Part One: Sanctuary
“When you are mad, mad like this, you don’t know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else’s reality, it’s still reality to you.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life
You can count on me
When you cannot see
Let me spell it out
Plain and simple now
When your numbers called
Backs against the wall
Pick you up when you fall
Be there when you call
– Count on Me, Mat Kearney
Monday, December 6, 2004
Elm Street Pier
He wished he could feel the cold. He wished that the bitter winds of an upstate New York winter would seep through his leather jacket and into his bones, leaving him numb.
If his body were numb, it might lessen the fatigue in his muscles, in his eyes. He could not remember this level of exhaustion—even though during the various problems created by his life, when people he loved had been kidnapped or hurt, he had not slept.
But Jason Morgan realized maybe the adrenaline in those situations had staved off the worst of the effects, just long enough to resolve the situation, and then he would sleep for a day.
There was no adrenaline now. No sense that anything would be resolved.
For a month, he had been a single father to a little girl that was not his, while her biological father lived across the hall, swimming in his own guilt.
Jason knew every time Sonny called in the middle of the night to talk to someone, to run a shipment, to check on something at the warehouse, forcing him to wake the baby and take her to the other penthouse, he was being punished for taking Sam’s side in this whole mess.
As if it had been as simple as taking sides.
He was not a man who thought in pictures or dreamed, but he had a memory for faces and voices. And the sound of Sam’s cries, her pleas for him to raise her daughter, to keep Sam alive as a memory for her, to keep her away from Sonny…Jason had been unable to ignore her. He could hear those words, remember her grief as a doctor told them they couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Sam had only lived a half hour after giving birth to her daughter, the result of a complication in childbirth. She’d held her daughter, made Jason promise to love her the way she would have, to remember her, and then she died.
And Jason had kept his promise.
He didn’t hear her footsteps until she called his name.
He looked up, through the snowflakes sliding gently to the ground and saw Elizabeth Webber standing at the bottom of the stairs, her hands wrapped around a cup from Kelly’s. Filled with hot chocolate, he was sure.
He cleared his throat. “Elizabeth.” Jason got to his feet. He hadn’t seen her in months, save for a brief moment at his grandmother’s funeral earlier that summer. Emily had told him she’d flown in for a few days then, and he almost remembered seeing another baby at Wyndemere when he’d been there an hour ago to drop off his daughter.
“Hey.” A hesitant smile spread across her face, and she stepped forward. “I was on my way to the island to pick up Cam.” She glanced out over the harbor, where Spoon Island was hidden through the snowflakes and mists.
He nodded, and sat back on the bench, gesturing to one side. She smiled again, less hesitant and sat next to him. “Emily said you were coming home for Christmas.”
“Mmmhmm…” She nodded and sipped her drink. “After growing up in Boulder and then spending all those years in Port Charles…” Elizabeth tilted her head back, and a few flakes were caught in her eyelashes and her long dark brown hair. “It didn’t feel right not to have snow.”
“You…uh…” He rubbed the back of his neck and searched his memory for what Emily had told him about Elizabeth the last few months. His mouth felt sour, realizing far apart they were now. Once, he would have been aware of her movements, of her life. Even when he’d been gone, out of town, he’d kept in touch with Sonny and Emily about her. “Emily said you’d moved to California. Do-do you like it?”
“I do.” Elizabeth nodded again. “I’m living in San Francisco. I had family on my mother’s side there, so it seemed like a good idea.” She glanced at him. “Have you been to San Francisco?”
“Yeah.” He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his thighs, clasping his hands between his knees. “Once. When I…left town that first time. I wanted to see Alcatraz.”
A full-fledged grin appeared now, and he smiled in response. She seemed so happy, so settled, so different than she’d been eight months earlier when she’d left her husband, left town. “You, on what most people would call a vacation, went to a prison?” A small chuckle emerged from her lips, and he saw the humor in it. He smile spread even further, and he knew he’d forgotten this about her. About sitting here, talking about nothing and feeling…light. Feeling unburdened.
He’d missed her.
