But with you, you, you
I can see what I need
I can dream realistically
I knew that this was different from the start
And it seems that every time
We’re eye to eye
I can find another piece of you
That I don’t wanna lose
– Fine By Me, Andy Grammer
Saturday, May 7, 2005
Carly sighed in relief as her sister-in-law took a seat across from her. She had been so worried she’d burned her bridges with Courtney the month before. She’d been frustrated, impatient, and angry and had moved too quickly.
Of course Courtney would not leap to break Jason’s heart. Why should she find it easy when Carly couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger? She knew it would relatively simple—tell Sonny she knew, that she wanted Evie with them.
And maybe Jason would resist at first, but he’d see the rightness of it. He’d sign over guardianship and Sonny would be okay again. It’d be difficult for Jason, Carly wasn’t naive, but he was all but dating Elizabeth. She had a son. She would see Jason through it.
And Jason should want to help Carly in this, because a stable and conflict-free Sonny made everyone’s life better. Keeping Evie was just making the situation worse, but Carly did not blame her best friend.
Jason thought he was protecting Carly and the boys. Soon, she would let him off the hook. He shouldn’t be raising someone else’s child—not like this. Elizabeth’s bastard didn’t have a father. It was the perfect solution.
But the time was not yet ripe.
“Carly,” Courtney said, her voice, the set of her shoulders—everything about her screamed uncomfortable. “I wasn’t expecting you to ask me to lunch.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re here.” Carly spooned some sugar into her iced tea and stirred it. “Michael and Morgan are so excited to spend the afternoon with you—Rocco is bringing them by later. I wanted to…I wanted to apologize.”
“Okay.” Courtney set her tote down. “For what?”
“For the last time we spoke.” Carly bit her lip, trying to appear contrite. “I…I’ve just been frustrated and I haven’t really been listening to anyone else. I know you only have my best interests at heart. The boys’ best interest, even Sonny. Of course… the situation being what it is, it makes sense for Evie to stay where she is.”
Courtney frowned and Carly could see the other woman wasn’t buying it. Not all of it. “The truth is, Courtney, I know this is mostly my fault. I mean, yes, Sonny was wrong to lie to me, but I could…I could have made so many things easier last year.”
Which was partially true. If she had just waited until the paternity test results came in to tell Sonny she was going to rake him over the coals in divorce court, Jason wouldn’t have felt the need to step in. To help.
“Okay,” Courtney said. She glanced up as Georgie Jones emerged and asked for a soda and a plate of fries. “So…you’re not going to ask Jason to give up custody.”
“No, no.” Carly sighed. “It would solve so many problems in the short-term, but they would create them too. It certainly would not make Jason and Sonny’s relationship any better, Jason would probably resent the both of us. Particularly me, if he found out I never believed the lie.”
“And let him fall in love with another child you planned to take away.”
Carly narrowed her eyes at Courtney’s icy words and clenched her hands in her lap. “I suppose he may…consider it from that point of view,” she said, her teeth clenched. “But it was not my intention. It’s not like Sonny discussed any of this with me.”
“No.” Courtney’s shoulders sagged and she leaned back in her chair. “No. They both just…assumed your position would remain the same even once Sam had passed away. It should have been brought out into the open.”
“Exactly.” Carly nodded. “I’m just not sure what to do next. It can’t stay like this forever.”
“No.” Courtney sighed. “No, I don’t suppose it can. I just…don’t know what should happen. After all these months, Evie believes Jason is her father—”
This was the least of Carly’s worries. Evie was six months old. Michael had adjusted after over a year of having Jason in his life as a father. The little boy barely remembered those days, and as it was, Jason was barely a blip in Michael’s life now. Evie was not her concern. “I think that any change, honestly, has to come from Jason.”
Courtney blinked, surprise in her blue eyes. “You mean, Jason has to suggest changing things—to sign away his rights.”
“Yes. Sonny’s racked with guilt—in his less…stable moments, it’s about abandoning his daughter. When he’s in control? He knows what taking Evie away will do to Jason. What this tension is already doing. So, you know, he’s paralyzed.” She sipped her tea. “Jason’s going to have to make the first move.”
“I suppose…that makes sense,” Courtney murmured, “but what if he doesn’t? I mean, you don’t know what he and Sam discussed. Maybe Jason promised Sam he would keep Evie—”
Carly waved away that concern. “She’s dead. Who gives a crap what she wanted?” It was that little whore’s fault in the first place. “Jason loves Sonny like a brother. He’ll come around. He always does, you know that.”
“I do.” Courtney thanked Georgie as the waitress set her order down. “So, what should I do with Michael and Morgan this afternoon? Anything happening in Port Charles?”
