October 1, 2018

For the Broken Girl is set in 2006. The prologue begins in September, and then Chapter One jumps back to April. It’s mostly a rewrite of the Lucky drug story because while I mostly liked it, I think there are things that could have been done differently.

It picks the show up at the end of March and pretty much everything that happened on the show until then has happened with a few differences.

Lucky’s story after the train crash is being rewritten, so just forget everything you know about that. The first chapter sets up most the big differences and the rest will be filled in at some other point.

I can’t remember exactly when Manny started at the hospital as a janitor–if it was before or after the virus, but in this story it’s after.

Sonny and Emily’s relationship has only just been discovered.


Prologue

September 2006

Port Charles Police Department: Squad Room

Dawn was breaking over the streets of Port Charles as a weary Alexis Davis weaved past the sparsely populated desks towards the small, narrow hallway that led to the administrative offices. There were few officers on duty this early, and those present were somber, quiet.

No names had been released to the press or through dispatch, but bad news had a way of spreading in Port Charles, and this…this had hit some of them really hard.

Alexis stifled a yawn as she pushed open the door to Mac Scorpio’s office, finding the commissioner seated at his conference table, staring down at a white mug of coffee. In front of him sat a tape recorder.

Alexis set her briefcase on the table across from him and took a seat. “I’m sorry it took so long to come in. The girls have a cold. Krissy brought it home from daycare.” She gestured at the recorder. “You have the tape, then?”

“Yeah.” Mac dragged a hand over his face. Stubble lined his cheeks, and his eyes were rimmed with red, lines of exhaustion etched into his features. His day had begun at five o’clock the previous morning and he was unsure if he would even be able to sleep if he laid his head down on the pillow.

“How—” She cleared her throat. “How bad is it?”

“I’m not sure it gets any worse than this,” Mac admitted. “I’ve been in this business a long time, and I—” He gently touched the recorder. “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything like this.”

“Okay.” Alexis managed a deep breath. “Let’s hear it.”

“911, what’s your emergency?”

Chapter One

 If you forget the way to go
And lose where you came from
If no one is standing beside you
Be still and know I am
Be still and know that I’m with you
Be Still, The Fray


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Elm Street Pier

 Elizabeth Spencer hesitated at the top of the stairs when she found Jason Morgan seated at one of the benches that looked out over the harbor. When they had first become friends seven years earlier, they had met often on this pier, but it had been more than a year since she and Jason had shared even a casual conversation.

She was unsurprised to find her old friend sitting in quiet thought. It was a chilly night, and the icy wind blowing in from the lake dropped the temperature in the air another ten degrees down near the water. She wrapped the edges of her cardigan more tightly around her torso and started down the steps.

Jason turned slightly at the sound of her footfalls and got to his feet. “Elizabeth.”

“Hey.” She stopped in front of him and offered a half smile. “I bet your day was pretty awful.”

He exhaled slowly and looked away, out over the dark waters of Lake Ontario. His hair was longer than she’d seen it in a while, still brushed into those spikes that seemed as much a part of him as his leather jacket and jeans. His hands were shoved into the pockets of that jacket now.

“You saw the papers.”

“I didn’t, actually,” Elizabeth said. The Port Charles Sun was out of her budget at the moment—she pinched every penny to keep her two-year-old son in daycare. “Emily called me crying this morning about the press, Sonny, and how awful you were being.” She sighed.

“Yeah.” He pressed his lips together in a thin line. “Did you know?”

“Did I know?” she repeated. “That Sonny and Emily were having an affair and checking into hotels under assumed names?” Elizabeth considered this question. “I knew Em had some feelings for him, but I don’t think I would have guessed Sonny felt even a little bit the same way.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “I knew something was going on with Em, but—no, I didn’t know exactly what.”

Jason said nothing to his ramble, so Elizabeth continued, “Emily said you were really angry. That you…told her she had to stop seeing Sonny.”

“I did.” Jason met her eyes, and she blinked at the defiant anger in them—as if he expected her to argue, to defend Emily or Sonny.

Elizabeth sighed and sat on the bench, unwinding the strap of her oversize canvas bag and setting it in her lap. “See, that’s when I knew something was wrong.”

He frowned at her, sat down. “What do you mean?”

“That’s not like you—telling people what to do. Making ultimatums. You hated Lucky all those years ago—and he gave you a reason to—but I don’t think you never came out and told me to leave him.”

“I should have,” he muttered. “I know it all worked out and you…” He squinted at her. “You’re happy, aren’t you?”

“Happy is an interesting word.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. She didn’t want to talk about her marriage and how her life with Lucky Spencer was not exactly what she’d had in mind. “For you to tell Emily she had to stop—I knew you had your reasons. I told Emily that, too.”

Some of the tension left his shoulders, and he visibly relaxed. “I thought you’d take her side.”

“I don’t know if there are sides to be taken.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Is it…the danger? Like you used to tell me? I know you…you’ve changed your mind since then. I mean, Courtney and Sam—” She stared down at her hands, her short nails bitten almost to the quick. “But maybe since it’s Em—”

“I was wrong back then,” he said simply, but neither of them looked at one another now. “I took your choice from you. Lied to you. I tried to do better later. It’s not the danger. Emily’s not an idiot. She knows what we do. It’s—” He hesitated. “Sonny is my best friend, but I’m not blind to who he is. How he treats women.”

“Ah. I thought—” Elizabeth nodded. “I thought it might be something like that. Well, you’re the one Sonny sent to tell Brenda when he stood her up at the altar, and God knows, you’ve been there for Carly and Sam. I guess you know what you’re talking about.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw his face turn towards her, but she kept her eyes straight ahead, finding the lights of Wyndemere in the night. “You…agree with me.”

“Let’s just say that I see both sides. You know who Sonny is better than anyone in the world. I believe that. I also—”

She waited a moment, trying to gather the courage to say the next part—to try and explain Emily’s point of view without giving away too much. The way Emily had spoken this morning, the way Jason had been surprised at her support—was anyone listening to Jason? Was Carly or Sam?

“I know what it’s like to love someone that the entire world sees as a threat to you. As someone who will hurt you, who isn’t good enough for you.” She glanced at him and saw that he understood what she meant. “It was like hearing my own life played back for me this morning when Emily called. No one understands Sonny like she does. I don’t know how he is when they’re together—”

“So, you think I’m wrong.”

“No, I don’t.” Elizabeth hesitated. “The thing is, Jason, she’s right, too. She probably does know a side of Sonny that you don’t. And I don’t think that giving her ultimatums is what’s going to work.” She managed a half smile. “There’s a reason Emily and I are friends, you know. When someone tells us we can’t have something, we usually just double down.”

“Yeah, I remember.” He was quiet for a minute. “So, are you going to tell me to let it run its course? Let Sonny get bored and move on?”

“Is that what everyone else says?” Elizabeth asked. “Carly?”

“And Sam,” he admitted.

And outside of Emily, those were the most important women in Jason’s life, so it must be hard for him to feel alone in this.

“I honestly don’t know what you should do,” Elizabeth told him. “Because even though I agree that Emily is right, that doesn’t mean you’re not. And letting it play out—it just means Emily is going to get hurt later rather than now. Either way, she gets hurt. I don’t think we can stop that from happening. Because I’ll be honest—I’ve known Sonny for a long time, and I don’t think Emily—I don’t think it’s soul mate territory. She’s not Carly or Brenda. I don’t know what drew them together, but I doubt it’s lasting.”

“You do think I should stop fighting it.”

She thought about her answer for a long time, thought about just taking his side so that he didn’t stand alone. She hated the idea of him being on his own in this—against everyone he loved. But she owed him the truth.

“I think that ultimatums aren’t going to work,” she said finally. “Because I know what those are like.” She met his eyes. “When I resisted and pushed back, it meant cutting people out. And when I tried to give in, I made myself miserable.”

“Do you—” His voice was a bit lower now, a bit rougher. They both knew exactly what she was talking about even if she wasn’t being specific. “Are you sorry?”

“Not for a minute.” She smiled at him. “Even though I hate how it ended—that it never really went anywhere—I know that the decision to end it wasn’t someone else’s. It was mine. I might wish…things had been different. But I made my choices. And that matters. I’m sorry, Jason. I wish—I wish like hell I could tell you that you’re right. That demanding it end now is the right decision—”

“But you don’t think it is.”

“I don’t think telling her or him to stop it is going to work, but I do agree that it would be better for everyone if it were over sooner rather than later. Emily’s looking for someone who can love her, and as much I like Sonny, it’s not him. Not the way she needs.”

Her cell phone rang, and she dug it out of her bag. She stared down at the caller ID with a grimace. “It’s Lucky. I’m late getting home.”

“He must be worried.” Jason stood, and she followed suit, hitting ignore on the call and shoving it back into her bag.

More like it was Cameron’s bed time and Lucky was tired of watching her son. He probably wanted to go to bed so he could get up early for his next rehab session. She wasn’t interested in having that argument with Jason looking on.

“I should get going.” She slid the bag’s strap back over her shoulder. “Emily knows you love her, Jason. You’ve done what you can.”

“Thanks for…” He trailed off. “Thanks,” he repeated.

Friday, March 31, 2006

General Hospital: Locker Room

Elizabeth stifled a yawn as she shoved her bag into her locker and sat on the bench to unlace her sneakers. Once she had arrived home the night before, Lucky had yelled at her for twenty minutes before storming out. She had then discovered exactly why he’d been so anxious for her to get home.

Cameron had a stomach virus and spent most of the night either throwing up or—making Elizabeth wish she hadn’t potty trained him so well because diapers meant she might have managed more sleep. As it was, Lucky had had to reschedule his rehab session for this morning because Cameron couldn’t go to daycare, and they couldn’t afford to lose Elizabeth’s pay for the day. She’d already used all her sick days caring for Lucky at the beginning of the year.

Rescheduling physical therapy meant it would be even longer before Lucky could return to active duty at the PCPD. He hadn’t been on the job, not really, since the train crash earlier that November.

Elizabeth was sure that as soon as Lucky was back on full duty and full pay, he would be…better. He’d stop resenting her, her son—he’d be less angry. They had had such a bright future, such shining optimism once, and she was desperate to cling to that dream. To give that life to her son.

The door to the locker room slammed open, the heavy wooden door crashing against the plaster wall with a THUD. Elizabeth closed her eyes. She had a sixth sense for when her day was about to get worse, and all those senses were tingling now.

“You know, there are times I really don’t understand my brother,” Emily Bowen-Quartermaine declared as she dropped her bag on the bench next to Elizabeth. “He is literally the worst right now.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Elizabeth said wearily.

“Oh, God, can we go back to when you hated Jason? Because I don’t think I can take you being his cheerleader right now.” Emily yanked open her locker. “I stopped by his place this morning hoping he had calmed down.”

Elizabeth grimaced. “What happened?”

“Oh, he started by being nice to me. Saying he understood that I cared about Sonny, and that he wasn’t trying to make choices for me, but then he starts telling me Sonny is just going to hurt me, and Sam was trying to make him just see that it’s none of his business.”

Which meant Jason had been ganged up on by his sister and fiancée. Fantastic. That had probably made everything better.

“How’d you leave it?” Elizabeth asked when Emily didn’t continue. “You’re pissed, so something must have happened.”

“I—” Emily bit her lip, looked at Elizabeth with guilty eyes. “I told him that he has to find something better to do with his life than constantly being up Sonny’s ass. It was one thing to screw his ex-girlfriend, but—”

“Emily.”

“What? It’s like Jason is obsessed with Sonny, and I just don’t get it. I mean, they’ve basically all been with the same women or related to them—except for you.” Emily grimaced. “I might have…also not used the word girlfriend.”

“I bet you’re really popular with Sam now.”

“Well, I don’t really like her so that’s not a loss, but yeah, Jason wasn’t thrilled when I called his fiancée a whore.”

Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut, prayed for strength. Clearly, Jason had tried to take her advice, but Emily wasn’t interested in even giving Jason a slight break. “Em, Jason isn’t obsessed with Sonny. They’re best friends—”

“Please. How do you explain all the crossover?”

“It’s…” She pursed her lips. “Weird, I know. But Jason already knew Robin, and Courtney—well, he was helping her. And he was helping Sam. Carly—Carly doesn’t make any sense. And you know that Brenda and Jason knew each other—”

“Great, you’re Jason’s cheerleader. I thought you were my best friend.” Emily scowled, yanked off her sweater and reached for her scrub top. “Can’t you just pick a side and stick with it, or are you still obsessed with my brother?”

Elizabeth exhaled softly. “You know, Cameron’s sick.”

“What?” Emily blinked at her.

“I found your brother sitting on the pier last night, and I spent ten minutes talking to him about this. I told him to stop giving you ultimatums because it wouldn’t make it better. And then I went home where Lucky screamed at me for being late and stormed out, leaving me to take care of Cameron who was up all night with a stomach virus. I’ve slept maybe an hour at best, and now I have to pull a double shift because Lucky’s on half pay.”

“Elizabeth—”

“But you don’t ask about me. You don’t care about anyone but yourself. You stormed over to your brother’s apartment, screaming at him, calling the woman he loves a whore, and you somehow think you’re the victim here?”

Elizabeth tugged her scrub top over her head and got to her feet. “You knew he’d be upset about Sonny, and you lied to everyone for weeks about sleeping with him. You saw Brenda crumble into a nervous breakdown after Sonny was done with her. Carly had a nervous breakdown and went crazy trying to stab you—and you think Jason’s crazy for thinking maybe Sonny is not the best romantic bet?”

Emily’s mouth opened then closed.

“So, if what you really want to know is if I agree with Jason about Sonny being a really bad road for you travel—then, yeah, I do. I think you know it, too. But you’re going to do whatever the hell you want. You always do.”

She slammed her locker shut and stormed towards the door. She yanked it open and then stopped dead in her tracks. She just stared at the man calmly squeezing the excess water out of his mop across the hall and slammed the door shut, ducking back into the room.

Emily stared at her. “What’s wrong?”

“M-Manny Ruiz.” Elizabeth swallowed hard, pressed her hand to her chest, a closed fist over her heart. “Across the hall. Mopping.”

“Are you kidding me? There’s no way he got hired here.” Emily reached for her phone and then stared at it. “You’re going to have to call Jason.”

Elizabeth frowned at her. “Why don’t you call Sonny?”

“I—” Emily tilted her head. “I don’t know. Jason—he just always handles these things, I guess. But he’s not going to pick up if it’s me. He’ll answer you—”

“I got a new phone number last year, I don’t think he has it. And you know he doesn’t answer calls from people he doesn’t know—” Elizabeth fished her phone out anyway. “But I’m not leaving this room until I know what’s going on.” She hesitated. “I don’t have Jason’s new number either.”

“Oh, God, the two of you.” Emily rolled her eyes and read the number out to her as Elizabeth dialed. “Don’t tell him where you got it. He’ll just have another reason to yell at me.”

Elizabeth ignored her as the phone rang. Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear it thudding in her ears.

“Hello?” Jason’s voice was cautious, unsure.

“It’s Elizabeth. Um, this is my new number. Emily gave me yours—Ow—” Elizabeth shoved Emily in the shoulder after her best friend kicked in her the shins. “What are you, five?”

“You didn’t have to tell him—”

“Elizabeth, is everything okay?”

“Manny Ruiz is here. At the hospital. Mopping like he’s some sort of janitor. I don’t know if they hired him or what, but I just— I saw him and I kind of panicked.” She bit her nails, wincing as her teeth hit skin.

“Okay.” There was something on his side of the phone—she could hear Sam’s voice demanding if it was Emily, and if it was, then Jason needed to hang up and take her side of things. “Wait a second—are you somewhere safe?”

“We’re in the locker room.”

“Okay. Sam—stop it!” There was more muttering, then she heard a door closing. “I’m on my way there now. I’ll find out what’s going on. Stay there. If you can.”