“I saw you when I came home in July,” she said after a moment. Her fingers tapped restlessly against the side of her cardboard cup. “I…wanted to go to you, to tell you how sorry I was, but…” Her bottom lip was pulled between her teeth and she shrugged a shoulder. “I didn’t know if I should.”
“I…” He cleared his throat and leaned back against the bench. “I saw you, too. With Ric.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah. I—we were finalizing our divorce. He married Alexis in October, so I guess that explains why he was so amicable.” He glanced at her, but saw no unhappiness in her eyes at her ex-husband’s hasty remarriage. Instead, she was worrying her lip again. “Jason…I am sorry about Sam.”
His shoulders tensed, as they often did when someone offered their condolences for Sam. They thought he’d been in love with her, and he could understand that. She’d lived with him for her pregnancy—he’d claimed her child. He’d genuinely liked her, thought of her as a friend, and did grieve for her, but he didn’t want to accept comfort from Elizabeth over a loss he didn’t feel the way people thought he did.
Hadn’t that been the start of everything that had gone wrong in their friendship?
“Thanks,” Jason said finally.
She was quiet again, but almost contemplative. “Anyway, I was picking up Cameron. Emily wanted to baby-sit him, and I never turn down an opportunity to have some alone time. It’s a precious commodity for single parents.”
He knew that to be true. “She’s watching Evie now,” he told her. “She said almost the same thing to me.”
Elizabeth smiled. “When Emily told me last month you were naming her Evangeline, and calling her Evie, I thought it was such a pretty name.” She flicked her gaze out over the water. “That’s when I knew how much had really changed between us. It seems silly, because I should have known it long before then. I mean, when I found out both times I was having a child, you were not the first person I called, but I guess…” She hesitated. “To hear about your daughter from Emily, and to know that the only things you know about my son come from your sister as well, it makes me…” She sighed. “Sad.”
He knew what she meant. He could remember sitting here, on a park bench, on a sofa in her studio, or at a table at Jake’s, and telling her things about Michael, Robin, and Sonny that he’d never told anyone else.
“I know,” Jason said, because he wanted to acknowledge what she was saying, but he didn’t know what to say. How did they turn the clock back two years to stop their friendship from being sacrificed? Forget a relationship, their friendship had always been important, too.
“It’s mostly my fault,” she told, meeting his eyes again. “I was so angry. And I kept being angry, long past when it was of any use. By the time I stopped being angry…it was just….too late. Too much had changed. I thought…we had damaged too much to go back.” Elizabeth squared her shoulders. “But I’m working through all of that, you know?”
After a brief moment while she sipped her hot chocolate, she said, “I’m moving back. I stepped off the plane at the airport, came through the gate and I saw my grandmother. She looks…old.” She glanced down. “I want my son to know her. And I had been thinking about coming home for months, because it’d be easier…” Her lips curved into a half smile. “I sold some art in California, and I’m having a show at a gallery in New York in February.”
He grinned because he knew what this meant to her. For as long as he’d known her, she’d been an artist, but was always forced to put her passion on the back burner. “That’s…really great, Elizabeth. You must be excited.”
“I am. I’m terrified, too,” she admitted. “But it came at the right time, because Gram had almost talked me into enrolling into the nurse’s program so I could have a stable job and stop using alimony from Ric.” She grimaced. “I only agreed to accept it for a year, so the show in February will hopefully give me some breathing room.”
Her cup was empty so she set it on the bench between them. “Jason…you look so tired. I mean, I remember how I felt when Cam was…Evie’s age, but…is everything all right?”
Because he suddenly wanted to tell her everything for some reason and he knew what a mistake that would be, Jason cleared his throat. “Fine. Just adjusting to everything.” He tugged on his ear and looked away. “So you named your son Cameron.”
He saw Elizabeth draw back and felt guilty that he’d brushed her off that way, she deserved better from him. But then she pressed her lips together and nodded, as if accepting the limits he was putting on the conversation. “I thought about naming him Alexander,” she said. “But I don’t know that Zander would have wanted him to be saddled with that, so I named him for Zander’s father.” She smiled. “So I can tell him his grandfather was a kind and gentle man who gave his life during the fire to help others.”
