Chapter Six

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Bittersweet

You know the thing they fear the most
Is that someone’s gonna see right through
Their thin disguise and made-up lies
It’s sad, but true

Heard Ya Talkin’, Jeremy Kay


Thursday, May 2, 2002

Queen of Angels: Chapel

It was strange to stand with Bobbie and Jason as part of the receiving line, but Bobbie had asked Elizabeth to stay with her when Lucas had balked at attending. He’d elected to stay home and hang out with Michael, and Bobbie had thought it would be the better use of his time. So Elizabeth stood there next to Bobbie as people offered their condolences.

She wondered when she saw the large crowd how many of them were there because they’d genuinely liked Carly—and how many had attended out of love for Bobbie?

There was a tense moment as she spied AJ and Courtney in the line. She saw Jason’s muscles bunch—could feel the irritation, the annoyance rising off him as if it were steam rising from a pot of boiling water.

“Bobbie,” Courtney said with a smile, as she came to the older woman first. She leaned in and kissed Bobbie’s cheek. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Carly and I didn’t know each other well, but she was so full of energy. I’ll miss her drama at the diner.”

“Thank you,” Bobbie managed, as Elizabeth gave her friend a grateful smile. The blonde’s words had been some of the few genuine offers of sympathy. Many likely thought Bobbie was better off without the tornado of Carly Corinthos.

“Bobbie, if there’s anything you need,” AJ said, as he carefully avoided looking to Bobbie’s right. “You call me.”

“Yeah, anytime you need me to cover,” Courtney said to Elizabeth. She bit her lip and looked at Jason. Good manners won over her native shyness as she offered her hand to Jason, who accepted it. “Elizabeth has told me so much about you and Carly. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thanks,” Jason said. Courtney hesitated then stepped forward, moving past the line.

AJ cleared his throat as he considered his brother. Elizabeth could hardly breathe. Surely—they wouldn’t cause a scene here. But AJ was a Quartermaine, an unpredictable breed at best.

“No matter our difficulties,” AJ said finally, “I know Carly mattered to you.” Which, Elizabeth supposed, seemed the safest way to describe the strange relationship his brother had had with AJ’s ex-wife. “Losing a friend is never easy.”

He offered his hand, and Elizabeth could feel the eyes of everyone in the immediate area drawing in a collected breath.

But not Elizabeth. She knew Jason better than that and knew he’d let AJ set the tone for this scene. Whatever trouble they had, she hoped Jason would see the sincerity in the older man’s eyes.

So she wasn’t surprised when Jason accepted the hand and shook it. “Thank you,” he replied, his voice devoid of any expression.

AJ and Courtney moved on, the crisis averted. Elizabeth sucked in another breath when she saw Edward and Lila at the end of the line—the last Quartermaines in the room. Alan and Monica had elected not to come, Bobbie said, having offered their condolences at another time. Ned had been through already with Alexis, and his sympathy had been genuine, his interactions with Jason civil, but Ned had always been the most mature member of the family.

“Don’t worry,” Jason murmured to Elizabeth as his grandparents drew closer. “Grandmother won’t let him start anything.”

“And after the scene in Alexis’s office, he knows better,” Bobbie said tightly. Elizabeth sighed at the reminder of just how effectively Carly had pitted the two sides against one another.

True enough, Lila’s gentle presence had forestalled any attempt Edward might have made to antagonize Jason. There had only been a stray comment about family being important, and Edward being willing to do whatever was good for that family, but Elizabeth paid little attention to it.

Bobbie thanked Elizabeth profusely for standing by her at the viewing and in the receiving line, but then she left with Felicia and Mac in order to head to the reception at the Brownstone.

Elizabeth had driven to the church with Gia, but her roommate had had to leave immediately after the service for a study group session, which left Elizabeth with the option to either walk to work or…

“Do you have a ride?” Jason asked.

She had a feeling Gia might have had an ulterior motive when making plans to abandon to her at the church. She’d known Elizabeth was scheduled to work, that Bobbie wouldn’t be able to take her home. She sighed and looked at him. “No, I—I’m supposed to be at Kelly’s—Penny and Don have been there all day—”

“I’ll take you,” Jason told her. “I’m in the parking lot.” And because she could think of no reason to say no that didn’t sound insane and petty, she nodded.