“Thanks.” She hung up the phone and sat back on the bench. “What if the hospital actually hired him, Em?”

“What if Alexis and Ric are wrong about the tumor?” Their fight forgotten, the friends exchanged uneasy glances and waited to hear from Jason.

Signs of Life is my version of what might have happened on the show if Jason hadn’t left in January 2000. It begins after the Christmas party in 1999.

As far as I can see, everything that’s happened on the show up until that point.


Chapter One

December 26, 1999

Port Charles Police Department: Squad Room

Christmas 1999 had not been much more successful than Christmas of 1998. Detective Marcus Taggert had made the mistake—again—of driving to Buffalo to visit his mother, Florence, and his younger sister, Gia. His mother sometimes seemed to appreciate his appearances on the holiday, but Gia had been unhappy with him almost since the day she was born.

She had her reasons, Taggert knew that, but none of those actually had a damn thing to do with him. She could be so damn irritating sometimes—

He’d driven back from Buffalo after dinner the night before, and then he had been dragged out of his warm bed at four in the morning because of a body floating in the harbor. The shit just seemed to keep happening in Port Charles.

Taggert scowled at the phone receiver in his hand as if the pathologist on the other line could see him. “Well, can’t you just run the prints? No, no. Don’t give me this bullshit about it being a holiday. That was yesterday. Pick up the stiff’s fingers, roll them in some fucking ink—don’t give me attitude, Carson, or the next person you talk to will be the Commissioner.”

He snorted. “Yeah, I’ll wait.” Never failed. As he waited for the pathologist to return to the phone, he scanned the squad room and noted his partner, Andy Capelli, taking a statement from an increasingly irate Nikolas Cassadine.

When the younger man stormed out of the room, Taggert lifted his brows. “What’s his damage?”

“Oh, he wants me to file assault charges against Jason Morgan,” Capelli said. “Don’t get excited, Marcus. I can already see your eyes lighting up. There’s nothing there. “

“Might be worth looking into,” Taggert offered with a shrug. “What did they fight about? I didn’t think they had any beef—Cassadine didn’t even really know Morgan, did he?”

“Can you believe sweet little Elizabeth Webber has gotten mixed up with that asshole?” Capelli snorted.  “Cassadine wanted to nail him for statutory rape.”

Taggert pressed his lips together. “Elizabeth is eighteen,” he murmured. “And she’s been through more than most her age. I bet she’d be unhappy if she knew Cassadine was in here throwing those kinds of words around.” He shifted, the receiver of the phone laying uncomfortably between his shoulder and cheek.

“I guess. You don’t sound surprised by this.”

Taggert shook his head. “I’m not, not really.  She knows him through Emily, I guess. And I knew they were friends of a sort. I warned her back in September, but beyond that, not much else I can do.” He frowned. “Statutory rape. That means Cassadine thinks they’re sleeping together?”

“Says Elizabeth confirmed it. He found Morgan with her in a studio her grandmother rented for her birthday a few weeks ago.”

“Well, she’s not the first good woman to see something worthwhile in an asshole,” Taggert said. The pathologist came back on the line finally, and the name had him clenching his teeth. “You’re sure—hey, cut the sarcasm, asshole—yeah, okay, send me over the full autopsy when you’re done.”

He set the receiver down gently in the cradle. “When did Cassadine say he saw Morgan at Elizabeth’s place?”

Capelli glanced at his notes. “Ah, around mid-December. Maybe the 13th. He didn’t remember for sure. Why?”

Taggert pursed his lips and tapped his pen against his desk blotter. “You said there was a fight. Was it that day?”

“Yeah—Cassadine wasn’t talking about that one though. Apparently they got into it at the GH Christmas party, too.” Capelli leaned forward, his dark eyes focused. “You think there’s something to the assault charge?”

“No, I’m thinking about timing. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen Morgan around for a while, and usually I do. We both go to Kelly’s for coffee almost every day, but I didn’t see him around much in December.”

“So, then I guess he was holed up with the Webber girl then—”

“Or,” Taggert said slowly, “she’s been covering for him. The guy at the morgue printed my floater. Anthony Moreno.”

“Anthony—” Capelli closed his mouth and just stared at him. “Moreno. Corinthos and Morgan’s rival. But Morgan’s too smart to dump a body like this—”

“I’m not saying I have all the details worked out. I’m saying that it’s all very interesting, and I’m not sure I buy that Jason Morgan is sleeping with Elizabeth Webber. Not—not like this.” Taggert hesitated. “I mean, everything she’s been through—Morgan—” How did he phrase this so that Capelli would understand?

“Morgan’s protective of her. I could see that. I don’t know why she’d be covering for him, but I also don’t believe it’s what Cassadine thinks it is. It’s…it’s worth finding out exactly how long its been since anyone saw Moreno and if Morgan has an alibi for that time period.”

“All right, let’s go check it out.”

Elizabeth’s Studio

Elizabeth Webber exhaled slowly. “Thank you, Professor, that’s the best news I’ve had all day.” She set the phone down on her artist’s table and couldn’t fight the smile that spread across her face.

In the two hours since Jason had mysteriously—and abruptly—decided that he needed to leave the studio and return to the penthouse where he lived across from Sonny Corinthos, she’d been sitting here feeling sorry for herself. She’d alienated nearly everyone in her life all for a man who had decided that he didn’t need her help anymore and apparently didn’t really need to explain that decision to her either.

But now she could really focus on her future, and the phone call from her professor gave her something else to think about.

Still brimming with renewed confidence, she answered the knock at her door without looking through the window or registering the sharpness of the knock.

“Emily! I was going to call you! You would not believe what just happened!”

“Other than you screwing my brother for months without telling me?”

Emily Bowen-Quartermaine stormed past Elizabeth and stormed past, swinging around to confront her best friend with angry, dark eyes. “I waited. For two days. You never called.”

Elizabeth just stared at her, closed her eyes, then sighed. She closed her door. “I’m sorry. I should have. It was just—it was Christmas and then today—”

“You were too busy sleeping with my brother,” Emily snapped.

Elizabeth pursed her lips and contemplated her next words. It would be so easy for her to just correct Emily’s assumption, to tell her that she and Jason were not sleeping together and that she’d been helping him out. And that was probably exactly what she should do to ease this situation.

But Elizabeth hadn’t done anything to deserve this kind of treatment from her best friend, and she really was not in the mood to be yelled at by one more person in her life about Jason Morgan. Not today.

Elizabeth arched a brow. “So what if I was? Why the hell is that your business?”

At her cool tone, Emily blinked and physically took a step back. “Excuse me…he’s my brother—”

“And do you always get a special notification when he has sex?” Elizabeth tilted her head. “You’re my best friend, Em, but that does not mean you get open access to everything going on in my life until I want to share it.”

“You’ve got a pretty messed up definition of what it means to be a best friend,” Emily shot back.

“I don’t know, it seems to match yours, or did you not come over here to yell at me about things you heard another supposed best friend yell at me during a Christmas party full of children?”

Elizabeth pulled her door open and gestured towards the hall. “You can go.”

“Elizabeth—”

“No. I’m not doing this with you today. So, please. Just leave.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Bathroom

Carly Quartermaine stared at the strip of plastic with its damn pink plus sign just glaring at her. She clenched her first and scowled. “What the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded, flattening a hand against her still flat abdomen. “Two one-night stands with the wrong men, I get knocked up. Lots of sex with the right men, and nothing. Damn it.”

Not that she’d wanted to really spend her life with Tony Jones, but everything would have been easier if either Jason or Tony had been Michael’s father.

What the hell was she going to do? She’d never allowed AJ into her bed, convinced that Jason would stop pretending that he gave a damn about the bonds of her marriage. She’d find a way to screw AJ over, take his money, and bring Michael and her own funds to Jason. She’d had a plan, damn it. One that had not included Jason moving onto another woman or having Sonny Corinthos’ child.

She had two options. She could have an abortion and no one would be the wiser, and there was a part of Carly that knew that was the only way out of this entire mess. Or she could seduce AJ and hope to hoodwink him into thinking it was his kid to protect her from the prenuptial agreement that, in the event of her infidelity, trigged a divorce and she’d be forced to surrender custody of Michael altogether.

She bit down at her nails and stared down at the test again. The only way out of this was Jason. If he could find a way to get her out of this marriage without losing Michael—maybe—

But Jason was never going to trust her again. Never going to give her a chance, and he certainly wasn’t going to take credit for this kid the way he had Michael.

Not willingly.

She didn’t want Sonny, and she didn’t want AJ. She wanted Jason and Michael. She deserved them—more than Elizabeth damn Webber did.

So if Jason wouldn’t volunteer to help her, then she’d have to force him. This was all his fault anyway. She never would have slept with Sonny if Jason hadn’t started dating someone behind her back.

December 27, 1999

Elm Street Pier

Elizabeth checked her watch and sighed. She’d asked Jason to meet her after her shift at Kelly’s, but he’d never called her back confirming it. Now, he was at least ten minutes later than she’d expected him to be, and night was starting to creep over the lake.

The one person she’d really wanted to share her good news with couldn’t be bothered to return her phone call, much less come to see her. She hadn’t heard from Jason in more than twenty-four hours, which was fine she supposed, except it left her thinking that maybe she’d been mostly an idiot to have covered for him, angering everyone who cared about her in the process.

She took out her phone, half-expecting to see a missed call from him, but there was nothing. “More than friends, my ass,” Elizabeth muttered. She sighed and sat on the bench. She’d give him five more minutes and then she was leaving.

A few minutes later, she heard footsteps heading her way from Pier 52, and she exhaled in relief. She stood—only to see Sonny Corinthos and one of his guards climb the stairs. Her shoulders slumped, and Elizabeth sank back onto the bench.

“From the expression on your face, I don’t think I’m the one you were expecting.” Sonny gestured at the tall, dark-haired man standing behind him. “Max, have you met our Elizabeth Webber yet?”

“In passing,” the man responded with a surprisingly kind smile. “Max Giambetti.”

“Nice to meet you.” Elizabeth looked at her phone again. Still nothing. “I should be getting home.”

“It’s getting dark out—would you mind if I walked you to your door?”

“Sure. Why not.” She trudged towards the stairs. “Not like I have any better offers.” She hesitated, turned back to him. “You—Jason isn’t out of town or anything, is he?”

“Ah, no. I saw him earlier today at the—” Sonny coughed lightly into his gloved first. “How have you been since the Christmas party?”

Elizabeth sighed and turned the corner on Elm Street that led to the smaller street where her studio building was located. “Fantastic. I’ve only been yelled at by three people in the last three days, and most of my customers at Kelly’s were at least nice enough to stare at me without asking questions.”

“I’m sorry about this, Elizabeth.”

She shrugged as she pulled open the security door to her building and turned back to him. “Why? Did you ask Nikolas to make a scene at the party? Make my life a living hell? Anyway.” She jerked a thumb at the inside door that she still hadn’t unlocked yet. “This is me. Thanks—”

Sonny peered at the less than sturdy door and turned back to her security door where the top hinge had come loose. “Yeah. Humor me. I’d like to make sure you’re in your studio. Safe.”

“Suit yourself.” Elizabeth unlocked the door and started across the shabby lobby to the open stairwell. Sonny’s mouth dropped at the exposed wiring in the ceiling. “It’s not the Ritz, I guess.”

“It’s a—” He bit back whatever he was about to say and shook his head. “Lead the way.”

When they reached her door, he just shook his head. “There’s a window,” he muttered. “The security on this—what was your grandmother thinking?”

Elizabeth snorted. “She wasn’t. She didn’t see if before I rented it, and by then, I’d signed a six month lease. I guess she should have given me some conditions when she gave me my birthday money.”

“Well, she sure learned her lesson.” He hesitated. “I saw that she was there—at the party. Are things—” He grimaced. “Is she one of the people yelling at you?”

“Not anymore.” She slid her key into the door and pushed it open, flipping on a light switch. He followed her in, and she sighed. “Sonny—”

“I just—you were put into this position because of me—”

“You mean, because whatever happened with you, Jason, and Carly made him go to the boxcar while he was shot and bleeding to death instead of letting you help him?” She dumped her keys on the table. “Yeah, I guess that puts this partially on you, but you’re about the only person who didn’t annoy me in the last month or so, whatever.”

Sonny frowned. “Still, if there’s—” He stopped and she turned to look at him. He was staring at the drying rack where she’d set up some of the pieces she’d been working on the last few weeks. “These…these are yours?”

“Yeah.” Her cheeks felt warm as she tugged off her leather jacket and hung it up on the coat rack. “They’re not—I mean, I think there’s still some stuff left to—”

“They’re great. I know Jason said you painted, but you know he can’t really see that stuff all that well.” Sonny stepped towards the first painting, the corners of his mouth turned down as he peered at the bright oranges and reds. “This is…this is the garage fire, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth moved next to him. “I had a really crappy first semester at PCU, and one of my art professors hated almost everything I gave him. He kept telling me it wasn’t good enough, that it didn’t go deep enough.” She smirked. “I was so mad about it that I signed up for another one of his classes this spring to prove him wrong. I sent him a bunch of these sketches before I put them on canvas as part of my first project.”

“Yeah?” Sonny nodded. “I bet he changed his mind. You got plans for this? I’ll buy it.”

“What? I—” She blinked at him. “Oh. Um. I mean, okay. If you—Um, my professor actually liked the sketches enough that he suggested I enter all three of them in this competition at the school, but when it’s over—” She shoved a piece of a hair behind her ear. “He called me yesterday—he apologized, actually, for being so hard on me, but he wanted to make mad.”

“Well, it worked. These are great—”

Behind them the door opened, and Jason stepped in, his face lightly flushed from the cold air outside. He stared at the two of them and Elizabeth blinked at the stony expression on his face.

“I saw Max outside the door,” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I ran into Elizabeth on the docks and walked her home.” Sonny hesitated. “I’m gonna go, Liz. Let me know when that painting is available.”

He hesitated a moment, but Jason said nothing to him, so Sonny offered Elizabeth one more smile before leaving.

When Sonny was gone, Jason looked back at her, and the stillness had slid away. He looked like himself again. “Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t get your message until—”

“It’s fine.” She shrugged. “Sonny was pretty appalled by my crapping building, so it was kind of entertaining to walk him past that security door and exposed wiring.” Elizabeth managed a smile and leaned against the arm of her sofa. “Um, I just wanted to tell you that my professor—the one from last semester that I wanted to set on fire—he saw the sketches I sent him and he wants me to enter my work in a contest. I should have just said that over the phone. I’m sorry—”

“No, no—” He stepped towards her. “You must be really excited. I know you worked hard on these—” Jason scanned them and winced. “I mean, I like the colors.”

Elizabeth laughed and got to her feet. “Yeah, okay, Thanks. That’s…that’s a lot coming from you. Sonny even offered to buy one—”

And just like that, the humor vanished from Jason’s features. “Did he.” The words sounded like they should be a question, but they were delivered in a flat tone that she’d never heard from him before.

Well, now that his good mood was gone, it was probably the best time to tell him the other piece of news she’d been holding back. “Yeah, well, he was probably just being nice. Um, Emily came by yesterday after you…left.”

Jason winced. “She…left me a message. She’s mad at me—did you tell her—”

“Did I tell her that Nikolas is basically a raving lunatic and that I was basically just…trying to piss him off?” Elizabeth grimaced. “I meant to, but she came here, yelling at me about how I didn’t tell her—I mean, she just assumed it was true, and she used some language I am not going to repeat here, so I basically…” She shrugged, sat on the sofa. “I let her believe what she wanted and kicked her out.”

“Well, that explains the voicemails I’ve been getting about taking advantage of her vulnerable and naive best friend,” Jason muttered. “Who is she actually mad at?”

