Is anybody out there?
Is anybody listening?
Does anybody really know?
If it’s the end of our beginning
A cry, a rush from one breath
Is all we’re waiting for
Sometimes the one we’re taking
Changes every one before
– Holding On and Letting Go, Ross Copperman
Friday, October 11, 2002
Elizabeth stepped outside and stared at the man sitting calmly at one of her tables. She knew Sonny had been released from the hospital the day before because Emily had warned her, but to see him here—for the first time since he’d dropped her off the morning after she’d learned the truth—she couldn’t quite make herself take another breath.
“Elizabeth.” Sonny struggled to his feet. “I’m sorry to just—I thought you might not answer me if I called—”
“You’d be right,” Elizabeth said slowly, clutching her order pad to her chest. She swallowed hard. “I’ll get someone else to help you—”
“Is there nothing I can do to make this right?” he asked softly.
Her eyes filled at the anguish in his voice—God, she wasn’t going to let him do this to her—wasn’t going to let him make her the bad guy. She simply wasn’t.
Elizabeth turned back to him. “I said everything I needed to say the last time we spoke, Sonny. You knew the situation, and you used me. You used my grief to sell your plan. You kept me out of the loop because you didn’t trust me. I don’t know what else—”
“I’m asking you not to take this out on Jason then.” Sonny shifted, wincing as some of the weight fell onto his injured leg and he sat back down. “I know you’re not speaking to him.”
“No, I’m not talking to Jason. But it’s none of your business—”
“I did this, not him.” Sonny pressed his hand flat against his chest. “I went out of my way to make sure that Jason was never in a position to lie to you. To make that choice. I knew I could convince him that this was a good idea, but I never put him in that position because I didn’t—”
“Because you knew he wouldn’t agree.” Elizabeth shoved her order pad and pencil into the pocket of her apron. “Don’t feed me bullshit, Sonny. I’m past it. We’re done. You knew Jason would never agree to lie to me. You also knew he would never agree to fake his death, so you drugged him—” Her voice broke. “He trusted you, Sonny. You told him you’d come to get me. And then then you kept him unconscious, so he wouldn’t fight you. He was supposed to be your family. How could you do that to him—”
“Being in my position,” Sonny said slowly, “means that sometimes I can’t let that matter. The stakes were too high—Jason nearly died, Elizabeth.” He gestured to the table. “Please. Just…I promise. If you hear me out this once…because you’re not wrong.”
Against her better judgment, Elizabeth sighed and sat down, gingerly perching at the edge of the chair so that she could make a hasty escape if necessary.
“When he was shot, I was going to contact you,” Sonny said. “But the cops were all over the place and I knew I couldn’t get to you without them noticing. And…it wasn’t clear that Jason would make it out of surgery.”
“I should have been there for him,” she choked out, her fists clenched in her lap. “Not Johnny—”
“I don’t disagree with that. I put off calling you because I didn’t want—” He looked away. “I was afraid he would die, Elizabeth, and that I would have to be the one to tell you. So, I waited. And that was my mistake. By the time I knew he’d pull through, you’d already talked to the cops—”
“Don’t you blame me for that—I didn’t tell them a damn thing—”
“I know that,” Sonny said. “I was angry at first, but I realize now this partially started because of all the goddamn bad timing.” He rubbed his thumb against his lip. “And then I realized that I couldn’t bring you there right away. I knew Jason would want you to know, I knew you’d want to be there. I never intended—it was going to be a day or two.”
“But it wasn’t,” Elizabeth pressed. “It was weeks, Sonny—”
“You live in the same building as Taggert, you’re close to his sister,” Sonny said. “Those are the facts. I had to take that into account. And…then when I was going to tell you the plan—to warn you about what was next—I realized how much you knew about what was going on. More than I wanted to you to know. More than Jason should have told you—”
“So, I was right. You didn’t lie to me to protect me or the plan. You lied because you thought I already knew too much.” She closed her eyes, swallowed the tears that never seemed to be far away. “Because you don’t trust me.”
“I don’t…” Sonny looked down at the surface the table, brushing his fingers against the surface. “I don’t think I trust anyone,” he admitted. “Because I kept Jason drugged. And I kept lying to you. And I kept telling myself it was the right thing to do.”
“You think because now you know it wasn’t,” Elizabeth said slowly, “that it makes it better? That it changes how—you think I can just let it go?”
