All my senses come to life
While I’m stumbling home as drunk as I
Have ever been and I’ll never leave again
‘Cause you are the only one
And all my friends have gone to find
Another place to let their hearts collide
Just promise me, you’ll always be a friend
‘Cause you are the only one
– One, Ed Sheeran
Saturday, April 9, 2005
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
When Jason pulled open the door that morning, he grimaced without thinking. When Carly scowled at him, he shook his head. “Sorry. I thought you might be—”
“Someone you like?” she all but snarled as she pushed past him into the penthouse. At the sofa, she whirled around to face him, planting a hand on her hip. “Like that twit Elizabeth?”
Behind his eyes, Jason felt a dull throb begin, but took a deep breath. Once, Carly had been his best friend. He had done a lot to protect her, to take care of her.
In this moment, with the mixture of misery and annoyance flashing in her dark eyes, he wondered if he had just let her crash and burn just once, she’d be a different person. If he hadn’t stood by her when Tony and AJ were on her heels, if he hadn’t blackmailed AJ into giving her custody of Michael, if he had just let her fall flat on her face…
Would she be looking at him this way? As if he was the only one who could fix her problems? As if it were his job, his obligation to fix her life?
He had no one to blame but himself.
“Is there something you need?” Jason asked, glancing towards the stairs, wondering if Nora would remember his instructions. If she heard Carly downstairs, she should keep herself and Evie out of the line of fire. Carly had a way of turning most situations around to Sam when she found herself riled up. She never used the other woman’s names, just a series of colorful epithets most in Port Charles had once—and still might—direct Carly’s way.
She huffed. “Sorry. I don’t…mean to insult her,” she began. The back of Jason’s neck prickled because she was using that conciliatory tone he knew all too well. She had annoyed him and needed to sweeten him up for the kill. “I just…wish you had different taste in women, but I suppose I should learn to fight the battles I can win.”
That would be a cold day in hell, and they both knew it. Forcing his fists to unclench at his sides, he nodded. “Fine. What’s up, Carly?”
“I never see you anymore,” she complained, leaning against the arm of the sofa and pursing her lips into a pout. “God. I thought with Courtney abandoning me for New York, you wouldn’t pick sides. I know you blame me—”
“I don’t blame you. I don’t…” He tilted his head to the ceiling and took another deep breath. Patience. Eventually he would discover why Carly was here. “I’m not avoiding you, Carly. I just…have my own stuff.”
She narrowed her eyes, and he could see the calculation in her eyes. His blood chilled. If Carly was holding herself back from making a nasty comment about the mother of his child, if she had controlled her impulses, then she had a plan.
God help the world if Carly had a plan.
“I know.” She sighed and looked away. Towards the stairs. “I-I’m glad you let Emily find you someone to help. You…were looking tired. I told Sonny to knock it off, that punishing you wasn’t making anything better, but you know when he gets in a mood…” She rolled her shoulders. “And…you know he’s been in that mood for a while.”
“I know.” Jason folded his arms across his chest. “It comes and goes, but it’s not staying away.”
“No. I mean, he’s trying hard to control it, but I don’t think it’s really something that he can…you know…control.” She twisted her fingers together. “I’ve been trying so hard to keep him steady. Concentrating on the boys, you know. So he’s not thinking about you. Here. With Evie.” Carly blinked. “So he doesn’t remember Sam.”
And for the first time, Jason saw something odd flash in her eyes when she spoke of Evie and Sam. Did she suspect? Could she know? “I don’t think you’re going to get him to forget her entirely,” he said carefully. “Like you don’t forget Alcazar.”
“Well the difference with that is I want to.” She straightened. “I’m trying like hell to look forward, Jason. To make Sonny remember that he left her and came back to me. To the boys. I put Alcazar behind me. Why the hell can’t he?”
“I-I don’t know the answer to that.” His mouth felt dry, almost sour. He had never told her of the second affair, had known it would blow the boys’ world apart when it was just being pieced back together. But he knew Sonny had still been drawn to Sam. Had led the other woman on. Had broken her heart all over again.
And Sonny felt betrayed by her. By Jason.
Nothing ate at the core of Sonny Corinthos like betrayal, even if it had been accidental. Even if, in Sam’s case, it had been deserved.