“Hard to tell.” She sighed as he sat next to her and she turned to him, the way they had so often while he had stayed on this sofa. “I’m sorry. I should have told her. But even if I had told her the truth, I mean, people are going to believe whatever they want—”

“People?” Jason repeated.

“Oh, right, you’re the guy. No one is probably even saying anything to you.” She huffed. “Man, I hate the patriarchy. You’re the bad guy. How come you’re not getting the same flack from strangers?”

Jason squinted at her.  “I think I’ve been physically attacked twice—and what’s happening with strangers?”

“Never mind.” She shrugged. “It’ll blow over. I mean, I don’t know what to do about Nikolas, but eventually people will move on. One of the Quartermaines or something will do something ridiculous, and we’ll be all set.”

“All right.”

But Jason still looked unconvinced, and she rolled her eyes. “What? What now? First you leave yesterday without any warning, then you don’t return my phone calls, then you get all annoyed because Sonny walked me home and offered to buy a painting—what is your problem?”

She shoved herself to her feet. “You are not the one who has had everyone in her life yell at her at some point over the last three weeks or look at me with that look of disappointment that my parents pratically patented—” When she saw Jason smirk, she cut off. “And now you’re laughing at me. Great.” She threw herself against the back of the sofa. “This just caps off the damn day.”

“I’m sorry.” Jason smothered a smile. “Really. I am. Look, I’m sorry Emily came over and yelled at you. And if you want to torture and make her grovel about it, that’s your call. As for Sonny—” he sighed, but this time he didn’t go all cement-like. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, more quietly. “He and I are just—we’re having some—trust issues, and I didn’t—you’re separate from all of that. That sounds stupid—”

“No, I get it. I mean, Emily doesn’t even really know how—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I mean, she knows we’re friends since all that stuff with Juan a few months ago, but she doesn’t really know. And neither did anyone else. It’s just…something I kept for myself.”

He reached for her hand, laced his fingers through hers. “I get it. I really am happy for you about your art, and if Sonny wants to buy something from you—just make sure you charge him a lot.” He raised a brow. “You want to celebrate? I’ll let you drive.”

“You see, this is why I put up with you.”

Counting Stars is set in January 2000, a version of what might have happened on the show after Jason left but if Lucky hadn’t come back.

For the most part, everything that happened up until Jason left that year has happened except Carly did not become pregnant with Sonny’s kid. It’s just a complication I have no use for in this story. I don’t particularly remember exactly what Luke and Laura were up to this at this point, but they’re still separated.

These are the first two scenes in the first chapter — I wasn’t able to finish the full four scenes I had planned in time but this gives you the gist of where the story is sort of going.


Friday, January 21, 2000

Harborview Towers: Jason’s Penthouse

Jason Morgan had never really moved into the apartment across the hall from Sonny Corinthos—it had been vacant after their lawyer Justus Ward had abruptly resigned earlier that year and moved to Philadelphia, and Jason had wanted out of the cottage he had shared with Michael and Robin.

The only furniture in the house was what Justus had left behind—a sofa, some desks, and a bed in the master bedroom.

There was very little of Jason in this penthouse, and that would make it easier for him to leave it behind when he left Port Charles later today.

But first…he had to do something else.

He zipped the last of the clothes he planned to take with him into a duffel bag and set it on the carpeted floor next to the closet, then turned back to the bed.

Nestled beneath the snowy white sheets and dark comforter lay a sleeping woman. She was sleeping on her side, one hand tucked underneath the pillow, chestnut curls spilling over her bare shoulder.

He didn’t want to leave her. Not after the last few weeks, not after last night. Carly had left him no choice. The longer he stayed in Port Charles, the more she’d try to use him. And anyone else he cared about.

Elizabeth Webber murmured something and then turned over to her other side, the comforter sliding down slightly, revealing her bare back.

“Oh, man,” Jason muttered, scrubbing his hands over his face. He could understand why some people just left a note and took off.

But Elizabeth trusted him—and he would never hurt her like that. He didn’t want to hurt her at all, but…

Jason sat on the edge of the bed, tucked her hair behind her ears, letting his fingertips slide down her cheek. She smiled, her eyes still closed. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

Elizabeth opened her eyes, still blurry from sleep. But then her gaze sharpened, those dark blue eyes trained on him.  She sat up, clutching the sheets to her chest, blinking. “You—you’re dressed—” Biting her lip, she sat back against the headboard. “Do you have to leave?”

“I—” Jason dipped his head. “Yeah.”

“Sonny is sending—”

“My plans haven’t—” He swallowed the lump in his throat. “I told you yesterday—”

“No, no. You—” She licked her lips, readjusted the sheet as a bright red flush crawled down from her cheeks to her shoulders. She met his eyes. “You changed your mind. Didn’t you?” She looked around the room. “I mean—”

“I’m sorry. I wish things could be different—”

“Don’t—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Don’t say that. Don’t pretend. If you wanted things to be different, they would be.”

He dipped his head, looked away. “I—”

“I need to get dressed. Can you please—” She gestured at the door. “I’m not—I’m not doing this when you’re dressed and I’m not. It’s just—I’m not doing it.”

“Okay.” He pushed himself to his feet and stopped by the door to lift his duffel bag. “Elizabeth—”

“Please just go.”

Downstairs, he set the bag down on the sofa and exhaled slowly. He never should have let last night happen. He knew he had to leave, but she’d been upset yesterday and he hadn’t wanted to leave her that way. He’d taken her on one last ride—

He wasn’t sure how he waited for her. Her footsteps on the carpeted stairs were soft, and he nearly missed them. Jason turned to see her, dressed again in the jeans and sweater she’d been wearing the night before, her curls pulled away from her face which had been washed.

Elizabeth stopped at the bottom of the stairs, her face pale as she spoke. “I spent the last ten minutes trying to remember exactly what made me think I had changed your mind about leaving, and I realize now there was nothing. Beyond the fact that you kissed me. You brought me here. And you had sex with me.”

Jason swallowed hard. “It wasn’t—” He bit back the protest that it hadn’t been the way she made it sound. “It wasn’t just sex-”

“Clearly it was—” She shook her head. “I’m tired. You obviously feel you need to go and I’m not enough to make you stay—”

“It’s not you,” he cut in, his voice rough. “If I could—if it were just you and me, I’d never—” He shook his head.

“Can you call me a cab or something?” she asked. She crossed to the desk where her jacket had been tossed over the back of the tall leather chair.

“I’ll take you—”

“You need to go, right?” She pulled her hair out from the collar of the jacket. “I don’t want to hold you up.”

“Elizabeth—I don’t want it to be like this—” He stepped towards her, but she shook her head, sharply.

“You decided it had to be like this. You could have left me yesterday. You could just left. But you—” Her voice broke. “Do you know what it took for me to trust you like that? To be with you—you knew I’d never been with—not since—” She bit her lip. “So I don’t know what you expected when you woke up and packed your bags while I was still—”

His skin felt like it was stretched too tightly over his bones. “I can get someone to drive you home. I just—I need to go. It’s not you—”

“Stop—just stop. Don’t explain yourself. You will never be able to explain how you could sleep with me and leave the next morning without making it worse. If I ever meant even a little to you, then you will just stop.”

“You know—” Jason didn’t go on because he could see how hard she was fighting to keep the tears at bay, and he’d done enough. “I’ll get someone to drive you home.”

He started for the door, then stopped. Without turning back to face her, Jason spoke quietly. “I was being selfish last night because I knew when I was gone, you’d find someone who deserved you. I don’t.”

“Jason—”

He closed the door behind him and pulled out his cell phone to call one of the guys in the parking garage to give Elizabeth a ride.

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

 

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Max Giambetti knocked lightly on the door, then pushed it open. “Hey, Mr. C, you got a minute?”

Sonny Corinthos, standing at the window looking out over the city, turned with a mug of coffee in his hand. “Yeah, sure. What’s up?”

“Elizabeth Webber wants to talk to you.” Max opened the door all the way so that the petite brunette could enter the penthouse. “Always nice to see you.”

“You, too.” Elizabeth waited until the guard closed the door before turning a guarded expression to Sonny. “I’m sorry to just show up.”

“It’s not a problem.” Sonny studied her for a long moment. He hadn’t seen her much in the two months or so since Jason had left Port Charles. He felt partially responsible for his hasty exit and had avoided Kelly’s, but he’d sent flowers when Audrey Hardy had unexpectedly passed away in her sleep in February. “How have you been?”

“Okay. I guess. Um, I meant to call you. Thank you for the tulips.” She swallowed hard. “It was nice of you.”

“I told you,” Sonny said, pressing his free hand to his chest. “Anything you ever need.”

“Well…” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Have you…is Jason in touch with you?”

“Uh…” he squinted at her. “To a certain extent. He—he hasn’t contacted you since he left?”

“Sort of.” She reached into the large canvas tote she had over her arm. “He’s sent me a few postcards, but there’s never a return address.” She held up. “Or anything at all really. We, um, didn’t leave things on good terms.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Do you need something from him? He calls in every once in a while—twice since he left, but I never really know when—”

“Yeah, I—” Elizabeth sighed. “God, this is so hard. Why couldn’t he be normal and just have a damn cell phone or a way to—” She shoved the postcards back in her bag. “The next time he calls in, just tell him I need to talk to him—”

“Hey, wait a minute—” Sonny held out a hand to stop her from leaving. “Just wait. Can I help with something?  I can track him down if you need—”

When Elizabeth just shook her head, folded her arms, he sighed. “Elizabeth, please. I feel like it’s my fault he’s gone. If you need help—”

“Look, it’s just—don’t go chasing after him. I don’t want him to come back because—” She paused. “I just wanted to tell him that I’m…I’m pregnant.”

Sonny stared at her for a long moment, his mouth slightly open. He had known Elizabeth for a little over a year, considered her someone he cared about—but that—that he hadn’t seen coming.

“Pregnant,” Sonny repeated. “Are—um—okay. So—” He exhaled in a rush of breath. “I didn’t realize—not that it’s any of my business—”

Elizabeth stared down at the ground. “It was just—it was a mistake. He left anyway. I don’t want him to come back because—I mean, I know that sound stupid because of course he’ll come back once I tell him, but I guess…I was hoping he’d come back without knowing.” She managed a half smile. “But it’s been about, oh, eleven weeks, and I’m pretty sure I can’t keep this secret forever.”

“Yeah, yeah—” Eleven weeks. Almost three months. Christ. “No, I get it. Um, so you don’t want me to run him down but—”

“Just ask him to actually call me the next time you talked to him, I guess.” She cleared her throat. “Thanks—”

“Do you need anything? Um, are you still in that studio?”

“Oh. No, no. I couldn’t—” She offered him a smile. “I found out for sure that I was—well—when I knew for sure, I knew I had to move. I promise. It’s much better. I’ve got everything I need. I got some money from my grandmother and I’m looking for a job with better hours.”

Sonny didn’t want to let her walk out the door, but she was already halfway there and he didn’t know what else he could do.

“Thanks, Sonny. I’ll—I’ll keep in touch, if you want.” She opened the door, then turned back to him. “Don’t—don’t say anything to anyone else. I haven’t really figured out what…I’m telling people yet.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. You tell me if you need anything, okay?” Sonny followed into the hallway and watched as she stepped onto the elevator. When the doors had closed, he let out a rush of breath. “Do me a favor, Max. Can you get our best guy to look after her?”

“Sure, Mr. C. Everything okay with her?”

“That depends on your definition of okay.”

July 10, 2018

While this scene is kind of a massive spoiler, believe it or not, it’s hugely relevant to the rest of the story. It’s mostly a scene in which I wrap up old business so everyone can move on.  It’s set a few days after Carly gets kidnapped. It has not been cleared by the beta 😛

Mad World takes place in June 2003 and rewrites the Carly gets kidnapped and locked in the panic room storyline. Ric and Elizabeth married in May, she lost the baby. I’ve reset most of 2003, so ignore pretty much everything you remember.


Faith Roscoe’s Apartment

When Faith Roscoe turned on the light in her living room that night, she was tickled pink at the sight of Jason Morgan casually sitting in her plush white armchair. “Well, well, I have to admit, I’ve always wondered what it would be like between us,” she purred.

Jason’s face didn’t change. “You’ve been working with Ric Lansing and Ned Ashton since last fall.”

Faith wrinkled her nose. “Someone’s been talking out of turn.” She wagged her finger. “Ned is a very naughty man.” She sashayed over to her wine cabinet and selected an excellent white vintage. “I haven’t had time to take care of him, but he’s on my list.”

“Is Elizabeth Webber on that list, too?”

Faith nearly bobbled the cork at the thought of that insipid little mouse. “My, my, does the dear girl have another champion? I must ask her how she does it—”

She never heard him move. One second she was smirking, pouring her wine—and then the next she was shoved back against the wall, Jason’s hand tight around her throat.

“I never thought you were into games,” Faith said breathlessly, trying to find the amusement. She was a woman, so Jason was trying to scare her. Well, mission accomplished. Time to give him what he wanted so he’d go away. “You’re here about Carly. You want to find her.”

“Did you help Ric take her? Are you hiding her?”

“I have no interest in Sonny’s wife,” Faith managed, as Jason’s grip relaxed enough for her to draw in a full breath. “And Ric has been a very disappointing boy. No, I did not help him. And I do not know where she is, buuuut….” She drew out in a sing-sing voice, careful to keep her eyes locked on his. “I know he was quite desperate to find a house for his little China doll. Just the right house. The house was all he could talk about.”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “He was looking for that house or a particular kind of house?”

“I don’t know, and I didn’t ask. I’m not interested in helping Ric start the perfect life with that—” Faith broke off whatever insult she was about to launch. Keep the eye on the prize. “There’s something about the house that made his plan complete. They moved in a week before Carly went missing.”

Jason nodded. Released her neck and started across the room. Faith rolled her shoulders, irritated. “If I knew where Carly was, I would have already found a way to make Ric pay for it. He’s become very boring, don’t you know?”

“Mmm…” Jason squinted at her. “You pushed her down the stairs, didn’t you?”

And the way he said it told Faith she’d already been convicted of the crime. Sentenced. Her palms began to sweat. How had she forgotten the whole reason they’d targeted the tedious little bitch? She was Jason Morgan’s ex-girlfriend—though maybe the ex was something he’d like to change.

“I did you a favor,” Faith said, spreading her hands at her sides. “Now you don’t have to take on Lansing’s bastard when you toss in him the harbor and take her back—and really—you’d be so much nicer to her, and he’s been just awful—” Her voice stopped abruptly when Jason drew his gun from where it had been tucked behind his back.

Faith swallowed. “I shouldn’t have done it, of course. I was angry, and I wanted to make Ric hurt. I didn’t even think about her. I should have. I should think more about other people. I will. I’ll enter a convent—” Her voice became more rapid as she watched Jason screw a silencer into the barrel. “I can help you,” she said desperately. “I can make Ric tell me—”

“Even if that were true,” Jason said slowly, meeting her eyes again. “It still wouldn’t save you.”

“Hey, you’re supposed to be the good one,” Faith retorted. “I’m a woman—isn’t there a code—”

“You don’t get to play in this world, Faith, and expect special treatment,” Jason said. “And this isn’t business. This isn’t about Sonny. This…this is personal.” He lifted a shoulder and looked at her without an expression in his eyes. “You knew who she was when you went after her. And as long as Ric wants her, she’s not safe.”

“Listen, that’s just not true—”

But she was dead before she could finish the sentence, the bullet hitting her just between the eyes. A nice, neat bullet hole between those wide blue eyes, still open—her mouth still forming a word.

She hit the floor, her black sundress pooling around her. Blood starting to soak into the carpet.

Jason stared down at her, then pulled out his cell phone. “Hey, Francis. Yeah, I got a cleanup for you to handle.”

