September 14, 2018

This was written for the GH Who Dun It series at the Liason Haven. Basically, I wrote a two-part short story where part one sets up the mystery (Scenes 1-9) and part two solves it (Scenes 10-21). This is an alternate universe that uses some character history, but not a lot so basically forget everything you know.

1

The arrest of Julian Jerome on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and tax evasion sent shock waves through the tiny but influential art community in Port Charles, New York. Julian had wielded a great deal of power and influence over who moved from small showcases in the Jerome Gallery on Central Avenue to the internationally renowned branch in New York City.

Elizabeth Webber had been counting on Julian’s patronage to allow her the next spot in New York—she’d put in the time and the effort—she’d paid her dues. Two successful individual shows with a third only days away should have put her in line to move up in the world.

But with Julian’s firm guiding hand removed from the gallery—with the reputation of both galleries now in question—Elizabeth had to contend with his partners in the business, his sisters Olivia and Ava.

The Jerome siblings had been left a large fortune by their parents in a joint trust, and most major expenditures had to come to a vote—which usually meant Julian and Ava were struggling for their priorities and attempting to buy Olivia’s deciding vote. As long as Olivia could travel, wear the latest fashions, and obtain the latest designer drugs, Olivia was easily bribed.

But what Ava and Olivia would do in the wake of this news was not the first question Elizabeth asked herself as she watched her mentor and patron taken away in handcuffs that day in the gallery.

No, her first concern was if she’d been played for a fool.

Julian’s charges were also known as RICO charges, the number one charge levied against mobsters and gangsters, alike. Elizabeth ought to know—she’d been dating the number two man in the Port Charles organization for the last six months.

Until the moment Julian had been arrested, Elizabeth had never heard even a whisper that he was part of the mafia—that he held any connection to any organization. But if he did, there was little chance that the local boss, Sonny Corinthos, or his lieutenant, Jason Morgan did not know about it.

And she and Jason had met, after all, when he’d attended one of Julian’s group showcases with his younger sister, Emily on a night when Elizabeth’s work had been displayed.

Had he come to stake out the gallery? Had he attempted to use Elizabeth to get at her boss?

Troubled, Elizabeth rubbed her arms left bare by her sleeveless black dress and traded worried glances with the gallery’s manager, Maxie Jones.

When Julian was gone, and the gallery was cleared, Elizabeth looked at the blonde. “Did…did you know he was—”

“No!” Maxie declared, her blue eyes widening with shock. Her fingers trembling, she pushed strands of her white-blonde hair behind her ear. “Do you think Mac would have let me—” Her face paled. “Or maybe that’s exactly why he let me work here.”

Mac Scorpio, Maxie’s ex-stepfather and surrogate father, had been the commissioner of the Port Charles Police Department until a year ago when his contract had not been renewed and someone else had taken over the position.

Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip and looked over the paintings on the wall—her third showcase had been scheduled to open in only two days. Was it canceled now? What happened next?

“Um…what you do think Jason knew about this?” Maxie asked. Her tone was hesitant, but her eyes were a bit more interested. Even when she was personally upset, Maxie always found the energy for gossip and scandal. “I mean, racketeering—”

“Oh, yeah, we’re going to be talking about this in some great detail,” Elizabeth muttered. “What about you? Spinelli is your…something, and he thinks Jason is some kind of Yoda.”

“Oh, listen, I am going to kick him so hard if he had any inkling I was working for Al Capone.” Maxie brightened. “I’m going to call and yell at him right now.”

Elizabeth’s phone vibrated, and she looked down at the text message notification. She sighed when she saw Jason’s name. She held the phone up, waited for it to recognize her face and unlock.

Jason’s message was short and simple. Are you okay?

She pursed her lips, listened as Maxie delivered a blistering diatribe with her own phone to her ear—whether it was to Spinelli himself or to Spinelli’s voicemail, Elizabeth wasn’t sure. Maxie rarely let anyone get a word in edgewise when she was pissed off.

It was one of the few things they had in common.

I don’t know. You tell me.

She was unsurprised when Jason called her almost immediately after her message sent. She contemplated not answering it, but…

The last six months had been good. Jason was a great boyfriend, and did she really think he was able to hide that kind of ulterior motive?

“I am a schmuck,” Elizabeth muttered. She answered his call. “Hey.”

“Hey. I got a notification about—Elizabeth, I know you’re asking yourself questions.”

“You know, as someone who worked with Julian,” Elizabeth retorted, “my phone is probably tapped. So maybe we should talk in person.”

There was a bit of silence and Jason’s tone was now strained. “I can’t right now. Tonight—”

“Yeah, I think you just answered my question. I’ll see you around.” She pressed the red button, ending her call.

“And you are never seeing me naked again, buddy!” Maxie ended her phone call and tossed it on the desk. “Honestly. He wouldn’t tell me anything. If there was nothing to tell, wouldn’t he have led with that?”

“You’d think,” Elizabeth murmured. She sighed and ignored Jason’s text message asking her to get together that night. “What do we do about the gallery?”

“Oh. Well, I’m manager, so I guess we just—” Maxie’s office line rang and they both jumped. Maxie blanched. “Hell, it’s the New York office. Which means it’s Ava. Pray for me, Webber. Light a candle.”

And with that, Maxie lifted the receiver and pressed to her ear.

2

Jason Morgan stared down at his cell phone. He didn’t believe in telepathy or any of that psychobabble, but right now, he found himself trying to will Elizabeth to text him something. Anything. Or to answer one of his phone calls.

But in the ten minutes since she’d hung up on him, he couldn’t get her back on the line.

“She’ll get over it, Jason.”

Jason looked up to find the dark eyes of his partner and best friend, Sonny Corinthos. Sonny looked mildly concerned but his interest level wasn’t really engaged. Jason had tried to keep his relationship with Elizabeth relatively separate from the rest of his life, so Sonny had only met her a handful of times/

Sonny didn’t trust women much anyway, so Jason’s love life was the least of his concerns.

“Sonny—”

“We have other things to worry about.” Sonny grimaced. “Like what I’m going to do about Ava. This investigation was supposed to target her. Not Julian. I thought we decided he was clean.” His partner glared at him. “I thought you decided he was clean.”

“I did,” Jason said with some irritation, “but clearly I was wrong, and now Elizabeth—”

“Your girlfriend can wait. She’s probably got her hands full anyway.” And with that, Sonny dismissed Jason, and turned his attention back to their business manager, Bernie Abrams.

He looked back at his phone. Still nothing. He could sit here in this office with Sonny and Bernie going over the reports from local bookies and clubs, but… “You don’t need me for any of this,” Jason said. He shoved himself to his feet. “I’ll check in later.”

“Jason—”

3

Maxie’s phone call had lasted less than a minute—Ava Jerome’s assistant, Nelle Benson, had reported that effectively immediately, Ava would be working out of Port Charles and Olivia would be taking over the city branch.

The brittle, greedy blonde would be arriving in Port Charles the next day and no decisions should be made before then. Maxie had then been instructed to close the branch for the day. Shaken, the blonde had done to seek out her quasi-boyfriend, Damien Spinelli, while Elizabeth had gone to see her own best friend.

She found Robin Scorpio at General Hospital in the lab where she worked most of the time. Three months ago, Robin had been conducting research trials for cutting edge treatment of blood clots. Then the Jerome Foundation had cut their funding—Ava had convinced Olivia that their charitable foundation could be a way for Olivia to meet celebrities if they spent more money on events in New York City, and Julian had been outvoted.

Ava Jerome hated Port Charles and had waged a one-woman war for the last two years to destroy anything the Jerome family had built in the city. Especially if her brother cared about it.

With her research trials on hold waiting for a new funding source, Robin had been forced to return to her previous job as directory of the pathology lab. When Elizabeth called to commiserate about her terrible morning, Robin leapt at the chance to get away from routine blood screenings and the two made their way to the General Hospital cafeteria for some really poor coffee.

“I guess I’m going to have to see if the nursing program will take me back,” Elizabeth said glumly as she stirred in another packet of sugar. “Gram will be happy.”

“Hey, you don’t know anything,” Robin said. “Ava might decide to go ahead with the show—” But her tone was doubtful.

Elizabeth sighed. “Do you remember when she ran the gallery before Julian took over two years ago? I was lucky to get one spot in the showcases a few times a year.”

“No, I know. I mean, you’re probably right that the first thing she’ll do is cut anything her brother supports. Look at me.” Robin scowled. “And I was so close, Elizabeth. I just know I was on the brink of something really amazing.”

“I know.” Elizabeth propped her chin on her first. “And the worst thing is what Julian’s charged with.”

“I saw that it was related to racketeering,” Robin said, a bit delicately. “I imagine you’ve…asked yourself some questions.”

“Oh, I’ve asked myself a lot of questions.” She sipped the coffee—which was now too sweet. “For one thing, why did I get my first individual show case with Julian only after I started dating Jason? And why did Jason ask me out in the first place?”

“Hey, you know Jason doesn’t do that kind of thing,” Robin assured her. “I’ve known him my entire life—even after the accident, he didn’t screw around like that. He wouldn’t have dated you for six months if he was trying to use you against Julian.”

“He had to know Julian was involved in this kind of crap,” Elizabeth pointed out. “We both know what he does for a living. What Sonny does.”

“I guess—”

“Jason let me work with Julian for months. He knew I was getting my hopes up that my next show would be in New York. He had to know—”

“But did he?” Robin pushed gently. “Elizabeth, have you even asked him any of this?”

“No.” Elizabeth looked away, stirred her coffee again. “He called me, but he wouldn’t come to see me. He was too busy with Sonny, probably. I mean, c’mon, Robin, how dumb am I supposed to be? One of them was using me.” She scowled. “And if that wasn’t enough to take, I’m going to have to deal with Ava and her whiny assistant.”

“Oh, hell, Nelle is coming back?” Robin rolled her eyes. “I am so not interested in dealing with that brat again. Happiest day of my life was when Ava and Julian switched places and cities. Maybe the case will fall apart, and she’ll go back to New York.”

“I think this is going to be our new normal.” Elizabeth got to her feet. “I’m going to stop by the coordinator’s office and see what hoops I’ll need to jump to get back in.”

“Don’t lose hope yet, Elizabeth. You’ve had some exposure—”

Elizabeth’s smile was sour. “Exposure no one is going to believe I earned on my own. I didn’t get any of it until I started dating Jason. And since it turns out my boss is in the mob…” She shrugged. “It was always a pipe dream, Robin. You wanted to cure aneurysms, I wanted to change the art world. Looks like Ava is going to ruin both our dreams.”

4

When Elizabeth arrived home that evening, she found Jason leaning against the wall next to her apartment. She slowed her steps as she approached the end of the hall and shifted the stack of paperwork in her arms.

“I’ll go if you want me to,” Jason said after they had stared at one another for a moment, “but you weren’t answering my phone calls.”

“I’ve been in overreact mode all day,” Elizabeth replied with a sigh. She handed her stack of paperwork to him to hold so she could dig into her purse for her keys. “Come in, I guess.”

He followed her into her small studio apartment. “I know you’re angry.”

“Angry would be nice.” She pulled a bottle of wine from her fridge and a glass from the shelf above her sink. She poured a full glass and sipped it for a moment. “I mean, I don’t even really know what to be angry about.  Ava is coming back to the gallery—and to Port Charles—and let me tell you, she didn’t make friends the last time she lived here.”

“Ava?” Jason echoed. “Why would she give up New York—”

“Because she’s going to close this branch. This branch was Julian’s baby. She’s been trying to get him to sell it since they opened it.” Elizabeth shrugged and looked away. “So that’s me with no place to show my art, but hey, since I probably got the show because I’m sleeping with the mob—”

“Elizabeth—”

“What, you think because we don’t talk about what you do for a living I’m an idiot?” she demanded. She tossed back the last of her drink and immediately poured another. “I grew up in Port Charles. I knew who Frank Smith was before Sonny edged him out of the business. I knew who you were when you came into the gallery.”

Jason hesitated. “Elizabeth—”

“You know, before you showed up—I’d never gotten my own showcase. Never got any individual show. Julian only gave me one or two more spots than Ava had.” She stared at him, but her eyes were filled with misery evident even in the shadows of the small room—she’d only flipped on one small lamp near the sofa.

“But I start dating you, and suddenly, I’m on the fast track to New York. Two shows in six months, a third only days away—” She shook her head. “Was Julian working for Sonny? Was he a rival? What? What made you come to the gallery six months ago when the Jeromes have owned it for the last five years?”

“I can’t—” Jason pressed his lips together. “You know there are things I can’t talk about—”

“Because if you worked with him, then maybe you pulled some strings for me—”

“I didn’t—” Jason began, but she dismissed his protest with a sharp shake of her head.

“Then maybe Julian was trying to make me feel like I owed him something. Either way, someone was using me, and I don’t appreciate it.” She set the wine glass down with a thud. “Why can’t you tell me why you decided to come to the gallery six months ago?”

“Emily wanted me to go—”

“You can’t see art,” Elizabeth interrupted bluntly. “I thought it was a pick-up line at first, you know? You wanted me to explain my paintings to you. I thought it was foreplay—” She shook her head and now he saw the shimmer of tears in her ears.

“Elizabeth—”

“But she told me after we started dating that it must be hard for you because you have trouble with two-dimensional images, especially when it’s abstract. I never said anything because you don’t like to talk about your accident. But you don’t really get art. Tell me why you came that night.”

“I—” Jason hesitated again. “It doesn’t matter because it had nothing to do with asking you out. I wanted you—”

“I wish I could believe that, I really do.” She bit her lip, closed her eyes. Tears slid down her cheek. “But if Julian was involved in the mob, there’s no way you didn’t know it. You and Sonny know everything that happens in Port Charles. So, you knew I was working for someone in the mob and never said a word to me. And don’t you dare tell me this is something else I don’t get to know—”

“Elizabeth—”

“I know Sonny is your best friend, I get that. I get that there are secrets. I don’t care about them! But this is my life! This was my dream! And you let me believe for six months that I was going to be someone—that I was going to be an artist—”

He started around the counter towards her, but she backed up rapidly holding her hands out. “No, no. Don’t touch me. You let me believe I had talent. That I deserved everything I was being given. You knew he was dirty. And you didn’t tell me. Did you know charges were coming?”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Yes,” he said finally. Because he couldn’t stand lying to her.

She inhaled sharply. “You knew—you knew he was going to be arrested at the same time I was arranging my show—when I was planning—you knew Julian wouldn’t be here to send me to New York.”

“I—I didn’t know it was going to be Julian. We thought it would be Ava.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “But you knew the Jeromes were mixed up in crime and didn’t tell me.”

Because Sonny hadn’t wanted Ava Jerome to have a chance to prepare, to flee, and he’d been sure Elizabeth would warn her boss who would pass it on to Ava. And Jason had listened. Because it was business, and he hadn’t…understood what it might to do to her career. He didn’t really understand what Elizabeth did, only that she loved it.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell you—” he stopped, shook his head. It sounded lame even to him. Because today, tomorrow, next week—the charges had been coming—and he’d done nothing to prepare her.