“I really hoped that time would do it, you know.” She shook her head. “I thought that with Sam dead, it would just fade away. Like it never happened. But it’s not. And I’m at the end of my rope, Jason. Sonny is teetering out of control. Maybe he’s okay today. And he’ll be all right next week. But you understand that it’s not going to last.”
“Yeah.” And in the hollow pit of his stomach, he knew this brief moment of calm would end. At the moment Sonny was in control. He knew why they were embarking on this deception, that to preserve the sanity and peace of Michael and Morgan, Evie would remain with Jason. But would Sonny always know that? Always believe things were better this way?
“I have to protect my boys, Jason. They are everything to me. And protecting them means doing what’s best for Sonny.” She looked at him, met his eyes dead on. “And sometimes what’s best for Sonny isn’t what’s best for everyone else.”
And that something odd flashed again. Was Carly telling him she knew? That she had allowed the lie to stand because it was best for her family?
That she no longer believed that?
If Carly knew, then would Sonny come for Evie?
“I suppose you have to do what’s right for you, Carly.” In his ear, he heard Elizabeth’s voice again. When does Evie’s best interests come into it? “And I’ll do what’s right for me and my daughter.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly and then her features smoothed out. “You and Evie are part of my family, Jason. I love you and I want to do what’s best for all of us. I know we can make it happen if we both want it enough.”
He stepped aside then, as if to tell her to it was time to leave. “I’ll see you later, Carly.”
She opened her mouth, but apparently changed her mind. “Don’t be a stranger, Jase.” She pulled open the door and turned back to him. “It’s in our best interests if we keep communication open between us. I’m sure you know what I mean.”
Jason closed the door behind her and leaned his forehead against it. Unfortunately, he had a feeling he knew exactly what she meant.
Hardy Home: Living Room
Elizabeth planted one hand on her hip and eyed the disaster scene of her grandmother’s living room. Despite her efforts in the last three months or so since their things had arrived from California, the house still felt cramped. Overcrowded.
At her side, Audrey sighed and shifted Cameron higher on her hip. “I’m sure his sneakers are here.” She bit her lip. “Somewhere.”
“We need our own space,” Elizabeth murmured. “There’s…just not enough room in my old room or his room for what used to be in our apartment.” She glanced at her grandmother. “Not that I don’t really appreciate your generosity—”
“But you were setting up a life there,” Audrey finished, handing Cameron his pacifier. “I suppose I could try to pack up a few of my things—”
“Gram…” Elizabeth shook her head and moved forward, reaching for a stack of Cameron’s winter clothing that she had intended to store in the basement now that the weather was starting to turn. “I’ve looked at a few apartments. Lofts. Even houses. Nothing…feels right.”
“Perhaps because you know it may be temporary,” her grandmother responded. Cameron giggled as she lightly danced her fingers of his belly.
Elizabeth turned, one of Cameron’s old onesies in her hands. “Why would it be temporary?”
“Well, unless you find something large enough for all of you…” Audrey trailed off with an impish smile and sparkle in her eye. “Unless you intend Cam and Evie to share a room for a while.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and turned back to her search for the elusive sneakers. “Is there some sort of club I don’t know about? Emily promised she would lay off, but still manages to sneak some comments every time we have lunch, Nikolas gives me these smiles as if to say he approves and totally wouldn’t embarrass me in front of a crowd, Steven wants to know when he gets to interrogate Jason…” She huffed and tugged the sneakers from underneath a laundry basket. “Honestly, Gram. It’s…not like that.”
“I’m not suggesting the two of you plan to move in together next week or even the next few months.” Audrey lowered herself onto the sofa and set Cameron in front of her, watching him with a bright smile as he pulled himself up using the coffee table, wobbling on his chubby legs. “But the people who love you are not blind.”
Elizabeth knelt in front of Cameron, holding her hands out to tempt him to take a few steps towards her. “Gram, even if…things are changing between us, I just don’t think…” She met her grandmother’s eyes. “Yes…there are…indications we’re going down a certain path, but we’re both…” She lifted her shoulders. “Apprehensive.”
“And it’s natural, my darling.” Audrey picked up a discarded stuffed animal and smoothed her fingers over the soft fur. “You are both newly divorced, single parents to children you never expected to have…you’re both wise to be cautious. Even to take it slow.”