“No, I think that I made choices that have made that impossible for us to be where we were.” He met her eyes. “I just don’t want my choices to be the reason you and Jason don’t make it. I can live with you hating me. I can live with him—” Sonny stopped talking.
“If I am the reason Jason loses you, that’s it for me and him,” Sonny told her in a low pained voice. “I don’t ever get a second chance. He could forgive what happened with Carly because she didn’t matter. You do. The rest of the people I hurt—Bobbie, Emily, Monica—they’ll move on. They’ll let this go. But—”
“I don’t understand.” Elizabeth squinted, tilted her head. “What does that mean? How is it—Jason still works for you, Sonny. He went ahead with this plan—”
“He came to see me in the hospital,” Sonny told her. “And then I haven’t seen him since. You know his position with me at the moment is fluid. He’s told you that. The only thing that kept him in Port Charles these last six months was you and Michael. Michael is settled. He’s happy with his father.” Sonny’s mouth twisted at that slightly, but he continued. “If Jason leaves this time, I don’t think he’ll come back.”
Elizabeth exhaled. “I can’t make any decisions about my life so that you can keep Jason around to fix your messes,” she said tightly. “I learned the hard way how loyal Jason is to you, how he will still put himself on the line for Carly. I told you—I told you before all this happened how it was going to be because of her. I take no pleasure in being right.”
“I don’t expect you to do anything for me.” He shook his head. “I have no right. But you need to know you’re not the only one whose looking at Jason’s relationships and realizing how one-sided they are. Jason is seeing it, too. That’s why I think he might leave. Because there’s nothing left for him here without you. I’m not saying that to guilt you but, so you know that I’m not keeping him here. Carly isn’t.”
Elizabeth’s chest ached as she took a deep, shaky breath. “I’ve been terrified to tell him what I really think,” she murmured. “That yes, I’m upset about the lies. About the way it continued. But that I can get past all of that. What keeps me up at night, Sonny, is knowing that at the end of the day, you came first. Carly came first. He promised me it wouldn’t be like that.”
“It wasn’t,” Sonny insisted. “I did this. By the time Jason found out, there were things that were in motion—but his concern for you came first.” He stopped. “Thanks for hearing me out. What I did to you—how I treated you and Jason—I can’t ever take that back. I can’t ever make this right.”
“He loves you, Sonny,” Elizabeth said as he stood up, wincing in pain. “I love you. That’s why this hurts so much. I had a family that didn’t really care much about me, and I thought I had found a new one who did love me.” She looked at him, the tears sliding down her cheeks. “You were supposed to be my family.”
“I know.” He sighed. “And that’s something I can’t ever change. I’m sorry.”
Saturday, October 12, 2002
Corinthos Penthouse: Hallway
Jason managed a smile when he saw Max standing at the entrance to the penthouse. “Good to see you back on your feet.”
Max grinned, wiggling the fingers that stuck out of the sling he wore to protect the shoulder that had taken the bullet. “You know me, can’t keep me down for long. Good to see you, too, Jase.” The man’s eyes glittered just a little as he continued. “You got nine lives.”
“Yeah, well, I’d like to stop using them,” Jason muttered, wincing as he opened the door to the penthouse. His chest still ached at times—he wasn’t fully recovered, he knew that. But some things had to get done.
Sonny and Benny looked up at his entrance. Sonny started to stand but Jason waved him away. “I wanted to let you know that we took care of Nico last night.”
Sonny sighed. “And he didn’t give us anything new?”
“He didn’t have anything to give us,” Jason said as he took a seat across from Benny. He squinted at the paperwork strewn across the dining room table. “What’s all that?”
“Expansion,” Benny said sourly. “Nico was supposed to be taking point on this crap, but now we gotta figure out what to do next.”
“If Nico didn’t know who Roscoe was working with—” Sonny shook his head. “It’s not like him not to demand details. He knows—he knew better than that.”
“He was greedy,” Benny said. “He would have done anything to get out of Port Charles and into Vegas. He cut corners. Not surprised he got into bed with Roscoe without knowing the full deal.”
“The thing is….” Jason said after a moment, “is that I think Nico was protecting Zander.” Benny and Sonny looked at him. “You told me that you thought Zander was involved,” he reminded Sonny. “That he came here to test Elizabeth.”