They left the shadowy anteroom of the church and moved into the brilliant sunshine of the early May afternoon. Elizabeth shaded her eyes with one hand as she rummaged one-handed in her purse for her sunglasses.  “I already miss winter,” she muttered.

“There’s sun in the winter,” Jason said blandly as he touched the small of her back to propel her toward the parking lot. She ignored the tingles of his warm skin as they brushed the thin fabric of her black dress and increased her speed, leaving those fingers behind

“Well, if you’re going to be literal,” she began as they passed through the thin black fence, but she cursed herself when they all but crashed into a trio of people she’d been trying to avoid.

Damn it. She was usually more aware of her surroundings, but no—today of all days—

“Well, I’m not surprised to find you sniffing after her already,” Lucky said, ignoring Elizabeth and directing his disgust at Jason. “It’s only been, what? Five minutes since we broke up?”

“Oh, for Christ’s…” Elizabeth huffed and shoved the sunglasses on her head. Even if they were only in the parking, this was still a church, she reminded herself, and Sarah was still her sister. So she plastered a smile on her face and took a deep breath. “I didn’t see you three inside.”

“We caught Bobbie before the ceremony,” Nikolas said, his expression dark with disappointment. Likely in her, for her choice of friends. Jackass. “I thought it was best we didn’t cause a scene.”

She didn’t have a damn clue what kind of scene they might have caused, so she ignored his comment and started past them.

“Lizzie, do you need a ride somewhere?” Sarah asked, even as she wound her arm through Lucky’s. Elizabeth blinked at it for a moment, trying to figure out why the movement bothered her so damn much.

“Let’s just go,” she finally said to Jason. “It’s like talking to a brick wall.”

“Lizzie, you’re not going to get on that bike!” Sarah protested as Jason and Elizabeth rounded the trio and closed the short distance to the motorcycle. “You’re in a dress!”

“Cool it, Sarah. You know there’s no talking to your sister,” Lucky said, bitterness lacing his retort. “Why aren’t you with my aunt?”

Elizabeth ignored them as Jason handed her the helmet and straddled the bike. Don’t give in, don’t give in. Don’t look at them—

“You really know how to cut and run when it gets tough, don’t you?” Lucky managed to call over the engine. Stunned by this attack, Elizabeth looked at him then, seeing the misery, the anger in his expression.  What the hell was his problem?

“Elizabeth?”

She turned back and looked at Jason, his brow lifted. “If you want to stay,” he began, using a resigned tone that she remembered too well.

And she remembered all the times she’d walked away from Jason and stayed with Lucky. Every single mistake she’d made. Jason was hurting today—he had said goodbye to a friend, he was facing a difficult custody battle. And now he was looking at her with that same understanding.

Maybe she didn’t intend to pursue her feelings for him, but she’d be damned if she let him for one more minute think that she was contemplating leaving him for Lucky.

“Can you take the long way to Kelly’s?” she asked, climbing behind Jason and tucking in her skirt so it wouldn’t fly up. “Penny and Don can wait. I want to be anywhere but here.”

Brownstone: Kitchen

The reception had waned by the time Jason arrived—Bobbie was in her kitchen, picking at a sandwich he was sure someone had put in front of her.

With the memorial done, Bobbie had nothing left to plan. There was no next step, nothing to focus on. He worried that she might fall apart now.

But she surprised him with a genuine, if sad, smile as he pulled out a chair to sit with her. “I wondered if you would stop by once people had started to leave.”

“I took Elizabeth to Kelly’s,” he told her. And had stayed for lunch to be sure that if Zander stopped by, he’d be there to give him a warning in person. He hadn’t, and Jason had felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. He wouldn’t mind having Zander’s face to punch today.

“Oh…” Bobbie leaned back. “I didn’t even think—she drove with Gia, but Gia had to leave.” She pressed a hand to her forehead. “I should have made sure—”

“No one expects you to take care of everyone. Elizabeth is an adult.”

“I know, but…” Bobbie sighed. “I just…it struck me as I sat here with my dearest friends in the world. No one misses her.”