“Get out,” she said flatly. “You’ve lied to me for six months. It doesn’t even matter if you asked me out for Sonny. Don’t tell me you haven’t used me — that you haven’t listened to every word I said about the Jeromes and told Sonny. It doesn’t matter if you were lying or not when you said you loved me.”

He swallowed hard. “What can I do to make this right?” he asked, forcing the words out. “Don’t—don’t ask me to leave. I do love you—”

“Love? You think you can do this to me and say love me?” Elizabeth demanded. “Sonny asked, and you just jumped right? You know, your sister warned me that Sonny comes first, but I don’t think I understood it. Sonny wanted you to go to the gallery, you did. Maybe he didn’t tell you to screw one of the artists, but hey, happy coincidence—”

“Don’t say it like that—it wasn’t like that!” Jason retorted angrily. “Sonny didn’t even know we were dating—” He closed his mouth and she nodded.

“Exactly.” She pointed both her index fingers at him. “Exactly. You knew he’d ask you for information, so you kept me a secret. But at some point, he found out. And he wanted to know what I said about Julian, and hey, it’s not like I thought you’d keep it to yourself. I didn’t know I had to invoke some sort of privilege.” Elizabeth sucked in a deep breath. “I’ve got a lot of paperwork to fill out if I’m going to beg my way back into the nursing program, so you can go.” Her eyes hardened. “And you can leave your key when you go.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Look, we can argue about this tomorrow or the next day, okay? I just—” Her lower lip trembled, and she bit down on it. “I can’t do it anymore today. Ava will be here tomorrow, and she’ll probably cancel my show first thing, so maybe after my dream is crushed, I’ll be able to find the energy for this. I can only deal with one disaster at a time.”

He waited for a moment, then nodded. “I’m going to go, but this isn’t over. I messed up. I’m sorry. We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Or—but we’ll talk about it, okay?”

“Yeah, fine.”

But he took out his keychain and stared down at the silver key she’d given him only two months earlier. He left it on the counter.

5

Once a month from the time Julian Jerome had opened the family’s first gallery in New York twenty years earlier, the Jeromes invited local and unknown artists to participate in group showcases to give them some exposure, get feedback from art critics, to get their name on the map. They had continued this practice after Julian and Ava had opened the Port Charles branch.

Elizabeth had started submitting her work even as she pursued a career in nursing at her grandmother’s concerned suggestion. It had taken more than a year before she’d been accepted—but even then, Ava had never allowed her to show her work every month.

For two years, Elizabeth submitted every single month, hoping that it would be different this time.  In twenty-four applications, Ava had only accepted her six times. Elizabeth kept trying, encouraged by the response of some of the critics and the fact that her work always sold.

Julian had taken over the gallery full-time three years into its existence, and Elizabeth saw some improvement. In the next twenty-four applications, Elizabeth was accepted fifteen times. She’d seen it as proof that she was on the right track.

And five months ago—after she and Jason had started dating, Julian had not only accepted one of her pieces, he’d asked her to do an entire showcase on her own. Two months later, she’d been given another individual show. She’d thought Jason was her good luck charm—that the tide was starting to turn. She was finally going to be a real artist, had dropped out of the nursing program a year away from completion, and she had met the man of her dreams.

Ava Jerome crushed that dream in the first ten minutes after she’d arrived.

The blonde swept into the gallery the day after her brother’s arrested dressed in a slim black pencil skirt, a white silk blouse, and elaborate white fur mink coat. Trailing behind her was a woman about Elizabeth’s age—a slim, strawberry blonde that Elizabeth remembered vividly as Janelle Benson, Ava’s devoted assistant.

And from the way Maxie’s eyes narrowed—she remembered Nelle as well. Nelle hadn’t made many friends in the single year she’d lived in Port Charles, and more than one woman had been happy to see the harpy split.

Ava drew off her designer black sunglasses and peered at Elizabeth curiously with her gunmetal-colored eyes. “Who’re you?” she demanded. “What’re you doing in my gallery?” She snapped her eyes to Maxie. “Friends on company time?”

Elizabeth lifted her chin. “Elizabeth Webber. I have a showcase in two days. Maxie and I have been meeting about the display of my work and the pieces I’ve chosen.”

Ava scowled, scanning the main room of the gallery, taking in the wall set aside for the showcase. Elizabeth and Maxie had already hung seven of the chosen pieces and had been debating the last three. “These are yours?” she demanded. “My brother gave you this show?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, hesitating for a moment. “I also had the wall in February and April. This will be my third—”

“Pickings must be slim,” Ava murmured, and Nelle snickered behind her—maybe Ava claimed not to remember her, but Nelle obviously did. “Well, leave your address on the desk, and I’ll see that your pieces are returned to you.”

She’d been expecting this—told herself it would happen—but the cold, offhanded dismissal of her work cut through Elizabeth. Ava was a bitch, but she was a leading voice in the New York art world. No one got the spotlight unless Ava Jerome offered her stamp of approval.

Maxie flicked her a sympathetic glance, cleared her throat. “Elizabeth’s pieces do very well, Ms. Jerome. We always sell—”

“People like to hang pretty things on their wall. Landscapes, portraits of flowers. Pretty pictures will always sell,” Ava said to Maxie, not even bothering to acknowledge Elizabeth. “The Jeromes don’t do pretty. Were you sleeping with my brother? Is that why he gave you so much space?”

Her fists clenched at her side, Elizabeth fought back the scornful retort that bubbled up. “I’ll leave my address with Maxie—”

“No, give it to Nelle,” Ava murmured wandering down the length of the gallery wall. “She’ll be taking over as manager.”

Maxie drew in a sharp breath, and Elizabeth blinked rapidly. Maxie had worked at the gallery since it had opened, had fought and clawed her way up to the managerial position and had held it for the last year. “Ms. Jerome—”

“Two weeks of severance should be adequate.” Ava turned back to them. “We’ll be closing this branch next month, Ms. Jones, so really, I’m doing you a favor by firing you now. You can both go. Clean out your desk and be gone in the next fifteen minutes or I’ll be forced to have security remove you.”

Maxie just stared at her, her face pale, turning very nearly the shade of her white-blonde hair. “I—”

“Maxie…” Elizabeth murmured. She looked at the stunned younger woman. “I’ll help you get your things together.”

“But this isn’t—this isn’t right,” Maxie managed. “This isn’t fair.”

“Life’s not fair, darling. Anyone who says different is trying to sell you something,” Ava said. “Do I need to call security?”

6

“This is some grade A bullshit,” Patrick Drake announced as he watched his girlfriend Robin attempt to comfort her former step-cousin. “Why the hell did Julian have to get himself arrested?”

“I worked so hard. I did exactly what Mac said. I worked hard, I did everything I was asked to do, and that was supposed to mean I got ahead. What’s the point of working if one woman can ruin everything?” Maxie wailed.

Elizabeth nursed a glass of wine—it was barely noon, but Robin had pressed the drink into her friend’s hands, reminding her of their pact from their days as college roommates. Wine solved everything. “Ava Jerome is literally the worst,” she muttered.

“She’s the one who cut my funding,” Robin told Patrick. “She convinced her sister to cut funding when it came up for renewal.

Patrick’s dark eyes burned with anger. “The research that was supposed to save women like my mother.”

Remembering how broken he’d been when his mother had died of a brain aneurysm their freshman year at Port Charles University, Elizabeth leaned over, squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry, Patrick. I know how important that program was to you both.”

“Shrinking aneurysms is the only way to make the surgery safer,” Patrick muttered. He dragged his hands though his hair. Mattie Drake’s death had been the reason Robin had started her medical trials. “That woman gets off on damage. I mean, she doesn’t even like Port Charles. Why does she bother?”

“She’s the Antichrist,” Maxie declared. She sniffled, pressing a tissue to her nose. “Dillon texted me. She fired him and Spinelli, too. If she’s going to close the branch, fine. But why can’t we just have our last month? Why can’t Liz have her show? Why can’t Dillon and Spinelli run the website—” Her face crumpled into tears.

“On the bright side, if she closes the gallery,” Robin said, “there’s nothing holding the Jeromes to Port Charles. We can be rid of them.”

“Don’t forget the Metro Court,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “When Carly and Jax got divorced—”

“He decided to stick it to Carly by selling to Ava.” Robin managed a half-smile. “I thought it was hysterical when he did it since Carly had an affair with Sonny while they were married—”

“And Sonny had broken up their first marriage with an affair with Ava. Karmic justice.” Patrick leaned back. “Hey, Liz. You’re dating the mob. Can’t they take care of Ava?”

“I made Jason give back my key.” She’d wanted him to argue the point—she saw that now. She’d told him leave, and he had. It wasn’t until he’d gone, leaving the key behind, that Elizabeth realized that she’d expected him to keep pushing.

“Liz—”

Elizabeth looked at Maxie’s mottled red face. “How many times did my work get rejected for an individual showcase before I started dating Jason?”

“A couple of times, but you can’t possibly think—” Maxie pressed her lips together. “Julian loved the art. He thought you were so good, you know that. He didn’t do it because you were dating Jason—”

“The only person who knows for sure is Julian, and it’s not like I can ask him.” Elizabeth leaned back against the sofa, closed her eyes. “But yeah, if only Ava were in the mob, too, maybe we could have her fitted for cement shoes.”

“I know I took an oath to do no harm,” Robin said, wrapping an arm around Maxie’s shoulders, “but a world without Ava Jerome would be a better one.”

“Yeah, so go seduce Jason and make him do it,” Maxie muttered. “Use your sex appeal.”

Elizabeth snorted, and for some reason, the conversation made her giggle. She laughed until the tears slid down her cheeks.

“No more wine for you,” Patrick said, taking the glass from her. “Ava will do her damage, and she’ll leave. Someone will open another gallery, Liz. We’ll find the funding for the research,” he told Robin before looking at Maxie. “You’ll get another job.” He exhaled slowly. “I mean, we’re good people.”

“I think this is a sign that it’s time to grow up.” Elizabeth sighed. “Stop chasing fantasies. Be a real adult. Get a real job. Bobbie Spencer said that I can get back into the nursing program in the fall. So…” She shrugged.

“Elizabeth,” Robin said, but she had nothing else to say. Ava Jerome canceling her show in a Port Charles gallery would follow Elizabeth’s art career, and they both knew it.

Her dream was dead. It was time to stop pretending otherwise.

7

Ava’s trail of victims hadn’t only included her employees at the gallery. After firing the trio of employees who had been devoted to Julian and canceling Elizabeth’s show, she had visited the Metro Court—the hotel in which she controlled the majority share.

Her partner, Carly Corinthos-Jacks rushed over to her ex-husband’s home, only a few estates away from the Jeromes, her blue crackling with anger.

“You need to do something about your whore!”

Jason mildly glanced over his partner’s ex-wife and raised his brows. Ava hadn’t been Sonny’s…whatever…in nearly a decade, but Carly never did know how to let go of a grudge. Sonny had crashed and burned their first trip down the aisle by not only having an affair with Ava Jerome, but with a second woman, Samantha McCall. And then had ended up siring two children from the entire event.

Ava, Sam, and Carly had given birth to Sonny’s children within six months of each other—Sam’s daughter had passed away, while Ava’s daughter Avery and Carly’s son Morgan lived primarily with their mothers. As did Sonny’s other daughter, Kristina, also conceived while he and Carly had been separated, though it had been a different separation at an earlier time.

It was hard to keep Sonny’s romantic affairs straight, and usually Jason didn’t pay much attention. But this—this was about Ava Jerome, and Jason was keenly interested in minimizing the damage she had done to Elizabeth.

The fact that Jason himself was a large part of that damage had not escaped him, and he was almost to desperate to make part of it go away.

“Ava mentioned she’d be coming up this weekend,” Sonny mused, bringing a tumbler of bourbon to his mouth. “She was thinking about bringing Avery.”

“Oh, screw you,” Carly breathed. She jabbed her finger at Sonny. “This is your fault. You told Jax we were having an affair, he filed for divorce and sold his share of the hotel to her. You made this mess, you should fix it.”

“You’ve been co-existing with her fine for the last three years,” Sonny pointed out. “What’s everyone so pissed about—”

“Ava wants to be done with Port Charles,” Carly said, her teeth clenched. ‘She already fired all the employees at her gallery. And now she told me she’s selling her majority share to some developer who wants to make the hotel a condo building and push me out.”

“She fired the people at the gallery?” Jason demanded. “She’s closing it?”

Carly frowned at him, then nodded, as if she remembered. “Yeah, she was particularly happy about that. Said she canceled all the coming events and cut everyone loose. I forgot that—I guess Elizabeth—” She shook her head. “And Spinelli’s out of a legitimate job.” She turned back to Sonny. “And I’m about to be put onto the streets unless you do something.”

“What, exactly, do you want me to do?” Sonny said, exasperated. “She’s within her rights. You should have bought her out.”

“I didn’t—and still don’t—have the funds,” Carly hissed. “You screwed me, Sonny. Literally and figuratively. I told you it was a mistake, and you were such a child that you immediately blew up my marriage and now look where we are now—”

“I have to go,” Jason told Sonny.

His partner frowned. “We’re not done here, Jase—”

“I think Carly is going to keep you busy. I’ll call you.” Jason shoved away from the desk, closed the folder of accounting numbers. “This can keep.”

“Jason—”

But Jason was already in the foyer and he could hear Carly start in again, demanding that Sonny do something about Ava Jerome as he walked out the door. He closed it on her threat that if he didn’t fix this problem, she would.

8

Elizabeth carefully set another of her rejected canvases into a rack in the corner of her tiny studio apartment. She had hoped to earn enough from her show this week to put a deposit on a real art studio with good lighting and space for her to work on several projects at once.

As it was, this space was not only her art studio but her living quarters and as such, her art had been relegated to a corner. She’d have to decide soon if she was going to keep these pieces or discard them altogether.

She slid her fingers lightly over the last canvas—the one she had been holding back for display only. Her first date with Jason had been spent on the back of his motorcycle as he sped through the hills of Port Charles rimming Lake Ontario.

The wind whipping past them as he took the turns just a bit too recklessly, the way it just drowned out everything else, the way she couldn’t think when she was on the bike—she’d fallen in love with the bike first, she could shamelessly admit.

She was officially re-enrolled in the nursing program at General Hospital, though she knew Robin thought Elizabeth was rushing into this. Maybe Julian would get the charges dismissed, throw Ava back into the lake where she belonged—lots of things could happen.

But even if that happened, Elizabeth would never be able to forget the doubt that had been created. Was she really good? Or had she been used by more powerful men for their own needs?

The knock on her metal door reverberated in the room, and Elizabeth sighed, getting to her feet. It was probably Maxie or Robin, coming over to commiserate.

Instead, it was Jason, illuminated only by the single light bulb that hung in the rundown hallway. He wore his usual leather jacket, a black t-shirt underneath and blue jeans. She’d always found it somewhat amusing that while he dressed like a rebel, somewhere in his brain, Jason Quartermaine’s proper nature had remained, tucking the shirt into the jeans.

She was too tired to argue, so she leaned against the door frame, her arms crossed. “Hey.”

“I heard Ava is closing the gallery,” Jason said, his expression pained. “Carly came by to yell at Sonny.”