He thought she might say her goodbyes then and head away, but instead, she leaned back against the arm of the bench and smiled, looking up at the gray skies with the snow still falling. “I wanted to thank you.”
His brows drew together, and he tilted his head. “For what?”
“For last winter.” Her purse was in her lap, and she was toying with the string. “Being a mother is everything I never knew I wanted, you know? I always thought maybe I’d have kids one day, but it was this abstract concept. Even though I only knew about the first baby for maybe a week, it made me think…this is something I really want.” Her smile was sad. “But having Cameron, being his mother, it’s made everything better. Brighter. Worth it. And you helped make it possible when you went to the PCPD last year with that statement.”
He shrugged and looked away. “You ended up not needing it—”
“But it meant a lot to me. It made me realize, that…” She leaned forward and placed a hand on his forearm, so he’d meet her eyes. “Despite everything, you’ve always been there when I needed you. I know a lot of time has passed since we were really friends, but maybe…” She hesitated and licked her lips. “Maybe that doesn’t need to matter. We’ve gone a year without speaking before, even had fights. But we were still friends. I’d like it if we could be friends again.”
“We are…” He stopped, because it was almost a platitude to tell her that they were always friends, because he knew what she meant. And now he really wanted to tell her everything, because maybe Elizabeth could help him decide if he was making the right decisions, if keeping this promise was worth the destruction it was going to cause.
But she was happier now and she was away from the chaos of his life, of her life before Cameron. He didn’t want to burden her with his secrets.
“I missed you,” he said after a moment. “Just…this last…half hour…has been better than most of the last month. I don’t feel as tired, or…” He hesitated, but wanted to offer her this at least. “It’s been tough, but I don’t feel that way right now.”
“Good.” She leaned back, and removed her hand. “It was always the reverse when we were…friends before. Especially the first time around.” Her laugh was rueful, and her teeth bit into her lip again. “I used to drive you crazy, I’m sure, with talks about Lucky and my paintings, and my ridiculous life—”
“No.” He shook his head, and this time and he reached for her hand. “You…you were the only person I could talk to about Michael.”
He watched her eyes change, as sadness crept into them. She took a deep breath and seemed to come to some sort of inner decision. “Are you afraid it’s going to happen again?”
His hand tightened reflexively around hers, as if he knew what she was asking. He cleared his throat. “What?”
“That you’re going to fall in love with this child whose biological father will come for her later?” Elizabeth pressed, and tightened her own grip when he would have pulled away. “Jason, I’m not going to push you, but I can’t…” She pursed her lips. “I can’t sit by and watch you struggle like this. Emily has always suspected, and I did as well even before she told me her own thoughts. Who else would Emily talk to about you?”
He exhaled slowly, and realized he only felt…relief. His sister knew. Elizabeth already knew. He didn’t have to lie to them anymore. “I’m surprised Emily didn’t say anything.”
“She loves you so much, Jason, and she just wants to support you.” She released his hand. “You should let her. She offered to help you hire someone to help out. Let her. You cannot do this alone. I don’t…” She closed her eyes. “I don’t care if you don’t talk to me about it, but you should talk to Emily.”
“I’ll…think about it.” Jason hesitated. “Thank you, it’s…a relief to know I don’t have to…”
“Lie?” she offered with a wistful smile. “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but you know me, I’m pushy.” She stood. “I really have to pick up Cam now.” She stepped away from the bench. “Don’t be a stranger.”
She was almost at the launch when she turned back, a mischievous smile spread across her delicate features. “You know the best thing about being home for Christmas?”
“The smell of snow.”
He laughed, remembering that conversation in her studio all those Decembers ago. “Snow doesn’t smell,” he teased.
She arched an eyebrow and stepped onto the waiting launch. “Yes, it does.”
He got to his feet, feeling lighter than he had in weeks as he watched the launch disappear into the mists towards Spoon Island. “Welcome home,” he murmured.
Wyndemere: Family Room
He thought about Elizabeth’s words for the rest of the day, as he struggled to get through the paperwork that seemed to be part of his job description now. He’d always balanced the books for their legitimate businesses, had always enjoyed the solid certainty of numbers.