Elizabeth lifted an eyebrow, knowing her grandmother wasn’t done. “But?”
“But life is short, Elizabeth.” Audrey looked at the mantel, at the wedding photo of herself and Steve more than twenty years ago. “The time your grandfather and I wasted…we never had a child of our own. He took Tommy into his heart and I accepted your father though he was already an adult.”
“But you wish things had been different,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “That you had had more children.”
“I do, though bless your father, he allowed me the gift of raising you.”
Elizabeth smirked and held up her cell phone, knowing Cameron had a penchant for electronics. “You didn’t always think that way.” Audrey chuckled as Elizabeth continued. “Gram, I do…see what you’re saying. I promised myself during therapy that I wouldn’t lie to myself anymore, even if it made things easier in the moment. It always had bad consequences, and I’m not going to do it. So yes, I care very much for Jason. Yes, he and I have taken rides. We’ve talked. I do see that things are changing, and I’m…not adverse to it. It’s just…there are complications.”
“You’re referring to Sonny and Carly.” Cameron plopped to ground, uninterested in taking his first step this day and chewed on the ear of a stuffed rabbit. “And the situation with Evie.”
“Yes,” Elizabeth admitted. “Though I guess it’s ridiculous to pretend that would weigh on my decision to move forward. She’s a gorgeous little girl that I love spending time with. Even if Jason and I aren’t…seeing one another, his situation would still affect me. Because we’re friends. Because it would affect Emily. I just…wonder…”
“What?” Audrey prompted when she fell silent.
“I know Sonny is…having these odd mood swings,” Elizabeth admitted. “And I can’t say much else because it would betray a confidence, but I also know that I tend to set him off sometimes. When he sees me with Jason and Evie. As if…it bothers him. If I become more involved, if Jason and I…do start really seeing one another…what if it that’s the reason Sonny decides to go after Evie?”
“What would Jason do if Sonny did?” Audrey asked. “Would he sign over custody?”
“I…” Elizabeth hesitated. “I’d like to think no. That he sees what the rest of the world see—there’s a reason Sam went through all those hoops to protect her daughter. I can even relate in a way. I tried to keep Zander away from Cameron because I was so…scared of how his life was falling apart, the violence in him.” Troubled, she dangled a plastic set of car keys at Cameron who giggled and reached for them. “At least Zander didn’t have this other family, didn’t try to make me feel like trash.”
“Do you think Jason’s loyalty will win out?” her grandmother asked.
“I honestly don’t know what Jason would do if he were forced to make a choice.” Elizabeth sighed. “And I don’t think he knows either.”
Monday, April 18, 2005
Kelly’s Diner: Dining Room
Emily slumped into her chair and sighed. “That’s the fourth house we’ve looked at this week, Jase. Why do you even bring me along? It’s not like you’ll suddenly start liking anything I suggest.”
Jason ignored her rant as he settled Evie into the high chair. “I have to take our security seriously, Em.”
“I get that, but I really think you’re asking the wrong person. I thought the house this morning was nice.” She ordered a burger, fries and milk shake from Georgie and considered her brother as he put in his own order. “It had four bedrooms, a nice large room in the back, and a garage for the bike. What else do you need?”
Jason narrowed his eyes. “Why do I need four bedrooms and…” He dipped his head for a moment before meeting her eyes, his exasperation clear. “Emily.”
“Jason.” Emily leaned forward, barely noticing as Georgie set her milkshake and his black coffee on the table. “I’m friends with Elizabeth. There are things I can pry out of her that you will not tell me.”
He hesitated, and Emily knew she had peaked his interest. Jason cleared his throat and looked to Evie, who gurgled and smushed a cereal puff in her mouth. “Emily—”
“I shouldn’t tell you anything.” She leaned back and sipped the milkshake. “I should let you flounder in darkness, but I figure I should cut you a break. And honestly, it’s not much. She mentioned running into you last month after she sold that one painting. You drove her home after a long talk.” When her brother just stared at her, Emily continued. “And that said drive has been repeated on more than one occasion. Like…six occasions.”
The muscles around his mouth tightened. “Emily,” he said again.