“Well, I can’t really blame Carly.” Elizabeth waved a hand and he entered a little hesitantly. She closed the door and he stared at her corner of art—no doubt seeing the filled racks. After all, he’d helped her box up those pieces only days ago.

“I’m sorry. I never thought about what would happen if the Jeromes got into legal trouble. I didn’t think what happened to Ava would matter so much. I didn’t think—” He turned to her, looking uncertain and younger than he normally did. “I didn’t think about what it would do to the gallery here.”

“No, I guess you didn’t. Would you have warned me if you knew how much this would destroy my life?”

Jason hesitated. “I know you want me to say yes. I want to say yes. But I also know how much you liked and respected Julian.”

“Honesty is overrated,” Elizabeth muttered. She kicked off her heels and curled up on her uncomfortable and lumpy daybed. “I think I’d rather you lie to me. You think I would have told him?”

“Wouldn’t you have?” Jason asked, perching on the brown chair she’d found at a thrift store. “He gave you your break—”

“Did he do that because of you? Did you ask him to?” Elizabeth asked. “I thought you and Julian—I thought you were on good terms. I never knew there was anything wrong between you both—”

“Like I said, he wasn’t the target. We didn’t realize he was—we thought it was just Ava.” Jason paused. “And Julian and I never once talked about you. I can’t say what he thought, but I know I didn’t do anything.”

She nodded, accepted that. It was likely the truth, and she knew it wasn’t fair to hold Jason responsible for anything Julian had done on his ow, even it was difficult to let it go.

Elizabeth sighed. “Sonny has spent the last decade trying like hell to get full custody of Avery, so getting Ava swept up in RICO charges was his best bet.” She drew her knees up to her chest, peering at him. “Were you supposed to tell me Sonny was going after Ava?”

“No, but it doesn’t matter now.” Jason waited a long moment. “Sonny found out that the Jeromes were tangled up in some…shady businesses in New York, which is why he thought it was just about Ava. That was about eight months ago. He wasn’t sure about the gallery here because since he moved here, Julian’s been kind of…”

“Disconnected from New York.” Some of the pressure eased from her chest and her shoulders slumped. “So, he sent you.”

“He asked me to look into the gallery to see if it was clean. When Emily told me she was going, I offered to go with her. It was an easy way in.”

As if encouraged by the fact she hadn’t thrown him out yet, Jason moved to the daybed, but kept his jacket on. He sat at the other edge. “The gallery is clean, Elizabeth. It has nothing to do with the businesses in New York. That’s why we didn’t think Julian was involved. He loves that gallery.”

“Which is probably why Ava is closing it. She’s always wanted to destroy anything he loved.” Elizabeth gathered her courage by taking a deep breath. “When I told you about fights Julian had with Ava or any news from New York, did you tell Sonny?”

“I—” Jason’s face fell. “Yeah. I didn’t—”

“I never told you it was a secret, so why would you treat it that way?” Elizabeth swung her feet to the ground and shoved herself to her feet. “I get it, Jason. And I know that you prefer when I’m honest, right? You’re not good at lies and reading between the lines.”

“Elizabeth—”

“So, believe me, I get it. I never told you that what happened between us—my venting after a long day at work or sharing gossip—I never told you I wanted it kept between us. But of course, you didn’t tell me that any part of Julian’s life was under investigation. Because you may not have understood why it was an issue, but I sure as hell bet Sonny did.”

Jason grimaced. “Elizabeth—”

He knows art. He knows the way the world works in New York. He grew up there with Julian and Ava, didn’t he? You think he doesn’t understand reputation? You don’t need to be an art critic to see that.” She padded into her tiny kitchen and pulled out an emergency bottle of her best wine—and even her best was pretty shitty because it had a twist cap.

“Sonny—”

“I guess I can drink to the fact that Sonny used us both.” Elizabeth raised her wine glass at him then sipped. “Great. Whatever. It doesn’t change anything. You didn’t ruin my life on purpose. Doesn’t change the fact that it happened. I’ll be getting rid of all that crap, so I can put a desk in here. A lot of studying in front of me for my nursing degree.”

“Elizabeth, there are other galleries—”

“Not in Port Charles. And no one will touch me now. Even if I dragged myself down to New York, you think that Ava Jerome isn’t going to tell people that her brother took pity on me? Or that Julian was using me to get to Sonny? You think Ava isn’t going to destroy my career before I even get there?”

He got to his feet and stared at her. “So that’s it. The last six months don’t matter? I love you. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen—”

“Are you still going to be friends with Sonny? He used you, Jason, and he didn’t care that everything in my life would be destroyed. He knew exactly what would happen to me if even one of the Jeromes got arrested. Maybe you get to plead ignorance, but he doesn’t. And he pumped you for information every time he saw you, didn’t he?” She sipped her wine. “But you know, it’s not even that.”

“Then what is it?” he demanded. “I know I was wrong. I’m sorry. I can’t go back in time—”

“Right now, when I look at you, it’s hard to remember that I love you.  All I can see is that the one thing I ever wanted to do in my life is over.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “All I wanted to do was draw and paint. I never got along with my family because they couldn’t get it. Art was the one thing I had that made me feel like I had a place in this world.” She set her glass down on the counter and strode across the room.

“Elizabeth, I—” But he trailed off. There was nothing to say to that.

She slid one of the paintings out of the rack and turned to him. “This is yours. You should take it. Because otherwise it’s going into the trash tomorrow.”

Jason took the canvas she shoved at him almost without thinking. He swallowed hard, looked down at it. “You painted this after our first date.”

“It’s taking up space.” She found the slim crate that it had traveled in and leaned it against the edge of her artist’s table. “If you don’t want it—”

“I don’t have anywhere to put it,” Jason said slowly. He met her eyes. “You were supposed to keep it for me until I did.”

“Well, I can’t do it anymore.” She turned away, her heart pounding. She’d always thought—at least for the last few weeks—that she and Jason would hang The Wind together when they moved into together. Wasn’t that the next step? Wasn’t that where they’d been heading?

She sighed. “Damn it. This isn’t all of them. I knew—” She knelt down at her racks, her fingers tracing the empty spot where the last canvas had been stored. Elizabeth mentally flipped through the missing works and her breath seized. Oh, God.

Not that painting.

She pushed past Jason and shoved herself into her heels. “I have to go to the gallery.’

“Now?” Jason carefully set The Wind back down. “It’s after eight—isn’t it closed? No one will be there-”

“I don’t care. I have to—” Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair. “Ava might throw it away and I can’t—”

“I thought you were throwing everything away tomorrow anyway,” Jason reminded her with a sarcastic edge to his voice that he so rarely used—she had almost forgotten he possessed the capability for sarcasm.

She turned to him, scowling. “Damn it, Jason. This isn’t the time for that—I—” She pressed a fist to her mouth. “I had two paintings that were for display. Not for sale. And that was the second. Okay? I’m sorry. I was hurt—”

Her voice broke, and as the tears slid down her cheeks, she felt his arms slide around her shoulders. “Hey, okay. We’ll go get it. We’ll get it tonight. Does Maxie still have a key?”

“I don’t know. I’ll—”

“I’ll call Spinelli and see if he can get it out of her. Otherwise you know Maxie will just want to come.”  He pulled out his cell phone. “I can’t go back and change what I did or didn’t do, but this—I can fix this.”

She stared at him with an exasperated sigh, shaky from her tears. “That’s not going to make this okay.”

“No, but I can stop it from getting worse.”

9

It took another thirty minutes, but Spinelli managed to liberate Maxie’s gallery key from her purse while his sometimes girlfriend was in the restroom. He tossed it down from Maxie’s second-floor apartment into Jason’s waiting grasp.

“I hope she didn’t change the security,” Elizabeth murmured as they approached the gallery’s back door. “Julian gave me the code last month—”

“Don’t worry. I have—” Jason pulled out a little box that looked almost like a calculator. “If your code doesn’t work, this will turn off the alarm.”

Elizabeth stared at the box before blinking back up at him. “Do you just carry it around?”

“No, but I keep it with me in the car. I—” He hesitated. “I never know what Sonny’s going to ask me to do.”

“Right.” Elizabeth pressed the code into the box and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Stay here, I’ll be right back. I have a reason to be here,” she told him. “You don’t.” She put a hand on his chest. “Up until now, we haven’t committed a crime. Let’s keep it that way.”

Jason clearly wasn’t that thrilled at the idea of her going into the darkened gallery alone. “If you need me—”

‘You’ll be right here. I get it.” She started inside, then stopped. Elizabeth turned back to Jason, grabbed a fistful of his t-shirt and dragged him to her for a quick kiss. “I am still mad at you.”

“Okay.”

She released him. “You’re going to be making this up to me for, like, years. Got it, buddy?”

He flashed her one of his rare wicked grins.  “Looking forward to it.”

Elizabeth entered the gallery—edging her way carefully through the back storeroom and into the main show room. She walked across the room, and her heart clenched at the empty walls. Ava had worked quickly to strip this gorgeous room of all its color and vibrancy.

Her missing painting was nowhere to be found however and that made her frown. Where the hell could Ava have put it?

There was a sound from behind her, and she whirled around, squinting in the darkness, the room only lit by the moonlight through the windows.

Shit, what if Ava was back there? Well, she wanted her painting, and what was the worst Ava could do to her?

She opened the door to the offices and grimaced when she saw the thin line of light from underneath Julian’s office door.

Elizabeth cleared her throat and knocked lightly on the door. “Ava. It’s, uh, Elizabeth Webber. One of my pieces is—”

With her fingertips, she pushed the ajar door open and just stared.

The color red looked like it was everywhere—staining the cream-colored walls, the plush cream carpet laying over the mahogany floor.

At the center of that carpet, in a pool of blood so large that no one could have survived it—

Ava Jerome lay curled on her side, one arm flung out, the other covering her face. A thick wooden handle knife was still lodged in her abdomen—the blouse and skirt she’d worn that morning soaked in crimson.

10
Elizabeth stumbled backwards until she hit the wall of the office. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

Ava was dead. Murdered. Blood. “Help,” she managed to say, but the word was weak and disappeared into the air.

Her purse. Where was her—God, she’d left it in the SUV—she needed her phone to call the police—

With Jason in the alleyway. God. She couldn’t think. Ava was dead. There was so much blood.

Elizabeth drew in a shaky breath, closed her eyes, tried to gather herself. She had to do something. She had to help—

Was Ava dead?

Elizabeth stepped forward, her heart pounding so hard it was nearly in her throat—she inched around the desk until Ava’s body came into view. Her chest didn’t rise, her eyes were open…. staring at nothing. And the blood looked dark. Drying.

Okay, Ava was dead. Murdered. Stabbed to death.

Elizabeth spun on her heel and ran.

She rushed back through the gallery, her heels clacking against the hardwood floor until she all but fell against the back door in the storage room. She yanked it open and almost tumbled down to the asphalt street.

Jason caught her before she hit the ground. “Whoa! Are you okay? What happened—”

“You have to go—” Elizabeth grabbed fistfuls of his shirt, her eyes wild as he dragged her upright. “You have to go. She’s dead.”

“Who’s—” Jason pressed his lips together. “Is it Ava?”

“Stabbed—knife—blood everywhere. You have to go. You—” She was crying—why was she crying—she didn’t even like Ava— “I need my phone. I have to—I have to call 911 but you can’t be here.”

“I’m not leaving you—”

“You have to. I can—I can explain why I’m here, but everyone knows Sonny hates Ava. You can’t—” Elizabeth dragged in another deep breath. “Jason—”

“Come with me, we’ll call in a—”

“I’ll be questioned. I don’t want to lie—Jason, you have to go. Please. I know you didn’t do this, and the PCPD is always looking—”

“Okay, okay.” He cradled her face in his hands and kissed her hard. “Okay. But you call me the minute the cops let you go, got it?”

Jason strode quickly to the SUV and returned with her clutch. He hesitated before handing it to her as if reconsidering. “Elizabeth—”

“I can do this.” Elizabeth took out her phone. “Go—I don’t know how long it will take—”

Jason grimaced, touched her cheek, then went back to his car. When his taillights were at the end of the alley, Elizabeth dialed 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

She didn’t even have to feign the panic and distress. “I’m at the Jerome Gallery on Central Avenue and there’s—I just found Ava Jerome in the back office. She’s dead.”

“Ma’am are you sure—”

Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut, but the vision of Ava’s glassy eyes would never leave. “I’m sure.”

11
 
Twenty minutes after the 911 operator had dispatched officers to the scene at the Jerome Gallery, Detective Dante Falconieri strode into the now brightly lit gallery.

The gallery with empty white walls.

The place was teeming with uniforms and members of the forensics units at the Port Charles Department, and just outside the door to the back offices, a slender, short brunette in a sleeveless pale purple dress that fell just above her knees stood, biting her nails.

Tear stains on her cheek.

Interesting. Dante hadn’t thought anyone liked Ava Jerome enough to cry for her.

He flashed his badge as he approached. “Miss Webber, right?”

Elizabeth Webber looked at him, her blue eyes unfocused, glazed. Then they cleared. “Detective—I—I know you.”

“I dated Lulu Spencer around the same time you were seeing her brother.” He put a hand under her elbow. “Let’s go over here. Sit down. You can tell me what’s going on.”

“I—” Elizabeth gingerly sat the edge of a white sofa, almost as if she were ready to flee. “I—I found her. Dead.”

“I got that from the 911 call.” Dante drew out a notepad and stubby pencil. “I can’t help but notice that these walls are empty. And that the FBI arrested Julian Jerome two days ago. Was the gallery closing?”

“Um. Yes.” She drew in a deep shuddering breath. “Yes. Ava runs the family gallery in the New York, and Julian runs it here. Um, she used to work here. A few years ago, they traded.”

“Do you know why?”

“I—” Elizabeth stared at him, her brow furrowed. “No. I wasn’t—I wasn’t really—um, Julian ran group showcases one night a month. You, ah, had to apply. I—I was only getting in a few times, so I wasn’t really around.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Ava arrived and told us the gallery was closing. She fired everyone.”

“You were here when she delivered that news?”

“Yeah. I was—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I was supposed to have a showing here. Tomorrow. My—my third. But Ava fired the staff and she packed up my work. That’s why I came by tonight. She…one of my pieces was missing.”

“Maybe it was sold,” Dante said.

“Oh. It was marked for display only.” With a shaky hand, Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ears. “I came by to see if it was still here.”

“After dark?” Dante said, his brows raised. “When no staff was here? We checked with the security company, Miss Webber. Other than Ava Jerome signing in three hours ago, you are the only person to come in. You have the code?”

“I do,” Elizabeth said faintly. “Julian gave it to me when I had my second show. So I could come and go with my work and arrange it—I didn’t—”

“You came here when you knew the gallery was closed and that Ava was shutting it down permanently.” Dante raised his brows. “That’s trespassing, Miss Webber. Must be a pretty important painting.”

“It…was. Is.”

“Can you tell me what painting it is? So we can keep an eye out for it?”

“It’s—” Her pale skin seemed almost translucent now. “It’s a park scene. In the winter. A…bench. And, um, a red shoe on the ground.”