Jason blinked. “Bobbie—”

“No one genuinely misses Carly’s presence save for you, me, Michael, and perhaps Sonny, but he holds his grief inside. Everyone else?” Bobbie looked away, toward the backyard where Jason realized he could hear a rumble of voices and the thump of a basketball hitting a hoop. “They feel sorry for me, but I imagine many of them think I’m better off.”

Jason started to protest, but found he couldn’t. Carly had not endeared herself to many in her few years in Port Charles, and had actively sought to antagonize most. Her absence might even bring relief to some.

“I know people think Carly was destructive. Conniving. Manipulative.” Bobbie’s smile was warmer now. “She came by it naturally. I gave her away to give her a better life, but I wanted one for myself, and I did whatever I had to do to get the life I thought I deserved. I schemed. I lied. I had an affair and destroyed my marriage long before she came to town. Once I was past the shock, the sorrow that my child had not had a good life, I could see everything we had in common. Everything that I had passed to her.” She sighed and met Jason’s eyes. “I can only hope she’s found peace now.”

She rose and crossed to the coffee pot. “Can I make you some coffee?”

“Sure,” he said, because it would give her something to do and he could see she needed that now. “About Michael—”

“I hope you’re not angry with me,” Bobbie cut in as she filled the pot with water and turned it on. She looked at him. “It’s not that I don’t want him with you. I remember how good you were to him. I’ve always wished he was your son. It would have made everything easier.”

“But he’s not,” Jason murmured. “And wishing doesn’t take away the problem we have. I spoke with Elizabeth.”

“Oh.” Bobbie drew her brow together. “Oh. I forgot I had asked her—I feel awful about that. I know she doesn’t want to take sides—”

“I needed someone to be honest with me about AJ,” Jason said. “If Michael ends up—” He couldn’t articulate the possibility, so he just stopped. “Anyway, it’s not important. I just—I’m listening to what you and Alexis are telling me. I know the odds aren’t in my favor. I haven’t decided yet what to do. Elizabeth thinks we—that I have still have time.” He hesitated again because it wasn’t in his nature particularly to pry, but— “We ran into Lucky as we left.”

Her expression changed, distaste creeping in. “I’m sure that was pleasant,” she said, acid dripping from every word.

“She told me a little bit of what happened,” Jason continued. “I know that she left him at the altar, moved in here with Gia. I’m not—” He waited. “I don’t know what I’m asking. I guess I just—”

“You’ve noticed the changes.” Bobbie poured the coffee into a mug, then set it in front of him. She returned to her chair. “I’ve known Elizabeth since she moved to Port Charles. I can remember the brash, irresponsible teenager Aunt Ruby kept on at the diner even though she was pretty hopeless. She was flighty, vibrant, clever—” Bobbie sighed. “Ruby always said she was reminded of me at that age. I wasn’t much older than Elizabeth when I—” She bit her lip and looked away. She didn’t have to clarify what she left unspoken. Jason knew she’d been a teenager when she’d started as prostitute in Florida.

“Anyway.” Bobbie coughed, and continued, “Ruby kept her at the diner to keep an eye on her. She saw so much of herself, of me, in Elizabeth.” She tilted her head. “And then, one day, it was gone. All the promise, the bright shining light—extinguished in an instant.”

“I know she was…” He couldn’t say it, hated thinking it. He could remember Emily divulging the truth to him at the garage after Tom Baker had held them hostage in his studio, and while it had saddened him then—he hadn’t really understood it until he spent time with Elizabeth, had seen the scars the attack had left on her soul. It wasn’t abstract any longer, but a real horror that had happened to someone he cared about. “I know what happened to her.”

“I watched her battle back from that, putting herself together piece by piece. It was a struggle,” Bobbie admitted, “but I—I was so proud of her…for finding a new sense of herself. I could see the woman she was going to be emerging. The flightiness—her superficial nature—that had deepened into a bottomless well of compassion, of caring. I could see her shining again, and I could see my nephew shining with her. She didn’t just put herself back together that year, Jason, she kept my fractured family together and didn’t even know it. Lucky was going to leave Port Charles, but she kept him here. And he and Luke were able to patch things up.

