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.
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 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.”
“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.
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.”
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.”