Carly had never killed anyone before, never been directly responsible for anyone’s death, but she knew what she was doing when she called Sonny and told him about Ric’s affair with Sam.
She told him about Elizabeth, how she’d killed Zander in a panic to save her child, she’d confirmed what Sonny had suspected all along–that Jason and Michael disappeared to visit Elizabeth, though he hadn’t known the circumstances behind her absence from Port Charles.
She’d told him about the precious relationship that had grown between her son and Elizabeth and how much Michael cared for her, cared for his new cousin. She told him that Jason had finally found someone that he could count on and build a life with.
And then she’d told him about the choice Jason was terrified to consider–leaving Michael or leaving Elizabeth. And she’d informed Sonny that if he ever wanted her forgiveness for what he’d done to Michael, he would have to find a way to fix it so that Ric didn’t complicate matters.
And to cement the deal, she’d informed him that his half-brother and his whore were making a mockery of him.
She’d known it would lead to his death and it would be the first time in her checkered past that she would really have destroyed a human life. It had bothered her for a few moments–she’d been married to a man capable of violence, she’d loved a man that she knew for a fact had killed before and would probably kill again. But she’d been able to rationalize that away by telling herself that it was always business and that the men whose lives were taken had chosen to be in that business. So it was okay to love them. To give Sonny a child and to share her eldest son with Jason.
But she herself had never killed anyone and that was what she had done noq. But then she’d remembered the life that was taken–the man that had pretended to sleep with her, that had tried to destroy her family and had chained her to wall, pregnant and scared. The man that had sat and watched as his wife drank poisoned lemonade. The man that had drugged said wife so she would not conceive.
Ric may have been a living breathing person, but to Carly, he was expendable. It had come down to Elizabeth’s freedom or Ric’s life and as far as Carly was concerned, Ric had been long past his expiration date.
So she had put the decision behind her. They would never find Ric’s body but Port Charles had already moved on in the three weeks since Ric had vanished on his way home from the office. Alexis Davis had been sworn in as district attorney and Elizabeth’s divorce from the man had been quietly pushed through the last of the red tape.
All that remained was the investigation itself and Carly felt confident that Jason would find a way to turn Mac off Elizabeth’s trail. He’d move heaven and earth for the woman and though Carly didn’t understand the attraction, she certainly understood the sentiment. If Elizabeth was who Jason had chosen, she would do her best to protect them both.
Summer drew to a close and it was time to return to Port Charles, time for Carly to go home to her club, for Michael to begin school but leaving was hardest on Jason. He had been present for nearly every waking moment of Andi’s life and now he would have to leave for her what could be months. And if things went badly, he might never see either Andi or Elizabeth again.
So during their last few days, Carly took Michael and Morgan to the beach more often and let the tiny family have their moments together, to create memories that might have to last a life time. She wished that time could stretch, that these days could last forever. She couldn’t remember being more peaceful or content then she’d been this summer in Spain.
“When can Aunt Liz come home?” Michael asked, digging his shovel into the sand.
Carly sighed. “I’m not sure, kiddo. I’m hoping she’ll be home for Christmas but it’s not really up to me.”
Michael pursed his lips. “I miss her when we’re not here,” he said. “And so does Jason. And I’m gonna miss Andi a lot. What if she start talking or does something else cool?” he glanced toward his ten-month-old brother. “How am I supposed to protect her if she’s all the way over here?”
“The older you get, the tougher the questions,” Carly sighed. “All I can say is that distance doesn’t change things. You’re still gonna love her all the way in Port Charles, and Elizabeth and Andi are still gonna love you from here.” She combed through his messy red hair. “You’re always going to be a family, Michael, no matter where you live.”
“I know,” Michael sighed, with the wisdom of a child that wasn’t quite mature enough to handle all that he already knew. “It just sucks.”
“Yeah,” Carly agreed with a sad smile. “It really does suck.”
“Do we have to leave tomorrow?” Michael asked. “Can’t we stay a few more days?”
“Sorry buddy, we should have left last week but you start school on Monday and you know Elizabeth would be the first person to put you on the plane back home. It’s important to learn.”
“I guess. But we can come back for Thanksgiving right?” he asked. “If they’re still here.”