“She used to tell me that Lucky fixed her,” Bobbie continued, a tear sliding down her cheek. “I could never understand why she wouldn’t see what she’d given him. Just when I thought she’d battled herself completely back—” Her throat closed. “Well, you were there the night of the fire. You know what she lost. What never came home.”

“Bobbie—”

“The changes you see, the ones I’ve seen since January—” Bobbie cut in, shifting the topic back to the present. “I see that vibrancy returning, but she’s…” She bit her lip, frowning as if searching for the right words. “She’s guarded. In a way I haven’t seen in a long time. I worry that she’s so focused on protecting herself that…” She looked at Jason. “I can’t tell you much about what happened with the wedding beyond the brainwashing. I think it was merely the final straw. Elizabeth doesn’t like to speak about it. I know that she was unhappy before you left, that she was almost miserable in the months that followed.  I wasn’t sure getting married was the right idea, but Lucky had pushed for it, and Elizabeth seemed to…” Bobbie pursed her lips. “I don’t know. I can’t explain it. She seemed to swallow herself up and disappear entirely into Lucky. Until the wedding. And then she woke up.”

Bobbie shifted and leaned back. “Lucky was upset, Laura was beside herself—she’s been in denial about the boy who came home to us as much as anyone of us, but she put so much pressure on Elizabeth. If Elizabeth could just wait a bit longer, love him a bit more, maybe Lucky would be okay again. They both wanted me to talk to her, but I was relieved when she called off the wedding. Gia broke up with Nikolas at the same time. They asked to rent an apartment, they went back to school—” She lifted her hands. “And that’s what I know.”

And it told him very little, but he should have expected that. And what did he really want to know? That Lucky was out of her life? Did he want that to be the truth?

“If you care about her, Jason,” Bobbie said, softly, “then give her some time, some space. I would never call her delicate or fragile, but—”

He almost laughed at that and saw similar humor fill her dark eyes. “No, that’s definitely true. Bobbie—” He stopped when he couldn’t find the words to say. She leaned over and squeezed his hand.

“I think of her as part of my family,” she told him. “Just as you are to me. I know you’ll do right by each other.” She rose to her feet. “I should call the hospital and check in.”

“Thanks, Bobbie.” Jason stood. “I should be getting to work anyway.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

 

Elizabeth offered Sonny a sad smile as the mobster took a seat at the counter and flipped over his coffee cup. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He waited as she poured the thick, dark liquid into the porcelain mug. “Was it okay? No one made any scenes?”

“It was,” she murmured, searching for the right words as she returned the carafe to the hot plate. “It was quiet. Reserved.”

A small corner played at the corner of Sonny’s mouth. “She would have hated that.” He hesitated as he stirred a bit of sugar. “I think I thought…I really thought she’d show up to her own funeral.”

Because they hadn’t found a body. Because Carly would always be at the bottom of the lake. Trapped in her car. Her stomach swirled at the thought.

“It would be her style,” Elizabeth replied. “But not this time. No one showed up at their own funeral.” She smiled at him. “Not that it means anything. Lucky didn’t come to his either and…well…you know.”

“True enough.” Sonny sighed. “A funeral should feel more final,” he said after a moment. “Like closing a book and putting it on a shelf.  I can’t…” He shook his head slightly. “I can’t stop thinking about those cliffs. About Brenda’s accident at the same place.”

“Sonny…”

“I worry for Jason,” her friend said, cutting her off. “The Quartermaines…they’re just lying in wait.” He grimaced, lines shadowing the dimples in his cheeks. “I should have adopted Michael. I just…”

“It made perfect sense at the time.” Elizabeth closed a hand over his. “Carly started a new life. No one saw this coming. And it’s not like AJ has always been a prime candidate for fatherhood. It’s just…it’s bad timing, Sonny—”

“He’s not saying much about this chances in court, but I can imagine…”

“They’re not good.” Elizabeth sighed, dipping her head as she concentrated filling a sugar canister. “Sonny—”

“Jason mentioned you two don’t see each often,” Sonny cut in. “Are you…are you mad at him?”