“I mean that’s like seven dates.” Emily opened her eyes wide. “In a month. An average of almost two a week. I’d say that’s something—”
“And really, she looked so happy when we talked about it—”
“I don’t think—”
“I like Elizabeth being happy,” Emily mused as if her brother wasn’t speaking at all. “She’s finally making a living with her art, she has this fantastic son, her family is around her, and now her love life is picking up—”
Jason pinched the bridge of his nose, looking pained. “Emily—”
“I know you’re holding back because of your situation,” she said. “Caution is good, especially since Sonny all but foams at the mouth when he sees Elizabeth—”
Jason frowned and held up a hand. “Wait…have you seen Sonny around Elizabeth without me?” he asked.
“Um…” Shoot. Big mouth. “Just…like twice. We were in the courtyard about two weeks ago, and he was coming in with Michael. He just…gave us this weird, dirty look. We ignored him. And over the weekend, Elizabeth brought Cam in for a doctor’s appointment and I guess Sonny was there with Carly and Morgan. Carly may have said something about children of bastards, to which I may replied something about whores and glasses houses—”
Her brother just sighed and leaned back. “I wish you wouldn’t—”
“No one is going to talk about my godson that way.” Emily jabbed a finger at him. “Anyway. It looked like Sonny was going to shut Carly up, but then…I don’t know, Jase, he just…flipped.” She snapped her fingers. “Like that. He accused Elizabeth of scamming you. Of knowing you were vulnerable because of Evie and moving in on you, just like she did when you got shot a few years ago—”
“Christ.” He tilted his head back and took a deep breath. “He…he’s been better lately. Almost in control. I’d hoped…that’s why I started looking for another place. I thought Sonny would be ready to accept things, and that it would better for Evie to be away from…all of it.”
“Well….” Emily drawled. “I don’t know, Jase. Maybe he really can’t control it. Have you ever talked to him about getting help?”
Jason shook his head. “No. He wouldn’t go, so it’s a waste of time. It’s a weakness he doesn’t think he can afford.” He grimaced. “I just don’t want Elizabeth to deal with it.”
“She mostly ignored him. If that’s why you’re holding back,” Emily said, “then that’s just dumb. It has nothing to do with either one of you. Not really.” She leaned forward. “Listen. This stuff with Sonny cannot go on forever. It’ll have to be resolved one way or another. I’d hate to see you pass on a chance at real happiness because you’re trying to save Elizabeth grief in the moment.”
Her brother looked down and took a deep breath. “Emily—”
“I don’t want to be bossy and opinionated, or God, even a nag. I don’t want to push you into anything that isn’t right for you. Please believe me, Jason, when I say that all I want is for you to be happy.” Emily bit her lip. “And I don’t know if you even think you have a right to be happy. Are you trying to punish yourself for Evie?”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “No.” He looked away. “My life…isn’t…relationships don’t work—”
Emily snorted. “Pfft. You just haven’t been with the right woman at the right time. Two years ago? You and Elizabeth were clearly not ready to make the sacrifices needed. She is now. She wasn’t ready for anything strong then. You know that—she was all up in her head about not deserving things and then running around trying to find someone she could save. She’d be the first person to tell you that it wasn’t the right time.”
She blew out a breath, but realized Jason was actually listening to her this time. “And Jase? Two years ago you didn’t trust her to stay. So you went away first. You went and found someone who loved and adored you like a puppy. But Courtney wasn’t right either. You know it’s different this time. I can see it. Every time you’re in a room together, the whole world goes away and you could practically power the city’s electrical grid with the sparks that fly.” She leaned forward. “Maybe it won’t be easy. Maybe it won’t be forever, but God, Jason, you owe it to yourself to find out. You owe it to Evie, because she deserves a happy father who just doesn’t live for her.”
She hesitated again. “And maybe you even owe it to the people who love you. Grandmother watched you beat yourself against the wall every day since your accident, hoping you would find something, someone, that was worthy of you. She remembered when Grandfather blackmailed you when Elizabeth had been kidnapped. She wanted you to be happy. Don’t let her down.”