June 15, 2018

Set in Summer 2003. Jason is marrying Courtney, Elizabeth is married to Ric and they’ve just moved into the house. Emily never came home in March with cancer. Most everything else is set up here.


Chapter One

It’s on your face; is it on your mind?
Would you care to build a house of your own?
How much longer, how long can you wait?
It’s like you wanted to go and give yourself away
Heaven forbid you end up alone and don’t know why
Hold on tight, wait for tomorrow, you’ll be alright
– Heaven Forbid, The Fray

Friday, June 19, 2003

Kelly’s: Courtyard

 Elizabeth Webber pasted a smile on her face as Georgie Jones set a plate of French toast and sausage in front of her, and then an omelet and wheat toast in front of her best friend, Emily Bowen-Quartermaine.

This was a happy day, Elizabeth reminded herself. Her best friend in the entire world was in town for a weekend, and Elizabeth desperately needed her cheerful and bright-eyed nature.

Except that Emily was rolling her eyes about the wedding she had come to town for and her idiot brother’s ridiculous choice of a second wife. Like he hadn’t made a terrible choice the first time, right?

Elizabeth managed a weak smile as she sipped her orange juice.

“Oh, ugh, I’m tired of talking about Jason being an idiot.” Emily cut up her omelet and waved her fork at Elizabeth. “You need to tell me everything you haven’t been saying over the phone.” Her best friend’s dark eyes peered at her. “Tell me about the new husband—and what is with this town and quickie marriages lately? Both my brothers got married and divorced before I could even find out where they were registered, and you’re married to a guy I’ve never met—”

“Oh.” Elizabeth smiled. “Ric is…he’s good. He’s a lawyer, you know. Um, criminal law. He was working for Sonny and Jason for a little while, but it didn’t work out.”

“Yeah, I bet.” Emily hesitated. “Listen, Mom—she called to tell me that you’d had a miscarriage. She was…she thought you might not tell me.”

Elizabeth sighed, put down her fork. “Yeah. I—I was pregnant. For about…” A brief shining moment. “I was about two months along, but I—I fell. And yeah.” She dropped her hands into her lap. “I’m okay.”

“Uh huh.” Emily pushed her egg around her plate with her fork. “You don’t have to talk to me, Elizabeth. No, cancel that.” She leaned forward, lowered her voice. “Look, I wanted to…I wanted to try and pretend for you. I know you want that. You want to stick your head in the sand—”

“Emily—”

“You think because I haven’t been home for two years that I’m an idiot?” Emily rolled her eyes. “A year ago, my brother married someone. Now, she’s marrying Jason and AJ is off in New Orleans trying to put his life back together. Plus, I distinctly remember my mother calling me last fall to tell me you were living with Jason—”

“Emily—”

“I didn’t press you for details then. I figured you want to talk about it, you’ll tell me. I didn’t want to butt in. God knows I did that too much with Lucky when he came home.” Emily pursed her lips. “So, I let it go. And I let you say nothing in phone calls. And say nothing in your letters and emails. When you bothered to send them—”

“Emily—”

“I come home, and you’ve lost weight. You look like you haven’t slept in weeks. You look miserable, Elizabeth. I know you just had a terrible tragedy, and I just—you don’t have to pretend for me.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes when Emily finally lapsed into silence. What could she say to her best friend? Why had Emily chosen this moment to finally…look at Elizabeth and see her?

“I am…struggling,” Elizabeth said finally. “I—I—” She hesitated. “I’m not going to talk about what happened with Jason. Or Courtney. I can’t.”

“Okay, but—”

“Ric is…” Elizabeth paused, searching for the right words. She didn’t want Emily to worry about her. Maybe if Emily weren’t going back to her summer program at UCLA in two days…maybe Elizabeth could feel free to say more.

But Emily wouldn’t be here.

And there were still some things Elizabeth didn’t want to think about.

“Ric is a choice made when I thought—when there was a baby involved. But I made it, and I can live with it.”

“You can live with it,” Emily murmured. “That’s not marriage, Elizabeth. You deserve more.”

“I deserve what I have for a lot of reasons. Don’t worry about me, Em. You’re here for a happy reason. You know, Jason is getting married, and—” Elizabeth stopped.

There were some things she couldn’t fake.

“Yeah, my brother is marrying his brother’s ex-wife.” Emily raised her glass in a mock toast. “Awesome sauce. Let’s drink to that.”

“Emily—” Elizabeth shook her head. “It was…complicated.”

“I don’t know how complicated it has to be since the ink on their divorce is barely dry,” Emily muttered. She stabbed a fork towards Elizabeth. “If I find out they were cheating on you and AJ—”

“Emily—it’s not…” Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s over now. That’s—it’s complicated.”

“Oh, my God. That’s what happened. Are you freaking serious? What the hell—”

“Emily, it wasn’t—like that. Not exactly.” Damn it. “Okay, listen. I don’t—yes, I was at the penthouse for a while, but it wasn’t about…I mean, Jason and I were—we weren’t really together. We…talked about it. But it just…it got derailed by other stuff. And I don’t know what was going on with Courtney. I don’t know. Maybe she was—” Elizabeth sighed. “It wasn’t that simple. Please, please, don’t bring this up to either of them. I already—I embarrassed myself enough when—”

Her eyes burned at the memory of confronting Courtney in Kelly’s. Going after her. The way Jason had defended Courtney had stopped Elizabeth from ever asking when it had actually started.

Wasn’t it obvious?

“Please.”

Emily sat back and huffed. “Fine. It’s not my thing to get pissed about, I guess. I’m just—ugh. I should have come back to PCU instead of transferring to UCLA—”

“And I missed you so much, Em. I can’t wait until you come back home in August.” Elizabeth reached across to take her hand. “And I love how much you love me. But Jason is your brother. And his choices matter. He…obviously loves Courtney. It’s—” It was the only explanation. “So please, tonight, be his sister. Not my friend.”

“Yeah, okay. But I’m still gonna be AJ’s sister, so I can’t promise anything.”

Elizabeth asked her a question about California and was able distract Emily for almost twenty minutes. She pushed her food around her plate and listened to Emily talk about college and how hard she was working.

“Oh.” Emily straightened. “Jason! Hey!”

Elizabeth closed her eyes as Emily got to her feet and rushed around Elizabeth—likely to hug her brother who had obviously come up behind them at some point.

Thank God it hadn’t been earlier.

She took a deep breath, gathered herself. She could do this.

She was good at this.

Elizabeth took her wallet out of her purse and tossed a ten on the table to cover her breakfast before standing and turning to flash a bright smile at Emily’s brother.

Jason Morgan stood there, looking much as he had the year before in a pair of blue jeans and a dark T-shirt. His arm was loose around his sister’s waist and he was smiling a little.

“Hey.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ears as she slid the strap of her purse over her shoulder. “Congratulations.”

Jason’s smile dimmed slightly as he tipped his head. “Elizabeth. Hey. Um, thanks.”

“We were just eating breakfast—” Emily scowled. “Liz, why did you put down money—”

“Oh, I have to get going. I’m done anyway.” Elizabeth smiled again. “And I know you guys must want to catch up before things get crazy later today.”

“Yeah, but—”

Elizabeth managed to keep the smile on her face as she looked at Jason again, but their eyes met. Held for a moment. “I—I wish you happiness, Jason.”

“You don’t have to go,” Jason said, stepping forward, his arm falling from his sister’s waist. “You haven’t seen Emily either—”

“I know, and I’ve missed her, but—” Elizabeth looked at Emily. “You’ll be back in two months for good a-and you know, I’ve waited this long. I really do have to go. We just—” She swallowed. “We moved last week, and I haven’t really unpacked.”

And then the interest slid from Jason’s eyes at that reminder. She’d married Ric. A man Jason hated more than anything in the world.

“Congratulations and good luck tonight.”  And then Elizabeth hurried from the courtyard, not looking back.

Emily stared after her before looking back at the table. “She didn’t eat anything.”

“What?” Jason asked, frowning. “What—”

“We’ve been here for almost a half hour.” Emily gestured at their breakfast plates. Her own plate was halfway gone, but all Elizabeth had really done was cut her French toast into pieces. “She’s lost weight, did you notice?”

“I—” Jason nodded. “Yeah, I saw. She…she lost a baby a few weeks ago, Em. She’s probably not doing well.”

“Probably?” Emily arched her eyebrows. “I thought you were guys were friends.”

“Emily—”

“By the way, not that I’m gonna rain on your parade or anything, but you should know my loyalties are divided about this wedding.”

Jason closed his eyes. “About Elizabeth? Listen…”

“Who said anything about Elizabeth?” Emily asked, innocently. “I was talking about the fact you’re marrying AJ’s ex-wife. And hey, how solid are you that the divorce is legal? You know us Quartermaines.” She batted her eye lashes. “We lie.”

Port Charles Police Department: Locker Room

It was his first day as a police officer.

If anyone had told Lucky Spencer as a teenager that he would have worked his ass of in the academy to get to this point, well—he would have smirked and flipped that person off.

But he was here. Starting the next chapter of his life.

Lucky grinned when he saw the dark-haired New York native who had the locker next to him. “Hey! I didn’t know you were gonna end up here.”

His roommate from the academy, Dante Falconieri, flashed a returning smile as he buttoned the crisp blue uniform shirt. “Yeah, well, I was waiting on a few places. I wasn’t wild about going back to Bensonhurst and trying to pretend I had some authority. Most of my family would laugh in my face.”

“Cruz is starting today, too,” Lucky said, with a nod. He tugged his t-shirt over his head and tossed it in the locker. “I got assigned to Major Crimes with your cousin.”

“My cousin Vinnie?” Dante said with a wicked grin. “Good luck. He’s an asshole. I’m on patrol with some guy who looks like he ate his weight in donuts.” He frowned slightly.  “Where is Cruz? He better not be late on his first day—”

“Oh, he’s got a later shift” Lucky shrugged. “Jason Morgan is getting married tonight, so I guess they’re…I don’t know, worried about it.” He snorted. “Glad I don’t have that detail.”

And hoped he wouldn’t be asked to work any case with people he’d known once. The whole point of this job was a new start. A new life.

“Yeah, I do not hear good things about the Organized Crime Unit.” Dante laced his shoes. “But, hell, no one stays at the PCPD for their entire career. You put some time in the streets, get some experience and then go somewhere where the senior officers aren’t a bunch of idiots.”

Lucky unpinned the badge he’d been issued the week before after his orientation and then clipped it to his breast pocket.  “I mean, if Taggert, Capelli, and your cousin can do it—” He shrugged. “Hey, how hard can this be?”

District Attorney Wing, Municipal Building: Scott Baldwin’s Office

 

Over a cup of coffee, Scott Baldwin perused the list of new recruits Commissioner Mac Scorpio had sent him earlier that day. A grant from the state had allowed them to hire three new police officers, but they’d had to be pulled from the ranks of the local police academy.

Scott’s eyes fell on one name. Lucas Lorenzo Spencer, Jr. Assigned to Major Crimes under the supervision of Detective Vincent Esposito.

“So, he really did it,” Scott murmured. “I’ll be damned.”

“Mr. Baldwin?”

He glanced up to find his secretary standing at his door, an expectant look on her face. “What is it, Barb? Did I forget an appointment?”

“Your 9 AM meeting with Kelsey Joyce for the Major Crimes division—”

“Right, right.” Scott turned away from his computer monitor and the email and rose from his desk. “Bring her in.”

“He’ll see you now,” Barb said as she turned back to someone outside. She stepped aside, and a young brunette entered, dressed in a slim black pencil skirt with a black blazer over a cotton candy pink skirt.

“Mr. Baldwin,” Kelsey Joyce said, flashing a bright smile. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“Kelsey,” Scott said, extending a hand. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since you graduated high school, though that wasn’t so long ago, huh?” He gestured for her take a seat at the small conference table. “How’s your mother?”

“She’s good.” Kelsey sighed. “Still misses Dad. And she said thanks for taking me on here—with Lee and Gail so nearby, she won’t worry about me as much.”

“Gail is always looking for someone to worry about, so she’ll be happy to add you.” Scott sighed. “I wish I hadn’t lost touch with your father. He was a good man. Always encouraged me to follow my conscience. I usually ignored him, but sometimes, you know I still hear him in the back of my head.” He smiled at her. “He’d have been proud of you. Graduating high school at sixteen, passing the bar at twenty-three. His brilliant daughter.”

“Well, I hope I can live up to him.” Kelsey folded her hands in her lap. “Your secretary said I’d been assigned to Major Crimes—”

“Yeah, yeah. We had, um, a meeting with the mayor last month—the commissioner and I are old friends and we work closely together. It seems the mayor’s office is unhappy with the lack of priority Major Crimes gets—”

“Well, it’s Port Charles. You share a water border with Canada.” Kelsey shrugged. “I understand that organized crime would take precedence—”

“And we’re not taking our focus off that, but we’ve been having trouble keeping officers at the PCPD. Frustration over those priorities. Feeling neglected. We need to do more for the rest of Port Charles. I promised I would do more when I got elected.”

“Okay. So, is that where I’ll be working?”

“I’m going to assign you to work as liaison with the PCPD. Just to get your feet wet. Get to know the players. Let me know what resources we need. We only have one another attorney assigned to Major Crimes—Danielle Simmons—but she’s on maternity leave.”

Kelsey blinked. “Wait. Does that mean I’m basically—”

“For the moment, yeah, you’re basically running Major Crimes.” He sighed. “I told you. We’re crap at priorities in Port Charles.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Ned Ashton leaned back in his chair, then shifted uncomfortably. “Brooke, I know you’re not happy—”

His nineteen-year-old daughter rolled her eyes and huffed. “Oh, yeah? What gave it away?”

“This is going well,” his younger brother, Dillon, said to him brightly. “I’m glad I canceled my plans to be snarked for an hour, but you know I got a busy day ahead of me to be yelled at by anyone else—”

“Who invited you anyway?” Brooke Lynn retorted. “Nothing is gonna make me okay with being stuck here in this back water with a bunch of hicks when I could be at home—”

“Where you were failing out of Columbia?” Ned asked. “Getting arrested?”

“Oh, God. It wasn’t that bad. I was just with some friends—”

“Who were shoplifting.”

“One bottle of wine.”

“Your mother and I decided you needed a change in scenery—”

“Do you need me for this?” Dillon asked, leaning forward. “Because, seriously, I could go.”

Ned glared at his brother. He’d brought the idiot along because Dillon was only a year older than Brooke. He was supposed to be the mediator. He was supposed to speak Brooke’s language.

But no one spoke Brooke’s language clearly, and Ned was obviously being punished for not being as hands on with his daughter as he would have liked.

“Brooke—”

“You and Ma sicced Grandma on me,” Brooke interrupted, her dark eyes flashing with irritation. “You know what she’s like. How am I supposed to tell her no? But I’m nineteen, Dad. You don’t get to run my life. You couldn’t even do that when you were supposed to.”

“Fair point,” Dillon said to her. “I got one of those, too. I met him once. When I was, like, ten. I think. Maybe I was nine—”

“Dillon,” Ned said, flatly. “Go away.”

“Gone.” Dillon jumped up and moved to the counter where his girlfriend, Georgie, was serving Maxie and Lucas Jones.

“I can make my own friends, you know.”

Ned sighed and reached for his cup of coffee. It had seemed like a good idea at the time to bring Brooke to Port Charles for the summer, to give her time to settle in and make some friends before transferring to PCU for her sophomore year.

But the little girl he remembered had transformed into a sulky young woman who wore too much eye makeup, too much jewelry, and too little clothing. He didn’t know this girl.

He didn’t know how to know this girl.

And he hated himself for letting Lois take the lead on raising her, and Lois for leaving him for no reason at all.

But Brooke was his daughter. And he had to make the effort.

