alcazar has a personal vendetta against Sonny Corinthos. No real interest in the territory. He’s playing cat and mouse games.”
“Setting us up,” Javier repeated with a growl.
“It just means he has something to lose,” Manny said in a quiet voice that caught Zander’s attention. “It’s the best kind of information. We know more about Corinthos now than we ever have. We know about his personal life. What he’d kill to protect. What he’s willing to sacrifice.”
“So we go all out.” Javier nodded. “We go after them hard—”
Zander hesitated, and Manny gestured at him. “Talk. You’ve been right all along so far. What’s the game? What’s the next step you’d take?”
“The next step would depend on what you want to get from all of this,” Zander said. “You want the territory, you need to be prepared to defend it. You want Corinthos, you get rid of Morgan. You want to go after Alcazar—” He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want.”
“I don’t particularly want the territory,” Hector admitted, and both his sons turned to him, stunned by this. “It’s lucrative and worthwhile, but I had no problems with Corinthos controlling it. I’d actually prefer Morgan. He’s colder, more rational. You can depend on a man like that.” His eyes glittered as he leaned forward. “What I want to know is what Alcazar wants. Why is he going after Sonny? He can’t want the territory either. I’d understand if Tagliatti or Vega, even Zacchara—if any of them were involved. But Alcazar came to me.”
“Papi, the territory—the money—” Javier sputtered.
“We play this step by step,” Hector said, his voice sharp. “Alcazar went to a great deal of trouble and has little to show for it. What did he really get? What really happened? All the death is on his side of the column. Do we know about his men on the ground? His men in the organization?”
“I haven’t heard from Nico or Roscoe since we got word,” Zander said. “I know that Roscoe was planning to be in on the hit, and so was Lenny. Roscoe probably went down in a hail of gunfire. He’s like that.” He thought for a moment. “I’d be surprised if Sonny and Jason hadn’t really suspected Nico on some level, especially if they got Lenny. Lenny doesn’t move without Nico. But Nico never knew Alcazar’s name.”
“And only you knew the connection.” Hector nodded, satisfied. “So Alcazar is a mystery to Sonny. Good. He might think we’re involved, but he won’t want to rock the boat. Not right now.” He pursed his lips, considering the next move. “I want to know more about Corinthos and Morgan. If Corinthos faked Morgan’s death without permission and lied to the girlfriend, the fallout might be the wedge we’re looking for.”
“We need to get someone in there,” Manny said. “Someone other than who we got already.”
Zander frowned at that, but Hector didn’t pause to consider it. “Okay. We need someone else. I’ll think about it.” He looked to Zander. “And you, my friend, I’ve got plans for you.”
Jason sighed, leaned back, and tried not to snarl as his lawyer—a man he had never met before tonight—did battle with Taggert and Capelli. Ric Lansing had taken over Sonny’s account from Alexis who promised she would explain later. Whatever, Jason didn’t care.
He just wanted out of here. He had things to do. People to talk to.
He had to see Elizabeth. Had to talk to her. Find out where they stood. He’d never wanted her in the middle of anything, but walking into the emergency room—seeing her at the center of so much anger and disappointment—
And Taggert wasn’t helping.
Jason made it a policy not to listen to the things the cops said to him, especially Taggert, but he knew that a huge chunk of Taggert’s ire this time was about Elizabeth. Though the detective had initially believed Elizabeth had known, somewhere between the hospital and the station, he’d apparently reversed that opinion.
And now, Taggert’s righteous fury was on her behalf, and Jason couldn’t even get annoyed by that. Couldn’t work up the usual reticence.
Because everything Taggert said right now was true. He’d put Elizabeth through absolute hell. He hadn’t started it, but he hadn’t finished it.
“I had to be the one to tell her, Morgan, that she couldn’t identify the body,” Taggert snarled. “She wanted to see you, to make sure it was you—she didn’t believe it—”
“Is there a question?” Lansing said with a bored drawl in his tone. “Or are you going to berate my client until he prostrates asking for forgiveness—”
“You know exactly what I mean, Morgan, when I tell you that girl deserves better than what you did to her.” Taggert’s eyes glittered with fury, his voice was hoarse. “You were there the night I broke her world into pieces, when I gave her that subway token—”
Jason exhaled slowly but his stomach was rolling and something sour was rising in his gut. He wasn’t great with pictures, but man, he could remember memories and he knew the moment Taggert meant.