“It’s up to Jason, Mr. Man.” She sighed and glanced back towards the house.
“This has been probably one of the best summers I can remember in a long time,” Elizabeth said as she put Andi down for her afternoon nap. She closed the door to the nursery and headed for the back porch.
She waited for Jason to sit next to her on the bench and she scooted closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. He slid his arm around her. “Michael wants to stay another few days,” he said after a moment.
“Mmm…I wish you could,” she replied. “But school starts in a few days and he’ll need to settle back into the time zone. You probably should have gone home last week.”
“Probably,” he admitted. He changed the subject because neither of them wanted to discuss the reasons why they had prolonged the visit. “I talked to Carly about Michael wanting to change his last name.”
“And I bet she thought it was a great idea,” Elizabeth replied.
“She did,” he confirmed. “She didn’t even hesitate and she thinks it would be good for Michael, for him to be able to believe that this is permanent.” Jason hesitated. “And we’re going to finalize the adoption when we got back, Carly talked to Sonny a few weeks ago. He’s going to sign the papers.”
“Jason…” Elizabeth pulled away, her eyes sparkling. “That’s incredible news! I mean, it was wonderful that you were appointed his guardian but now…”
“Michael doesn’t understand we need to sign all the paperwork,” Jason continued. “He said that he chose me and I chose him and that should have been enough for everyone.”
A smile tugged her lips and Elizabeth couldn’t contain the small chuckle. “He sounds so much like you, Jason. The sensible advice, the confusion at why things have to be more complicated than they should be. It’s like listening to you speak.” She took his hand and held it between both of hers. “I wish that I could be there when you sign the papers,” she said softly.
He stared at their hands, at how his hand was still larger than both of hers together. His tanned skin next to her pale complexion. The slim soft fingers against his calloused skin. It shouldn’t look right, she was so much smaller and more delicate than he was, so beautiful and graceful. He was so much bigger than her, thicker and rougher. He wondered why something that shouldn’t suit was such a perfect fit.
“I wish you could be there, too,” Jason admitted. “But we can call you after we sign them.”
She smiled sadly and looked away, a single tear sliding down her cheek. “It won’t be the same.” She bit her lip. “Nothing is ever going to be the same.”
Not wanting her to be more sad than necessary on their last night together, Jason used their joined hands to tug her closer and kiss her. “Maybe they’ll be better,” he said after they parted and Elizabeth smiled, but there was something about the look in her eyes in that moment that worried him. Some piece of melancholy, resignation that hadn’t been a few moments ago.
But it disappeared almost as soon as it had surfaced and she squeezed his hand, pasting a smile on her face. “Maybe they will,” she replied.
Neither of them believed it.
The next morning, Jason rose early and packed the car. Carly was giving Elizabeth last minute advice as she brought Morgan out to the car. “People say you should let them cry,” she remarked, “but I think that’s bullshit–”
“Mom!” Michael gasped, scandalized. “You can’t say that!”
“Sorry, Mr. Man, I’ll put a dollar in the jar as soon as I get home,” Carly promised. She turned back to Elizabeth. “Take care of my niece.”
“Take care of Michael and Jason.” Elizabeth kissed Morgan’s cheek and embraced Carly awkwardly. “Thanks for all your help. It was nice to have a woman here.”
“Well, it was nice being here,” Carly admitted. “But I have to go before I do something crazy and start thinking we’re friends.” She slid her sunglasses over her eyes and stepped down towards the car.
Elizabeth knelt down and tugged Michael into a fierce hug. “I’ve gotten so used to having you around,” she said, trying not to cry.
“Don’t let Andi forget about me,” Michael told her. “I’m her cousin and it’s important that she remembers that.”
“She will never forget you, Michael. I’ll tell her stories so the next time you see her, it’ll be like you were never apart,” Elizabeth told him, wishing she could keep that promise. She pulled back and ran her hands down his arms to grasp his hands. “Now, listen to me, Michael, because this is very important. I want to you take care of Jason for me. I love him very much and I need you to promise me that you will look out for him.”
Michael frowned–there was something about her tone that sounded wrong to him but he nodded. “I always protect him,” he boasted. “That’s what families do. We protect each other.”