“Alexis wanted to have us over for dinner this weekend. To celebrate finishing her therapy and getting custody of Kristina back.” Ned eyed Brooke. “Can you at least join me for that?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Brooke shrugged. “What else am I supposed to do? Go to the movies?” She rolled her eyes. “God, I miss New York.”

Ned rubbed the back of his neck and felt very guilty when his phone vibrated. He flipped it open. “Yeah?”

“We need to talk. Immediately.”

Ned grimaced at the sound of Faith Roscoe’s voice. This, he did not need. “I’m busy—”

“We need to discuss a few things. We’ve got a problem. You know where to find me.”

“Yeah, okay.” Ned closed his phone and slid into the pocket of his trousers. He dropped a twenty on the table. “I have a meeting—”

“Well, that took five seconds.” Brooke got to her feet. “Are you gonna take me back to the gatehouse or am I stuck here?”

“Dillon,” Ned said, twisting towards the counter. “Can you drop Brooke at the house—”

“I need a car. This is never gonna work—”

“Oh, yeah,” Dillon said with a sigh. “That sounds like a great time. Let me just stop my life and take care of yours.”

“Great. Thanks. You’re the best brother.”

Queen of Angels: Chapel

Carly Corinthos grimaced at the floral arrangements alongside the pews down the aisle. “I thought these were supposed to be yellow?” she said to the wedding planner.

“They were,” the woman said with a harassed smile and clenched teeth. “But the bride called last week to change them to pink. Said money was no obstacle.”

“Oh.” Carly frowned and looked back at the tulips. “We didn’t—All right, it’s not my wedding, I guess.” She signed the last piece of paperwork from her. “All right. I guess that’s everything until later tonight.”

She dismissed the wedding planner from her mind and went to find Jason, so he could take her back to the penthouse where she’d arranged several hours of massages, hair dressing, and makeup before the ceremony at seven that evening.

She found Jason in the anteroom going over the final security arrangements with Father Coates. She hung back until Jason had shaken the priest’s hand.

“You ready to go?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, everything is fine here.” Carly smiled at the priest who had performed her wedding the year before and then followed Jason into the courtyard.

She wound her arm through his as they made their way to the parking lot, bouncing a little on her feet. “I can’t believe you’re getting married tonight, Jase! It feels like you just got engaged.”

“Yeah, it does.”

Carly slid a look at him under her lashes as they approached the SUV Jason had driven them in. “You know, I know you’re stoic and everything, but it’s okay to be excited. You’re getting married.”

“I know.”

She put out a hand to stop him from opening the passenger door for her and looked at him.

He looked like he always did. Spiky brownish-blond hair, average height, clad in his usual jeans, a t-shirt stretched over a muscled chest.

But there was nothing in his eyes. No excitement, no interest. Just…nothing.

Jason had never been a man prone to much expression, but if you wanted to know how he really felt about something, you looked him in the eyes.

“Jase…” Carly bit her lip. “Listen, I know—” She turned to face him, and he just sighed. “I know maybe it was possibly my idea for you to propose—”

“Carly—”

“And maybe I encouraged you to ask Courtney out, but that was just because I didn’t want you to get back together with Elizabeth, and you know she doesn’t get you anyway. I mean, God, she married Ric after everything we told her about him. If that doesn’t—”

“Emily is here for the wedding,” Jason interrupted. “And she doesn’t like Courtney. I met her for coffee this morning, so—”

“Oh.” Carly closed her mouth. “I guess that makes sense. I mean, she’s probably the last person in the world that likes AJ, so I guess you marrying his ex-wife…” She shrugged. “Are…are you sure that’s it? I mean, look—if you’re having second thoughts—”

“I’m not.” Jason brushed her hand away from the door and opened it. “I asked Courtney to marry me. You’re right. She’s Sonny’s sister. She understands what I do. I knew what I was doing when I asked her. And that’s it.”

“And you love her,” Carly said with a smile she didn’t feel at all. “So, okay. Let’s go back to the penthouses so we can get ready.” She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “In five hours, you’ll be a married man!”

This time, Jason did smile at her.

But it didn’t change the expression in his eyes.

She climbed into the passenger side, and he closed the door after her. She’d done what she could—she’d given him an opening to tell her if anything was wrong, and he hadn’t taken it.

So, she’d do exactly what Jason had always asked her to do, and butt the hell out of it.

Lansing House: Living Room

When she had left breakfast earlier that morning, she had not gone home to unpack. Instead, Elizabeth had gone to her studio, turned on the small television she had always kept there and wasted her day watching day time television and sleeping.

She couldn’t sleep at home, spent hours awake at night next to Ric. Next to her husband.

Wondering what happened to her life.

How she had ended up married to a man she didn’t love any more than the one she had left at the altar.

So, she spent her days at her old studio, pretending to get ready for a one woman show that Ric had arranged at a local gallery. Elizabeth kept pushing off the date, kept saying she wasn’t ready.

Since she hadn’t picked up a pencil or brush in nearly two months, it was unlikely she would be ready any time soon.

But she couldn’t keep ignoring her life. Couldn’t keep running away from her choices. Everyone else had moved on with their lives.

Emily was pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor, Nikolas was staying in London as Laura recovered from her nervous breakdown, Lucky had started a new career as a police officer, Zander had moved to New York for a job with ELQ, and Jason…

Jason was getting married.

Like she had.

It was over. It never really existed.

So, Elizabeth made a promise to herself. She would go home, and she would try to live the fresh start Ric wanted to give them. He had gone and bought a beautiful home for their new future.

He wanted to be with her. He wanted to be a better person.

So, at six o’clock that evening, Elizabeth opened the front door and accepted Ric’s kiss and the offer of champagne to celebrate their first week in their new home.

Set in April 2006. This starts after the virus storyline. A couple of things to remember about this time period: Elizabeth and Lucky are married. He was injured in the train crash in November 2005. In my version, Lucky remained off active duty. He’s not addicted to painkillers, but definitely relying on them. In February, during the virus, he was kidnapped and injected with the virus. He was later rescued by Jason and Carly, but it all held up his recovery and in early April, Lucky is still not on active duty yet.

Elizabeth is working at the hospital; Emily is a four-year medical student who was just discovered to be dating Sonny. Jason and Sam are engaged, but Sam just lost her brother to the virus and found out Alexis is her mother. I think that’s all the background needed for this opening scene.


Early April 2006

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

Elizabeth Spencer all but jumped out of her skin as her best friend dropped a pile of hard, plastic charts on the surface of the nurse’s station next to her. She sighed, put her pen down, and rubbed her eyes.

Another day. Another round.

“He’s gone too far this time, Elizabeth. It’s like he doesn’t even listen to me.”

Emily Quartermaine scowled as she jerked the first chart open and almost stabbed a hole in the paper with her pen nib. “He’s out of control. I want to know where the hell my brother went and what kind of bastard stole his life—”

“Hey.” Elizabeth slapped a hand over Emily’s chart. “Stop it.”

Emily blinked, looked at her. “Elizabeth—”

“I’m sorry, I just can’t listen to this again today, Emily. I just can’t.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s the same argument every day. I don’t know—I can’t possibly imagine what your brother could have done this time, but I’m tired.”

“I’m sorry to bring my problems to you,” Emily snapped. “Since I thought you were my best friend—”

“I am—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. Dial it back, girl. “Look. I’m having a bad day. I didn’t sleep all that much, Cameron is sick, and Lucky—We had a fight before I left for work. So I’m sorry if Jason is having a tough time dealing with your relationship with Sonny. I really am. I know how much you love each other. But you know what—maybe it’d be nice if you asked how my day was going before you just started in again, okay? Because there’s nothing that’s going to change right now. You already know where I stand.”

Emily pressed her lips in a thin line and nodded. “You agree with my brother.”

“Not with the same amount of energy, but yeah, if I think if Jason is warning you off—something that is incredibly out of character for him—then maybe you should listen.” Elizabeth turned back to her chart. “He’s not going to change his mind, Em.”

“He could,” Emily said, but her tone had dulled. “What’s wrong with Cam? Is he okay?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth shrugged one shoulder. “It’s a stomach virus, and Lucky—he stayed at home with him because he couldn’t go to daycare.”

“And probably had to reschedule a rehab session for his back.” Emily picked her pen back up and the two returned to the charts. “I’m sorry. I really—I haven’t been thinking about you or Lucky. Or God, even Nikolas. I know he’s struggling.”

“I don’t blame you for that, Em.”

“You should. I’ve been selfish—”

“Your life turned upside down last weekend, I get that. You and Sonny were keeping this all secret, and then some stupid tabloid just blows everything up.” Elizabeth looked at her friend. “It must be hell having that out there like this. I know it’s been rough with your family.”

“I just—” Emily sighed. “I thought my brother would get it. That he’d be the one person I could count on. I knew you’d probably be against it—you’re not really Sonny’s fan—”

“I just—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “When Jason and I talked about it, I could just—I could see how he felt about it. And he convinced me. Have you listened to him?”

“He just talks about things that are ancient history and have nothing to do with me. Yeah, Sonny made mistakes. He wasn’t good to Brenda or Carly. I’ve got my own problems, too. You know what I did to Zander.” Emily’s eyes pleaded with her. “Jason is the only one who doesn’t see it my way. I mean, even Sam thinks he needs to lay off. Let us live our life.”

Elizabeth just wanted to be done with this conversation—there was nothing Jason could say to Emily to change her mind, nothing that Elizabeth could say.

And she knew Jason was standing alone in this. He’d hinted as much when they’d run into each other at Elm Street Pier a few days earlier. They’d sat on the bench and talked like they once had, and she’d been the one to bring it up.

Because she had been concerned that Jason was stepping in, trying to control Emily’s life. It was so the opposite of the man she’d once been friends with that she just—she wanted to understand it.

“I know you don’t really support me, Elizabeth, but you get that it’s my decision to make—”

“I get that you’re Jason’s sister, and it’s hard for him to look away from that. You know he’d cut off his hand to make you happy—”

“He doesn’t need to do anything that drastic,” Emily said with a roll of her eyes. “He just needs to accept I am old enough to live my life and let me do it. You know he’s always listened to you. If you run into him again—”

And be someone else who didn’t support him? Elizabeth silently rejected that notion. Jason had said something about Sam thinking he was overreacting, that even Carly thought they should just let it burn out—that Sonny always moved on eventually.

There was no one on Jason’s side, and she couldn’t stand that. They were no longer the close friends they’d been only a few years earlier, but something in her wouldn’t let him be alone in this, to be the only one against it.

Maybe it was her heart trying to remind her of all the times she hadn’t stood by him, hadn’t believed in him.

“I can’t make any promises,” Elizabeth murmured.

Emily opened her mouth but then closed it immediately. Her lower lip quivered, her cheeks drained of color. “What the hell—”

Elizabeth turned to face the elevators and froze.

Pushing a yellow bucket across the linoleum as water sloshed inside, Manny Ruiz ambled towards them with a mop in his hand.

“Miss Webber. Miss Quartermaine.”

The psycho murderer returned to his chore as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

“W-What—” Emily breathed, but Elizabeth couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move.

Everything was cold. Her skin prickled. The man who had kidnapped her—who had forced her to escape from him—who had threatened to kill Patrick Drake and Jason Morgan in an operating theater—

Who had orchestrated the train crash that had devastated Elizabeth’s husband and killed several people—

Was mopping the floors of General Hospital as if nothing had happened.

“Who would hire him?” Emily said, the words leaving her mouth barely audible. “Who would hire him here? Where he—” She swallowed, her hands shaking.

“I knew that Alexis and Ric got him off on the charges, but why—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Why didn’t he leave? Why is he still here?”

“That’s a damn good question,” Epiphany Johnson, the charge nurse for the surgical ICU, snapped as she stepped up into the hub at the nurse’s station. “Hasn’t he terrorized us enough? Has anyone talked to Drake Junior about this hire?”

“He’s going to wish he’d stayed in New York.” Emily rubbed her hands up and down her arms, shivering. The three women watched as Manny worked his way down the hallway, methodically sweeping the mop back and forth.

“I thought he’d go back to Miami,” Elizabeth said. “But I guess with his father and brother gone—” She swallowed. Looked at her watch and swore. “I have to go. I promised Lucky I’d be home on time so he could go in for a shift.”

“He still on desk duty?” Epiphany asked as Elizabeth hurriedly organized her paperwork.

“Yeah, and he hates being late—he already had to switch his rehab and second shift so he could stay with Cameron so I have to be home by two so he can make the third—”

Elizabeth didn’t even bother to complete her sentence as she rushed out of the nurse’s station.

“I worry about that girl,” Epiphany murmured, her dark eyes following the nurse.

“It’ll be okay once Lucky gets back into the field,” Emily said with a confidence she didn’t quite feel. She might have spent the last few weeks sort of oblivious to the people in her life, but she knew Lucky and Elizabeth had been struggling.

Lucky had been on desk duty since his back injury during the train crash, and he’d been short-tempered and cranky since. He hated his rehab, hated being out of the action—and being kidnapped during the virus insanity and nearly dying had only set his recovery back.

But Lucky would be okay soon. And Elizabeth wouldn’t have to work so hard. The shadows would clear. And both her best friends would be happy again.

“And maybe Jason will jump for joy about me dating Sonny,” Emily muttered. So long as she was hoping for things that would never happen.

March 6, 2018

So I told you guys ages ago I was going to take Mad World back and rewrite Carly’s kidnapping. I’ve written three chapters, and this is two scenes from Chapter Three, when Liz wakes up after Ric has already drugged and kidnapped Carly.

I really like these scenes, they made me feel like I could really go back and do this story right and I’m just dying to get back to writing this. I miss writing.

This does not have the Cora seal of approval, so forgive any errors.


Lansing Home: Master Bedroom

When Ric was finally gone, Elizabeth released a breath and managed to pull on the thin gray sweatpants and blue tank top he had given her.

He had been irritated that she wouldn’t dress in front of him, and Elizabeth wasn’t entirely sure where her reticence had come from.

Hadn’t she just promised herself that she would reapply herself to her marriage? She looked at the clock and frowned slightly. It was nearly seven-thirty.

How long had she dozed? Ric had said it was for a few minutes but that couldn’t be right. She’d arrived just before six. She had had a glass of champagne.

And her head was fuzzy. Her mouth was still dry. She felt a bit better after the shower, but—

She looked at herself in the mirror and shook her head. There were circles under her eyes, her skin was pale—even more than usual. She wasn’t sleeping. Wasn’t eating well. And she hadn’t felt right since her miscarriage. Dr. Meadows had given her a clean bill of health but Elizabeth thought maybe it was time to go back—

A crash and men’s shouts drew her attention. Elizabeth’s ears perked up—she knew those voices. But—but he was getting married—

Elizabeth rushed out of the bedroom and towards the stairwell, bracing herself against the wall. Why couldn’t she walk straight?

She could hear the shouts more clearly—Sonny’s demanding tones—something about Carly—and Jason’s growls. Something else crashed.

Elizabeth started down the stairs, holding on the rail with a death grip. Her stomach was rolling and her head was swimming.

“J-Jason?” she managed as she came to the bottom of the staircase, switching her grip to the doorway that separated the stairwell from the living room.

Sonny and Jason were in her living room, clad in disheveled tuxedos. Sonny had Ric against the wall, his hands at his throat while Jason was opening a closet door.

All three men turned to look at her and she couldn’t process the scene. Couldn’t make it come out right. “You’re getting married,” she said without thinking to Jason. “Aren’t you?”

Jason scowled at her and then something in his eyes changed as he drew closer. He touched her chin, turned her head slightly and then turned back to Ric. “What did you give her?” he said, his voice reaching a low dangerous growl she had only heard a handful of times.