Dante waited for her to go on, but she stopped there. They could revisit that later. “So, you came here tonight. Did you wait until dark—”

“No, Ava only had my pieces delivered around seven tonight. I unpacked them and realized it wasn’t there. So, I came to the gallery. I don’t know exactly when—it was just after nine.”  Her hands were shaking, so she clasped them in her lap, the knuckles of her hands white. “I put in the code. I came in—and I couldn’t see the painting. I—I went towards the offices—and then I saw the door was ajar.”

Her voice trembling, Elizabeth continued. “I went into the office and she was just…there…lying on her side…I could see the blood—I didn’t—I didn’t check for a pulse. I was going to but then—I just—I realized she wasn’t breathing and the blood looked dark and her eyes—” Her voice broke. “Her eyes looked wrong.”

Dante could understand that, nodded. “You came alone?”

“What?” Elizabeth blinked at him. “Yes.”

“How did you get here?” he asked gently. The pupils in her eyes widened, but she kept her face still.

“I—I took the bus. I—don’t drive.”

“You were expecting to take a painting home on public transportation?”

“I—I didn’t think about it. I was just—I was upset that it was missing.” She rose to her feet. “I don’t know what else I can tell you.”

“Where were you earlier today? Between five and seven when you said your work was delivered to your address?”

“I—I was at my studio. Alone.” Elizabeth blinked at him again. “I think—I think I talked to Emily Quartermaine on the phone.”

“Okay.” Dante motioned for a uniform to join them. “Beaudry, can you take Miss Webber to the station?”

“What—why—” Elizabeth’s mouth opened. Her hands fluttered up to her chest. “Why—”

“Book her on charges of trespassing,” he told the uniform. He looked back at Elizabeth. “You’re lying to me,” he said gently. “So, either I can arrest you for trespassing, or you can tell me how you got here.”

She shook her head. “I’m not—I’m not lying.”

“Okay. Take her in, Beaudry.”

12
Jason pushed past Max Giambetti, Sonny’s guard on his front door, and stormed into the study to find his partner and best friend sipping a glass of bourbon. “What did you do?” he demanded.

Sonny frowned, got to his feet. “What’s wrong?”

“Elizabeth just found Ava Jerome’s body at the gallery,” Jason said, thrusting a finger in Sonny’s direction. “Stabbed to death in her office. You wanted Ava out of your life. Carly wanted Ava gone. What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Sonny shook his head. “What—what happened? I thought you and Elizabeth weren’t talking—”

“Ava didn’t send all of her work back—she was missing something. So, I drove Elizabeth to the gallery, and she went in alone. She found her—”

“And the police already let you go?”

“No.” Jason hesitated, shook his head. “No, Elizabeth didn’t think I should be there. So—” He swallowed. “I left her before she called the police.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Sonny repeated. “You left Elizabeth—I thought you drove her.” He squinted. “Didn’t Ava pretty much destroy Elizabeth’s art career? And…how was she supposed to explain being found at the gallery in the first place?”

Jason stared at Sonny half a second as the adrenaline started to wear off and he swore under his breath. He reached into the inside pocket of his leather jacket. “Damn it. I should have made her leave. Let Ava be found by someone else—”

“The PCPD is going to jump at the chance to wrap this up fast,” Sonny warned him. “And Elizabeth might have delivered herself up on a silver platter.”

Jason scowled at him as his attorney picked up on the other end. “Justus? Hey. Can you head to at the PCPD? No, it’s not me. It’s Elizabeth.”

13
Dante had met Maxie Jones during his short relationship with Lulu Spencer, who had been the other woman’s bitter rival for some reason. Lulu and Maxie had sniped at one another every time they came across each other, and it had grown old fast.

He remembered Maxie as a fast-talking pain in the ass who never—ever—shut her mouth. So, when he knocked on her door at ten-thirty that evening, he was already bracing himself for the noise.

He hadn’t returned to the PCPD to question Elizabeth Webber. There was little point in doing so.  He wasn’t sure exactly what the artist was hiding, but he was positive that by the time he arrived, she would have called an attorney.  Likely, that attorney would be Justus Ward who would have her released before Dante could open his mouth for the first question.

He found it very unlikely that Elizabeth had killed Ava Jerome, but he wanted the woman to know he knew she was lying and arresting her seemed the best way to accomplish that goal.

“Dante?” Maxie peered at him with confusion. She grabbed the ends of her pink robe and drew them closed over her tank top and sleep shorts. “What’re you doing here?”

“I need to ask you some questions about Ava Jerome.”

“Oh. God, did she say I stole something? Because I didn’t. She is literally the worst person in the history of the world.” Maxie flung the door open and stalked back into her apartment, collapsing on her bright pink sofa. “You tell her that I wouldn’t take one nickel from her if she begged m—”

“Hard to tell her anything now that she’s dead.” Dante closed the door. “Elizabeth Webber found her about—” He checked his watch. “Forty minutes ago.”

“Dead.” Maxie stared at him, her blue eyes huge in her face. “How—what—Elizabeth…?” She shook her head. “I don’t—I don’t understand.”

“She was stabbed to death around six this evening.” Dante studied her. “With a letter opener from her desk. Someone stabbed her and left her to bleed to death on the floor. Took about an hour, but she’s dead.”

Maxie just blinked. “I don’t—What?”

“Did you pack up Elizabeth Webber’s art pieces today? So that they could be sent back to her?”

The blonde grasped her throat, blinked again. “Um. No. No, I didn’t. Ava—she fired the entire staff yesterday—me, Dillon, and Spinelli.”

“Yeah, I remember that they’d worked for the gallery. What did they do again?”

“Spinelli did website coding and security.” Maxie took a deep breath, some color flooding her cheeks again. “Dillon did a little of everything. He—he was—some of his photography was in the showcases, and he sometimes did photos of art pieces to sell online. He…wanted Julian to invest in his film projects.”

“Did he?” Dante asked. When Maxie tipped her head, her eyes squinting in confusion, he continued. “Did Julian ever invest?”

“Oh. No, I mean, maybe eventually. But the Jerome money was usually pretty tight. Um, Julian had to get Ava and Olivia’s permission to spend from the trust on anything outside the gallery. Ava and Julian almost never agree, so usually they’re trying to buy Olivia’s vote.” Maxie took a deep breath, closed her eyes. “Ava’s really dead.”

“Yeah.”

Maxie exhaled slowly. “Around six, I was with Dillon and Spinelli. We were making dinner at Dillon’s place, trying to figure out what to do next.” When Dante raised his eyebrows, she shrugged. “I figure you’d be asking me that next. You know, I didn’t grow up with Mac for nothing.”

“Fair enough.” Dante nodded, checked his notes. “You’ve worked at the gallery since it opened?”

“Yeah. I was a receptionist for Ava. She ran it originally because Julian was in charge of the New York Branch. Ava hated it here. Even though it made it easier for her and Sonny to share custody of Avery, she spent her entire two years trying to convince Olivia to vote in favor of closing the place. I guess Julian got tired of her complaining. Next thing I knew, they were switching places and Julian was promoting me.”

“To manager?”

“Not at first. I moved into event planning—the receptions and stuff. But then I recommended Spinelli and Dillon, and I guess Julian thought I was doing good, so last year, I got promoted to manager.” Maxie bit her lip. “Why…can I ask how Elizabeth found her? I mean, why was she there so late?”

“Apparently, whoever packed Elizabeth’s pieces didn’t pack them all, and she came to the gallery to find the missing one.” Dante raised his brows. “She had access to a security code?”

“Oh. Yeah. Julian really liked her work. I remember when she was submitting to the group showcases—he always thought she was gonna hit her stride, and then six months ago, I guess he thought she had. He planned on her next show—after this third one—being in New York.”

“But Ava canceled her show—why would Julian think she’d agree to show Elizabeth’s work in New York?”

“I don’t know,” Maxie admitted. “I figured Julian had bought Olivia’s vote. Olivia’s pretty easy to buy off, and she’s closer to Julian anyway. So yeah, Julian gave Liz a security code.” Maxie bit her lip. “She wouldn’t have—”

“Thanks, Maxie.” Dante went to the front door. “Don’t leave town.”

14
Jason waited in his SUV outside Elizabeth’s studio, just around the corner out of sight. He wanted to wait at her door like he had two days earlier, but he couldn’t be sure that the PCPD wouldn’t come to search her place.

He felt like an idiot now for letting her talk him into leaving her behind at the gallery. It had made sense at the time—he didn’t want to be found at the crime of scene of a woman whom his boss loathed and had destroyed his girlfriend’s art career. He hadn’t really thought about what it would look like for Elizabeth to be there—she spent so much time at the gallery and she had a good reason for being there.

A sedan pulled up to the front of her building, and Jason sighed in relief—it was his attorney’s car—and he could see Elizabeth stepping out of the passenger side door. Justus Ward, his cousin and lawyer, hustled out of the driver’s side, then walked Elizabeth to the front door of her building.

Jason opened his own car door and caught up with the two of them as they stepped into the small lobby of her building with a security door that led into the rest of the residential space.

“Jason!” Elizabeth turned, and he pulled her to him in a rough but tight embrace. “Thank you for calling Justus—”

“Fast work, too. I was able to get there almost as soon as she did,” his cousin said idly. He leaned against the far wall of the lobby. “Abandoning the damsel in her time of distress doesn’t seem like you.” Jason scowled at him, and Justus grinned.

“I’m not a damsel,” Elizabeth muttered. She pulled away from Jason. “I forgot you drove me there, and Dante wanted to know how I got there. I didn’t tell him—”

“You should have—”

“It doesn’t matter. I didn’t kill her, so it doesn’t matter how I got there. A lot of people hated Ava.”

“That is true,” Justus said. He straightened. “I don’t think they’ll come after for you the trespassing charges. You were given a security code, and Julian still remains nominally in charge. You had a good reason for being there. Falconieri just wanted you to know he knew you were lying. Don’t lie about anything else, and we’ll be good.” He clapped Jason on the back of the shoulder and exited the building.

Elizabeth buzzed into the building and Jason followed her up two flight of stairs, then into her studio. “I wish I felt as confident as Justus does,” she said with a sigh. She flicked on her lamp.

“I should have stayed—”

“It would have complicated things. I wish I’d thought of how I got there. I only got tripped up because I didn’t expect—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I didn’t think anyone would care about that. I had to think of the answer. But if you’d been found there, Jason, you know that Taggert would have gotten involved—”

“You think he’s not going to get involved now?”

Elizabeth sighed, crossed to her fridge and pulled out her bottle of wine. She stared at it—it was nearly empty. “I think I’ve been drinking too much since Julian got arrested.”

“Elizabeth.”

She set it on the counter and turned back to him. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Ava’s dead. Someone murdered her. There’s not a single person in this city that wouldn’t have liked to see her gone. Let’s start with the minor suspects. Spinelli is out of a legitimate job which is going to make filing his taxes harder—”

“This isn’t funny—”

“—Robin had her research study canceled when she was on the verge of a medical breakthrough which really pissed off Patrick since his mother died. Dillon is out of a job, too, and no way to fund his film projects. Maxie has been fired. Carly and Ava battled every five minutes over the Metro Court, and Sonny has been trying to shove Ava out of his life since he was dumb enough to sleep with her.” Elizabeth shrugged, poured her wine. “Then again, I found the body, and Ava destroyed my art career. So, I guess I’ve got an extra tick in the suspect column.”

He studied her for a long moment, exhaled slowly, and walked behind the counter. “I’m not going to let Taggert or anyone else at the PCPD go after you.”

“I wish I’d listened to you,” she murmured. She squeezed her eyes shut. “We should have left. Called it in somewhere else. Waited for someone else to find her.”

“Hey.” Jason ran his hands up and down her bare arms, his fingertips sliding across her soft skin. She opened her eyes. “You didn’t do this. And Justus is the best lawyer in the city.”

“Sonny is still walking the streets, so I guess that’s true.” Elizabeth chewed on her bottom her lip, then let her head fall against his chest. “Let’s just hope someone left fingerprints on the knife or there’s some other evidence.”

“We’ll get through this, and if not…” He tipped her chin up so she met his eyes. “Thanks to Sonny, we have property in several countries without extradition treaties. But that’s not going to happen.”

“Well, I’ll just have to let you and Justus be the confident ones right now because I can’t seem to find the energy.”

15
Jason stayed over that night, but he had to leave the next morning for work. She returned his key on his way out of the door.

She finished putting away the returned paintings, trying hard not to think about her missing artwork. She couldn’t understand how it had been lost—it had been hanging on the wall next to The Wind, and that had been returned to her safely.

Had Ava liked it? Maybe she had set it aside, intending to buy it. Or show it in New York. It seemed unlike her, but that was the only way Elizabeth could explain its absence to herself.

She frowned when her intercom buzzed, and she got to her feet to press the button. “Yeah?”

“Miss Webber, it’s Detective Falconieri. I’m standing here with your lawyer. I’d like to ask you a few more questions.”

She sighed and buzzed them up. “Okay.” At least Dante had called Justus for her—he must be familiar with Jason and Sonny, who never even looked at a cop without an attorney present.

A few minutes later, Justus and the detective entered. Elizabeth offered both of them something to drink, and it was declined.

“You said last night that you went to the gallery because you were missing a painting,” Dante said, without much of a preamble. He held up a photo on his phone, and Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Is this it?”

“Oh. Yeah.” Elizabeth took the phone from him to zoom in and study it more critically. “Yeah. Where did you find it?”

“In a rack of artwork Nelle Benson told us was designated for New York.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth felt her lips curve. “Ava liked it then. Maybe she was changing her mind about my work. She probably never even thought about me, personally, you know. It was never personal with her, actually. If Julian supported you, Ava hated you. It was about him. Not you.” She held the phone out to Dante, but he didn’t take it.

“Nelle told us that she didn’t know where that painting had come from. She’d never seen it before. And she said it wasn’t yours. That she packed all of your things herself and nothing was missing.”

Elizabeth looked at Justus who was frowning at the detective. “I don’t—” She looked back at the phone, zoomed in again.

There was a damaged section of the painting—something had been smeared at the bottom. “My…signature…” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “It’s gone.”

“I know. Nelle couldn’t explain that.”

“How did you know to ask Elizabeth this particular painting?” Justus asked, taking the phone and examining the piece himself. “Did she give you a description?”

“Elizabeth have me a brief one last night, and Dillon Quartermaine was happy to give me photos of all your work he’d prepared for the website.” Dante took his phone and slid forward a few times until he came to another photo. He held it out to her. It was her painting—this time with her signature intact.

“Why—this doesn’t make any sense.” Elizabeth looked at Justus. “Why would Nelle lie?”

“It’s possible Nelle didn’t know. Ava might have taken this off the wall before Nelle packed things up.” Dante shrugged. “You seemed pretty upset about this painting last night. Enough to go to the gallery after dark instead of waiting until the morning.

“Oh, come on, Detective. You can’t think this is a motive for her,” Justus said with a surprised laugh. “Her ownership is obviously easily proven. You did it within a few hours. Elizabeth would have been able to do go straight to Dillon—”

“All I know is that Miss Webber was desperate to get this painting back. You said it had been marked for display only. Why?” Dante asked.