“Why would Nico protect Zander?” Benny said with a scowl. “Didn’t we determine he was setting Zander up to take the fall for the drugs at the club?”
“Yeah, but why did Nico pick Zander in the first place?” Jason pressed. “He had to know Zander’s background would make him an unlikely candidate to get anywhere. Even if I didn’t come back—”
“I was pushing back on Zander,” Sonny said. He rubbed his mouth. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking we don’t know nearly enough about Zander,” Jason admitted. “We never dug into his time before Port Charles. He flipped on Sorel, that was good enough for us for a while. And now he’s gone to work for the Ruiz family. I know Nico had connections, but—”
“But Zander got a sweet gig in Miami,” Benny pointed out. “He was already running his own crew at the docks. Not something I would have thought Nico could make happen.”
“Hector Ruiz isn’t going to come after us,” Jason told Sonny. “He doesn’t care enough. He doesn’t mind making trouble, but I think someone asked him to take on Zander. We always knew Roscoe was working for someone else. We knew Nico couldn’t be the mastermind. He’s not that smart.”
“So, it’s someone with connections to the Ruiz family. Someone in that area of the world.” Sonny shook his head. “Then why the hell come after me?”
“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. He hesitated but told them about Carly. “Carly was approached at the club by Faith Roscoe last year. I think Roscoe was feeling her out after the divorce to see if she could be used.”
Sonny scowled. “Why the hell—” His face blanched and he sat back. After a long moment, he nodded. “So, we were right. Carly engineered the accident to make you come home.”
“And I think that’s all Roscoe wanted to do—was to help her go missing until I came back. But that’s the point where this other guy comes in. I don’t think Carly was supposed to have a real accident—and she wasn’t supposed to be gone that long.” Jason hesitated. “I don’t know what to tell you, Sonny. I don’t know if the threat still exists or if someone was just taking advantage of the situation.”
“All of this was for nothing,” Sonny scowled. “We don’t know anything—”
Jason got to his feet. “I can look into some of this,” he said quietly. And he nodded to the paperwork in front of Benny. “And I can take point on this.”
Benny drew his brows together in frown, but Sonny didn’t look surprised. “You’re planning on leaving,” he said simply.
“Yeah.” Jason exhaled slowly. He looked out the window, at the skyline of Port Charles. “I think it’s probably for the best.”
“Maybe,” Sonny admitted. He waited until Jason looked back at him. “Maybe you should talk to Elizabeth first.”
Jason shook his head. “It’s been days. She hasn’t—” He hadn’t had the courage to seek her out after talking to Carly, after seeing once again the lengths Carly would go to. Elizabeth didn’t need that in her life, and as long as Jason was around, Carly would be planning her next attack.
The only way to make it better would be to leave.
“I know that,” Sonny said. “And I know that you and me aren’t going to be okay any time soon, if ever. I get that, Jase. You got no reason to trust me, to take advice from me.”
Jason pressed his lips together in a thin line. “Sonny—”
“But believe me when I tell you that if you leave town without letting Elizabeth know—or giving her a chance to sort through this—you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
Elizabeth & Gia’s Apartment: Living Room
It was the best Elizabeth had felt in weeks as she and the people who meant the most in the world to her crowded around the coffee table in her apartment—Elizabeth and Emily on the sofa, Courtney sprawled out on her back, laying on some pillows, and Gia on the floor, her legs drawn up under her chin. They were surrounded by bottles of wine, cheese, fruit, and chocolate.
They didn’t normally have a wine night twice in a week, but it was Emily’s last night in Port Charles before she flew back to finish out the last of her program in California, and Elizabeth was determined to make sure that when Emily returned in the spring after graduation, that there would be a place for her here. Especially if Elizabeth wasn’t around.
Gia and Emily had spent the majority of the evening trying to outdo one another in stories about bad dates, and Elizabeth’s sides ached from laughing so hard. She was a little bit tipsy, stuffed with candy and wine—she’d have a hell of a hangover when she woke up the next morning, but this…this gave her hope that everything would be okay.
“So,” Emily said as she poured herself what was probably her fourth full glass of Moscato. “I have decided to forgive you for blackmailing me,” she told Gia.
Gia raised her own wine glass in toast. “Thank you. I’ve forgiven you for being an irritating pest.” She grinned. “See, Liz, we can be friends!”