“Right. I love you, Michael. I want you to remember that.” Elizabeth embraced him again. “Take care of yourself.”
“I will.” Michael pulled back from her, kissed her cheek and went to the car, a little confused. That hadn’t been Elizabeth’s normal goodbye.
Jason waited until Carly had belted Michael into the car and had stepped into the passenger’s seat before approaching Elizabeth on the porch. He knew there was a very reach chance that the next time he saw her, he would have to say goodbye for real.
“I’m going to do my best to bring you home,” he told her. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“I know you will,” Elizabeth said softly. She rose to her tip toes and pressed her lips against his. “I love you,” she told him. “I just–I needed you to know that.”
Jason cupped her cheek in his hand, letting his thumb trace the shell of her ear. “I love you, too.” He kissed her again, long and hard. Separating from her was difficult and it took all of his strength to leave her on the steps, to go to the car. He pulled open the door but turned to look at her one last time before getting inside. “I’ll see you later,” he called to her.
Elizabeth waited until they were halfway down the drive before she touched her lips and smiled wistfully. “Goodbye,” she murmured.
She went back inside to call Nikolas. It was time to make her plans.
A Week Later…
Mayor Garrett Floyd wasn’t entirely unhappy to be rid of Ric Lansing as the district attorney. The man hadn’t been his first choice for the position and he was far from the best, with his blood connection to Sonny Corinthos. He’d long wanted to put Alexis Davis in the role–she had knowledge of the Corinthos organization, of the man himself that other attorneys didn’t.
So he’d been somewhat relieved that Ric Lansing had disappeared. But one had to keep up appearances so he made his weekly visit to Mac Scorpio to get the progress on the investigation and of course, to find out what was happening on the Smith case. He wasn’t all that worried about finding that killer either but the public wanted someone to pay for Brian Beck’s shooting and he was hoping that they could close the case right before election day. That would be a great head line.
“No charges on his credit card, no sign of life,” Mac sighed, repeating the same line that he had since the day Ric had failed to show up for work a month ago. Like Floyd, he wasn’t that concerned. Ric had been a poor excuse for a DA and he was already more satisfied with Alexis’s work than he’d been with the two previous DAs. But it was important to play his role.
“I wonder if Corinthos finally got rid of him,” Floyd mused. “Remind me to send that man a bottle of wine.” He shrugged. “Ah, well, keep the investigation going for at least a few more months before we give up. Must look like we give a damn about the son of a bitch.”
Politicians, Mac thought sourly. Not a heart in one of them. “As for the Smith case, I do have a suspect in mind, but it’s a weak one. Elizabeth Lansing–she was pregnant with his child, trying to get him to give up rights to the baby. She left town shortly after the cause of death was reported and I’ve been having trouble tracking her down with her parents in Europe.”
“Elizabeth Lansing is the artist, right?” Floyd asked. “Tiny little brunette that didn’t look like she could hurt a fly?”
“She’s a good kid–shady taste in men, never really had much luck in that area,” Mac admitted, “but I have a hard time imagining her attacking Zander. But she was pregnant and strikes me as being a mother that would kill to protect her own.”
“What about the grandmother?” Floyd asked. “Can’t we get some contact information from her?”
“Her information for her stepson was outdated and apparently Jeff Webber and his wife move around a lot. I’m working on it but…” Mac sighed. “How much do I want to push what might have been a case of self defense?”
“Self defense or not, if she fled possible prosecution, it makes her a fugitive.” The headlines in Floyd’s head had changed and he didn’t think this one would fly. “I’d prefer to close this case, Scorpio, and no one wants to put a mother in jail. But it’s only speculation now. Find her and figure out what role she played.”
“There’s something else that keeps me going back to Elizabeth,” Mac admitted. “Jason Morgan.”
Floyd perked up. Morgan was always good for a headline. “What about him?”
“The two have a history and he’s been unreachable most of the last six months. In and out of town on mysterious vacations that all seemed to start when Elizabeth left town.”
“Jason Morgan helping a fugitive run from justice, now that’s a good headline.” Floyd nodded. “Find her. Question him. I don’t want this going to the cold case files if we can avoid it, Scorpio.”
He nodded to his aide and swept out of the office. Mac glared after him. “Self-serving prick,” he muttered.