“You watched her grieve for Lucky Spencer. Months later, she was still trying to put herself back together. Months,” Taggert repeated. “And I’ll give you credit for helping her through it. When she went at me that day on the docks, I worried about her, but damn if part of me wasn’t rejoicing to see her looking like something better than dead.”
“Two weeks, she waited in fear for you. Your boss kept turning her away. Lying to her. Refusing to see her.”
And at that, Jason focused on him. Squinting his eyes. Just enough expression to cause a smile to spread across Taggert’s face. “Yeah, that got you. You didn’t know, did you, Morgan?” And then he sat back. “Holy shit.”
“What?” Capelli raised his brows, looked back and forth between the two. “What?”
“You didn’t know,” Taggert repeated. “You got shot that night, didn’t you? Went into hiding to wait until things cooled down. But Corinthos didn’t do his part. He didn’t give anyone any excuses. And he let Elizabeth dangle in the wind, terrified you were dead.”
“I think we’re done here—”
“He faked your death.” Taggert shook his head. “And you let him. When did you find out? Before the funeral? Before your family put a casket in the ground? You let him get away that? Treating Elizabeth like garbage? You’re more damaged than I thought.”
Jason looked at Ric. “I want to be done,” he said, his voice low. Strained. “Am I under arrest?”
Ric arched a brow at Taggert and Capelli. “Well, detectives? What are the charges?”
AJ & Courtney’s Home: Front Porch
Courtney pulled open the door to find Elizabeth and Gia standing on her doorstep. “Rough day?” she asked with a hint of amusement.
Elizabeth’s face crumpled. “Oh, God. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I lied—”
“Yeah, yeah.” Courtney stepped back and let the duo in. “AJ’s putting Michael to bed now. The news came across the station we were watching about a half hour ago. I guess WKPC is on the ball.”
“You’re not mad,” Gia said with a frown. “Why? Your brother got shot—”
“How is he by the way?” Courtney asked, absently. She’d forgotten about him, to be honest. She probably gave Sonny as much consideration and thought as Sonny gave her—little to none at all.
“Hanging on, I think.” Gia said. “I’m not sure. He was going into surgery when the shit hit the fan.” She almost had to push Elizabeth to sit on the sofa. “It was like a three-ring circus.”
“I’ll bet.” Courtney sat next to her friend while Gia perched on the arm of sofa. Elizabeth’s eyes were bloodshot and puffy, her hands were shaking, her face was pale. “You said you lied, but you look like someone who just found out.”
“A week ago,” Elizabeth murmured. “I didn’t know until after the memorial.” She closed her eyes. “That’s where Sonny took me afterwards.”
“A week ago,” Courtney said slowly. She looked up as AJ came in from the back of the house where the bedrooms were, his dark eyes concerned. “Which means you thought he was dead.”
“I did.” Elizabeth’s tears spilled over again as AJ sat on the coffee table in front of her, took her hands in his. “I’m so sorry, God, AJ, your family—”
“They’ll get over it.” AJ exhaled slowly. “You don’t owe anyone anything, Liz. If Jason wanted you to keep the secret, that’s between—” He shook his head. “Why the hell did he put you—” But then he stopped. Closed his mouth. “He didn’t.”
“He didn’t know either,” Gia said. “When she came home last week, she just blurted it out to me.” She sighed. “And we decided not to tell you, Courtney, because we really didn’t want you to feel like you had to choose.”
“It’s not because I didn’t want to,” Elizabeth said fervently. “I wanted to—”
“Thank you,” Courtney said softly. “I mean that, I really do. Thank you.” She hesitated. “So, Jason didn’t know? I don’t—”
“It makes sense, though doesn’t it?” AJ murmured. “I bet Jason got hurt, and Sonny took advantage of it. He was dicking everyone around for weeks over Jason being gone. When did Jason find out?”
“After I did,” Elizabeth murmured. “Sonny thought—he thought Jason would end it if he found out what happened—so he wanted me to lie, and Jason—Johnny said he was hurt really bad. He almost died—” Her voice broke.
“Sonny played her like a damn violin,” Gia said bitterly. “And Jason let this shit all continue. But what happened tonight—I don’t think it was the plan, because Jason probably would have warned her. We didn’t know anything until the shooting happened.”
“So, we went to the hospital, but then Jason showed up, and Monica and Emily were there—and Bobbie…” Elizabeth scrubbed her hands over her face. “I couldn’t deal with it.”