“Mad?” Elizabeth jerked her head up. “No. No, of course not. Why would I—God, it should be other way around, Sonny…” She sighed. If Jason had mentioned something to Sonny, it must really be bothering him. “I just…all of that is behind me. That person. I made stupid decisions, I said and did awful things—”

“Elizabeth, you were in a difficult—” Sonny stopped and took a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. “I married Lily. You know this about me, right? My marriage to her.”

“I do—”

“I married her because…well, let’s just say it wasn’t my first choice.” He hesitated. “And I loved Brenda. I never stopped. I was going—I was going to leave Lily for Brenda, but then…Lily was pregnant. And I wanted to give that family—” He closed his eyes.

Hating that he was going back to that time in his head, Elizabeth winced. “Sonny, really—”

“I stayed with Lily out of obligation. Because I thought it was the right thing to do.” He paused. “And maybe it would have been okay. She would have been a good mother. I would have been faithful, loved my children. But it wouldn’t have been what either of us deserved.”

“I get it,” Elizabeth said before he could go on. “And I know I was with Lucky out obligation. I do—”

“You’ve got Jason wrapped up in all of that, Elizabeth. You made yourself miserable trying to be someone else, to want something else. And none of that had anything to do with Jason or how you two felt about each other.”

“That’s…” She closed her eyes. “It’s not just about trying…to be a better person, Sonny. I can’t…” Her throat thickened and she could feel the pressure behind her eyes. “Yeah. It’s about last year. And how I hurt Jason. And how I want to get as far away from being that person as I can. But if it were just about that, I think I could…I could just…be okay.”

“It’s about fear,” Sonny murmured. “Fear that when you open to yourself to someone, they take a piece of you. And you never get it back. I get it.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t want to tell you how to feel or what to do about those feelings. You got enough of that from my former partner and his idiot son.”

Elizabeth laughed then as one tear slid down her cheek. She swiped at it. “I know, Sonny. I’m—I’m terrified that the next piece I give away…” She couldn’t quite articulate it, but he nodded.

“Yeah…” He dropped a fifty next to his empty coffee cup. “So let’s just leave it at this. I think Jason needs a friend. Someone who will care about what happens to Michael as much as he does, but someone who won’t lie to him. Someone who has his best interests in heart.”

“I…” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Sonny—”

“If that can’t be you for whatever reason,” he continued gently without any judgment in his eyes or voice, “then you need to make sure he’s clear on that. You need to let him go to find someone else.”

Friday, May 3, 2002

Oasis: Parking Lot

Jason slid off the bike and eyed the clump of men outside the club. He hated the strip joints Sonny still controlled, but the only thing they could do was be sure they were run fairly and that the women working there were taken care of. Nico had used the Oasis as his headquarters since Frank Smith had put him in charge a dozen years ago, so Jason wasn’t as familiar with this place as he was with the Paradise Lounge.

He recognized only one of the trio smoking cigarettes in front of the entrance. Zander Smith sneered as Jason approached. “Look who’s slumming.”

Jason just stopped and leveled a stare at the idiot. “I’m here to pick up the books from Lenny,” he said. “He inside?”

“I’m not his fucking secretary,” Zander shot back. One of the men looked at the other with an uneasy expression.

“He’s waiting for ya,” the shorter man said, elbowing Zander in the gut. “Knock it off.”

Jason ignored them both before heading toward the entrance. He had the door halfway open when Zander called out again. “How’s your girlfriend, Morgan? Still got her legs glued shut?”

“Fucking death wish this one’s got,” he heard one of the men mutter.

“Smith,” the other hissed. “Shut the fuck up!”

Jason turned, debating what to do, if anything. If Zander had been alone, Jason might have simply ignored him. But to let a slur pass against Elizabeth was to send a message to the men next to him—to anyone who worked on Nico’s crew—that she was open game.

She may not be his girlfriend, but no one in this organization was going to treat her like trash.

Calmly, Jason strode toward Zander and was unsurprised when the scum began to retreat rather than hold his ground. When Zander was against the wall of the building, Jason’s hand shot out and pinned him there by the neck.