For some reason that sent Courtney into an attack of the giggles, and she laughed until she couldn’t breathe, turning over on her stomach.
Elizabeth snorted and reached for her drink. “Listen, there was a time when I hated both of you—” She raised her wine at Gia and Emily in turn. “Because you were…. a bitch,” she told Gia who nodded, and at Emily’s mystified expression, “When I could tell Lucky liked you more than me.”
“Oh, God, if we’re going back to high school.” Emily rolled her eyes. “That first day we met, I knew you only defended me because Lucky was about to step in. You just wanted kudos.”
“Uh, like, duh,” Elizabeth drawled. “How else was I supposed to make him think I was cool, too?” Her phone rang, and she looked down at the screen. Her smile faded slightly. “It’s Jason.”
“Yeah?” Emily leaned over, intrigued. “He hasn’t called you since he got home. Have you seen him?”
“Not since he came by Kelly’s on Wednesday.” She bit her lip, then answered it, waving her hand to tell the other three to keep quiet. “Jason?”
“Hey. I—I hope it’s okay I called.”
“No, it’s okay.” Elizabeth swallowed hard at the sound of his voice. “I’m just at the apartment with the girls. Em goes back to California tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I-I know. We had lunch today.” Jason waited a moment. “I should let you go then—”
“No, no, why did you call?” she said quickly. “You wanted something.”
“I just—I wanted to talk, but—”
The words came out in a rush—she didn’t think about it, she just said exactly what she wanted. “Pick me up in ten? I miss you.”
“Okay. I—I’ll be right there.”
Elizabeth tossed the phone aside. “I’m ditching y’all for a man.” She got to her feet and winced. “Is there time for coffee?”
“Are you sure about this?” Gia asked, climbing to her feet and handing her an unopened bottle of water. Elizabeth uncapped it. “You’ve been drinking—”
“That’s good. I won’t be thinking so hard how to say the right thing, and I’ll just say what I’m thinking. Plus, Sonny told me Jason is thinking of leaving.” She looked at Emily. “Isn’t he?”
“He, ah,” Emily bit her lip. “He told me he might come out to see me soon. Liz—”
“He doesn’t think there’s anything for him here,” Elizabeth told Gia. “He’s leaving Sonny. I didn’t ask him to. I didn’t say a word.” Her heart felt a thousand times lighter. “I don’t even need him to actually go. I just needed to know he would. That he was that angry at Sonny, too.”
“There’s that epiphany we’ve been waiting for,” Gia told Courtney who just blinked her blearily. “Never mind. You’re drunker than the rest of us. Lightweight.”
“So, you’re going to forgive him?” Emily said with a squeal. She jumped to her feet. “Oh my God, yay, we can still be sisters!”
“I don’t know about that,” Elizabeth said as she drank more water. She rolled her shoulders. She needed to be sober—or at least less tipsy for this. Jason had reached out—
And she wanted nothing more than to reach back.
Brownstone: Front Steps
Elizabeth was waiting at the top of the stairs when Jason pulled the bike to a stop. He had called her without thinking about it—he’d just wanted to hear her voice. To see her. For months they’d been together nearly every day and every night. To not be with her these last few weeks…
But he had already nearly accepted that Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to let herself trust him again—that she would walk away to take care of herself. He understood that—part of him had seen it coming even before he’d put an end to the lie.
But her voice on the other end of the phone—
And the way he could see her smile in the street lights—
As if the last time they’d faced one another on these steps, they hadn’t known she was saying goodbye.
“Hey.” Elizabeth said as she came down the steps and joined him at the curb. She nodded to the bike. “Let’s go nowhere. Fast.”
Without a word, he handed her the helmet. He didn’t know what would happen next, but maybe there was still a future for them.
Elizabeth leaned over the railing. The night was so clear she could see straight out to Spoon Island and Wyndemere. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “You remember the last time we were here?”
“Yeah.” Jason put his hand on the railing but faced her. “Just before I got shot.” He hesitated. “Elizabeth—”
“I haven’t really known what to say to you,” she admitted. “I mean, this was all so big. So…shattering. It’s not just what happened to me—the lies, the grief—it’s also been killing me what happened to you.”
He dipped his head. “I’m okay—”
“Hey.” Elizabeth put a hand against his chest, slipping it beneath the leather of his jacket. She furrowed her brow. “Oh. I forgot to give your jacket back.”
