Song: I’m With You (Avril Lavigne)
Picks up: Emily’s first or second day back, in 2003
Emily Quartermaine studied her best friend working silently behind the counter. She hadn’t spoken to Elizabeth in a few weeks, not since…that didn’t matter anyway. What mattered was the strange sharp retort Elizabeth had thrown out a few moments ago.
“Excuse me a minute,” Emily said, interrupting Courtney.
“Uh, yeah sure.”
Emily stood and crossed the room. “Elizabeth, can we talk for a minute?”
“I’m busy,” Elizabeth replied in a clipped tone.
Stung, Emily frowned. “What’s wrong? Did I do something to offend you?”
Elizabeth looked up at her friend and Emily was taken aback at the coldness in the normally warm blue eyes. “I can’t believe you’d just turn your back like that.”
“What?” Emily shook her head. “Elizabeth, I thought we discussed this yesterday. You are over Jason, right? I mean you were talking about Ric so much…and Jason just seems like he’s moved on…”
“He’s moved on all right,” Elizabeth muttered. “I just didn’t realize you loved Jason more than you loved AJ.”
“AJ?” Emily repeated. “What does AJ have to do with anything?”
“Didn’t it tip you off when you heard her last name?” Elizabeth asked pointedly.
“Matthews, right?” Emily asked, completely mystified by the entire situation.
Elizabeth stared at her for a moment. “That’s her maiden name.”
“Maiden name.” Emily’s eyes widened. “Oh my God! Jason’s Courtney is…holy hell, AJ’s wife?”
“You mean you didn’t know?” Elizabeth asked surprised. “I didn’t mention it?”
“No, I guess not.” Emily glanced over her shoulder at the blonde at the table. “Are she and AJ even divorced?”
“Nope.” Elizabeth sighed. “Look, Em, I’m sorry I came off like such a bitch. It’s just…I thought Courtney was my friend. I confided in her after I left Jason…and I trusted her. She lied to me. Every time she was ducking out on a shift or late for another, she was with Jason. And she lied about it. This has nothing to do with Jason.”
“Nothing?” Emily prompted, a smile on her lips.
“Almost nothing,” Elizabeth allowed. “I don’t really know what happened between AJ and Courtney. I know AJ did something stupid out of his insecurities about Jason. He was worried Courtney liked Jason more or something and I guess…well, I guess he had a reason to be afraid. Because not more than two months after Jason and I…ended…and a month after AJ moved out, they started seeing each other. I guess AJ and I were right all along.”
“Whoa, whoa…” Emily stared at her. “You don’t think…you don’t think my brother was interested in Courtney while he was with you?”
“I don’t want to think that,” Elizabeth said softly. “But the evidence is hard to ignore. I wanted to be with him, I was willing to do just about anything. Keep it hidden, whatever he wanted. And Jason didn’t want to do any of it. I constantly saw them together…and then…” Elizabeth shrugged. “They got together. What am I supposed to think?”
Emily slid off the stool. “I think…I need…I’ll see you later, okay?”
She found her brother at the hospital.
He was sitting in the waiting room like before and smiled when he saw her. “Hey. You’re back.”
“When I asked you about the woman you were in love with, why did you fail to mention that she was still legally married to AJ?” Emily demanded. “And that she left AJ for you?”
Jason’s face fell and he looked away. “Em—”
“I went to Kelly’s to talk to her. To tell her I was glad she made you happy.” Emily’s brown eyes bore into the top of his head as she glared at him. “And when Elizabeth seemed upset that I so readily approved of Courtney, I was curious. Because Elizabeth isn’t like that.”
“And she told you about AJ,” Jason said quietly.
“She told me about that,” Emily nodded. “She told me that Courtney lied to her time and time again about leaving work to sneak out to be with you. She told me that you were seeing Courtney while the two of you were together.”
Instantly, Jason leapt to his feet. “That is not true!”
“Well, I guess Elizabeth didn’t get that memo. Can’t blame her I guess. From what she tells me, you and Courtney got together pretty quickly.” Emily sighed. “You know…I never…I never wanted to see the way she felt about you. I thought it was wrong, I thought it was betraying her perfect relationship with Lucky. But anyone who had eyes saw the way Elizabeth felt about you. And I knew how you felt about her.”