Lately, however, he was somehow in charge of shipments of actual coffee and dealing with vendors as well. Sonny had let go of an assistant who had handled it in the past, and asked Jason to deal with it, since he liked numbers.
Not wanting to rock the boat, Jason had agreed but it was just one more sign that Sonny was dissatisfied with the agreement they’d made the month before. If Sonny wasn’t still protecting his marriage, wasn’t still keeping Carly in the dark about Evie’s paternity, he knew things would be different.
Jason had assumed things would be different in those first hours after Sam’s death. Until Diane Miller showed up at the hospital with Sam’s will and a sheaf of paperwork the redhead had filed on the mother’s behalf.
And part of Jason had admired the lengths Sam had gone to protect her daughter from Sonny—from his inability to walk away from Carly, from being just another possession.
Sam McCall had pulled one final con on the biological father of her child and tricked him into terminating his parental rights.
She’d left Jason a letter explaining that Sonny had thought he was setting up a trust for the baby, but Sam had substituted the other papers at the last moment, leaving Sonny without any leg to stand on in regards to the baby.
And Diane informed him that Sam had left him guardianship. Legally, Evie was his.
Morally…that was something Jason still struggled with. But Sonny hadn’t wanted to rock the boat, to contest the guardianship and termination in court. He knew Carly would walk out with the boys.
So the lie had stood.
He had not told Emily this. He had kept his sister in the dark for months, since the beginning of this disaster. He had lied to his ex-wife, and regretfully allowed Courtney to believe that he had broken their marriage vows before they’d ended it for good. Courtney had taken the news in silence, and then packed her foundation up to head for New York.
He had not told his grandmother, who’d been happy for him at the end of her life. He had not told Monica.
But he wondered if anyone of them had bought the con he and Sam tried to pull. If Emily had always suspected, if she and Elizabeth had discussed it, he wondered why she hadn’t asked him.
Emily smiled at him as he entered the family room of the mansion, a room she decorated herself with bright colors and soft furniture. It looked different from the rest of the mausoleum, and he could see his sister being happy here.
“Hey, you!” She embraced him. “Elizabeth said she ran into you on the docks when she picked up Cam earlier this afternoon.” She stepped back to gesture at the portable crib in the corner, near the window that overlooked a bare winter garden. “Evie’s still napping.”
Jason glanced at the little girl that he had tried very hard not to love, not to consider his own, but he had watched her be born, watched as her mother struggled to hold her just once…had seen her eyes open and latch onto his.
Sam had asked him to love and raise her as his own, to tell Evie about her, and he had agreed. For better or for worse, Evie was his daughter, which only made the situation that much more precarious.
Elizabeth was right. He couldn’t do this alone.
“Did Elizabeth tell you what we talked about?”
“Mmm…” Emily picked up a stuffed animal and tossed it into the playpen Cameron must have used. “She said you guys caught up a little. Talked about San Francisco. Isn’t it awesome she’s moving home? I went to see her in August, but it’s just not the same not having her here—”
“So she didn’t tell you that she asked me about Evie and Sonny?” Jason interrupted, because he knew his sister’s chatter was nervous.
“She…um…” Emily smiled weakly. “Mentioned it. But I told her I wouldn’t say a word unless you asked me, or said anything. Um….” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Are you mad at me?”
“Why?” Jason lowered himself onto the sofa and stripped his leather jacket off to place across his lap. Evie slept so fitfully at home, he wasn’t going to wake her now.
“Because I didn’t ask you.” Emily sat down, curling one leg underneath her as she faced him on the sofa. “Because I talked to Elizabeth. I didn’t tell her anything she wasn’t already thinking. You know she’s always known you pretty well. She thought you were trying to do something for Michael or Morgan.”
“She said I should talk to you.” Jason stared down at the floor. “That I should stop trying to do this on my own.” He met his sister’s concerned eyes. “She was right. No, Em, I’m not mad. You and Elizabeth are best friends, and you both…you’re both in my life. I’m not surprised you talked to each other about this.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?” Emily murmured. “Jason, if Evie is Sonny’s daughter, then…why?” She glanced at the crib. “I love her anyway, you know it doesn’t matter to me. But why do you still have her? Why did Sonny let her go?”