“Because I didn’t want to sell it—” Elizabeth answered before Justus could stop her. He held up a hand and she closed her mouth.

“Have you investigated Nelle Benson?” Justus asked. “It seems to me that she may have been doing something nefarious with this painting. She packed the paintings herself, she told you. Perhaps Ava caught her stealing.”

“I’m trying to find out how important this painting is, Miss Webber. If it was important enough to break into the gallery—”

“With a security code given to her by the gallery’s legal owner,” Justus interjected.

“You’re asking me if this painting was important enough to me that I would kill Ava for trying to steal it, for damaging it.” Elizabeth looked at Justus who hesitated but nodded for her to continue. “Look, it’s hard to explain. This was the first time I put anything up for display only, but Julian encouraged me to hold some pieces back—to show off my best work and not sell it. One of the paintings—”

She crossed the room to lift The Wind onto an easel. “This is one of the paintings I didn’t want to sell. It’s called The Wind.”

Dante pursed his lips, studied it for a long moment. “Because it’s what scenery would look like from the back of a motorcycle. I’ve met Jason Morgan,” he added when Elizabeth frowned at him. “It’s good. That’s the Ferris wheel, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Um. The other painting—the one I wanted back—you’re not wrong that it’s important. But it’s because I didn’t want anyone to pay money for it. Because it’s—” She chewed on her lip. “It’s kind of a memory that I don’t really like. A really bad time in my life. And painting it was like therapy. Julian argued with me about displaying it. He thought it would get a good price—or that it would make a really good splash in New York. But I just didn’t want to know what someone would pay for it. I don’t know. It sounds stupid.”

“No, I think I understand.” Dante tilted his head. “So, you would have been angry if Ava had tried to sell it behind your back?”

“I can’t imagine that’s what she was trying to do. She—or someone—removed my signature. Which is kind of silly. Because Justus is right. Not only did Dillon have photography with the signature on it, but I have sketches of it. Maxie helped me hang it up. Jason helped me pack it. He doesn’t really understand art, but he could have told you he saw it here.”

“So, whatever someone was doing with this painting wouldn’t have made you angry?” Dante asked, with brows raised.

“Angry, yeah. I guess. But enough to kill someone?” Elizabeth sighed. “It would have been a pain to fix the damage done to the signature, but I could have restored it. To be honest, Detective, the reason I painted that moment of my life was to put all that anger and pain out of my head. I told you, it was therapy. The last thing I would have done was kill someone over it.”  She tilted her head. “Do you have any other questions?”

16
A week later, John Durant, the city’s district attorney, scowled at Dante’s progress report and leaned back in his chair. “Why the hell haven’t you gotten an arrest warrant for this Webber woman? Motive, means, opportunity—”

Dante fought the urge to roll his eyes. “To be honest, sir, there is nothing tying Elizabeth Webber or anyone else to this crime. No fingerprints, no forensics—”

“You have her at the scene of the crime—”

“Two hours after Ava was murdered.”

“She was trying to steal a painting—”

“I honestly think someone was trying to set her up. Not only do I not believe she would have killed someone over this painting—Justus Ward will destroy that motive in about five minutes—”

“She destroyed this woman’s career-”

“There are very few people who knew Ava Jerome who aren’t happy to see her gone,” Dante told him. “First of all, Justus Ward will argue that all Ava did was cancel a show. It’d be on you to prove that it destroyed her career. Second, she also fired three other people, threatened to put Carly Jacks out of business—and that’s just who she pissed off the day she was murdered. The people who didn’t want to kill Ava were her daughters and Nelle Benson. Everyone else is a suspect.”

Durant’s scowl deepened. “What about proving Morgan was at the gallery that night? That’s who drove the Webber woman there. We can get her for obstruction—”

“No way in hell Morgan pulls a hit with his girlfriend on the scene. He’s not an idiot. I can’t prove he was there, but I’m sure he was.” Dante shrugged. “It’s a crap case. It’d be easier to find people who didn’t hate Ava Jerome. And you’ll never find a jury who will convict on this evidence.”

“We should arrest her anyway,” Durant said. He shoved himself to his feet. “Throw her in jail. Get her bond revoked. Turn her against Corinthos and Morgan—”

Dante narrowed his eyes. “Forget that Justus Ward would never let her make a deal on bullshit evidence—you try to get Elizabeth Webber on these charges, I will resign and offer myself to testify in her defense.”

“You, Falconieri, are a giant pain in my ass!” Durant snarled. “Get out of my office.”

17
Sonny closed his eyes, nodded. “Thanks. I appreciate it.” He pressed end on his cell phone and turned to Jason who was going over business invoices in the Greystone study. “That was my guy in the DA’s office with some news on the murder investigation.”

Jason tossed his pencil down and turned his full attention to his partner. “We haven’t heard anything since Falconieri talked to Elizabeth the day after it all happened—that was two weeks ago—”

“Yeah, well, the DA has been keeping his cards close to the chest on this one, and the PCPD has been locked down. Trying to get information out of them has been next to impossible.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “Durant wanted to arrest Elizabeth last week.”

Jason scowled and stood. “That’s bullshit, Sonny. He only wants her so he can go after me or you. She didn’t do this—”

“I know that. Word is that Falconieri refused to ask for the warrant, and when Durant threatened to do it anyway—he had to back down. No one is sure exactly what happened, but my source at the DA says it looks like the case is going to end up in the cold pile. They’re still working it, but they’ve got too many suspects and no forensic evidence.”

Jason rubbed his chest, feeling some of the pressure of the last two weeks finally ease. “At least there’s that.” He studied Sonny for a long moment. “You didn’t have me do it, but I know you’ve wanted Ava out of your life for a long time.”

Sonny squinted at him. “You really think I would have my daughter’s mother stabbed to death and left to bleed out on the floor, then let your girl twist in the wind over it? Damn it—”

“You didn’t mind letting Elizabeth twist in the wind when we thought Ava Jerome was going to be arrested. I didn’t think it would screw up the gallery here, but you must have known it would damage the gallery’s reputation and her career along with it.”

“That’s not—” his partner sputtered. “That’s not remotely the same thing! Elizabeth’s work is incredible, and she damn well knows it. She would have been fine! It might have even driven up the prices on her work! Not telling her the Jeromes were dirty is not the same thing as letting her get hauled in on murder charges—you can’t really think—”

“I don’t know, Sonny. When you want something, other people don’t seem to matter.” Jason sat back down to return to his work.

“Well, that’s—not entirely wrong, but I see I have some damage control to do.” Sonny rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I screwed Elizabeth over in all of this.  She didn’t matter to me. But I know she matters to you, and that should have been enough.”

“I’m going to ask her to marry me,” Jason said quietly as he picked up his pencil to finish making his notes. “And if comes down to you or her, it’s always going to be her.”

18
A month later, Elizabeth’s third show opened at the Jerome Gallery. After Ava’s death, Julian had made arrangements from his jail cell to give Maxie control of the gallery and keep it from Olivia’s grasping hands. Maxie had immediately re-scheduled Elizabeth’s show which was packed due to the publicity.

“Julian’s lawyer told me that he’s pretty sure all the charges are gonna be dismissed next week at the hearing,” Maxie said, bubbling over with excitement. She sipped her champagne and leaned her head against Spinelli’s shoulder. “He’s gonna go back to New York and I get to keep the gallery here.”

“I knew you’d prevail, Maximista.” Spinelli kissed the top of her hair, careful not to dislodge the carefully arranged curls. “Nothing keeps you down for long.”

“He’s pretty sure Ava framed him for the RICO charges anyway,” Maxie continued. “Seems like it. I’m glad the bitch is dead, but you know…I wonder…”

She studied Jason and Elizabeth standing across the room. Elizabeth was beaming while Jason shifted uncomfortably in his blazer. Maybe it was the clothes—Jason hated dressing up—or maybe it was the fact that they were talking to Jason’s grandfather who he didn’t really get along with much.

“I wonder if we’ll ever find out what happened to Ava.” Maxie said. She looked at her other best friend, Dillon Quartermaine who had joined them.

“Does anyone really care?” Dillon asked with a shrug. He lifted his wine to his lips. “I mean, isn’t the world a better place?”

“I just hate not knowing stuff,” Maxie huffed. “Plus, I want to know who basically saved us all. We should throw them a parade.”

19
“You know, the Quartermaines aren’t so bad.”

Jason grimaced as he followed Elizabeth out onto the back patio where a bar had been set up and a jazz trio played music near a dance floor. Maxie had made this more than just a show opening—it had morphed into the kind of party where everyone in Port Charles society wanted to be seen. Not only had all of Elizabeth’s pieces been sold already, but three other artists on displayed had sold out as well.

“They’re not as bad as they used to be,” Jason admitted. “But we’re still not going to Thanksgiving with them.”

“Oh, God, no.” She wrinkled her nose and accepted the martini that the bartender handed her. “We go see your family for Thanksgiving, my parents will find out and want us to go to them for Christmas just to compete.”

She sighed and turned her attention to the couples dancing to the music. “I really thought my career was going down in flames. Robin and Patrick are already making fun of me because I had to drop out of the program again. Gram thinks I’m a lost cause.” She bit her lip. “You heard Julian is probably going to get his charges dismissed and move to New York, right?”

“Sonny agrees with him. It’s pretty clear Ava set him up.” Jason shrugged. “Makes you wonder if Julian was the one—”

“I don’t want to think about it, honestly. Anyway, he, um, wrote me, you know.” She met his eyes. “He wants me to come to New York. He thinks it would be good for me to move there. At least for a year or so to get my name out there.”

“Yeah?” Jason nodded. “That sounds like he believes in you. You still think he was using you to get to Sonny?”

“No, I guess I let myself forget all the encouragement he gave me those last six months—” Elizabeth scowled. “Did you hear the part about me moving to New York?”

“I did.” Jason tipped his head. “Where should we go? Manhattan? Or do you want to find a place in Brooklyn?”

Elizabeth blinked at him. “You—you want to come with me?”

Jason looked faintly insulted. “You’re not asking me to?”

“I never—” She licked her lips, her heart racing. “I never thought it was an option. You—you work for Sonny—”

“I can still work for Sonny in New York.” He tucked a piece of hair behind her ears. “I asked you to marry me last week, Elizabeth. This is your dream. I know what New York means to you. What I do for Sonny is just a job. A life with you? That’s my dream.”

Elizabeth grinned, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

20
“I’m surprised you’re not at the Jerome Gallery.”

Sonny turned to find Dante Falconieri standing in the doorway of his terrace. “Did anyone see you?”

“Nah. Max is done for the night.” The detective stepped forward, accepted the tumbler of bourbon Sonny gave him. “And I came in the back way.”

“Good, good.” Sonny turned to the view that his terrace gave him—Greystone was tucked away in the hills of Port Charles, and downtown laid out in the slight valley below them, a sprinkling of sparkling lights.

“I wasn’t invited to the opening,” Sonny said after a long moment. “Jason is still pretty angry at me, and he didn’t want me messing up Elizabeth’s night.”

“Well, he’s not wrong.” Dante leaned over the railing and was quiet for a long moment. “It’s been six weeks since Ava’s murder. No leads. Jordan has officially deemed it inactive. Another month, it goes down to the cold storage.”

“Pretty quick, isn’t it?”

“No one really cares who killed Ava Jerome.” Dante smiled. “I called Ma, and she told me that they thought about holding a party in Bensonhurst. I guess Ava wasn’t well-liked back home.”

Sonny sipped his bourbon. “your mother had more reason than most to hate her.”

“So did you.” Dante straightened. “Ma told me something I didn’t know before.”

Sonny turned to him. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. Did you think I’d take you in if I knew everything about your history with Ava?” Dante snorted. “You know better than that. The only reason we get away with any of this is if we don’t get seen in public together. I arrest you and I got a lot of reporters looking at my background. How long do you think before they’d find out you and ma were going together when she got pregnant?”

Sonny shrugged. “You’re the one who wants this kept secret. I get it. I’m proud of you, you know. Me and your mother. You took the straight and narrow path.” He managed a half smile as he looked out over Port Charles. “You remind me of your aunt.”

“Yeah, that’s the thing Ma never told me. That Ava and Connie went to Princeton together. They were roommates.”

“Made sense at the time. They were friends. Interested in the same kind of career.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “And when Connie died, Ava was next in line for the internship at Couture.”

“Except Aunt Connie didn’t just die, did she, Pops? She was murdered. Stabbed to death. Left bleeding on the floor.”

“Yeah.” Sonny said, his voice roughed. “Yeah. She was.”

“Off the record,” Dante said. “Did you kill Ava Jerome? Or have it done?”

Sonny looked at him. “You know, I didn’t believe Ava killed Connie. Until Avery was three years old, and Ava and I were battling over custody issues. She brought up Connie, and I just—there was a look in her eye. I knew she’d done it.”

“Ma always believed it.” Dante tapped his fingers. “Probably why I didn’t try so hard to find out who killed her. I believe in the law, but I believe in justice more. Off the record,” he repeated.

“I thought about it.” Sonny said with a sigh. “But Avery…I’d never be able to look my little girl in the eye if I killed her mother, so no, I didn’t kill Ava. Or have it done.”

“But you know who did it.”

“I don’t know for sure,” Sonny admitted. He turned to his son. “But yeah, when I found out how she died—stabbed to death. Left to die on the floor—I only told one person about Connie. And she hated Ava almost more than anyone else.”

21
The Metro Court Hotel overlooked Central Avenue, and from her perch in her owner’s suite on the twentieth floor, Carly Corinthos Jacks could make out the party at the Jerome Gallery a few blocks away. She hadn’t been invited—and she wouldn’t have attended even if she had been asked.

The Jeromes were finally out of her life.

Upon Ava’s death, her shares had been divided between Ava’s daughters, Kiki and Avery. Kiki had immediately given control to Carly, and Sonny had eventually also signed over proxy of Avery’s shares.

This hotel was hers again. Just the way it was supposed to be—the way it had been before Carly had lost her damn mind, slept with her ex-husband, and destroyed her marriage. Sonny had always had a way of ruining Carly’s life.

Her penthouse door creaked open, and Carly turned. She was unsurprised by her late-night visitor—she had been expecting this for nearly six weeks.

“Hello, Nelle.”

Nelle Benson closed the door quietly behind her and joined Carly at the window. “A friend from the PCPD told me that the case has been shelved. It should go cold.” Her amber eyes were lit with unholy glee. “I did just what you asked.”

“Did you?” Carly pursed her lips. “You didn’t do a good job of framing Elizabeth Webber. She was never even arrested. You were supposed to make sure she got blamed.” And with Elizabeth arrested, Jason would get her out of the country, deserting Sonny.

She wanted to break Sonny into pieces like he’d done to her so many times. Make him think of his precious Connie by having Ava stabbed to death, and his best friend’s girlfriend blamed for it. It would be the start of Carly’s war against Sonny Corinthos.

“I—” Nelle pressed her thin lips together, narrowed her eyes. “I did. She discovered the body. I tried to steal her painting. She—That was supposed to be extra. That wasn’t the deal.”

Carly shrugged a shoulder. “That’s not how I remember it.”