“Emily, I don’t—”
“What I want to know is how you turned those feelings so off so quickly? How were you able to give up on Elizabeth, someone you’d been in love with for years…for Courtney, your brother’s wife?”
“AJ is not my brother!” Jason replied, defensively. “And I never said I was in love with Elizabeth.”
“You didn’t have to.” Emily folded her arms. “I love you, Jason. You’re my brother. But so is AJ. And Elizabeth is like my sister. I’m having a little troubled deciding where my loyalties lie.”
“I don’t want you to take sides,” Jason replied. “This is a difficult situation—”
“Yeah, it is. Jesus, Jason, she’s still married to him, for Christ’s sake. What were you thinking?”
“Emily, I don’t—”
“How could you do this to Elizabeth?” Emily asked, switching tacks. “You know, I thought she was over you. So I thought I could be okay with you moving on. But either one of you is lying to yourself or you both are. But with what Elizabeth told me about the way it ended, I don’t think either one of you has a freaking clue.”
“You’re taking her word over mine?” Jason demanded.
“I only have her word, Jason. And if you remember, Elizabeth is not exactly a liar. Not about you. She’s made mistakes with you, she readily admits that. But she never lied about you.” Emily glanced around. “Look, this is not the place for this conversation. Let’s go somewhere. Because god help me, I’m getting the story out of you if it kills us both.”
“I can’t leave—”
“Why?” Emily demanded, arching her eyebrow. “Carly’s going to be fine, right? Courtney told me.”
“No buts,” Emily replied. “Let’s go.”
Courtney pressed her hands against the counter and glared at Elizabeth. “What did you tell her?” she demanded.
Elizabeth smirked. “That you’re married to one of her brothers and sleeping with the other. You know, nothing that’s not common knowledge.”
“You’re such a pathetic little bitch,” Courtney spat out hatefully. “You just hate that Jason and I are happy together, don’t you?”
“I hate that you decided you wanted him and stomped everyone who got in your way,” Elizabeth tossed back “Now if you don’t excuse me—”
“AJ and I have been separated for months! What does it matter?”
“It matters to Emily that you’re messing with the people she cares about—”
“So, I take it my sister found out about my wonderful slut of a wife.”
Courtney sighed and turned. “Go away, AJ,” she said scornfully.
AJ smirked and slid onto a stool. “Can I have a coffee to go?” he asked Elizabeth.
“Don’t serve him!” Courtney snarled.
Elizabeth tossed her hair over her shoulder and turned a hundred watt smile on AJ. “Hey. Black?”
“Nah. Two creams and one sugar,” AJ replied. “So, Courtney, how’s life screwing Jason?”
“Bite me!” Courtney retorted.
“Oooh, how mature,” Elizabeth murmured, handing AJ his coffee. “Do you have any leads on Kristina yet?”
AJ sighed. “No. Not yet.”
Courtney snorted. “Like either of you care. God, you’re both pathetic. AJ with his stupid insecurity about Jason and Elizabeth with her little puppy love for him. You’re both ridiculous.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” AJ replied, shrugging. “I figured since you know, you actually left me for Jason, that my insecurities weren’t that far off.”
“You were using me!” Courtney shot back.
“Hey, be fair,” AJ replied, irritated. “You used me, too. You wanted out from under Sonny’s thumb. What better way than to marry his mortal enemy?”
Courtney shifted and looked away. “That’s not true.”
“Oh, please. You’re just as manipulative as I am,” AJ replied. “I was a perfect catch. I mean, eventually my family would take me back, right? But then you saw Jason and figured well, the Quartermaine golden boy and Sonny’s little stooge. What better way to get everything you ever wanted?”
“That’s not fair, AJ! You stalked me!” Courtney cried.
“And I have apologized!” AJ shot back. “Over and over again. I know it was a stupid move. I know it was ridiculous and all that. I just wanted to scare you a little. Just so once, I’d be the hero instead of my damn brother.” AJ snorted. “But you called Jason anyway. You always called Jason.”