“Well.” Carly sat back and smiled. Sometimes opportunities just fell into your lap. “It’s a beautiful day. Maybe you should take them to the park.”
Port Charles Park: Gazebo
Emily removed the plastic cover from a tray of pastries. “A gift from Cook,” she told Elizabeth as she set it on the picnic table.
“Mmmm, they look delicious.” Elizabeth looked over to where Lucas and Steven were hanging some streamers from the gazebo. “Not too much. He’s only one.”
“Yeah, more than three streamers is so passé,” Lucas told Steven with a straight face.
“Boys.” Maxie huffed as she set down her mother’s gift to Cameron. “Let me do this. I swear, if you want anything nice, you have to do it yourself.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes as the blonde teenager took over the decorating duties. “I’m not sure why she cares. She only came for Bobbie.”
“It’s the principle,” Emily told her seriously. She glanced around. Georgie and Dillon were helping Felicia and Bobbie set up the rest of the food and beverages. Audrey was chatting with Monica near the gift table while Nikolas and Alexis were keeping an eye on Cameron and Kristina playing with toys. “It’s a nice gathering. Practically everyone you know.” She paused. “You’re missing some people.”
“I invited Lucky and Leyla but they’re in New York for the weekend,” Elizabeth replied blandly, setting down a blue paper plate.
Emily huffed. “Whatever. I don’t even like you.” She held up the stuffed giraffe. “Where you do want the centerpiece?”
“Uh, duh, the center.” Maxie stepped up to them and grabbed said giraffe. “Honestly, Emily.”
“Hey, who died and made you party planner?” Georgie demanded, yanking the giraffe back. “You don’t even like kids.”
“Yes, but I like parties.” Maxie reached for the animal again.
“Just think, Elizabeth. One day you’ll have a teenager, too.” Felicia stepped between her daughters, retrieved the animal and handed it back to Emily. “To your corners.”
As both girls separated, Elizabeth smiled and shook her head. “They weren’t bothering me. And considering the placement of the decorations, it’s clear Maxie has a better eye than I do.”
“Still, you have to set boundaries or they’ll try to take over the world.” Felicia smiled and returned to Bobbie.
Emily set the giraffe in the middle of the table. “Anyway. Did you invite my brother?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said, setting out the last plate. “He said he’d bring Evie, but she usually naps this time of the afternoon, so I’m sure he’s waiting until she’s awake.”
“You know when Evie naps?” Emily said.
“That’s…it’s really cute.”
“I will ruin your life.”
“I mean, it’s sweet.”
“Go over there and annoy your fiancé.”
Garden Path Near the Playground
At the sound of Michael’s voice, Jason straightened up from fastening Evie into her carriage. He exhaled slowly as he saw Michael running towards him and following behind, Courtney with Morgan in her arms.
“Hey, kiddo.” He knelt down to receive a hug from Michael. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s Aunt Courtney day,” the seven-year-old told him very seriously. “So we’re in the park to play. I’m gonna show Morgan the swings.”
“I’m…” Courtney set Morgan on his feet and watched the toddler follow on unsteady feet after Michael who darted towards the slide. “Michael, watch your brother!” Turning back to Jason, she twisted her fingers in front of her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…I guess I should have because Carly suggested I bring the boys here—” She coughed. “We can go—”
“I’m not…” Jason dipped his head and took a deep breath. “I’m not going to be at the playground. Elizabeth’s son Cameron is…he’s having a birthday party today.”
“Oh.” Her mouth closed, and Jason wondered why she looked hurt. “I…saw you two at the Christmas Party, and I guess…things are going well.”
And now he understood. He opened his mouth to deny it, but then stopped. Because he knew she wouldn’t believe it, and it wasn’t as if it weren’t partially true.
“And look at Evie,” Courtney said, stepping forward. “So much change since I saw her at Christmas. She looks…” Her voice faltered. “She looks so much like Sam,” she finished finally.
He stopped himself from saying that Elizabeth had remarked on that just a few days ago. He stood there, uncomfortable. This was the woman he had promised to love forever, had married.
Who thought he violated their marriage vows by conceiving the baby in the carriage between them.
“I’m sorry, this is weird, isn’t it?” Courtney said finally. “I’m not…” She hesitated. “I don’t want it to be weird, Jason. You…were very good to me and I… know things are difficult for you right now. I don’t want to be someone else who makes life difficult.”
He blinked at her and that something weird in her eyes—that reminded him of Carly—it was there when she looked back at him.
“You’re not,” he said finally. “I’m sorry for what happened last year. For…putting you through it.”