“I…” He glanced down at his watch. “I’m meeting Elizabeth and Cameron in the park,” he said after a moment. “I’m not going to lie to you, Emily, or insult your intelligence. I have…” He stopped, and she just waited, knowing he hated to open up, hated to reveal anything inside of him. “I have cared for Elizabeth for years, and yeah, maybe it’s different this time. I just…our friendship was sacrificed once before—”
“No, it wasn’t, but I know what you mean.” Emily nodded. “I get it. You’ll do it in your own time, but just don’t look away from it. Love is worth fighting for.”
Jason tossed some cash on the table and unlocked Evie from the high chair. “I’ll think about it, Emily.”
Port Charles Park
Elizabeth had just settled Cameron on a blanket filled with his toys when Jason turned the corner with Evie in a coach. She grinned—the sight of the mob’s toughest enforcer pushing a candy pink baby carriage would never get old. She’d asked him why he didn’t replace with it a different color and he’d just stared at her.
What does the color have to do with anything?
Jason was nothing if not literal. What would she do without him and his deadpan, logic in her life?
She never wanted to find out again.
“Hey, you.” Elizabeth stood, and taking a chance, pressed a kiss to his cheek. He blinked at her for a second and then looked away. If she didn’t know him better, she’d think he was blushing.
He turned to the guard that had accompanied him, instructing him to stand by the entrance to the path. Once he was gone, Jason turned back to her while lifting Evie from the carriage. “Sorry, I just—”
“I’ve noticed since becoming a parent,” Elizabeth began casually, “that I distrust most of the known world. I think everyone is a suspect, a criminal just waiting to snatch up my little boy.” She arched an eyebrow. “You think it bothers me that you’ve got a guard on Evie? I’m not sure I wouldn’t hire a bodyguard for my kid if given the chance.”
Jason released a surprised chuckle as he set Evie on the blanket. The two children blinked at one another, Cameron smiled before offering a block. Evie took it and immediately shoved it in her mouth.
“Ah, friendship,” Elizabeth said, satisfied. She tugged on Jason’s leather jacket sleeve to draw him back several feet to the picnic bench. “They’ll be fine, though I’ll occasionally have to discourage Cameron from wandering too far from the blanket.”
“Evie’s trying to crawl,” Jason told her. “But it’s not going well. She gets on her stomach, even lifts herself up. Sometimes she goes backwards, but it’s going forward that’s taking a while.” His mouth stretched into a smile. “But mostly she ends up on her back, frustrated.”
Elizabeth laughed. “I know exactly what you mean—Cameron did that for almost two weeks before I must have blinked and zoom he was off and, well…” She pursed her lips. “Not running exactly, but he might have if he could figure it out.” She drew her leg up on the bench so she could turn to face him, propping her elbow on the table and resting her chin in her palm. “So, you were meeting with Em and the realtor today?”
Jason sighed and leaned back, his eyes on the kids. “Yeah. But we didn’t see anything that worked.”
“I know what you mean,” Elizabeth replied. “The house is so crowded with all our stuff, but nothing feels right.” She shrugged, not wanting to go further and remember the rest of her conversation with her grandmother. “Anyway, is there a rush?”
“No.” Jason hesitated and glanced at her before returning his attention to the kids. “It might make things worse in the end. I thought things with Sonny were better, but…Emily said something—”
“Oh.” Elizabeth huffed. “She probably made it sound worse than it was. Jason, seriously…” She touched his arm so he’d look at him for a moment. “Carly and I will never be friends. Never. I could literally push her out of the way of speeding train and she’d snark at me about ripping her outfit. As for Sonny…” Troubled, she studied Cameron for a long moment, remembering the Christmas Party and the way Sonny had spoken about her first child, the little soul that had never been given the chance to grow.
“I grieve for loss of the friendship he and I once had,” she murmured. “But I suppose with Ric, with the way I acted when Carly was missing, I don’t blame either of them for not being kindly disposed towards me—”
“Elizabeth, he didn’t blame you then.” Jason leaned forward. “He never blamed you. He knew you were…that Ric had manipulated you. And then once you were in the hospital, he was just worried. When you woke up, you went the police. You tried to help Carly. She knew that then.”
“But then I remarried—’ She stopped. “No. No, I’m not going back to the time. I’ve…made my peace with my choices. With my mistakes. If Sonny still holds it against me—”
“He just…” Jason exhaled slowly. “This situation with Evie is eating at him. I don’t think it’s ever going to get better.”