“What are you talking about?” Ric asked, his fingers digging at Sonny. “She’s fine. Elizabeth, tell them—”

“What’s going on?” Elizabeth licked her lips. She reached out, but she just couldn’t…there was no energy in her fingers as they brushed Jason’s tuxedo jacket. “What—I don’t—”

She could feel the fury radiating from him, but Jason’s touch was gentle as he put a hand under her elbow and led her to the sofa. Helped her to sit.

He took her wrist in his and laid two fingers against her skin. “Your pupils are dilated,” Jason told her. “Your pulse is ragged. What did you eat or drink tonight?”

Elizabeth stared at him. Shook her head. “N-No—”

“Leave my wife alone,” Ric growled, but he couldn’t quite break free of Sonny’s grip.

“I had—what’s going on? Did-did you say something about Carly?” Elizabeth said, drawing her wrist from Jason’s grip. “Is she okay?”

“She’s missing,” Sonny said flatly. “And Michael saw Ric take her. Where is she?” he demanded, digging his hands in more tightly. Ric gasped.

“He was—” Elizabeth forced herself to think. “He was here. I think. I don’t know—” Why did her tongue feel so heavy?

“Elizabeth. He drugged you.”

“Call the cops, Elizabeth,” Ric choked out.

Elizabeth turned to look at him. At the man who had fathered her child. Whom she had promised to love, honor, and cherish.

Did he drug her? Is that why this sensation felt so…familiar?

“I need you to tell me what happened tonight.”

She turned her head back to that familiar voice. That gentle, beloved tone in Jason’s voice that he adopted when he spoke to her. Tears slid down her cheeks.

“I don’t know,” she managed to say. “I can’t—I came home at six. I was at the studio. I—I don’t—We had champagne…” Elizabeth looked at the table, but the glasses were gone. The champagne was gone. Like it had never happened. “Didn’t we?”

“No,” Ric said, as Sonny finally released him. “No, we didn’t. Elizabeth, you came home and went upstairs to sleep. You’ve been sleeping so much since we lost the baby.”

The baby. God. She closed her eyes. Her baby. Her little shining ray of light in the darkness.

“Shut up,” Sonny growled.

She had been sleeping a lot, Elizabeth thought. Or no, wait. No she hadn’t. She never slept. Did she? Why couldn’t she remember?

“I—” Elizabeth looked at Jason. “I don’t know. Maybe—maybe I took a nap. I don’t know.”

“Michael said he took Carly. Was Ric gone?” Jason asked.

“I’ve been here the whole goddamn time. Tell him, Elizabeth. You woke up at seven and I was here. You took a shower—”

“I—” Elizabeth’s voice faltered. “Maybe.”

“Damn it, we’re not going to get anything from her,” Sonny growled. “Whatever he gave her is screwing with her memory. We’ll take him to the warehouse. Jase, you take her to the penthouse. Get her some rest. Some coffee. I don’t know. Call Bobbie—”

And then the door was open again, and two women clad in wedding gowns rushed in. “Courtney called the PCPD,” Emily said in a rush.

“Where’s my daughter?” Bobbie cried as she pushed past Emily and started for Sonny and Ric. Jason sprang off the sofa and intercepted her.

Emily sat next to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said slowly, drawing her words. “Am I?” she asked Jason. Jason would know. Jason would protect her.

“He gave her something,” Jason bit out. “What did you say about Courtney?”

Bobbie pushed herself away from Jason’s grip. “I tried to stop her, but she called the cops.”

“My sister did what?” Sonny demanded.

“Called the authorities,” Marcus Taggert said as he and Andy Capelli swaggered into the room. Behind him, a shorter dark-haired uniformed officer entered, his expression aggravated. “When someone is missing, the first few hours are crucial, Corinthos.”

Sonny closed his eyes, and Jason scowled.

“These people are trespassing,” Ric snarled. “I want them out of here—”

“No—” Elizabeth managed. She stood. Shook her head. “No. They’re not. They—” She closed her eyes, and Emily put an arm around her waist to steady her.

“What happened to her?” Capelli demanded of Sonny. “Did you terrify her into a nervous breakdown?”

“Oh, for the love of—” Bobbie muttered.

“They’re not trespassing,” Elizabeth said. She could do this. She had to do this. Everyone was so angry. So afraid. “They—they’re looking for Carly. And—they should look. You should all look.”

“Elizabeth—” Ric said with a devastated look in his eyes, in his words. “You don’t believe I would—”

“They have to look,” she repeated. “Or they won’t know for sure. They have to know for sure—”

“We have your permission, Elizabeth?” Taggert asked. He approached her. “You’re sure—”

“You don’t have mine!”

“We just need yours, Elizabeth. And exigent circumstances will take care of any gray areas.”

She latched onto that. She could do this for Jason and Sonny. Carly was missing. Carly was important to them. She knew how much Jason loved Carly.

“You can look.”

“Damn it,” Ric growled. “You should get a warrant—”

“Got something to hide?” Sonny demanded.

“No, but—”

“Rodriguez, make sure Corinthos and Morgan stay right here. Lansing, you come with us. We’re going to search this house from top to bottom,” Taggert said. To Jason, he growled, “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Jason muttered.

When the trio had disappeared into the back of the house where the basement door was located, Jason turned his attention back to Elizabeth. “Bobbie, Ric gave her something. Her pulse isn’t right—”

Bobbie hustled over to Elizabeth, repeating Jason’s earlier measurements. “Honey, you need to come to the hospital. We need to take care of you—”

“N-No.” Elizabeth shook her head. She had to stay here. Had to make sure the PCPD could look for Carly. If she left, Ric would stop them from looking. “I—I have to stay here.”

“Elizabeth,” Emily said, with anguish. “You look like hell. Your pupils are so big I can’t even tell what color your eyes are—”

“Elizabeth, I appreciate you giving your permission for them to look,” Sonny said with a soft sigh. “But he probably already stashed her somewhere else.” He scowled at Jason. “We’re wasting our time here.”

All eyes turned to the uniform at the doorway who took a deep shaky breath. “Look, if you leave now,” he said with a sigh, “you know Taggert and Capelli are gonna just come after you. It’s better if you let them do what they want and then you’re not running from warrants, too.”

“Why is it always the rookies with common sense?” Sonny muttered.

Jason ignored him, and gently pulling Emily away from Elizabeth so he could take her place, he sat next to Elizabeth on the sofa. “You have to go to the hospital, Elizabeth. Please. I need you to be okay. I can’t worry about you—”

“You’re not,” Elizabeth said, deliberately taking her time with her words. Couldn’t slur them. Couldn’t mess this up. “I’m…I’m okay. I, um, I haven’t—” She closed her eyes. Her hands were shaking. Why were the shaking?

Jason’s warm hands closed around hers, stilling them. “Elizabeth—”

“Since the baby. Haven’t been okay,” she admitted, finally saying out loud what had been locked away. “I’m not okay about that. I mean…” What did she mean? “I’ll see someone. But this—”

“Elizabeth,” Emily muttered. “For God’s sakes, Jason, don’t argue with her. Make her go—”

“With the PCPD here?” Sonny shook his head. “Right now, Elizabeth, do you think you gotta stay so me and Jason don’t get arrested for trespassing?”

“I—” Elizabeth stared at the other man for a long moment. “I—yes. I’m here. I can let you in. The police—” She licked her lips. They were dry and cracked. How long had they been like that? “Maybe they don’t believe Michael. Maybe they won’t look very hard.”

“And if you’re here, you can let Jason and Sonny in again to look for more evidence,” Bobbie said with a shake of her head. “Elizabeth—”

“Can’t get arrested. He’s—” Elizabeth turned squinted at the uniform, who was trying to pretend he was anywhere else. “He’s right. You can’t find Carly if you—”

“That is not your job,” Jason began. “It’s mine—”

“My fault.” Elizabeth wasn’t sure how, but it had to be. Ric was hers. She had promised herself to him. Chosen him.

“No—”

“Elizabeth, do you believe Michael?” Sonny said, his voice tight. “Do you think Ric is involved?”

Elizabeth drew in a sharp breath. “Oh, God. Oh, God.” She couldn’t say it. Couldn’t. If it was true, oh God, what had she done?

“Please come with me,” Emily begged, tears sliding down her cheeks. “Please don’t stay here. It’s not worth it. Jason and Sonny—” She got to her feet, went to the uniform. “You’re new, right? Do you know Lucky Spencer?”

“I—” The uniform nodded. “Yeah, we’re friends—”

“Then you need to listen to me. My brother is going to get Elizabeth out of here. And you have to help—”

“I can’t—” the cop shook his head. “I can’t let him leave—”

“Then, Jason, you have to come back—”

“Elizabeth is right,” Sonny muttered. “Even if she’s drugged out of her goddamn head, she’s right.” He scrubbed his hands over her face. “Taggert and Capelli are just looking for Carly. They’re not going to tear the house apart. But Elizabeth being here means we can. Jason—”

Elizabeth nodded, relieved that someone understood. “You can come back. If Ric did it, you need to know for sure. You can’t waste your time. I can’t go.”

She had to stay. Had to make it right.

Her head started to swim, and she pressed a hand to her eyes. “Oh, God. I think I’m going to be sick.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Jason growled. “I’ll come back with or without permission. She’s not staying here another minute—” He started to get up, but Elizabeth’s other hand shot out, took his hand.

“I can do this. I’m—I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I might be sick.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, and her stomach started to settle. “But I told you. I wasn’t lying. I haven’t felt well in weeks. I’ll go see a doctor. But Carly’s missing. And she’s pregnant.”

Her head was starting to clear. She could finally feel herself coming back. Elizabeth rose to her feet and saw Jason. The anguish. The fear.

And the knowledge that some of that was for her—that it wasn’t just because of Carly—that filled something in her. An empty piece of her soul that she hadn’t even realized was missing.

“This is the way I can help,” she said softly. Meeting his eyes. Looking at him the way she used to, begging him to believe her. To know her again.

His eyes softened. “Don’t ask me to leave you here—”

“You can’t make me go. You know I’m stubborn. I promise. I—I’ll go talk to a doctor or something. But right now, you need me here.” She looked to Bobbie. “I can be more useful here. Let me help.”

Jason pressed his lips together, shook his head. “No—”

But he was cut off when the police returned with a smug Ric. “Now that you’ve looked in all the rooms,” her husband said as he wisely stopped at the doorway, scowling at how close Jason was standing to her. “You can all get the hell out of my house—”

Elizabeth took a step back, relieved when her balance held. “I let you look,” she said, hardening her voice. She kept walking back, away from their worried expressions. “She’s not here. Ric didn’t do this, okay? He wouldn’t hurt Carly.”

“See?” Ric said with a lift of his chin. “You tried to make her turn against me, but Elizabeth loves me, Morgan. Not you.”

Jason swallowed, looked at Sonny. “Let’s go,” he said.

He stalked towards the doorway and out to the porch.

“Don’t think this clears you,” Capelli said with a jab of his finger. “Just because she’s not in here, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“I’ve been home all night,” Ric retorted.

“Elizabeth, please—” Emily said, anguished. But Bobbie took her arm and led her from the room.

“Corinthos,” Taggart said. “Let’s go. We need to go down to the station.”

Sonny shook his head, but left the living room, following Taggert out the door.

The uniform looked back at Elizabeth once more before closing the door behind her, leaving her alone with her husband.

Lansing Home: Front Lawn

Jason wanted to put his fist though the goddamn wall. Why the hell had Courtney called the fucking police? If Taggert and Capelli hadn’t shown up, Ric would be somewhere being tortured for what he knew, and Elizabeth—

Elizabeth would be safe.

He had seen her swaying, her pale face, her dilated pupils, listen as she tried to think. Tried to understand what was happening around her. And the fact that this wasn’t the first time she had felt like this didn’t really make him feel better.

It just meant that the fucking monster had been drugging her for weeks.

And bringing up Elizabeth’s miscarriage—watching her crumble inside, admitting that she wasn’t okay. He’d wanted to take her away, to tell everyone else to go to hell, Elizabeth had to be safe.

But then she’d been there at the end, her head had cleared enough for her to give him that look. She wasn’t asking to stay because she didn’t understand what was happening.

No, Elizabeth had done what she always did—took the weight of the world on her own shoulders. Blamed herself for Carly’s kidnapping. Made it her problem to fix.

“Jason,” Bobbie said with tears in her eyes. “I am so sorry, I tried—”

“I’m going back there,” his sister hissed as she left the house, joining them on the front step. “As soon as Taggert lets us go, I’m going to drag her out of here by her hair, and then you’re going to lock her somewhere until she stops being so goddamn hard headed—”

“Right now, she thinks she’s helping. She’s upset. She’s not thinking clearly.” Jason swallowed. And if the PCPD hadn’t been there, he could have done more. She would have come with him willingly before they arrived. Before she understood Carly was missing.

“Are you going to meet us at the station?” Taggert demanded as he joined the group and the front door closed. “Or do we have to take you in the patrol car?”

“I should stay here,” the uniform said. Capelli turned to glare at him. “I mean, the witness saw Lansing. If he leaves the house—”

“That’s a good idea,” Taggert said before Capelli could snarl at the uniform. “Good clear thinking, Rodriguez.” He looked at Morgan. “I saw her, too, Morgan. He’s guilty as fuck.”

“Taggert,” Capelli began.

“He did it. I don’t know how. But she consented to a search which gave us nothing. And she refused medical treatment, didn’t she?” he asked Bobbie.

Bobbie sighed, and Emily just folded her arms with a scowl.

“Rodriguez, you stay here until the end of shift—we’ll bring someone to relieve you—”

“I’m fine. I’ll work a double. I’ll stay all night if I have to.” Rodriguez lifted his chin. “I—I didn’t like how she looked, sir. If she changes her mind—”

“A patrol car should be right outside.” Taggert nodded. “Okay. Let’s get down to the station and figure out what’s next.”

Jason met the rookie’s eyes and, for the first time in his known life, felt a rush of gratitude for a cop. He’d listened to them. He knew Elizabeth’s condition. And the kid was going to stay.

And as soon as Taggert let him go, Jason was coming right back here to force her to go. He just had to pray she would be okay until then.

Lansing Home: Living Room

Her shoulders slumped when the door closed and she looked at Ric. “Why did he say those things?”

“What?” Ric said, with wide eyes. “You know I didn’t take Carly. I’ve been here—”

“About my pulse. My pupils.” Elizabeth went to the mirror over the fireplace mantel and scowled. She couldn’t tell now, but she didn’t doubt Jason for a moment. Still… “My eyes look okay—”

“He was lying to you,” Ric said gently. He moved behind her, put his hand around her shoulders, gently rubbing. “Trying to get you to leave me. You stayed. You believed in me.”

He leaned down, brushed his lips against her neck, and it took everything in her not to flinch. Not to move away.

Because she didn’t believe Ric. She believed Michael. She believed Jason. And she knew…she knew something wasn’t right about tonight. It wasn’t the first time she had felt so fuzzy, so tired, and weak. She’d thought it was from the fall. The recovery. The deep sadness inside.

But maybe…

She had a job to do. She turned and managed a weak smile. “He was scared. Carly’s missing. And Michael probably saw something in the dark that looked like you. Poor kid. He must be terrified.”

Ric nodded. “But the PCPD are involved, and you were right to let them search. I’m sorry I was so angry—”

“Well, now they know she’s not here.” She forced herself to kiss his cheek. “They can look for her somewhere else. I’m still not feeling well—I think I’m just going to go upstairs. Get some sleep.” She hesitated. “I’m going to sleep in the other room, though.”

“Elizabeth, I thought—”

“I’m just feeling sick to my stomach a-and you know I haven’t been sleeping well. You said you were getting up early to look for office space, right? I don’t want—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. She could do this. “You need your rest.”

“Okay,” Ric said, with a tilt of his head. “If you’re sure.”

“Very sure. Good night, babe.”

She kept the smile on her face as she turned away, as she climbed the stairs, and went into the second room. She wouldn’t sleep, but at least…she wouldn’t feel obligated to let him touch her again.