“You—you said if I did this—this was the last thing I had to do—” Nelle clenched her jaw. “I got the job with Ava and told you everything—you were always able to stay ahead of her—a-and I killed her. Just like you wanted. It’s your turn—”

“To do what, Nelle?” Carly smirked. “You really think I’m going to tell anyone how we really know each other? God, what would my kids think—”

“I’m your kid!” Nelle shrieked. “I’m your daughter!”

Carly started to laugh at her—and laughed so hard she didn’t notice when the thin thread tethering Nelle to reality snapped.

Nelle, the baby she’d abandoned into foster care when Carly was a teenager, screamed and shoved her so suddenly that traces of laughter still lined Carly’s face even as she crashed through the window, the glass shattering beneath her back.

There was just enough time for Nelle to see amusement transform into shock and fear before Carly plummeted twenty floors below to her death.

“I hope you’re still laughing in hell,” Nelle hissed to the mother who had refused to acknowledge her. She slipped out of the penthouse before Carly’s children, sleeping upstairs, woke up to investigate the sounds.

A few seconds later, someone on the ground started to scream.

THE END

March 11, 2018

This is a short sort of episode tag for this last week of General Hospital. I’m not actively watching, but I’m doing clips and recaps. Apologies if I mess anything up with continuity.

It’s written as a scene because sometimes that’s easier for me to write faster.


INT. METRO COURT – RESTAURANT – BAR – NIGHT

Elizabeth steps off the elevator and finds Carly sitting at the bar, sipping a martini. She twists her diamond engagement ring on her finger. Nervous.

She approaches.

ELIZABETH: Hey. Carly, do you have a minute?

Carly looks at her. Suspicious. Curious. She nods. Tips her head toward the bar stool next to her.

CARLY: I hear you had another aborted wedding.

ELIZABETH: (sighs) Yeah. The, ah, earthquake, or whatever it was, you know—

CARLY: Mmm…that’s not the way Mama tells it. She had the boys back at the house before it even hit.

ELIZABETH: Let’s not…that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.

CARLY: Hey, if you don’t care that you got stood up at your wedding, then why should I? I guess you should just be lucky Franco only humiliated you by not showing up. He’s not really good at weddings.

ELIZABETH: Okay, this was a bad idea.

CARLY: (with a smirk) No. Sorry. I can’t resist. It’s my fault anyone even takes that psycho seriously anyway. I had my own year of temporary insanity. I hope yours ends soon. What can I do for you?

ELIZABETH: Look. It’s not that I want to be involved. I don’t. I mean, I do. Part of me really wants to just…do this myself because—anyway, I don’t think I should get involved.

CARLY: You’re babbling. This should be good.

ELIZABETH: What I did to Drew was unforgivable. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t actually Jason. I thought he was. I was told he was. And I lied to him. I promised him I would never lie to him again.

CARLY: (slowly) Okay. So, don’t.

ELIZABETH: I know something that…he should know. He has a right to know. But I’m afraid if I tell him…I’m afraid that he won’t believe me. Or that it will just…look like I’m trying to get revenge on Sam, and I don’t…I don’t want that.

CARLY: Of course you do. (leans forward) You want me to do the dirty work, babe, let’s at least be honest about what we’re talking about, okay? You’ve never liked Sam.

ELIZABETH: And you only liked her because it kept Jason away from me, so let’s go ahead and be honest, Carly. Your enthusiasm for Sam and Jason only started after they broke up. Until then, you hated her, too.

CARLY: Why the hell would I care about you and Jason?

ELIZABETH: I don’t know, Carly. Are we really going to go back twenty years and talk about why you’ve always hated me?

CARLY: I don’t hate you.

ELIZABETH: You did everything you could to undermine my relationship with Jason. Even when we were just friends. You risked his life and safety to get him out of my studio when he was hurt—

CARLY: (sniffs) That was a long time ago.

ELIZABETH: Every time he was with me, you called him—

CARLY: And he came running.

ELIZABETH: You pushed him towards Courtney, and we both know that was a mistake—

CARLY: She was better for him.

ELIZABETH: And you rushed right away to tell him your version of Jake’s paternity. Because you were so excited that that he wasn’t going to be tied to me.

CARLY:  Hey, I didn’t tell you to confirm that—

ELIZABETH: I’m just saying, Carly, that you have never been a fan of me being in Jason’s life. Why do you care if Jason goes back to Sam? Didn’t you give a damn about Drew? You were the one that pushed him towards Sam when we found out the truth. Even before you knew I was lying.

CARLY: (pauses) Listen. Okay. Maybe there’s a point to that. I don’t know. I guess I get you’re still irritated Jason went back to Sam after claiming to love you—

ELIZABETH: Carly, you have no idea about my issues with Sam. I doubt Jason told you what she did to Jake, what she did to both my boys, so let’s just knock it off—

CARLY: What? Destroyed your marriage with the affair with Lucky? (snorts) Please. That entire relationship was doomed, and you know it.

ELIZABETH: She stood by while that psycho kidnapped Jake. She knew where he was. Refused to tell us. Refused to let us go on her show. Came to tell me that my son was probably dead. She hired men to hold guns on us—she’s the reason Jason spent most of the summer in jail that year—

CARLY: Wait. (holds up a hand) Wait. Sam helped someone kidnap Jason’s kid? (pause) Jason knows that?

ELIZABETH: Look, it was a decade ago. God. More than that now. He made his choice. We have to live with it. And besides, it’s not like I haven’t had my opportunities to get back at her. I’ve taken them, you know? I did what I could to torpedo her relationship with Lucky, not that it worked. And—

CARLY: Lied about Drew.

ELIZABETH: Part of me wants to cause trouble for her. She’s always been a hypocrite, always pretended she’s better than me. And the only reason I put up with her is because of Jason. And now Jake and Danny. So, this thing I know—this thing I heard her say to Jason—Drew should know it. I just don’t want to be the one to tell him.

CARLY: You’d like to keep your hands clean.

ELIZABETH: I also don’t know if he’d believe me.

CARLY: So you want me to do it for you.

ELIZABETH: (hesitates) Yes.

CARLY: Like a hired assassin.

ELIZABETH: Carly.

CARLY: You know, Sonny keeps telling me not to meddle. Jason hates me getting involved. I’ve been busy with Michael, and Sonny and his dad. I’m not sure this is something I should get involved with.

ELIZABETH: Okay, fine. If you really don’t know what to know what I know, I can respect that.

She waits.

CARLY: Damn it. What do you know?

ELIZABETH: That Jason and Sam were together the night of the earthquake. That Sam told Jason she’s still in love with him. And there was something about New Year’s she hasn’t told Drew yet. I don’t know. I didn’t hear that part as well.

CARLY: Let me get you a drink.

She signals the bartender.

CARLY: (continues) You know, I guess you’ve really moved on from Jason if you’re trying to patch things up with him and Sam. (smirks) You do realize that’s the natural ending for this?

ELIZABETH: I don’t, actually. Jason goes back to Sam for whatever reason, but they never last, Carly. Or haven’t you noticed that? I don’t know why he goes back, but she drives him away. Every time. She lies, she cheats, she schemes. She cons him. She’s a lot like you.

She sips the martini the bartender hands her.

ELIZABETH: She thinks Jason should be a certain way, and then she punishes him when he’s not.

CARLY; What the hell—

ELIZABETH: I’m not any better, so don’t get pissed. We all do that. Jason has surrounded himself with takers all his life, Carly. You, me, Sam. Sonny. We all love him, but we take from him, too. Since he’s been home, you’ve been shoving Sam in his face, Sam is shoving Drew in his face, and God knows, I’ve been shoving Franco in his face, which makes me the worst of all.

CARLY: Elizabeth—

ELIZABETH: I’m not taking from Jason anymore.  I saw his face yesterday at the hospital when I tried to thank him for saving Franco’s life. I tried to make him see he’s not that person anymore, and then, you know, I stepped outside of myself. I could hear myself trying to justify my choices to Jason. Trying to get Jason to accept them.

CARLY: Why does that matter?

ELIZABETH: Because Jason’s always right. (sips martini) He was right about Lucky. Right about Ric. Right about Ewan. He’s always been right about the men I let into my life.

CARLY: You know you deserve better than Franco, Elizabeth. Tell me you know that.

ELIZABETH: Do I?

She finishes her martini and drops a twenty on the bar.

ELIZABETH: Look, tell Drew or don’t. I’m just—I can’t be the only one who knows this. I’m tired of keeping secrets.

CARLY: Hey. Listen. About Franco. You think no one else gets it, but I do. I get how he can make you think he’s the only one who understands you. How he can isolate you from the rest of your world because he’s the only one you can turn to. The problem is that he builds his world around you. He puts you on a shelf. He builds this idea of who you are. And then when you disappoint him—because you will—he will blame you. And then he’ll destroy you.

ELIZABETH: Carly.

CARLY: You might not think there’s anything left to destroy, but he’s not going to come for you. He’s going to come for what you love best. He did that to me. He humiliated me, sure. But he destroyed Michael. He went after my child. Tell me you’re one hundred percent positive it’s not the same for you. That it can’t happen to you.

Elizabeth is silent for a long time.

ELIZABETH: I’ll see you around, Carly. Thanks for the drink.

May 8, 2015

safetoloveyou

Notes: This picks up directly from May 7, 2015’s episode in which Elizabeth and Jake make love for the first time. It’s possible that nothing will conflict with any else for a while, but I haven’t seen May 8’s episode, so there you are.

Song used in this story is Already Over (Rie Sinclair). You can click to download.

Skip to Scenes 4-8, Part Two.


1
Do you see that it takes everything to be in this moment
And I can’t just end up with a photograph of the one that I lost

For six months, he had been able to avoid the lying snake who had posed as his wife, but Jake Doe was unsurprised to learn one November morning that his luck had run out.

He stepped out of the elevator at the Metro Court only to find Hayden Barnes lounging in the reception area, her lips curved in an expression that might send chills down anyone else’s spine.

Jake was not just anyone, and today of all days, he was not going to let Hayden ruin his good mood.

He stopped in front of her, his hands sliding into the pockets of his jeans. “Taking advantage of the fact Carly’s out of town?”

Hayden’s smirk only deepened as she straightened. “Of course. I’ve been trying to track you down for days.”

Jake just shook his head, already regretting that he had stopped to speak with her. He brushed past her, out the doors of the Metro Court. He had other places to be today.

“I heard good news was in order,” Hayden called after him, following him to the sidewalk. He continued to ignore her as he turned left, prepared to walk the half mile to Elizabeth’s house on Cherry Blossom Lane.

The house that would soon be theirs in just a few short weeks.

As Hayden’s heels clicked behind him, Jake stopped and turned to face her, the cars rushing down the avenue that divided Port Charles in half. “I don’t know what your problem is—why you’ve decided to annoy me, but it’s not going to work.” He gestured down the street where he knew the Port Charles bus station was located. “You should hop on the first bus out of town, just like your friend, Ric.”

“Oh, I intend to head out.” Hayden fell into step with Jake as he started to cross the street. “I just wanted to make sure I don’t leave any unfinished business.”

Jake chuckled then and considered catching a cab. He liked walking the streets of the city, getting to know this place he had adopted as his own. It had been more than a year and memories continued to evade him. The few flashes he had experienced the year before had dwindled to nothing.

He had visited a lawyer to make his new life legal, to make sure any future he started would be secure from more Haydens showing up on his doorstep.  He had a plans to protect, people to cherish.

He was building a family and a life here.

“Nikolas finally get tired and boot you out?” Jake stopped on the corner and faced her again. Trying to walk away from her hadn’t worked, so maybe it was time to just let her spew whatever nonsense she thought was pertinent so she’d be out of their lives.

She’d stolen enough time from him.

Hayden slipped her hands into the pockets of her plush coat. “He decided to call my bluff. Apparently, since he’s finished his takeover ELQ, he’s no longer concerned about what I know.”

Jake hesitated now, because he’d had some odd feelings about the Cassadine prince, had been on the receiving end of strange looks and general feelings of discomfort. Could Hayden actually know something Nikolas wanted to keep hidden? It would explain why she had shacked up at Wyndemere after the Nurse’s Ball. Elizabeth had been upset, but had decided she would let it go.

Nikolas was an adult, and it wasn’t their concern.

“Why don’t you have your say?” Jake said. “As you very well know, I’m on my way to Elizabeth.” He tilted his head. “We have a doctor’s appointment today.”

“Oh, it’s so sweet,” Hayden purred. “You look so happy with your drippy and tragic suffering nurse.”

Jake narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.

“Tell me, Jake,” Hayden said, stressing his name. “When you woke up in that hospital, did your dear sweet Elizabeth feel familiar?” She stepped closer. “As if you’ve always known her?”

Jake opened his mouth but closed it, because though he hated to admit it, being with Elizabeth had always felt natural. Familiar. He’d often joked with her that maybe they had known one another in previous life.

“So what?” Jake shrugged. “She was the nurse in the ER the night I was brought in. I remember her voice—”

“Oh, you know…” Hayden tossed her head back and laughed. “Come on, Jake. You know that’s not what I mean.  I know who you are, Jake Doe.”

And something inside Jake clenched in that moment, because he believed her.  He couldn’t quite understand why, after all her lies, he would believe such a thing.

But something in her eyes, in the delight she was taking in this—

“I know who I am,” Jake told her. “Who I was doesn’t matter—”

“I assure you it matters to the people who knew you.” She stepped closer now, her coat brushing the open lapels of his own coat.  “Or aren’t you curious at all about that anymore?”

“I don’t remember it,” Jake responded, but his stomach rolled slightly. “So—”

“I want you to think very carefully about this, Jake Doe.” She tilted her head to the side. “You woke up in a hospital, and Elizabeth Webber felt like someone you’d known all your life. You thought the name Jake felt right.” Her smile curved. “You have odd memories of dragons and Sam McCall. And you have some serious violent abilities. Who do you think you used to be?”

“I don’t know what you think you’re doing here,” Jake said slowly, “but I’m walking away now—”

“You know what I’m telling you is true,” Hayden called after him. “And what’s more—Nikolas Cassadine has known for months—since the Haunted Star nearly blew up. Don’t you want to know the rest of it?”

“There’s nothing you can tell me—” But he stopped anyway, several paces away from her.

Because he thought he knew what she was talking about, and for the first time, he was putting the pieces together.

“Elizabeth has known for months.”

Jake blinked at her. “Known what?” he demanded. “See now, you’ve gone too far—if Elizabeth knew anything about my past, she would have told me—”

“You’d think that, all her talk of honesty and trust.” Hayden sighed deeply, pursing her lips in mock sympathy. “But she decided to keep you for herself, because she knew if she told you the truth, you’d do exactly what you did the last time you thought you had a wife.”

He clenched his fists in the pockets of his coat. “I don’t have a wife—”

“Oh, I know you had Diane Miller go through a great deal of legalities to ensure when you walk down the aisle in two weeks, that you’re free to do so. But it doesn’t change things.” Hayden stepped towards him. “You have a wife. And a son. You have a nephew. A mother. A best friend. You had a life here in Port Charles—and Elizabeth helped steal it from you.”