“I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.” She glanced over at the playground where Michael was dumping sand on his brother. “I should be with the boys.” Still facing Jason, she stepped backwards toward the playground. “Jason, for what it’s worth, I want us both to be happy. I mean, it just…wasn’t right. I…I really am okay with it.”
“Okay.” Jason gripped the handle of Evie’s carriage. “Are…are you happy in New York?”
“I am.” Courtney nodded, glancing over her shoulder again to make sure the boys were okay. “I really, really am. The foundation is…helping so many people, and I’ve made some friends.” She smiled. “You should get to your party.”
“Yeah…” Jason waited another moment. “I’ll see you later.”
Port Charles Park: Gazebo
Cameron was sobbing by the time Elizabeth placed the small personal cake in front of him with a burning bright green candle in the shape of a number one. The crowd of people singing Happy Birthday was not going over well.
“They all do that,” Felicia said with a laugh and a pat on Elizabeth’s arm.
“Look, he doesn’t even know he’s supposed to make a mess.” Emily laughed and took one of Cameron’s arms to plop it into his cake. “C’mon, little man!”
“Maybe he just doesn’t want to make a mess,” Nikolas said dryly as he flicked an imaginary piece of lint from his linen shirt.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and plopped Cameron’s other hand into the cake, smearing it a little. The boy looked at her with what could only be described as incredulous expression, then gingerly raised the cake covered fist to his mouth.
“Where does this caution come from?” Emily asked. “Your mother is the most impulsive woman I’ve ever met.” Elizabeth saw her glance at Jason, seated at the end of the picnic table. “Must be the company she keeps.”
The crowd gathered snickered while Jason just offered a bland stare.
“First, I cannot believe you think I’m more impulsive than you are,” Elizabeth said. “Second, I taught my kid manners. So bite me.”
“Anyway,” Bobbie drawled. “I remember that Lucas needed a bit of encouragement to start as well, and it looks like Cameron has the right idea.”
The newly minted one-year-old was demolishing the cake now, with pieces of frosting tangled in his brown curls. He grinned at his mother and held out a chunk of chocolate cake.
“No, thanks, baby.” Elizabeth batted it away and reached for a napkin. “Thanks so much for coming everyone, I know Cameron isn’t going to remember it, but I will. It means a lot.”
“Well, if you need a baby sitter,” Georgie began but her sister rolled her eyes.
“You are such a suck up.”
“Shut up, Maxie.”
“Quiet, heathens,” Felicia cut them both off. “Why don’t you help Lucas put some of those presents in Elizabeth’s car—”
“Oh, no, Felicia, it’s not necessary,” Elizabeth began, but the blonde woman just waved her away.
“You’ll learn soon enough, Elizabeth, that the only good thing about having teenagers is putting them to work.” Felicia stood up. “And then you can take down the decorations.”
“I feel like I’m being punished,” Maxie complained as her mother herded the trio towards the table of presents.
“I’m sorry if they’re a pain,” Bobbie began.
“No, no.” Elizabeth shook her head. “They’re good kids, and I know Georgie would be a great baby sitter.” She blinked as the flash from Emily’s camera all but blinded her. “Whoa, Em. What the—”
“Sorry, sorry. I forgot to switch it off.” Emily set the digital camera down. “Just wanted a few shots of my godson enjoying his first birthday cake.”
“Gram,” Steven said. “What do you say we take Cameron over to get cleaned up and he can play with Kristina and Evie a bit more.” He climbed out from the picnic table.
“All right. Bobbie?”
“Sure.” The redhead smiled at them and followed Steven and her grandmother to the table where Cameron’s bag was kept so they could fish out the wipes.
“I’ll get the streamers, Liz,” Nikolas told her. “Did you want to save any?”
“No.” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes as Emily followed her fiancé, leaving her alone at the table with Jason. “Do you ever think you’re the subject of a massive conspiracy?”
“No.” Jason sighed and slid down the table so he was across from her. “But I’m starting to. Wasn’t Alexis here earlier?”
“Mmm…” Elizabeth nodded as she started to pile the empty plates together. “But she was called in with one her clients before you got here.” She paused. “Thanks for coming, I know you hate this kind of thing.”
“I do,” Jason admitted. He slid out of the table, and reached for an open trash bag to help her clean up. “I’ve never really understood birthdays or the point of celebrating them especially when the kids are this young, but I guess it’s not really about that.”
“It’s about starting a tradition,” Elizabeth said. “I remember birthday parties as being one of the highlights in the Webber household. We used to go to amusement parks or really nice restaurants when we were a bit older.” She chuckled as she wrapped plastic around what was left of some hummus dip. “Of course, you had to behave to get those special meals, so I rarely got it.” She glanced over to where Cam was toddling after Kristina. “I want something different for my kids. I don’t want Cam to ever feel like he has to earn my love.”