Not tonight.

September 19, 2017

Note: these excerpts are severely not edited and are from the first draft. Some of this may be rewritten or not even be in the final version. They’re also not from the same chapter.


August 2003

Elizabeth’s Condo: Living Room

Elizabeth’s possessions did not fill much of the space in the condo that Nikolas had found for her. A few shelves in the living room, some rungs in the closet, and several drawers in the bureau. Somewhere in her life, she had acquiring things and the result was that her new home looked like a hotel room.

But Nikolas, God love him, said nothing as she handed him the Styrofoam package from Kelly’s. “I really didn’t need so much space,” she told him.

He arched a brow. “A one-bedroom apartment is too much space?”

She managed a half-hearted smirk as she opened her own container. Her appetite had not yet returned, but she was an adult and she knew she had to put something into her body in order to keep it going. She cut the grilled chicken in half and poked at it with her fork. “Well, I suppose to a man who has five thousand bedrooms—”

“Twelve, but who’s counting?”

She laughed at that, and his expression relaxed. He was so worried about her, and she didn’t want that. She didn’t want anyone to worry about her. “Thank you for all of this. I…I would have gone back to my studio and I never would have…”

Felt comfortable. Even the door Jason had had installed wouldn’t have been enough to allow her to sleep. Not after everything she had been through.

“Well, Jason and Sonny suggested the Harborview, which has better security, and I wanted you at Wyndemere where you would never have to lift a finger,” Nikolas said. “A doorman building downtown was probably the best compromise. I…” He hesitated. “I was surprised when you agreed.”

Elizabeth sighed, sipped her water. “I was going to argue, but I couldn’t….Sonny was right. Once Ric made bail…how could I trust a restraining order? I need…I need to put my life together. Figure out what’s next. And I can’t do that if I’m always looking over my shoulder.”

“You are family to me,” Nikolas told her. “I haven’t always been particularly skilled at showing that.” His cheeks flushed. “I put Lucky first, and then myself. I never should have done that. You should have been able to come to me—” He swallowed. “Anyway, that’s water under the bridge.”

“Definitely.” Elizabeth managed another smile and even ate some of the chicken. “Have you talked to Emily? We spent an hour on the phone today.”

“Yes. Did she tell you I practically had to blackmail her into staying in LA while you were in the hospital?” Nikolas asked.

“If she had left her summer program, she wouldn’t be able to graduate early,” Elizabeth said. “And I want her to move home as much as anyone else, so I told her to stop worrying about it. We’ll catch up at Christmas. Letters. Emails. But it was good to hear from her, to know she’s in my corner.”

“She’s worried about Jason,” Nikolas wiped his mouth with a napkin, then set it on the table. “Courtney called to complain he isn’t setting a new date.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. Thinking about Courtney never made her particularly happy and neither did reminders that Jason was planning to marry her. Fine, he didn’t care about her that way anymore but she couldn’t understand what he saw in Courtney. “Carly’s still recovering. I’m sure Jason’s just…”

“Carly’s been home almost a month,” Nikolas said dryly.  “And as Emily told me, if Jason wanted to marry Courtney and wait, they could set a date for a few months away. Refusing to have the conversation means he doesn’t want to marry her and can’t figure out how to tell her.”

“It’s not really my business—”

“And Emily thinks it’s because Courtney was a royal pain in the ass while Carly was missing.”

“I forgot Emily came home for the wedding,” Elizabeth said after a moment. “We…we weren’t able to catch each other.” She’d been newly married, still struggling with the miscarriage that she hadn’t told anyone about. And then…Carly had gone missing.

Nikolas, mercifully, didn’t press the matter. “I bring it up because I doubt she discussed Jason with you.”

“No,” Elizabeth said, drawing out the final syllable. “Not as much.”

“And I know Jason has been around a lot, making sure you’re okay. Keeping Ric out of your hair. He was supposed to help you yesterday, wasn’t he?”

“I had already packed,” she murmured, thinking about the letter she had received. She was relieved Jason had taken it, disposed of it for her. “But yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s not…it’s not like we’re—” Friends. Or anything. But she couldn’t finish the statement. He had been so concerned for her, so caring and solicitous.

Almost like he had been her Jason again.

“Courtney is not a topic I could really discuss with him,” Elizabeth said instead. “It’s usually better when we leave it off the table. She’d do better to nag Jason herself.”

“That’s what I told her.” Nikolas lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug. “He’ll never be my favorite person,” he said, “but after getting to know Ric Lansing, I’m suddenly a major fan of Jason Morgan and Sonny Corinthos.”

She laughed at that, and then tears stung her eyes. She couldn’t stop them once they had started. “I’m sorry,” she managed, turning away from Nikolas as he stood and rounded the small table to kneel in front of her. “This keeps happening—”

“Hey, you never have to hide how you feel from me. Not ever again,” he promised. “I’m just…I’m worried about you, Liz. This is  good step. Accepting help from me, from Sonny. But I need you to be okay. Not just….” He gestured at her chest, which still held the scar from her chest beneath the black tank top she wore. “But all of you.”

“Nikolas—”

“You can tell me everything you’re thinking, everything you’re feeling, and it doesn’t mean I would be able to do or say the right thing,” he continued. “Bobbie wanted you to talk to Gail Baldwin. Did you?”

She sighed an swiped at her tears. “God, Nikolas—”

“This last year has been so awful,” he said. “Losing Audrey at Christmas time. The baby. Carly, Ric—I think Bobbie’s right. I think  you need more support than I can give. Than Jason can give.”

She sighed, looked away. “I just…I’m afraid if I open up to her…if I start talking, if I tell Gail everything…I’ll just completely fall apart.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, the tears still sliding down her face. “I’m so fucking tired of falling apart.”

Nikolas hesitated for a moment, but then spoke. “Maybe that’s because you never finished putting yourself back together all those years ago.”

She stared at him for a long moment, and then huffed. “God, I hate when you’re right.”


General Hospital: Gail Bailwin’s Office

Gail Baldwin still looked the same, though she had finally allowed her hair to gray. It was still immaculately kept and cut in a short curled style that made Elizabeth feel as though the clock had been turned back to those early days of her therapy.

She sat across from Gail on a peach sofa that was a comfortable upgrade from the pea green she’d sat on before. Her hands were in her lap, the fingers twisting together.

“It’s been a while since you came to see me,” Gail said with a soft smile. God, she reminded Elizabeth of Audrey. Sitting in that soft pink suit with her perfectly matched accessories. Her eyes filled and she looked away. She missed her grandmother so very much. “I’m sorry, dear. I didn’t—”

“The last time I saw you—and the first time I’d seen you in a while…” Elizabeth sighed and managed a half smile. “Gram’s funeral. You just…I wish she were here. I’d feel steadier if she were.”

“I miss Audrey very much. She and Steve…they were the heartbeat of this hospital, long after your grandmother retired. It doesn’t feel real that she’s gone.” Gail tipped her head. “But it’s been several years since…I had hoped you’d come before.”

“I thought about it a thousand times, but I guess…” She looked around. The room had been redecorated since then, but it really did feel the same. “I dealt with the worst of my rape in this room. I guess I thought if I came back here, I’d…remember that. And I really…I think things are better if I don’t think about that.”

“Why is that?”

“Oh…” Elizabeth sighed and picked at the chip in her red nail polish. “I don’t know. I just don’t like to. It’s easier to pick one of the awful things that have happened since as a reason why I feel like crap. I can pick last month. Last summer. The Christmas before that. The spring before that. The summer before that—” She bit her lip. “And I feel like I’m whining.”

“You can sound like however you wish.” Gail leaned forward. “This is your time.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. If this was going to work, she needed to do the thing. She needed to be honest. “I don’t like to think about my rape because I also remember what came next.  My life fell apart. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t function. I stopped being me. I didn’t take shit from anyone. I was selfish, and I was…” A tear slid down her cheek. “Fearless, too. I wasn’t a good person, but I was young. I think with my grandmother’s support…I was already changing. Being less self-centered, you know?”

“You were sixteen. It’s not uncommon to be someone different at twenty-two—”

“I’m not who I would have been if not for the rape. And that’s okay. Because…” Elizabeth hesitated. “Because, yeah, my life fell apart. And I lost myself. But I also put myself back together. And I was strong again. I faced my rapist. I looked him in the eye and I survived. I was able to trust again. To let someone touch me, love me. I don’t like to think about the rape because I came back from it. And…”

Gail reminded silent when Elizabeth trailed off, merely tilted her head again, so she forced the words out. “And when I think about how I came back from it, it’s harder to understand these last few years. I was strong, Gail. And then I stopped. I stopped being me. After the fire, when I thought Lucky was dead, I was devastated, and I lost myself. I got myself back again after a bit. After I found someone I could talk to. And then Lucky came back.”

“Lucky came back,” Gail repeated. “Did you hear the way you said that?”

“Yeah….the same way I said I was raped. Or Lucky died. Because Lucky came back, and I had a miracle. And I lost myself trying to deserve that miracle.” Elizabeth wiped a tear away with a knuckle. “And in a lot ways…I never came back from that. I feel like I’m still locked in that moment. Trying to be what Lucky needed me to be so we could get it all back. I never stopped to think…it shouldn’t be this hard. I shouldn’t have to spend my entire life doing what he wanted…and when someone pointed that out…” She closed her eyes—she could still bring that moment she had thrown Jason away. The only chance she had really had with him. “I threw him away. Because if I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t with Lucky. He loved me. That…it had to be enough.”

“You lost yourself,” Gail repeated. “What does that mean?”

“What?” Elizabeth blinked. “It means…it means exactly what I said. I stopped…doing what made me happy. I didn’t finish my art history degree because I was going to be a model. And then I was going to marry Lucky. And then I married Ric because I was going to be a mother—” Her voice broke. “I kept…planning the next step without really…I don’t know. I just…kept putting one foot in front of another to get through the day and I stopped caring about what that day looked like. I looked up in July…and I looked back at the last two or three years and I just…I didn’t understand them. I couldn’t…I could understand why I was…how I could have let it get this bad?”

Gail made a few notes. “You didn’t like your choices. Your marriage? Your career?”

“Career.” Elizabeth snorted. “I don’t have one. I live in a condo that Nikolas bought for me. I pay my bills with my grandmother’s life insurance money and the trust fund my grandfather left me when I turned twenty-one. I don’t have a career. I don’t even have a job. I’m…I’m a parasite, and I let that happen because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was afraid…” She looked down, picked at the stitching holding the sofa cushions together.

“What were you afraid of?”

“If I had no where to go, no one to turn to…Ric came to see me when he got out on bail. I hadn’t…there wasn’t a restraining order. Bobbie and Nikolas had gotten emergency power of attorney while Ric was in jail. But he’d allowed it—because he couldn’t be there.” She bit her lip. “He came to see me, and I was…I was tired, and I was sick inside, you know? And he apologized. He cried. About the baby. About how he just wanted to give me another baby, and how looking at Carly made him so angry. He thought Sonny had pushed me. That Sonny had killed our baby, and he said he just…something snapped, and then once he’d done it…he’d had to go through with it.”

“Did…did that make sense to you?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth looked at her then, tears streaming, her chest so tight she could scarcely breathe. “And he asked me to forgive him. And I didn’t—because—in my head I said no. I know I said no. But nothing came out. I only asked him to leave. And I started to cry when he left. Because I had almost…”

“Elizabeth—”

“Jason came in while I was crying, and Nikolas, too. They both—they both thought I was upset about…the situation. And I said something about not having anyone to talk to, to go after I left the hospital. And I was feeling…God, I was feeling so alone. Nikolas said they’d fix it. He’d find something and he promised to come by every day. And Jason just…he looked at me…and I never…I always thought…”

“What?” Gail pressed when Elizabeth pressed her lips together.

“I think he saw Ric leave the room. Because he came in so fast. I think he knew…he knew how close I’d come to going back. And I’m so ashamed. So ashamed that I was that weak. That I am that weak.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Because I believed him. I still believe him now. I believe that he’s sorry. Sorry he got caught, but sorry all the same. And I believe he…that if we hadn’t lost the baby, it wouldn’t have happened. I believe the baby broke him. And I know he blamed Sonny. That seeing Carly’s baby made him angry. I believe him.”

“Elizabeth—”

“It broke me. Losing that child before I could even…” She took the tissue Gail offered and blew her nose. “I couldn’t see straight, and it was just…easier to close my eyes to everything else. Buy a house I’d never seen. Move in. Start a new life. Sure, why not? But yeah, I believe losing that baby broke him. And it made him kidnap Carly.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Elizabeth,” Gail said softly. “And for what it’s worth, I believe that, too.”

“But if he hadn’t left…if he’d stood his ground that day and Jason hadn’t come—if Nikolas hadn’t—”

“If you’d really been alone in that moment?” Gail cut in. “You would have let him back in? And gone home with him?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“But you didn’t, Elizabeth. You allowed him to say his piece, you accepted his truth, and you asked him to leave. You should remember that part of it. You asked him to leave. And then you learned you weren’t alone. And you accepted the help. And you’ve continued to accept the help.”

Elizabeth’s breath was shaky as she let it out. “Okay. Okay. Yeah…I can…I can hold on to that. I asked him to leave, and I let Nikolas buy the condo. I let Jason drive me there. I know he set up security that goes beyond what existed in the building. And I…I let him pay a retainer for a divorce lawyer. I asked for the restraining order. I did it because I was scared if he came back, I would…I would let him back in. But I asked for it.”

“Yes. You did all of that.”

“So I need…I need to remember that.”

“More than that, my dear.” Gail smiled, but her eyes were sad. “You need to be kinder to yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard from others that you need to forgive yourself, and the sentiment is well-placed. But you only need forgiveness if you’ve done something wrong. You did the best you could with what you had in front of you. You don’t need to forgive yourself, Elizabeth. You need to be generous. Kinder. More understanding. You lost a child, Elizabeth. So what if that child had not yet been born? You believe Ric did this horrendous thing because losing that child, that dream, broke him. Why are you kinder to him than you are to yourself?”

“Oh, God…” Elizabeth couldn’t stop the tears. “I…can’t…”

Gail joined her on the sofa and took one of Elizabeth’s hands, holding it with both of hers. “I’m glad you came to see me.”

Elizabeth nodded through her tears. “I am, too. And I…I hear you. I don’t know…I know if I can do that. Be kind to myself. But, um, I want to try. I don’t want to feel like this anymore.”

I’m in a daze stumbling bewildered
North of gravity head up in the stratosphere
You and I roller coaster riding love
You’re the center of adrenaline
And I’m beginning to understand

The Best Thing, Savage Garden

Sunday, May 5, 2002

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Courtney winced when Elizabeth stalked in from the kitchen and snatched the white apron from behind the counter. “I guess Jason found you,” she murmured as she gently set the carafe of coffee back on the hot plate. “Elizabeth—”

“I told him,” her friend snapped. “And of course, it’s all my fault. What am I supposed to do? Ignore the situation? Maybe I could run away for a year and just pretend everything is exactly the same when I come back—” She stopped and closed her eyes. “Jason,” she continued without opening them, “isn’t thrilled that I don’t plan to sandbag AJ’s character on the stand if I’m asked.”

“Oh.” Courtney bit her lip. “I mean…” She looked at the counter, focusing on a small crack in the laminate surface. “I’m sorry—”

“Why?” Elizabeth asked. “None of this is your fault. You married AJ, Courtney. You get to take his side, particularly when, you know, he’s not wrong.” She hissed through her teeth as she yanked out the ledger and reached the receipts from the lunch rush. “Michael is his son. AJ’s not wrong to do whatever he thinks is best.”

“But Jason isn’t wrong to be concerned,” Courtney said. “I’d be lying if I said I were one hundred percent convinced AJ will never take another drink.” And God, didn’t she feel disloyal admitting that? But this was Elizabeth. The first friend she’d made in Port Charles. Her best friend.