“We’re done here—”

“You know who I’m talking about, Jake Doe. You know who you were—” Hayden called. “How long do you think you can run from it?”

But he ignored her and stalked away. Because it couldn’t be true.

He wasn’t Jason Morgan.

And Elizabeth couldn’t have known. Couldn’t have kept that from him.

He put it all out of his head as he turned down her street, walked past the home Sam shared with Patrick Drake and their children.

He stepped up to her porch, opened the door and stopped in his tracks.

Elizabeth’s five year old son was sitting on the floor by the couch, tears streaming down his face. “She won’t wake up,” he told Jake, his words tumbling over each other. “I c-can’t make her phone work—”

Jake hurried around the sofa, only to find Elizabeth crumpled between the coffee table and the sofa, her small delicate body four months gone with their child.

And suddenly, he remembered.

He remembered the last time he had found her like this.

On a stormy night, when their son had been born.

“Mommy!” Aidan’s frantic cries broke through Jake’s haze. “Wake up!”

He took the phone from him and dialed 911.

Everything else would have to wait.

2
Is it safe to love you?

He was standing outside a cubicle in emergency room when Michael found him nearly an hour later.  Paramedics had rushed past him, barked something Jake could hardly take in as they lifted Elizabeth onto a stretcher, her head rolling to the side as they strapped her in.

He had held Aidan as he cried, reaching for his mother.  Had numbly handed Aidan to Patrick, who had seen the ambulance from his house across the street and rushed over.

Patrick’s promises to look after Aidan and Cameron while Jake took Elizabeth’s car to the hospital felt hazy, but he knew Elizabeth would be concerned about her children.

He had called Michael, a reflex he recognized now from his old life. He couldn’t call Sam—there was too much swirling in his head for that contact. Carly might have been a runner up, but she had flown to London to accompany Joss on a visit to her father.

And Sonny was out of the question.

“Jake, hey.” Michael approached him, concerned but maybe even slightly puzzled. He and Jake were relatively friendly, but not people that should be called upon in an emergency.

“Hey.” Jake cleared his throat. He couldn’t stop thinking of himself as Jake, responding as Jake.

He was Jason, and yet though the memories had filtered in, he couldn’t get a handle on any of it. He was this man everyone had mourned, had cherished. Jason had had a wife, a son.

He knew all of these things, remembered all of these things, and still—

That life belonged to another man.

“I should—I hope I didn’t interrupt anything,” Jake said after a moment. “I—Your mom is out of town.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” Michael nodded to the cubicle. “They tell you anything yet? All you said was Elizabeth had to be rushed to the hospital. She and Sabrina are pretty close.”

“Yeah.” Jake cleared his throat again. “Um. They didn’t—she’s stabilized and awake. But they want to run some tests.” He shifted again. He didn’t know what he was feeling, how to sort through it.

Six weeks ago, Elizabeth had realized she was pregnant, and Jake had proposed. She had been hesitant, not wanting to marry for the wrong reasons, but he loved her. He thought it was a sign.

And all along, she had known.

It explained her hesitation, her strange somberness at times. She had been happy about the baby—they talked about maybe wanting a girl so Elizabeth wouldn’t be nearly as outnumbered. She’d had three boys, and he’d known she was thinking of her lost son.

Their lost son.

“I’m sure it’ll be okay.” Michael patted his shoulder. “Elizabeth is pretty stubborn. Nothing usually keeps her down long.”

“Yeah.” Jake rubbed the back of his neck and looked over at the curtain that separated them. “I know. I just—” He closed his mouth and shook his head.  “You mind if I ask you something personal?”

Michael frowned and nodded. “Sure. Practically the first time we met, I talked to you about my father’s murder.  If something is bothering you—”

“Your ex, Kiki.” Jake stopped. “She—she kept something back from you. Something life-altering.”

Michael’s face tensed, but he nodded. “Yeah. She and practically everyone I thought gave a damn about me. Told me it was for my own good.” Michael cast his eyes toward the cubicle. “Did you and Elizabeth have a fight?”

“Not—” He swallowed. “Not yet.”

“Hey…” Michael paused. “I know Elizabeth pretty well, you know. I mean, not just because she’s always been around my family. She was my aunt Emily’s best friend, dated my father a bit—and well, you know who she was to my uncle Jason.”

And didn’t he? Hadn’t he known her from the moment he opened his eyes?

“I know,” Jake said.

“I know she’s kept secrets before.” Michael shifted. “You know about her son. My cousin, Jake. She didn’t tell my uncle at first. Kept the truth from him for almost six months.”

And he could remember being in that elevator with her, a hazy memory of worrying they might not make it out alive—fury that she had lied, terror that everything would change.

And now sorrow that nothing really had.

“She mentioned it—”

“She did that because everyone in her life convinced her that it would be a burden for my uncle.” Michael’s voice tightened. “My mother jumped to a conclusion and then Sonny told her it was for the best. That my uncle’s life wasn’t right for a child. And Jason was starting to put things back together with Sam. They made her feel like the truth would ruin everything.”

And that’s why he had been able to look past it. To not think of it much. He had disagreed with her reasons, but had always understood how she twisted herself in a pretzel to protect others.

If she had kept this secret from him, she had had a good reason. What she believed to be a good reason.

“And my uncle forgave her,” Michael said after another moment. “Because he knew her inside and out.”

“How do you know any of that?” Jake asked—knowing he had never confided any of that in Michael.

“I got old enough to see my parents for who they were.” Michael shrugged. “I asked my mother about it once, and she was a mood to admit her mistakes. Thinks it was her fault Jason never had a chance with Jake. If he had been all in from the start, it might have been harder to walk away.” Michael shifted. “I have my little sister, now. AJ. I’ve had custody of her for the better part of a year. I can’t imagine how my uncle let Jake go.”

“He thought it was best for everyone,” Jake murmured. Though it was hard to make that argument now, with his son cold in the ground.

Michael frowned. “Jake, if you don’t mind me asking, what did Elizabeth keep from you?”

Jake hesitated. “If I told you, Michael, you might be obligated to tell other people. It just doesn’t affect Elizabeth and me.”

“Oh.” Michael paused. “You can trust me, Jake. I’d never do anything to hurt Elizabeth. I’d keep it to myself.”

“Thanks.” Jake looked at him now. “And I know that’s true. But I don’t want you to feel burdened by it. I don’t know what I want to do about it yet.”

The cubicle curtain slid open and a doctor gestured for Jake to join them. Before he did so, he looked to Michael. “Can you give Patrick a call? Cam and Aidan are at his house, and I know he’s worried. Tell him she’s okay, and I’ll call later.”

“Of course.”

Jake left Michael behind him, and crossed the cubicle.

He didn’t know what he was going to do about his past, but until he was sure Elizabeth and the baby was okay, he could afford to leave it there a little longer.

She was pale when he stepped the cubicle, her alabaster skin almost translucent. “Jake.”

“Hey.” Worry, love…it swamped him as he went to her side, taking her hand in his, pressing a kiss to her palm. Whatever reasons she’d had for not telling him the truth, it didn’t change the essential nature of the last year.

How, even before she’d known who he had been, Elizabeth had been the only person to stand by him without wavering.

“I’m sorry I scared you.” She licked her lips, a bit dry and cracked.

“Is there anything wrong?” Jake turned to the doctor. “Why did she pass out?”

“She’s dehydrated, for one.” The doctor flipped through a chart. “And showing signs of exhaustion.”

Elizabeth winced. “I’m fine—”

Jake squeezed her hand. “I asked you not to work double shifts anymore. You need to take care of yourself.” He looked back to the doctor. “And the baby?”

“Everything’s fine there.” The doctor made another notation in the chart. “We’re keeping you another few hours, to load you up with nutrients. I want you to take a few days—rest.”

“She will,” Jake said. “I’ll make sure of it.”

3
If you turn around and tell me it’s already over
Will you tear my heart up and tell me how sorry you are

It was almost a week before Jake was convinced Elizabeth would regain her usual energy and vigor. He had threatened to tie her to the bed if she so much as moved, and had enlisted Cameron and Aidan to keep a watch on her when he wasn’t in the room.

A week, and he couldn’t bring himself to do anything with the memories that had surfaced, with the words Hayden had thrown at him. He remembered how furious he had been all those months ago when he realized Hayden and Ric had been lying.

And yet, somehow, he couldn’t dredge up any of that righteous anger for Elizabeth.

Yes, she had lied. But what had she taken from him? If he had known the truth, would it have brought back his memories sooner?

Or would knowing had changed nothing? He had seen Sam in passing over the last week, watched her with Patrick, with Danny and Emma. He remembered now the way Elizabeth had stood on the stage at the Nurse’s Ball, trembling.

She had very nearly told the truth that night, and he could see her in his mind.

She had looked down at Sam and Patrick. And had changed her mind.

Maybe he would have remembered months ago, but maybe not. Maybe he had needed the terrifying sight of Elizabeth crumpled on the floor to remember how it had been once—that long ago night she had nearly died to bring Jake into this world.

And how it had broken her into millions of jagged little pieces when she’d had to let their son go.

He made an appointment with Kevin Collins, sure there was something wrong with him. He knew who he had been, but it didn’t change anything for him. And shouldn’t it?

Shouldn’t there be a sense that he wanted his old life back?

He stepped inside Kevin’s office, and the other man stood, offering a hand for him to shake. “Jake. I’m surprised to see you after all these months.”

“I’m surprised to be here,” Jake admitted. “But I—I just didn’t know who else I could talk to about this.”

Kevin gestured for Jake to take a seat. “The last time we talked, you had recovered from your surgery—in what, February? You’d had a memory flash, but nothing concrete. Have you remembered something more?”

“Yeah.” Jake hesitated, looked down at his hands. “I know who I’m supposed to be. And that Elizabeth—my fiancée, found out six months ago and said nothing.”

Kevin pressed his lips together and tilted his head. “That doesn’t sound like Elizabeth.” He leaned forward. “Why would she have done that?”

“Because I used to be Jason Morgan.”

Kevin blinked and leaned back. “Ah.” He touched his finger to his lips. “And Jason Morgan was married to Sam at the time of his so-called death. There’s a little boy, Danny. I can imagine Elizabeth, halfway in love with you, was hesitant to let you go.”

Was it as simple as Elizabeth seeing this as their chance to finally be on the same page? He remembered now, in the weeks before he had gone off the pier, that they had flirted with another chance—how she had told him they never seemed to be in the same place at the same time, but maybe this time, they could be.

“I don’t know if it was—” Jake cleared his throat. “I came home last week—after someone had told me Elizabeth knew the truth. I came to the house to talk to her about it, and she was unconscious on the floor. I—when she went into labor with Jake, I—I found her that way. She was bleeding then, and nearly died when he was born.”

“And that triggered your memories.” Kevin continued, “So Elizabeth doesn’t know yet that you know?”

“I didn’t—I couldn’t see talking to her about this until I knew she’d be okay. The baby—that comes first. Elizabeth has had enough problems with her children—two miscarriages, the difficult birth with Jake. Kidnapping—” Jake shook his head. “I know I have a responsibility to sort out my life, to sort out what came before. But not at the expense of the child we’re having.”

“That makes sense. Your priorities are in order.” Kevin hesitated. “You’re planning to get married in a week. Have you pushed the ceremony back?”

“Not yet,” Jake admitted. “It was going to be small anyway, just family and friends—at the Metro Court.” He paused. “There’s no legal reason I can’t do it. Diane Miller has ensured that Jake Doe is my legal name. As far as the state is concerned, Jason Morgan is dead and his obligations were dissolved at that time.”

“Legally yes.” Kevin tapped his pen. “Are you considering not taking back the reins of your old life?”

Jake stood and paced a bit, feeling restless. Trapped. Here was the question he had been considering all along. “What’s to take back?” he asked. “The woman I married is happy with another man. The son I didn’t know about is healthy, well-adjusted. Safe. I have a friendship with Carly, I could be closer to Michael if I wanted. I have a job I like, working construction for Michael and Ned.” He jerked a shoulder. “I have a fiancée who supported me even when the rest of the town believed me to be a psychotic violent criminal. She’s opened her family to me, is prepared to give me a child. What exists in Jason Morgan’s life that is better than what I have now?”

“Well, you say Elizabeth knows the truth. How did she find out? Are there others?” Kevin asked.

“Yeah,” Jake admitted. “Nikolas. He’s Sam’s cousin. He’s been antsy lately, even though he maneuvered his way into ELQ. Since Elizabeth and I announced the engagement, the baby—maybe he’ll feel obligated to come clean with Sam. And Hayden, the woman who posed as my life earlier this year. She was blackmailing Nikolas until he told her he didn’t care.” Jake exhaled slowly. “It would be impossible to keep this secret. I know that. But I—I don’t know if I want to be Jason Morgan again.”

Kevin frowned. “Why would you have to be?” He stood. “Jake, the fact that you know who you used to be— that your memories are more or less intact—it doesn’t change the last year.” He folded his arms. “You lost your memory once before and built a new life on those ashes. Do you remember now what it was like to start from scratch with Jason Morgan? Why you were so angry?”

“The Quartermaines,” Jake said after a moment. “They kept looking at me, wanting me to be someone I didn’t know. They wanted to fix me. The more they wanted me to be this paragon of virtue, the more I wanted to be anything but.

“And this time, when you woke with no memory?” Kevin asked. “Were you angry?”

“No,” Jake said slowly. “Frustrated—but there was no one there who knew who I was. No one pushing me to remember. Just—Elizabeth. Telling me to relax, that it might come back on its own or not at all.”

“Jason Quartermaine—the man you were born as—was generous, kind, selfless. Warm. Funny.” Kevin leaned forward. “The anger and bitterness at Jason Morgan’s core was a social construct. Created in the situation. You had the opportunity to shed those shields—shields and guards you created for good reason, but they were gone nonetheless. And now that I know who you were, Jake, I don’t see Jason Morgan. I see Jason Quartermaine.”

Jake blinked at him. “So you’re saying that’s why I’m hesitant to go back to what I was before. Because it’s not who I was supposed to be. This—what did you call it? Social construct? It was something I created to protect myself from the Quartermaines and their expectations.” He was quiet for a long moment, taking that in.

Was that it? Was that why it felt wrong to go back to being Jason Morgan? It was a skin he had shed because it was no longer useful and now…maybe it didn’t even fit.

He had been Jason Morgan, the way he had once been Jason Quartermaine.

And now he was neither of those men. He was both. He didn’t have Jason Quartermaine’s memories, but he could understand the point Kevin was trying to make. He had Jason Quartermaine’s nature, his personality.

“You should tell people who you were,” Kevin said. “Only because I don’t think you’ll be able to make the two sides of your life balance until you’ve resolved them. You used to be Jason Morgan, Jake. It’s okay not to live his life. Just don’t forget him. As for your problem with Elizabeth—”

“She’s everything to me,” Jake told him. “That’s why I can’t bring myself to talk to her about this. I already know—whatever reasons she had, however she justified it to herself, I’ll believe it, and I’ll accept it. I don’t want her to be upset, to twist herself around, and punish herself. She’ll do that, even if I’ve forgiven her.”