“I’m sure he already feels that,” Jason said. “You’re a good mother.”
“I’m trying to be.” She stacked what was left of the plastic cups on top of each other. “You seemed…quiet when you got here. Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” But he hesitated a moment. “I saw Courtney with the boys in the playground on my way here.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth stopped, her hands frozen around a dish of ambrosia. “I guess you don’t see her much.”
“No.” Jason tossed the last stack of plates into the trash. “Not since the Christmas party. She comes up a few times a month to see Michael and Morgan, but she usually takes them places. I make a conscious effort to avoid her. It’s…I don’t like bringing Evie around her.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “Is she…angry?”
“No, she’s…” Jason shook his head. “Like everyone else, apparently. Never really thought it was true, but I know it hurt her the way I did things. That Sam moved in with me, and even if people don’t think Evie is my daughter, they thought Sam and I…” he trailed off and shrugged, uncomfortable.
“I get it. I’ve…been in that position,” Elizabeth admitted. “Feeling stuck when it looks the other person has moved on, the whole world looking at you like you did something wrong, like you weren’t enough.” She blinked. “I’m not talking about you…with Courtney. I’m…when I came home last year for Lila’s funeral, I ran into Alexis and Ric in the park.”
“That must have been…difficult.” Jason leaned against the table and glanced over to see that Nikolas and Emily had joined the trio watching the children. Emily had Evie perched on her hip and gesturing widely with her other hand as she said something to Audrey and Bobbie.
“I guess. Our divorce was final by that point, so I don’t know why it felt so…fast. But they’re married now, so I guess maybe she’s able to give him something I just couldn’t. Anyway, I’m glad Courtney isn’t making this difficult.”
“She said she was happy in New York.”
Elizabeth took the garbage bag from him and tightened the twist tie around the top of it. “What about the boys? Was it good seeing them?”
“Yeah. Michael looks good. I—Sonny told me a few weeks ago there’s been some behavior issues, but he seemed okay today.” Jason stared at his hands. “He ran to me and hugged me.”
“You don’t see them much anymore, do you?”
“No,” he said. “To see them, I have to be around Sonny and Carly, and it just…seemed easier not to be.”
“I figured.” Elizabeth shook her head. “It seems unfair. You started this to protect them and now they’re not even in your life. You’re probably the only stable thing in their life—”
“Bobbie does what she can,” Jason said. “And they still have Leticia. She’s been there since they were babies. I know Morgan is closer to Courtney than maybe to his own mother, because she took care of him so much the first few months.” He glanced up at the blue sky. “They’ll be okay.”
“Maybe. As long as Sonny keeps it together.” She paused, because sometimes it felt like when she asked about Sonny, she was broaching territory that dealt with their business and the last thing she wanted was to be shut down because she wasn’t supposed to know.
“I know what you’re going to ask,” Jason said when she offered nothing more. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly. “And things are okay. This week,” he added almost as an afterthought. “It was a bad fight last week, which usually means Sonny draws back and gets things under control.”
“Is it a good thing that he seems to recognize when he’s gone too far?” Elizabeth asked. “That he’s able to control it?”
“I’m not sure. It’s never been like this before. The slide doesn’t last for months, usually weeks. He crashes, and then it’s…over. I’ve never…I’ve never seen him control it like this before, but I don’t know. The…breaks are coming closer together,” he admitted.
“Almost like a contraction,” she said. “Coming closer and closer together.”
“Yeah,” he confirmed after a moment. “It’s a lot like that. I just…I have to keep it together. Once he crashes, once he’s past that, I know I can make it better. I always do.”
If they had been anywhere but the middle of the park, with members of their families and friends gathered only twenty feet away, trying their best not to look in their direction very often, Elizabeth might have reached for his hand or rested her head on his shoulder—offered him some sort of physical comfort. But she did not want to give Emily any ammunition for her snarks.
And she knew that his belief that once Sonny had fallen over that dark edge, Jason could pull it all back together and cobble together a solution they could all live with—she knew that belief was keeping him from making a move at the moment. He wasn’t quite sticking his head in the sand, but it wasn’t far off.
“What are you doing later?” she asked, wanting to lighten the subject and bring some of the fun back to the day. “Are you busy?”
“No.” He eyed her. “You want to take a ride?”
She snorted. “Like you have to ask. Maybe I can hit Georgie up for that baby-sitting she was offering earlier.”
“That….sounds like a great idea.” And this time he reached for her hand, letting his fingers wrap around her palm.
Looking into his eyes at this moment, and knowing that he had sat through this afternoon despite the knowing looks and leading questions about the relationship, she could almost believe…
That this time would be different.