“I’m so sorry,” she murmured, taking one of his hand in both of hers. “I just…my heart breaks for what you’re going through. I wish I could have done something when it would have made a difference.”
Jason shook his head, watching as Evie scooted backwards, reaching the edge of the blanket. “I’m just…trying to do what Sam would have wanted. She wanted me to love Evie as my own, the way she didn’t trust Sonny to.” He hesitated. “And I know that if Sonny and Carly had Evie, they would raise her to forget Sam. Maybe they wouldn’t ever tell Evie about her mother, and Sam deserved better than that.”
“I know. She sacrificed so much for her daughter, she deserves to be a presence in Evie’s life, even if it’s just a memory.” She sighed. “And things with Carly aren’t getting better?”
“No.” Jason paused. “They’re…I think she knows, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth frowned and straightened her shoulders. “What do you mean she knows?” Her fingers tightened in his. “About Evie?”
“It’s just…something she said a few weeks ago. It makes…I think she knows and she’s keeping it herself.”
A tingle shot down her spine, a foreboding chill seeped into her bones. If Carly was keeping a secret, then it meant… “You think she has a plan. That if she’s keeping the secret, it’s because it works for her right now.”
“And maybe it won’t forever,” Jason confirmed. He slowly disentangled their hands so he could put Evie back into a seated position, as the six month old had ended up on her back, waving her arms and wailing. Immediately, the infant grinned at her father and picked up a toy boat to chew on.
Once he sat back down, Elizabeth continued. “Carly’s plans never work out for you.”
“No.” He looked away, where the park opened up to the lake and gazebo. “No, they usually destroy my life.”
“Jason, have you thought of addressing it to Sonny? Telling him what you suspect?” Her chest ached, her ears were buzzing. She could see the misery in his eyes, could see he felt as though he were at the edge of precipice—that he might end up the way he had five years earlier, lying, bleeding, and broken in the snow waiting for death to claim him.
“If I did…he might take her,” Jason confessed in a low voice. She leaned forward, straining to hear him. “And if he wanted her, what would I say to him? No, Sonny, you can’t have your own daughter—”
“Jason, it’s not like you to stick your head in the sand,” Elizabeth said. “You’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop—”
“What else should I do?” he asked, meeting her eyes. “That’s what I did with Michael. That’s all I could do with him—”
“It’s different now,” she argued. “AJ didn’t know what was going on. You were perpetuating this huge lie to everyone—but you know that no one really believes Evie is your daughter, including the woman you were trying to lie to the most. Jason, you have legal custody of her. You’d have to sign it over to Sonny.”
“I know. Diane and I spoke about it—” He hesitated and eyed her. “You think I should refuse to relinquish guardianship. That I should tell Sonny no.”
“I…” Elizabeth closed her mouth for a moment. “It would be so easy to suggest that,” she admitted. “But…I don’t know, Jason. I know that if it were just about Evie, then yes. You are absolutely the better father. You would be what’s best for her. But, I know that sort of decision would just…complicate the rest of it. Your job.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “I guess…there are no easy answers here.”
“No. No there’s not.” Sighing, Jason once again rescued his daughter from her turtle-like position, placing her back on the blanket. “Right now, it’s an uneasy silence. Acceptance of the situation. If I can just hold it together until Sonny can pull himself back from the edge, I can talk about it rationally. He’s not happy with Carly, he’s afraid to divorce her. If…he did that, maybe it would easier for him to raise Evie.”
“And you’re still left out in the cold,” Elizabeth told him, aggrieved. “How is that fair?”
“How else is this supposed to end?” Jason asked her. “Do you see a way for me to raise Evie without things blowing up with Sonny and Carly?”
“I…” She sighed and shook her head. “No. I guess your plan is the best. I’m…just frustrated, Jason. I want so much more for you, but you know better than me how the fallout will affect you. I just…I hate to see you hurting. To see you distanced from Sonny, unable to really enjoy this wonderful little girl.”
Because she loved him so much that seeing the pain and misery in his eyes caused her stomach to roll and her chest to ache.
Sighing, she looked away, back at her son. She always ended up right back in this moment, in love with this man whose life was so complicated, he was usually unable to make time for something more.
Why should this time be any different?