“I guess I just…” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “I don’t know. I thought—I thought if I took that step forward. If I…let myself feel those things for Jason again—”

“Or admitted that you already did.”

“Semantics.” But Elizabeth smiled, a slight shift in the curve of her lips. “I thought if I took that leap—he’d be there waiting. That…it was me holding us back.”

“But—”

“It’s not. It’s him, too.” She waited a moment. “He doesn’t trust me. Not where it counts. He can’t see that I love Michael, that I want what’s best for him—”

“I think he’s scared—” Courtney lowered her voice when a customer wandered in. “Elizabeth, you’ve said it yourself. He still loves that little boy like his own son. That doesn’t go away. You never stop protecting your children. Maybe the reason Jason is so angry is because he knows you’re right, and he doesn’t want to admit—”

“What am I supposed to do with that?” Elizabeth cut in. “I spent two years of my life running after Lucky, fixing his problems—” she shook her head. “No, this—this is a sign. It’s not enough to care about Jason. It’s not enough that he cares about me. We don’t work. When the rest of the world gets involved—”

“And that is a copout,” Courtney interrupted, slapping her hand over the ledger, forcing Elizabeth to stop writing, to look at her. “What would Gia say if she were here?”

“Oh, God…” Elizabeth rolled her eyes and sighed. “Courtney—”

“This situation with Michael? Where you’re in the middle? This doesn’t go away if you stop…if you pull away from Jason again. What changes, Elizabeth? Nothing.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Courtney—”

“But maybe that’s not the point. Because if you walk away from what you feel this time, if Jason lets you—” Courtney shrugged, stepped back, and let her hand fall back to her side. “Maybe that’s for the best. Because if you let something that has nothing to do with who the two of you are together—if you let something that’s not even about you get in your way—maybe you were right. Maybe it’s just lust. Residual. Unfinished business.”

“That’s not fair,” her friend managed, her voice weak, even a bit shaky. “He doesn’t trust me—”

“You don’t know that.” Courtney took a deep breath. “I love you. I don’t know Jason that well, but I do see the way he looks at you. I think, before you write this off, before you let fear get inside your head—you owe it to both of you to give it a chance.” She hesitated, but decided to press her advantage. “You both love Michael. AJ loves Michael. I want the chance to love him. We are all good people, Elizabeth. Good people should be able to find a way to make this right.”

Jake’s: Upstairs Hallway

Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath before knocking on the door. She had to…she had to do this. To talk to him. To just…make sure that walking away was the right decision.

Courtney was right—if something that had nothing to do with who they were together could affect their relationship, it wasn’t strong enough. It was smart to stop now. To get out before they ruined each other.

She hadn’t been smart before. She’d hung on, clung to the dream so long that there had been nothing left when she’d finally woken up.

Not this time.

She raised her hand to knock before it was yanked open, and Jason appeared, about to step over the threshold. He stopped, obviously not expecting her. “Elizabeth—”

“Oh.” She chewed on her lip, taking in the jacket he wore and the keys in his hand. Reprieve. “You’re—you’re leaving. I can—”

“I was going for a ride.” He shifted back, stepping to the side so she could enter. When Elizabeth didn’t move, his hand tightened on the edge of the door. “Elizabeth—”

And now that she was standing in front of him, ready to call the whole thing off—

She couldn’t.

“I’m a good person,” she said, softly. He furrowed his brow, opened his mouth to respond. “And you’re a good person.”

“Elizabeth—”

“And so are Courtney and AJ.”

He sighed and dipped his head. “Elizabeth, don’t—”

“Good people should be able to work together.” She swallowed hard. “I love Michael, Jason. I tried to stay out of this, I did. But I can’t. Because Courtney is my friend, and I’ve known AJ for years. And I love that little boy. Good people who want the best for that little boy—I have to believe that we can work together—”

He looked away and shook his head lightly. “Elizabeth—”

“Because I care about you,” she said in a rush of words. “I always have, but I mean—I just—” She licked her lips. “If this were before, if this was Lucky—” He scowled, but she continued. “I would have done whatever he asked. Whatever made him happy. Because that’s how I judged my life. If Lucky was happy, if I did what he wanted—I can’t do that anymore—”

“Elizabeth—” Jason’s voice was quiet, but there was anguish there. “That’s not—I’m not—” He stepped back. “Come in. Please.”

Hesitantly, she stepped over the threshold and waited for him to shut the door. He dropped his keys on the dresser and looked at her. “I’m sorry about today.”

“I’m not trying to box you in. To convince you to give up—”

“No, I know.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “You weren’t saying anything you haven’t before. Nothing Alexis or Bobbie hasn’t said. My chances in court are next to nothing, and dragging Michael through it would just…”

Her throat felt raw as she forced the words out. “Jason—”

“But you never have to tell me what I want to hear, or do anything because I—” He sliced a hand through the air. “I don’t want that from you. I saw—” He stopped and looked away, swallowing. “I saw you do that before. I Last year, I watched you twist yourself around to be what Lucky wanted. I would never—”

She exhaled slowly. “And I know that. I do. Here.” She gestured at her head. “It’s just…it’s hard to believe it everywhere else. I have a lot of…damage from before—”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” he cut in, his eyes fierce. “Elizabeth—”

“Baggage then,” she continued, with a hesitant smile at his complete faith in her. At least one of them had it. She bit her lip. “It’s there. And I can’t pretend it isn’t.”

“I’m not asking you to.”

She could do this. She could be honest with herself, with him. About anything. This was Jason. He was safe.

Elizabeth stepped forward until she stood just before him, tilting her head up to meet his eyes. “Last night, in the alley—today—”

“If you’re not ready—”

“It felt right,” Elizabeth interrupted. “And it felt good. And I wished—” She shook her head. “No. No regrets. If it had happened last year, I wasn’t ready to do anything about it then. I am now. I want to be with you.” She hesitantly reached out, her fingertips brushing the soft cotton of his black shirt. She flicked her eyes back at him. “And not in some…abstract sense. I mean…” She pressed her hands against his chest, his skin warm under the cotton. “Now. Tonight.”

“Elizabeth—”

She slid her hand up slightly to cover his heart. She’d felt it before—could remember checking it during that winter in her studio. He slept so soundly, so little movement, she would often lean over at night to check his heartbeat.

And it was quicker now, his breath had changed. She had never really let herself believe a man like Jason would want her—would find her attractive, but he did. She could see it in his eyes, feel it in the way his body had tensed.

“But maybe you would rather go out for a ride,” she teased as she slid up on her toes and pressed her mouth to his quickly. “You know I like the bike—”

She moved, as if going towards the door, but he laughed, the sound low and rumbling through his chest as he lightly tugged her back, letting her almost stumble into him. Her answering grin was swallowed by his mouth as he dipped his head, speared his hands in her hair and kissed her.

This. This feeling, this sensation, this dizzy, intoxicating sensation—this was why she had to give this a chance. She wanted to drown herself in him, in his touch, in the way everything just ignited inside her when he was with her. Elizabeth slid her hands up his chest again, moving under his jacket so she could shove the leather from his shoulders.

She fisted her hands in his shirt, pulling him backwards toward the bed. Jason hesitated when her knees brushed the edge. His hands resting at her hips, his thumbs brushing the skin just under her shirt, he raised his head and licked his lips. “Elizabeth—” he began, his voice a bit rough. “We don’t—”

She raised a brow, and swiftly turned so that she could lightly shove him on the bed before climbing on top, her denim-clad thighs straddling him on either side. “Do you know how long I’ve been thinking about this?” she asked, her tone idle as the tip of her fingers lightly danced on his abdomen, on the bared skin where his shirt had tugged up.

His eyes were dark in the dimly lit room as he braced himself up on his elbows. “Not as long as I have,” Jason managed.

“I should have felt guilty,” Elizabeth mused with a smile that felt wicked even as it slid across her face. “I mean, you were hurt and I was supposed to be taking care of you, but every time I changed your bandage…” Her fingers traced the scar that bullet had left. “I had this crazy thought about just…” She bit her lip, but what the hell? “Licking you.”

He didn’t laugh at her, didn’t even smile at the thought of that silly girl thinking such naughty thoughts about a bullet-ridden older man in her care. Instead, Jason sat up, tugging her closer, bringing her into closer contact with all of him. Her breath caught—she could feel him, even though two layers of denim. “If you had,” he began, but stopped and shook his head. “I want this to be right for you,” he said, finally, his lips feathering along her jaw.

“Being with you makes it right,” she murmured. “You are—this is what I want.” She rocked back lightly, heard his breath hitch. “I’m not going to pretend anymore.” She leaned down, nipped at his mouth. “Are we done talking yet?”

He answered with a light growl that had her giggling as Jason dipped her to the side, her back against the mattress. “I think we’ve talked enough,” he told her with a wicked grin before he took her mouth again.

December 25, 2014

These are the two opening scenes to my Tangle rewrite.


I’m alive but tell me am I free
I got eyes but tell me can I see
The sky is falling and no one knows
It shouldn’t be hard to believe
Shouldn’t be this difficult to breathe
The sky is falling and no one knows
Sky is Falling, Lifehouse


Monday, November 15, 2010

Morgan Home: Kitchen

The last time Jason Morgan saw his wife, she was smiling at him. She stood by her open car door, facing the street as he fastened the car seat for their three-year-old son, Jake.

“I’m going to miss you guys so much,” she murmured, leaning over the car door to kiss him softly. “I wish I weren’t going back today.”

Jason smoothed his hand down the back of her hand, over her chestnut hair and tilted his head to the side. “You don’t have to go, you know. You can call, ask for extra time.”

She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “I can’t. I’ve already been out six months. I think I was spoiled because I was only out three with Jake.” She cast her sapphire eyes at their blond son who was chattering with six-year-old Cameron. “And you know…the last month of that was…” She sighed. “I’m not going to think about that anymore.”

He didn’t much like to think about the few weeks their newborn son had been kidnapped by a grief-stricken mother, made possible by his girlfriend’s anger at the situation, as she had stood and watched the woman lift an innocent boy from his carriage and leave the park.

“We don’t have to.” He kissed her again. “But you know…Juliet is going to miss you.”

She laughed, the sorrow clearing from her eyes. “Oh, she is not. She has you wrapped around her tiny finger.” She punctuated each word with a soft finger poking him in the chest. “Admit it, big bad Jason Morgan is a softy.”

He scowled at her, but only in fun because it was true. He’d only raised boys before, from Michael to Jake and Cameron. He’d been around girls, but never his own daughter. “I have a reputation to protect.”

She smirked. “I have to get the boys to school, and then to the hospital before Epiphany sets the hounds loose.” He stepped back and closed the door. He kissed her one more time. “I love you,” she murmured against his lips. “I’ll see you later.”

He stepped back from the car, and repeated their usual goodbye, one that went back more than a decade. “I’ll see you later.”

His wife smiled, and slid into the car. As she fastened her seatbelt, Jason, out of habit, glanced to the street where a dark car was waiting to follow his wife to the boys’ school and then to General Hospital.

With a wave, Elizabeth Morgan pulled out of the driveway and then drove down the street. Her silver car turned a corner, and she was gone.

Jason returned to the house where his six-month-old daughter slept peacefully never knowing that she would grow up without the mother who loved her so much.

Morgan Home: Study

Four hours later, Jason sat behind the desk in the study Elizabeth had insisted on setting up when they’d moved into the home the year before. He hated bringing his work home, but she had successfully argued that if he did paperwork and met with trusted people the kids already knew at the house, he would be home more. After missing nearly a year of Jake’s life, any decision that allowed him more time with his children was easy to make.

So today, the meeting was with Cody Paul, the enforcer in his organization, and his business partner, Johnny Zacchara. Juliet peacefully slumbered in a playpen a few feet outside the door, in the living room.

“Vega’s an impatient old woman,” Johnny grumbled, scribbling his name on a page. “I told him that we would have answer by the end of the week, and he’s already hassling me. It’s Monday, for f—” He coughed. “Anyway. We’ll have to figure out what to tell him about the pier.”

“We will,” Jason said. “At the end of the week.” He rubbed his forehead. “Anything else?”

“Nope,” Cody said, gathering up the ledgers. “I’ll take these down to Max at the warehouse. See ya guys.” The enforcer left, and a few minutes later he heard the door open and close.

Johnny leaned back in his chair. “Nadine said Liz was going back to work today. How’d she take it?”

Jason shrugged. He and Johnny were mostly relaxed with one another, despite the fact Johnny was responsible for the death of Sonny Corinthos two years earlier.

Their business partnership had just seen its first anniversary, having been struck when his now-wife Nadine agreed to marry him. Johnny had, sensibly, argued that they would be stronger together than apart and since they were both family men now, they would be well-served to preserve the peace.

“I told her she could stay home,” he answered finally.

“Yeah, I told Nadine the same thing last month.” Johnny smirked. “She thought I was nuts. What would she do when Lia was older, started going to school?” His grin broadened. “I told her we’d have more kids if she wanted to stay busy. She whacked me. Just easier to let them do what they’re gonna do.”

“Elizabeth loves her job.” And that was enough for him. It was a logistical nightmare securing the hospital at times, but it was important to him that his wife not be isolated, stuck in his penthouse. Carly had been that way with Sonny, and it had driven her insane—almost literally.

The landline on his desk rang and Jason reached for it. “Morgan?”

“Jason? Oh. Hey. It’s Nadine.”

Jason frowned at the sound of his partner’s wife. “Nadine? Are you looking for Johnny?” He glanced at the other man who took out his cell, as if to examine its condition.

“Oh. No, no. I guess Elizabeth forgot its her first day back. I tried her cell, but she probably left it with Jules again, she can’t get enough of it but I’ve managed to hold Epiphany off for a while, but she’s super late—”

His fist clenched on the desk, and Johnny leaned forward. “What’s wrong?”

“Nadine, Elizabeth left for work four hours ago,” Jason said, careful to keep his voice very calm. He met Johnny’s eyes, and his partner immediately started to dial Elizabeth’s guards.

“Oh.” There was a pause, and then a sucking in of her breath. “Oh. God. Okay. Well…I…don’t know what to do. Should I call the police?

“No.” Jason swallowed. He could not panic. There was an explanation. A reasonable one. “No. I’ll…drive the route she took. Maybe she got stuck somewhere.”

“Okay…well, let me know.” But Nadine’s voice was skeptical, and they both knew he didn’t believe it.

Jason carefully set the phone on the hook, and took a deep breath. “Johnny?”

“No answer on the guards,” Johnny confirmed. “I’m calling Max and Cody to start the search.” He hesitated. “Jason, doesn’t she usually drive the boys to school?”

And if Jason had been fighting panic before, he now tasted the terror.

Snatching the phone back up, he punched in the number for St. Andrew’s Academy. “Hello, this is Jason Morgan. I’m calling to find out if my sons, Cameron and Jake, made it class today. Cameron is in first grade, and Jake is in nursery school.”

When the woman on the other line confirmed that the boys had been dropped off on time, the vise around his lungs eased…only slightly. He hung up the phone. “They made it.”

“Okay.” Johnny exhaled slowly. “Okay. I’ll stay here, with Jules, Jason. You’re not…” He shook his head. “You’re not going to be able to sit back and let other people search for her, I know it. So…go trace her route. Go look.”

But Jason couldn’t move. If he moved, left the house, started looking, it would mean this was real. That his wife had not made it work, that her guards were not answering their phones.

“Jason,” Johnny said. “I’ll stay with Jules. I’ll play point for the guys, for Cody and Max. Go look.”

Johnny’s quiet words broke through his stupor and he looked across the desk, at the man who was not nearly the friend Sonny Corinthos had been, but in that moment, he just didn’t care. “If something happened to her…”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, Jase.”