“I’m sorry if my mother and sister—if they took any of it out on you,” AJ said quietly. “I don’t blame you, Liz, but you know what? That’s probably because I think I know you better than they do.”
She managed a small smile. “You’re too nice—”
“I’m fair. And maybe I’m in shock.” He looked to his wife. “I wanted Jason to be alive, so when I found out he was—I didn’t really care about anything else. And if Sonny did this to him, damn him for doing it to us all.”
“It must have been so horrible for you,” Courtney murmured, rubbing a hand over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “You’ve worked so hard to be up front and honest all year along, to really take care of yourself and now you’ve had to just—”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Everything is all over the place, you know? I can’t keep my head straight. I can’t understand why any of it happened. Why did Sonny have to—Why did Jason let it go?” Her voice faltered, and she swallowed hard. “Emily is my best friend, but I kind of expected her to act like that tonight. If you two hadn’t—I don’t think I could have stomached it.”
“Hey. You’ve been through complete hell this last month,” Courtney told her fiercely. “The last thing I’m gonna do is make it worse on you. Emily hasn’t been here this last year. She hasn’t seen you. And she wasn’t here last month to watch you grieve.”
“But Bobbie was,” Gia said softly. “And I don’t know where she is on any of this.”
“I’m willing to bet,” AJ said slowly, “that five seconds after you left, when everyone had a second, they realized the truth. Don’t take any of that on, Liz. You take care of you. You get through this however you need to.”
“How did Michael take it?” Elizabeth managed. “Jason’s going to want to know—”
“Better than any of us,” Courtney said with a sigh. “He decided Jason wasn’t really dead because Carly wasn’t dead. I mean, he was right but—”
“He’s going to have a warped idea about death,” Gia muttered. “You better make sure your insurance plan covers therapy.”
General Hospital: ICU Recovery
The world shimmered and swirled around him as Sonny fought his way through inky black darkness to open his eyes. “What—” but no sound emerged from his lips, only a dry puff of air.
He heard footsteps beside him—and he felt the scratchy thin material of hospital sheets, of a hospital gown. Was he—had he been shot?
“You’ll live,” Bobbie’s flat tone broke through the grayness and he fought to turn his eyes. To focus on her halo of red hair, the green color of her scrubs. “Are you with me, Sonny? Do you hear me?”
“Yea-yes,” Sonny said, his voice fading in and out. “Yeah.”
“I want you to know,” Bobbie said, her voice now fierce. Furious. “I want you to know that I will never forgive you. For as long as I live, I will spit on you and your name for what you put my family through. For the grief you gave Elizabeth. The way you played with Jason’s life like you were God. What you did to my grandson. What my daughter went through because of you.”
“You think you have power and control, that we’re all just here for your entertainment,” she continued, the volume climbing, the words crashing into one another as Bobbie’s ire grew. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself, and I am so glad Carly got away from you, that you will never be a part of Michael’s life—”
“You knew what Elizabeth would do if she thought Jason was dead. You knew how she would suffer and grieve, and you used her to make your point. To make sure everyone else thought Jason was dead. No one doubted your sick little plan because she shattered. You used her. She may not be my blood, but she is my family. I will never forgive you, and I will make sure that no one else ever does either.”
And with that, Bobbie’s voice stopped. He dimly heard her footsteps as he faded back into darkness.
Brownstone: Front Steps
Gia pulled her car to a stop in front of the Brownstone, behind Jason’s motorcycle parked at the curb. A dimly lit figure sat on the stone steps, his head bowed in his hands.
Elizabeth exhaled. “I didn’t think the PCPD would let him go so quickly,” she murmured. “I think…I think I thought I’d have more time.”
“Then take more time,” Gia said. “I’ll go up there and bash his head in with a log, so you can sneak past him. I want to hurt him anyway—” But she was half smiling as she said it. “I’ll keep driving, you know. We’ll go see my mom in Buffalo, or fuck it, we’ll ditch the rest of the semester and go to New York City. Anywhere but here. Just say the word.”
And for a moment, Elizabeth almost agreed. Not to any of those crazy plans but to the idea of turning the ignition back on and just driving—God, how much she wanted to do it. She just wanted to go. She wanted it to be over.