“I thought it got lost when Jake packed up my things, so I got another one.” He tilted his head. “You have it?”
“I took it. When the cops finally let me into your room to get my phone.” She fished into her pocket and took out the little flip phone. “I left it there that last morning. God, it really sucked. Taggert told me they’d pulled your phone records, so I knew you’d called me, and I just…. they wouldn’t give me the phone.” She managed a half smile as she looked at him. “Once I got that message, I got Lucas to save it on a CD for me, so I could just…play it over and over again. I didn’t want to forget your voice.”
He closed his eyes, his features twisted in a grimace. “I’m so sorry—”
“And while I was out of my mind with worry and grief,” Elizabeth said slowly, “your best friend—your family—was keeping you drugged unconscious, faking your death—I’m not the only victim here, Jason. Emily told me that you were talking about visiting her, and Sonny came by yesterday—”
“He shouldn’t be bothering you,” he cut in with a low growl. “I told him to leave you alone—”
“He thinks you’re getting ready to leave. That Michael and I were all that kept you here.” Her eyes burned. “Are you?”
“It’s—” Jason exhaled slowly. Looked away. “It’s why I called. There are—there are loose ends with what happened, and there are some things I could away from Port Charles. But it’s not—” He shook his head. “It’s not just because of what—It’s not just because of you.”
“Okay,” Elizabeth drawled out slowly. “Is it…is it like the last time? You’re leaving because of what happened?”
He took a few steps away from her and wrapped both fists around the railing. “I can’t be around Sonny,” he admitted. “I tried that earlier today. Tried to have a business meeting. Keep it simple. But, yeah, it’s like before. Only—” Jason looked back at her. “He slept with Carly that night I got shot. You knew that.”
“I figured that out eventually,” she said. “Jason—”
“I went to him and that’s when I found out. I didn’t even—” He took a breath. “It hurt because I knew why they’d done it. Carly wanted to hurt me because she saw us dancing that night at Kelly’s. And Sonny wanted to prove a point about Carly. And maybe about himself. That he shouldn’t be trusted.” Jason squinted a little, as if trying to find the right words. “I just—I needed to be away from that. I needed to get away from anyone who could make me feel that way.”
“So, you left,” Elizabeth said. A terrible ache started to spread through her chest. Oh, God, was he leaving anyway? Even if she— “Is that what you wanted to tell me? That you need to go? That even if I can get past what happened, it doesn’t matter—”
“Elizabeth—” Jason broke off abruptly. “I don’t know. I love you. I hate what happened to you. What you went through. I would never have done that to you, and if I stay in Port Charles, around Sonny and Carly, I don’t know that I can keep it from happening again.”
“So, you need time, too.” Elizabeth gripped the edge of his jacket and drew him closer. “What am I supposed to do, Jason? Just let you go? You had your chance to walk away. We both did. I don’t want to lose you.” Her voice broke. “Because I know what it’s like without you, and I don’t want to do it again.”
“If I stay,” Jason told her, his voice pained, “I know Carly is just going to keep coming at me. I pissed her off. And Sonny’s—I don’t know. You shouldn’t have to deal with any of that—”
“I make my own decisions,” she insisted. “So, if you need to go, then I’ll go, too.”
“Elizabeth—” He stared at her for a long minute. “Your entire life is here—”
“Give me six weeks,” she told him. “Because I really do want to finish my degree. I worked hard, and I’m only six weeks away. I have to finish training Courtney to take over as manager. But I was already looking for the next thing. Even that last morning, you know that. I was ready to move on from Kelly’s and college. Give me six weeks, and I can go.”
“What about your family, your friends?”
“Gia, Emily, and Courtney are a phone call away, an email.” Elizabeth spread her hands at her sides. “Bobbie, too. You asked me to go away with you once. I regretted not saying yes every day that came after.”
Jason exhaled, bit his lip. “I’d…I’m looking into some things for Sonny. Even though I’m not going back to working for him the way I used to, what happened these last few months—there are still some things—” He nodded. “But I can do that during the next six weeks.” A smile spread across his face. He held out a hand. “I want to show you the light in Italy.”
She grinned back at him, sliding her hand in his. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather go.” He pulled into his arms and kissed her—
It had taken her more than a year to make the right choice, but she was never going to look back.