“I’m sorry,” Jason said coolly. “Did you say something to me?” He squeezed a moment, feeling the satisfaction as Zander’s dark eyes, seething with hatred, bulged slightly, his cheeks flushing with the effort to breathe.

“Go to hell,” Zander managed.

“Go get Lenny,” a voice behind Jason hissed.

“What was that?” Jason demanded. “You want to try again? What did you say?”

“Nothing,” Zander muttered finally. Jason released him, and the younger man collapsed to the ground, panting.

“Tell Nico and Lenny that they can send their books to the warehouse,” Jason said, turning to the man who remained. “And they should rethink their welcoming committee.”

Without sparing a glance for his sister’s ex-boyfriend, Jason returned to his bike and climbed on. Maybe it was time to do something more permanent about their Zander Smith problem.

Saint Andrews Academy

When Michael trudged out of the double doors of his private school, Elizabeth stepped away from the parent whose small talk had threatened to bore her to death. His small features were etched in misery, his book bag dragging behind him.

“Hey, kiddo.” She flashed a smile at the teacher’s aide who returned the gesture before turning to the next kid she was handing off to a parent or guardian. “Have a bad day?”

“Hey, Liz,” Michael said. He blinked up at her, his dark brown eyes shaded by the blonde hair they’d forgotten to trim. She slid her hands through it to brush it out of his eyes. “Grammy had to work?”

“Yep.” She reached the bag at his side and slung it over his shoulder. “We’re going back to the Brownstone to have snacks and hang out until she gets home. What do you want for dinner?”

“Nothing.”

She eyed him carefully as they crossed the manicured lawns back to her beat up car, but let it go for now. Michael, despite the turmoil of his life, was generally a good-natured kid. If something was bothering him, eventually he would cough it up. They had several hours before Bobbie’s shift ended.

She tossed his backpack in the front seat and checked to make sure his booster seat was firmly attached. “How about a movie?” she offered. “We can stop on the way home and rent something.”

“I guess,” he replied with a sigh.

“Video games then?” She slid into the driver’s seat and started the car. “I’m sure we can get Lucas to set up his Sega or PlayStation downstairs.”

“Maybe.”

Elizabeth bit her bottom lip. “Michael, did something happen at school? Did you have a fight with someone in class?”

“No.” But after a moment, he spoke again. “Liz, am I too much work for Grammy?”

Elizabeth drew up to a red light and glanced at him in her rear view mirror. “Of course not. She loves you. We all do.”

“’Cause I don’t wanna be a burden.”

“Burden?” she echoed. What the hell? How did a five-year-old even know what that word meant? Who the hell was talking to him? “Michael—”

“He said he was my grandfather, and I was gonna live with him soon. I don’t wanna leave Grammy, Liz, but maybe she don’t want me anymore.”

Elizabeth pulled over at the next parking lot, and twisted in her car to face the sullen boy. “What happened at school today?”

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Comments

  • Oh, heck no! Edward did something dastardly, didn’t he? Please come back soon and tell me EQ gets a dose of “Lizzie”? You’ve definitely got my hackles up over this cliffhanger, you know that, right? I look forward to JM handing out a few well-earned lessons to Nico, Lenny, and most definitely, Zander. It might ease some of the enforcer’s stress over the issue of Michael’s custody. This was a delicious update, so full of tensions, honesty, angst. I’m a bit concerned over the conversation between Liz and Sonny. His comments could be taken badly by Liz in her determination not to hurt JM further. Keep it coming!

    According to Carla on September 15, 2016
  • Awesome update. The emotions were so raw and honest. Can’t wait to see what EQ did and how it will ultimately backfire on him as Michael voices his preference to live elsewhere. (It will backfire, right?) Even more importantly, and especially after the conversation between Sonny and Elizabeth, I can’t wait to see the next non-Michael conversation between Jason and Elizabeth. Are you sure you only want to update once a week? Twice would be good by me . . . in case you wondered. Good luck with everything! You are amazing.

    According to Living Liason on September 16, 2016
  • Amazing update ! Love it so much. You need to write for gh. Can’t wait to find out why eq did! Jason and Liz — need to stop protecting themselves from ech other

    According to Tish on September 19, 2016