“Carly thinks she’s my daughter,” Jason admitted. “She told Sonny if the baby was his, she would take the boys and walk. He believed her. When I changed the results, I just…I couldn’t let Jax raise her, because if he found out the truth…” He shook his head. “It just…I wasn’t thinking it through.”
“Clearly.” Emily arched a brow. “Did Sonny know about this beforehand?”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “He was angry. Really angry. But I told him that I was protecting Michael and Morgan. And he agreed to let it stand. Sam was angry, too, but she thought Sonny would change his mind. Would leave Carly for her.”
“She really loved him,” she murmured. “I could see it sometimes, but she tried to hide it, you know. Tried to sell you guys. I still don’t understand—”
“They had another affair last summer,” Jason cut in. “For almost two months. I didn’t…know about it right away, but I guess I suspected. I didn’t know what to do about it. If Sonny wanted to be with Sam, I would’ve tried to help him figure out the fall out with the kids—”
“Why does that need to be your job?” Emily muttered.
“But Sonny never intended to leave Carly. He offered to send Sam to the island, to anywhere and set her up…like a mistress. They could be a family.”
“A secret family.” Emily pressed her lips together and nodded. “That sounds like the man Sonny has become. I can’t imagine Sam took that well.”
“She told him okay,” Jason said. “And then she went to a lawyer, pretended to draw up trust paperwork, only she tricked Sonny into terminating his parental rights. She was going to raise Evie herself, but I guess the lawyer suggested she make out a will to keep Sonny away in the event anything happened.”
“And she left you guardianship.” Emily sighed. “Well, I can’t say I don’t understand Sam’s thinking, but did you know all of this then?”
“No. I-I didn’t know anything until Sam…was dying.” He swallowed. “She begged me to keep her daughter away from Sonny and Carly. They would never tell Evie about her, Em. You know that. You’ve seen what they did to Michael with AJ. They tell him AJ is a bad person who’ll hurt him.”
“I know.” Emily sighed. “AJ’s not perfect, but he wasn’t so bad at fatherhood. No one ever gave him a chance.” She met his eyes. “Including you. It’s ironic that Sonny was tricked into giving up his daughter, since he did the same to AJ when he hung him on a meat hook and threatened to leave him to die in a freezer.”
“I’m not proud of the things I did back then,” Jason said quietly. “Watching Sam’s fear that she’d be forgotten, or worse, talked about like she was trash to her own daughter, I could understand, for the first time, how AJ must have felt when Michael looked at him like a stranger.”
“So you promised Sam you’d raise her daughter, and she gave you the tools to do so.” Emily nodded. “Okay. Okay, Jase. I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t trust me—”
“It wasn’t that,” Jason interrupted. “Never that. I know I can trust you. You and Elizabeth, I just didn’t want to lay my problems on you guys. I thought about telling her while we were talking, because I hate lying to her, but I just…you guys don’t need the chaos of my life.”
“She pushed you, she said, because you needed someone in your corner.” Emily leaned forward. “Well, that can be me, Jase. Or it can be Elizabeth. As long as it’s someone.” She hesitated. “Jason, I’m not saying you should…turn your back on Sam’s promise, but this is Michael’s paternity all over again, except this time it’s with Sonny’s permission. This is still going to blow up. Sonny might change his mind, or he might keep punishing you with all this extra work. Are you sure that you want to do this?”
He asked himself that every day when he woke up after an hour or so of restless sleep. Every morning, when he went into Evie’s nursery, so carefully decorated by her mother, and saw her crying for food, or sometimes just looking up at him with those dark eyes like her mother’s he’d question himself.
He knew that he and Sonny would never be close again, and he would always have to hold Carly at arm’s length to preserve this secret. He knew the moment he changed the results he had changed the way things would work. When he’d looked Sonny in the eye after Sam’s death and told him that he had custody of the baby, that Sam had not wanted Sonny anywhere near their daughter…Jason knew he was making a choice.
He couldn’t take that moment back. Even if he relinquished custody of Evie to Sonny today, a month from now, a year, there would always be that moment in which he’d had the chance to prove to the world he was loyal to Sonny more than himself and instead, Jason chose himself. He’d chosen a promise to a woman who’d become a friend to him, who trusted him.