Courtney looked away. “AJ, look…I…things…”
AJ shrugged. “Doesn’t matter anyway. You didn’t love me. I see that now. You think you did. And you probably think you love Jason. But eventually, Prince Charming is going to going to fall of his high white horse and you’ll realize it was just another hero worship. He’s not perfect Courtney. He’s got his good points, but he’s got his bad and the longer you think he’s perfect, the more it’s going to hurt in the end.” AJ slapped a five on the counter. “Keep the change, Liz. And steer clear of the succubus over here. She’ll suck you dry.”
AJ left the diner then, leaving a speechless Courtney in his wake.
“You know, he may be an idiot,” Elizabeth murmured thoughtfully, “but I think he’s finally growing up.”
Emily sat across from her brother at Jake’s, nursing a soda. “Okay, go.”
Jason sighed and took a sip of his beer. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Emily.”
“Fine, I’ll start.” She took a deep breath and sat straight in her chair. “I talked to Elizabeth a lot of the summer. In fact, I had a call from her sometime in August. She was crying her eyes out about how she’d betrayed me, betrayed you and all that.” Emily studied him. “She told me about Zander.”
Jason shifted in his seat. “Didn’t think she would,” he finally said.
“She wasn’t going to at first. But she decided she wanted me to find out from her.” Emily took a deep breath. “It was hard to hear about it at first, but her explanation, it helped me to understand. Did she ever explain to you?”
“Yeah. She told me it was a mistake,” Jason answered.
“But did she tell you why?” Emily asked.
“I didn’t want to hear it,” Jason admitted. “She tried…but…”
“She was scared to death,” Emily jumped in. “The lights went out in her building and she was trapped in the stairwell. Apparently, she had a panic attack because of the kidnapping—”
“You know about that?” Jason asked, his brow furrowed.
“She told me after it happened. Anyway, she was panicking, banging on doors trying to get out and Zander got her out. They went back to her studio and Elizabeth told me that she was still shaking. She was scared and she wanted to feel anything but the fear. So when he kissed her, she let him.”
“I didn’t…I didn’t know about any of that,” Jason said slowly.
“No, I guess not. I bet you thought she was choosing Zander over you, just like she chose Lucky over you,” Emily replied. “But anyway, Elizabeth came to her senses, she managed to convince you to be with her, she was living in the penthouse. What happened?”
“Elizabeth told you, so you already know,” Jason told her stubbornly.
“I know Elizabeth’s reasons for leaving yes,” Emily allowed. “Reasons, by the way, I totally agree with. So, what I want to know is…why do you think she left?”
“Because I lied to her,” Jason said simply.
Emily stared at her brother for a moment. “You really are a sad person, Jase. You used to know her so well. You knew her better than anyone else in her life. You saw right through her when she tried to lie, you made her light up with life when no one else could. How could you think that Elizabeth…after everything you’ve been through together…would leave you because of a lie?”
“I…Wait…” Jason frowned. “She didn’t?”
“She left because you never came home. Never called. Never let her know you needed her. From what Elizabeth tells me, she stayed in the penthouse for days without seeing you or hearing from you. Half the time, she was worried sick that you were hurt or even worse. She got tired of coming in dead last on your list of priorities.”
“She told you all this.”
“I told you, Liz and I are sisters. I got her back, she’s got mine. I just wish she’d told me more about Courtney earlier or I might have been home sooner.” Liar, her mind chanted but she silenced that pretty quickly. “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter why Elizabeth did what she did. You obviously didn’t care about her half as much as everyone figured or you wouldn’t have moved on so quickly.” Emily sipped her soda. “So, have you traveled to anywhere that I don’t know about?”
Jason stared at her for a moment. “Emily, I cared about Elizabeth. A lot. You know that.”
“I thought I did,” Emily replied. “I thought I knew how much your friendship meant to each other. But I guess I was wrong.”
“She meant a lot to me Emily,” Jason argued. “She was important to me.”
“Did you ever tell her that?” Emily asked pointedly.