“If I talk to him tonight, I’m scared of what I’ll say,” she admitted. “Because this—this is what I was afraid of, you know? Of loving someone so much that I lost myself. I’m terrified I don’t know how to love someone without giving myself away—”
“Then let’s play Devil’s Advocate here,” Gia said slowly. “You go tell Jason, sorry it’s not you, it’s me. Though it’s a little bit you, you lying sack of crap—”
“And you can tell him that you didn’t sign up for this. I mean, you did, sort of. You knew you’d have conflicts with his job—maybe not these ones, but you weren’t going to fight over Chinese or Indian for dinner. It was always going to come down to secrets. Keeping them, telling them. Not knowing enough. Knowing too much.”
“But that’s not it,” Elizabeth said with a shaky sigh. “That’s not—it wasn’t the secrets. I don’t even—” She swallowed hard. “I don’t know what it is.”
“Exactly.” Gia looked at her. “You owe it to yourself, and to Jason, to be sure you know exactly what’s in your head. You want to break up with him, I’m here for you. You want to make it work, I’m here for you. Whatever happens, I am here. But if you break up with him right now, if you walk out on him because you’re angry, because you’re pissed, because you are a goddamn mess because everyone else in your life doesn’t know you as well as they should—”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “If I walk away, I better be sure that’s what I want.” She turned to Gia. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I have to walk past the son of a bitch without stabbing him with my keys.”
They got out of the car and made their way toward the steps. Jason got to his feet, his eyes shadowed in the dim light of the Brownstone’s front entrance. Gia stared at him for a long moment, her keys in her hand. “Tonight, you live,” she decided and brushed past him to unlock the front entrance. She looked back to Elizabeth. “You okay?”
“I’ll be up in a minute,” Elizabeth said softly, and Jason looked at her with what might have been fear and resignation mixed together. When Gia closed the door, she sighed. “They let you go.”
“Nothing to hold me on,” Jason said. He stepped down a step but kept half the distance between them, instinctively understanding she needed that space. “Elizabeth—”
“There’s so much happening in my head, you know. I’ve been—this last month—I’ve been lurching from point to point, emotion to emotion—two weeks ago,” Elizabeth said, “Taggert came to me and told me you were dead. For a week, that was my reality, Jason. And maybe that’s not so bad. It wasn’t so long—”
“You let it continue,” she interrupted with a sigh. “I know you had your reasons, and I believe you—I know you so well, Jason. I know you think they were good reasons, and maybe, when I’m ready to hear them, I’ll agree. I just—” She looked away, down the street and into the distance. “There’s a large part of me that wants to get in that car and drive away. And never look back. Because I just want to run.”
“I get that, I do—just let me—”
“I made a promise to myself last year that I was never going to let fear run my life again. That I would never take the easy way out because I was afraid of what might come next. And I let myself trust my heart again. I let you in, Jason, when I swore to myself I wouldn’t.” Elizabeth met his eyes, those beautiful blue eyes—she could barely see them, couldn’t see the anguish she knew was there.
“For the last week, you and Sonny made me go back to that place. Of pretending. Of being something I’m not. Sonny—” Her voice broke. “He knew. He knew how scared I was of losing you. He knew, and he did it anyway, so that’s something I have to figure out—how can I live with that? He’s part of your life, Jason. I thought he was my family. I thought he loved me, valued me. I thought I could trust him. And I can’t.” Her eyes burned. “And now I have to understand how to go forward.”
He dipped his head, nodded. “Yeah,” he said roughly. “I have to—I have to do that, too. I never wanted any of this—”
“And knowing that—” Elizabeth sucked in a deep breath. “Knowing that is what keeps me from running. I just—I need some time, Jason. I just need to let my head rest. I need to let everything settle…and you know…I know there are things in the business—” She closed her eyes. “The fact I know damn well there are fires you should be putting out all over the place and that you’re standing here because I’m important, that’s going to give me strength. I love you, Jason. Please don’t ever doubt that.”
He took another step toward her and she didn’t back up. Didn’t resist when his lips brushed hers. She clung to him, her fingers clutching at the soft t-shirt, the bandage still wrapped around his upper chest. She poured herself into this kiss—all the desperation, the rage, the hurt, the love, the relief—everything.
“I love you, too,” he murmured, resting his forehead against hers when he drew back, his breath shallow. “Whatever you need me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”
“I know.” She kissed him again, just the merest touch of her mouth, then pulled away. Without looking back, she went up the stairs and inside the Brownstone. She didn’t look out the window, only rested her forehead against the door listening for the growl of his motorcycle as he drove away.