“I can’t go back now,” Jason said, finally. “I promised Sam, Emily. As she laid dying, begging me to keep her daughter from a man who refused to claim her in life because it complicated his life. I promised her, and I promised myself I wouldn’t put another child through what Michael and Morgan go through every day. So, I guess I’m going to have to figure out what to do next.”
“Well, I don’t know about what to do next in the whole big picture, but we are hiring you a nanny so Evie can sleep and you are going to figure out a way to get Sonny to relax his demands.” Emily lifted his chin. “Use what Sonny Corinthos seems to understand best. Guilt. About what he did to Sam, what he’s doing to his family every day he lies to Carly about being in their marriage one hundred percent. Carly doesn’t know about the paternity switch, and she sure as hell doesn’t know about the second affair because the world would have known.”
She paused and held his chin between her fingers so he was forced to look her in the eye. “So use that guilt, Jase. For once in your life, use the things Sonny and Carly use against you every day of the week and carve out time for yourself. Because all the nannies, friends and sisters in the world aren’t going to be able to help you if you can’t figure out how to do your job and be Evie’s father at the same time.”
Emily perched on the edge of her fiancé’s desk and smiled down at him as he sorted through a stack of papers. “Guess what?”
“What?” He didn’t glance up from his work, and she would have pouted except she knew how much damage had been done during those long months Nikolas had not known who he was. He had only regained his memories at the end of July, and he was still undoing the neglect.
So she crossed her legs and dangled her bare foot in the air, examining her purple toe polish. “Jason told me the truth today.”
She heard the rustle of papers behind him, indicating Nikolas had set aside what he was doing. “About time,” he grumbled. He stood and rounded the desk to stand in front of her. “Did you finally ask?”
“Nope.” Emily smiled. “Elizabeth did.”
“Elizabeth—” Nikolas frowned. “She’s been back two days. How did she manage to do what you couldn’t in six months?”
“Well, she actually asked him, which I decided I wouldn’t do because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the truth.” Emily leaned back on her hands. “It’s better this way. Elizabeth told me she hadn’t intended to ask, but he looked so tired. You know what I mean. Sonny’s been dragging him out at all hours of the night, forcing Jason to leave Evie with them, and I knew he wasn’t telling Sonny no because of the situation.”
“If Jason pushes back too much, then Sonny will take custody.” He nodded and leaned against the armchair. “Em, wouldn’t that be for the best?”
“You think putting a defenseless child with Sonny and Carly over my brother would be best?” Emily asked, raising her eyebrows. “Seriously, Nikolas? Your aunt won’t tell him the truth and you’re not suggesting she do it.”
He scowled. “Alexis almost had to when they thought Kristina was sick in October. It was the only reason she told me. She didn’t want her daughter to be treated the way Michael and Morgan have been. Ric promised her he could protect Kristina.”
“Hmm…well, if it’s reason enough for Alexis not to want her daughter around him, then it’s good enough for Sam. Jason’s loyal to Sonny, but it only goes so far. He loves Michael so much, Nikolas. It kills him to see Sonny and Carly destroying his childhood. He can’t fix that, but he can save Evie.”
“I’m not saying I think Sonny is the better father, but he is the biological father—”
“You know better than most that blood doesn’t matter.” She leaned towards him. “Why does his DNA make him better suited for Evie? My brother is a wonderful father. I wish he could have children of his own, but it hasn’t been in the cards. Sam recognized what we all saw—the better man. Sonny isn’t a good man. Not anymore.”
“Not ever,” he muttered. He sighed. “I don’t…I get it, Emily. I do, I just…you know this isn’t going to end well.”
“I do,” Emily admitted. “I know that Sonny and Jason are going to be at odds over this forever, but he made his choice.” Briefly she explained Sam’s termination trick and the fact Sonny had allowed it to stand. “He could have fought it, but it would have meant Carly learning the truth.”
“It doesn’t speak well of him.” Nikolas sighed. “Well, I’m glad he told you, Em. He looked like death warmed over when he dropped Evie off earlier today.”