“Jason, look, it’s obvious that whatever you felt for Elizabeth is in the past. I mean, you’d never start with Courtney if you weren’t over with Elizabeth, so don’t worry about it. Elizabeth is strong, she’ll bounce back. I guess she can’t forget as easily.”
“I didn’t forget!”
Emily smirked. “Really.”
“She won’t talk to me.”
“Have you tried lately?” Emily asked.
“Well, no…but…” Jason trailed off. “Emily—”
“Just answer me one question honestly,” Emily said, “and I swear I’ll shut up.”
Jason sighed. “Okay.”
“Are you over Elizabeth?”
Jason stared at her for a moment, looked away, his eyes falling on the pool table where he’d taught Elizabeth to play. He remembered the way she felt in his arms, how sweet her hair smelled. He remembered that day upstairs when she’d come to him all dressed up and he’d washed her face.
He’d wanted to kiss her so badly back then. All the time, every time he saw her, he’d had to fight himself not to pull her to him.
He remembered the look on her face when he’d entered the penthouse that fateful night. The dull and glazed look in her eyes. The dried tearstains on her cheeks. He remembered the way her eyes had glimmered with tears that day in Kelly’s when Elizabeth had told them both to go to hell.
He took a deep breath, looked his sister straight in the eye and answered her question. “No. I guess I’m not.”
The door swung open and Elizabeth turned to look at him. “We’re closed,” she said quietly. “Courtney left hours ago.”
“I know.” Jason swallowed hard. “I need to talk to you.”
“I’m not in the mood,” Elizabeth said shortly as she turned another chair over and put it on the table.
“I talked to Emily today.”
“She’s very loyal to you.”
Elizabeth sighed and looked at him. “Jason, do you have a point?”
He exhaled slowly. “She asked me if I was over you and I told her the truth.” He studied her face for a moment before continuing. “That I wasn’t.”
She just stared him, a little dumbfounded. “What?”
“I’m not very proud of what’s happened to our friendship,” Jason told her. He moved away from her, towards the door a little. “I think we’re both to blame. We both ran, and neither of us listened to each other.”
“I guess that’s true,” Elizabeth murmured. She watched Jason fish in his jacket pocket. “What do you think we should do about that?”
He withdrew a handful of change. “What’s your favorite song?” he asked.
She frowned. “What?”
“Your favorite song,” he repeated. “On the jukebox.”
“Oh. Um…” she thought for a moment. “I’m With You. Avril Lavigne.”
Jason scanned the machine and punched it in. As the first chords of music washed over the room, he extended a hand to her. “Dance with me.”
Her eyebrows shot up, even as she took his hand and he pulled her close. They formed the traditional dance pose, her other hand on his shoulder, his hand around her waist. “Why?”
I’m standing on a bridge
I’m waiting in the dark
I thought that you’d be here by now
“I guess I’m trying to recreate one of my favorite memories,” Jason told her.
Elizabeth smiled as she remembered the night in question. “You really didn’t mind it?”
There’s nothing but the rain
No footsteps on the ground
I’m listening but there’s no sound
“Nope.” Jason chuckled. “Do me a favor this time, though?”
“What?” Elizabeth asked, tilting her head back to look at him.
“Don’t pretend I’m Lucky.”
Isn’t anyone tryin to find me?
Won’t somebody come take me home
It’s a damn cold night
Trying to figure out this life
Elizabeth didn’t laugh until she saw the amusement in his eyes. “I never could pretend you were anyone else but who you are,” she told him, her eyes showing her honesty.
“Good,” Jason decided.
Wont you take me by the hand
Take me somewhere new
I don’t know who you are
But I… I’m with you
I’m with you
Emily peered in through the window to see her best friend and brother dancing like old friends again. She smiled, glad that she’d righted that wrong. It’d taken her mind off of…other things. She sobered and stepped away from the window, fading into the night.
Inside, the song was winding to a close and Elizabeth was marveling at how comfortable she and Jason suddenly seemed to be. Almost like old times. Maybe…
Maybe they couldn’t go back. And maybe they would never be more than friends. But Elizabeth figured it was better than nothing.
Take me by the hand
Take me somewhere new
I don’t know who you are
But I… I’m with you
I’m with you
I’m with you…