“I’m going to make this better for him,” Emily told him. “I’m going help him find a live-in nanny, so Evie doesn’t have to go to the penthouse when he’s called away at night. And even better…” She grinned. “I’m going to find him a nice woman who will love him.”
“Oh…my head hurts already.” Nikolas was in the process of dragging his hand over his face, when he paused and let it slide away. “Emily, don’t—”
“Don’t you think it’s wonderful that five minutes after Elizabeth saw him again for the first time, she convinced him to tell me the truth and basically poured his heart out to her?”
“I doubt that’s how it happened—”
“And she’s a single mother, so you know she’d understand his struggles.” Her smile broadened as she pictured it. “She’s no fan of Sonny, not after the last few years. She’s just the woman for him.”
“So, what? You’re going to play matchmaker?” He closed his eyes. “Emily—”
“I’m not going to play matchmaker.” Emily wrinkled her nose. “I don’t need to, my friend, the match has been made. I’m going to be an opportunity creator.”
He frowned. “I fail to see the distinction.”
“A matchmaker picks two strangers or two acquaintances to be together,” Emily said. “I already know this is going to work. Jason needs someone strong on his side right now. Someone who gets him. She always has. And you know he’s always had a soft spot for her. He was in love with her once, he can be again—”
“So I’ll just make sure they’re in the same room as often as possible. Believe me, Nikolas, if she can get him to open up to her, to get him to tell me what’s really going on, I won’t need to do any work. They just…need to be in each other’s spheres.” Emily hopped off the desk. “And I know he’d be good for her.”
“How so?” he asked, almost sourly.
“He’s always believed in her.” Emily pursed her lips. “We haven’t always been good friends to Elizabeth, Nikolas. And you know we discussed being better at it. Being there for her with Cameron, because we love her, and we know what we did to Zander. I want Cameron to know the good things about the man who created him. I want to make what we did right.”
“I can’t ever go back,” she said. She pressed her fist to her chest. “I can’t ever go back and not lead him on, not marry him and then have an affair with you. I love you, I’m so happy we’re together and getting married, but I wish I didn’t destroy him to do it—”
“I know.” He sighed heavily and leaned his head back. “But Emily, pushing Elizabeth towards your brother doesn’t erase it—”
“I’m not pushing. That connection has always been there. Nikolas, he lied to the cops last winter to make sure she didn’t get in trouble for hitting Zander with that pipe. He hates the cops—”
“Which is why it’s not a surprise that he lied to them.”
“He did it for her.” Emily closed the short distance between them. “I think they’ve danced around each other for years, coming right to the edge of something incredible, but they keep getting in their own way. I don’t know if I can get them to take that final step, but you have to admit—there’s always been something there.”
“I cannot deny that as much as I would like to.” He scratched his chin. “You wouldn’t…push them hard, would you? They’re not the same people they were when he came home.”
“I just…want to make sure they have contact. Jason needs someone who loves him unconditionally. I mean, I can do what I can as a sister, but it’s not the same.” She placed her hands on his thighs and leaned in to him. “You have Lucky, but you know the relationship you and I have is different. Is it so awful that I want that for them? I think they can find it together.”
“What do you want from me?” he asked, resigned and she beamed.
“Well, as my co-opportunity creator, you just have to support me. I’ll do the hard work.” She pointed a finger at him. “No harassing Elizabeth about it. I know you didn’t support her with Jason before—”
“That was different,” he said swiftly. “She was mourning Lucky, and he took advantage—” Nikolas closed his mouth at her mutinous glare. “Okay. Well, I might have had a thing for her then that colored my perception. I do know that she was struggling with Lucky’s…death…in a way that we couldn’t help her with.”
“She told me he was her safe place,” Emily said softly. “And I think they can be that for each other again. So, you’ll be supportive if it develops into something?”
“If that’s all that’s required of me.” Nikolas nodded. “I like your brother most of the time, Em. I may…distrust his line of work, but hell, I’m a Cassadine. It’s not like that hasn’t almost killed Elizabeth a dozen or so times, so what right do I have to complain?”
“That’s the best thing about you,” she said, offering a quick peck to his lips. “You’re always ready to admit when you’re wrong.”
“I never said that.”