“Then let her off the hook.” Kevin leaned forward. “And don’t punish yourself for not wanting your old life. It’d be worse to go back to it out of obligation. You built something for yourself, Jake. It’s okay to enjoy it.”

[wpanchor id=”safepart2″]

4
Well, years play and memories stay and now I believe
That my heart will simply fall apart into so many pieces

Elizabeth was sitting up in bed, a sketch pad in her hands when Jake came home from his appointment with Kevin. Today was the last day of the week he had asked her to relax.

Any longer, they would have to postpone the wedding, though he wasn’t entirely sure they wouldn’t have to do that anyway.

She smiled at him, setting the pad aside. “Hey. I heard you come in with the boys. Are they doing their homework?”

“Yeah.” Jake perched on the edge of her bed, remembering the night after the Nurse’s Ball.

When they had made love for the first time, and he’d told her it had felt natural. Familiar. He knew why now—why the scent of her skin, the taste of her lips, the curves of her body had matched his.

How it hadn’t been awkward, how they hadn’t been nervous.

He’d thought it the first time they’d been together, but she’d known.

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth reached for his hands. “I’m fine. Sabrina came by just like you asked her. She took my vitals. I’m sorry—I should have listened about the double shifts, but I wanted the time after the wedding—”

“It’s not…” Jake paused, looking down at her hands, at the small, slim silver band with a minuscule diamond chip—he had taken a portion of his savings to buy her that—money he had earned at one of the ELQ subsidiaries Michael and Ned had managed to salvage in the wake of Nikolas’s hostile takeover.

He worked for the Quartermaines now. The irony of that fact swamped him for a moment before he could gather himself.

Once, he had given her money because he couldn’t be in Jake’s life, had bought her this home as if that would make up for the way he’d damaged her.

But she’d looked at this ring, this small and very nearly invisible ring, and she’d cried, her smile so luminous it could probably be seen for miles. And she done that, knowing their history. Knowing the way he had treated her.

Maybe that was why he couldn’t find anger for what she had done. In the scheme of things, he had done so much worse. Jake stood and walked around the bed, where a window overlooked the quiet street.

“Jake?” Elizabeth slid out from underneath the covers and followed him, clad a pair of sweat pants and an thin t-shirt advertising the previous year’s Nurse’s Ball. Her dark hair had grown long this last year, and now tumbled over her shoulders, falling in waves.

He turned to look at her, at her concerned expression, and he couldn’t stop himself. He lifted his hand to sift through her silky hair. He had always loved the way it felt slipping through his fingers. “I’m glad you’re growing your hair out. I always liked it this way.”

Elizabeth laughed lightly, her hand rising to wrap around her wrist. “You didn’t even know me when—” But she fell silent, and something crept into those beautiful eyes.

“I remember when you had it curled all the time,” Jake said after a moment, letting strands slid away from his fingers to fall against her shoulder. “But you never wore it that way again after that winter.”

“It was a perm that a pain to deal with—” Elizabeth’s throat was dry. “Jake—”

“I remember,” he said softly. “I know who I used to be.”

“I—” Elizabeth shook her head. Stepped back. “I don’t know—”

“And I know you’ve known for months.”

She closed her eyes, then wrapped her arms around her waist, where their child was just beginning to show. “Oh. God. Jake. I can explain—”

“I remember you standing there at the Nurse’s Ball—” He pulled one of her hands free. She felt like ice. “You started to say something but you stopped, then you looked down at Sam and Patrick and told that story about Robin instead.”

“Jake—” She swallowed hard. “I was going to tell you. I started to tell you a million times, but then I found out about the baby, and you—you wanted to get married.” She opened her eyes. “And I decided I couldn’t—I couldn’t take the chance you’d find out I knew.”

“Because I might walk away.” He pulled her a bit closer, sliding his hand up her arm. She was pale again, her eyes large in her face. “Like I did before. And you couldn’t count on me to not to leave our child. Because I’ve done that before, too. Elizabeth—”

“I was going to tell you,” Elizabeth repeated. “Because of Carly, and Michael. And Danny. And even Sam…but every time I opened my mouth, I saw you that last day—the day after Michael was shot.”

“When I broke our engagement.” Jake exhaled slowly. “And told you we could never be a family.”

“It wasn’t—I just—” She dipped her head. “I can’t—”

“You looked at Sam and Patrick, and you knew what you would put her through if you told the truth,” Jake said. “Because of Lucky.”

“Don’t—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “It’s true. I-I remember how guilty I felt when Lucky came home, when I wanted to love him the way I did once, and I just couldn’t. I never could again, because I loved you. You know that, that’s not—” She shook her head. “But that wasn’t the reason. Not really. It’s just how I let myself sleep at night, how I justified it—Patrick could love Sam and Danny. But it was mostly just me being selfish. I could be happy.” Tears slid down her cheeks as her voice broke. “I just wanted to be happy, Jake.”

“I know.  You should have told me,” Jake said. “We could have dealt with it together, but—” He rubbed his thumb over the gem of her ring. “I’m a little relieved to see you doing something like this for yourself for once.”

Elizabeth frowned, shook her head slightly. “I don’t—Jake, why aren’t you angry?”

“I’ve watched you, for years, twist yourself around trying to be something for other people.” He paused. “For Lucky, for Ric. For me. And not one of us ever valued you the way we should have—”

“Jake, you were always good to me—” Elizabeth started, but faltered.

“When I wanted to be. I remember who I was, Elizabeth, but I can’t find much to admire. I don’t like the way I walked away from you and our son, only to create a new family with Sam.”

“That’s not important anymore—”

“Do you know why I remembered? What made it happen?” When she shook her head, he continued. “I was leaving the Metro Court—I had packed most of my things, was just coming back to the house for the car. So I could move in. We wanted to do that before the wedding, so we could just start our lives. Hayden was waiting for me in the lobby. Nikolas had told her to get lost—whatever leverage she had was gone.”

“She knew.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “She must have—Nikolas told me the night of the ball, Helena had told him months before. Damn it. If I had known Hayden—Jake, I never would have let you be in the dark. I wouldn’t have wanted you to find out from her—”

“She told me that you had known,” Jake continued. “I went to the house after that. I didn’t want to believe it, even if it answered a lot of questions. But I walked in the house, and Aidan was crying.” His voice tightened. “And you were lying there, pale. Unconscious. The way I found you the night you nearly died giving birth to our son. I remembered most of it in that moment, but I put it aside. I had to make sure you were okay. For all the times I left you alone—walked away—”

“Jake—”

“And I decided to just put it away until you were rested, until we were up for this conversation.” He framed her face. “I was in love with you before I knew…” He hesitated, laughed a bit. “Before I knew you. That hasn’t changed.”

“But—” Elizabeth wrapped her fingers around his wrists, clinging just a bit. “Jake, you have to know that being you—since the Nurse’s Ball, it wasn’t about you being Jason. I was already halfway in love with you by then. For the man I already knew. Finding out who you used to be—that didn’t change anything for me. It just made it clearer.” Her eyes searched his. “I lied to you, but you—you make it sound like this is something we’re going to work through—”

“I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how I’m going to make myself live with what I remember. How to merge who I was with who I am now, if I even want to.  But remembering everything else didn’t erase this last year, Elizabeth.”

“Oh, God…” She closed her eyes, leaning her head forward until it rested against his chin. “Jake—” She lifted her head. “Or should—should I call you Jason?”

“I don’t know.” He brushed his lips over hers. “I don’t know. Jason Morgan is legally dead. I’ve been Jake Doe for the last year. If it weren’t for Danny, I don’t even know if I’d come forward.”

“Jake, you—you were married to Sam,” Elizabeth said, her voice tight. “We—we have to tell her. And of course, you have to come forward for Danny…” She hesitated. “And if after that, you change your mind—”

“How many times have we done this?” he asked. “How many times have I asked you to marry me?”

“Um…counting this last time?” Elizabeth lifted a shoulder. “This might have been number six. I can’t—they blur together after a while.”

“I meant it.” He slid his hand through her hair again. “I love you. I have a lot to work through and I know—I have to talk to Sam, I have to give us both closure. But I don’t want you ever doubt how I feel about you again.” He pressed a hand to her belly. “We have a second chance, Elizabeth. You saw that last spring. I see it now. I’m not walking away. Not again.”

5
If you turn around and tell me it’s already over
Will you tear my heart up and tell me it just wasn’t meant to be

A day later, Jake stood on Sam and Patrick’s front porch, knowing Patrick was at the hospital, that Emma was at school—that Sam didn’t have to pick Danny up from pre-school for another few hours.

He was going to tell her he had his memories back. If it was necessary, he would even tell her why—but the fact that Elizabeth knew, had kept the truth for months—that would stay between them.

When Sam pulled open the door, she flashed a puzzled smile and stepped back to let him in. “Hey. What brings you by? You guys all ready for Saturday?”

“Ah, more or less.” Jake passed her and waited for Sam to close the door. “Ah, thanks, again. For watching Cam and Aidan so much this last week. Elizabeth really appreciated it.”

“It was our pleasure.” Sam arched a brow. “Is that why you’re here? To thank me?”

“No, I mean, yeah, but not entirely.” Jake slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “There’s—I guess there’s no easy to slide into this, so maybe doing it bluntly will work. I—I know who I used to be.”

Sam’s eyes widened, then she blinked. “You—you got your memories back? Wow. That’s…that’s unexpected.” She winced. “Oh. Oh, it’s nothing that’s going to make things complicated for you and Elizabeth, is it? I really like you guys together—”

“Um. Maybe.” He rocked a bit. “Sam—”

“Do you need me to research something? Some friends or family you remember, to check on them?” Sam started to cross the room where he could see a laptop sitting open at the breakfast nook table. “Not a problem—”

“Sam, I—” He closed his mouth as she turned back to him. “Jason. I was Jason. I mean, that’s who I was.”

She stared at him, then shook his head. “No. No. That’s not possible. Jason is dead.” But by the end of her statement her voice had faltered. Because she was realizing what he already had.

Why Danny had clung to him in the hospital. Why those ceramic dragons had felt so familiar.

“I—” She closed her mouth. “I don’t know what to do with that.” Sam shifted, fisting her hands at her side. “You’re standing there, telling me you’re my—” She closed her eyes. “Oh my God. The Cassadines were behind his kidnapping—that’s where Helena found you. Why Victor recruited you.” She dragged her hands through hair.  “Oh, my God. You—you could actually be him—”

Because she was still sliding through shock, Jake kept his distance. “I’m sorry, Sam. I didn’t—I know how to tell you. It’s not—it’s not like there’s a manual for this type of thing.”

“You’re not kidding.” She lowered herself to the arm of the sofa. “You’re Jason. God. That just—it explains everything. The way Elizabeth just—connected with you. And Danny. And why you’re able to put up with Carly.” Her eyes filled. “Oh, God. You’re Jason.”

“Sam…”

She stood. “Elizabeth—she must have—she must have lost it when you told her.” Sam stepped toward him. “Have you?”

“She knows I’ve remembered.” Uncomfortable now, Jake shifted, looked away. “She’s…worried about what it’ll mean.”

“Oh.” Sam closed her mouth. “Because you’re supposed to marry her in five days, and I guess you’re still technically married to me.” Her hand shook a little as she lifted it to slide through hair. “I thought—I used to think about this day. When you’d walk through my door, alive. I used to think about what I’d say to you, how we would live our lives—” She bit her lip and shook her head fiercely as he stepped towards her.

“But that was before you actually came back.” She opened her eyes. “And you have a different face. You might have Jason’s memories, but…” She pressed her fist to her mouth and took a deep breath. “I don’t see him when I look at you. You’re Jake.”

Jake exhaled slowly, the first easy breath he’d taken in days. “I know. I remember everything, but I don’t…I don’t quite feel like I’m that person anymore. I look at you, and I remember that we planned a life together but—”

“But that was then, and this is now.” Sam looked to fireplace, the mantle where a photograph of herself, Patrick and Emma sat from the Nurse’s Ball. Their smiling faces.  “I’m not that woman anymore.” She looked at him. “But we do have a son. And I think you should get to know him.” She waited. “But I need—I need to deal with this. Right now, I don’t see the man I was married to, but that could change. And I don’t—I have to let this sink in. Talk to Patrick.” Sam sighed. “He has more experience than I do in spouses that come back from the dead.”

“Sam, I don’t want to hurt you, but—” Jake stopped.

“You built a life for yourself, I get it.” Sam was pale, but continued. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this later. So let’s just—let’s just say…” She paused. “I hope, for all our sake’s, that if you choose this life with Elizabeth, that you’re doing it because it’s what you want not because you walked away from her before. That’s not doing any of us any favors.”

6
Will you turn around and tell me it’s already over

Cameron and Aidan were home from school by the time Jake returned from Sam’s. Elizabeth was settling them at the dining room table so that Cameron would work on math homework and Aidan could complete a handwriting exercise for his kindergarten class.

Jake stopped just inside the door to look at them. He fallen in love with them over the last year, living with them first just as a house guest, and then in the last six months as things had changed.

To look at them now, to remember them—particularly Cameron—as infants and small children…he accounted himself particularly lucky at this second chance to be in their lives. To be a part of their family.

“Hey.” Elizabeth straightened, her hand straying to brace her back. “Um. Guys, Jake and I are going to talk upstairs for a while. Cameron—”

“Keep an eye on Aidan and don’t burn down the house.” Cameron gave her thumbs up. “I got it Mom. I’m eleven now, you know. I’m practically grown up.”

“God, stop saying that.” She ruffled his hair as she passed him to meet Jake at the base of the stairs. He followed her up to the master bedroom, passing the room that had once been Jake’s but had been cleaned out to make room for a nursery. They were just waiting on finding out the sex.

Elizabeth left the door partially ajar, then turned to him. “Hey, so Carly called. I am—” She closed her eyes. “I told her we were postponing Saturday because I was still—because I’m still a bit under the weather.”

“Oh.” Jake nodded. “Yeah, I mean. I get it. I have to talk to Diane, see where we are—”

“I think…” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “How did—with Sam, I mean, how did it go?”

Jake frowned a bit—her eyes were tired and she was standing apart from him, unable to quite meet his gaze. “She was shocked. Upset. I don’t know. She was—a bit more practical about it all. I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth murmured, but said nothing else.

“But maybe you really want to ask if I’ve changed my mind and decided to throw you over for her?” Jake asked.

Her head snapped up at that, a flush rising in her cheeks, but she lifted her chin. “That’s not—I mean—” She closed her eyes. “You told me you got your memory back because you found me lying on the floor, and it triggered that night with—with Jake. And you said you put everything aside until you knew I’d be okay.”

“Yeah,” Jake drawled, tilting his head. “I mean, you were unconscious on the floor, Aidan was crying. I suppose I could have shook you, tried to argue you with that way—”

“You—you decided once that a life me and the child we created wasn’t what you wanted,” Elizabeth cut in her, her eyes flashing now. “I don’t think it’s insane to wonder if the reason you say you’re not mad, if why you want to stay with me now is because you feel obligated, even guilty because of before.”

Jake scrubbed his hands over his face, an aggravated grunt escaping his lips. “Elizabeth—”

“If you had found out before I got pregnant,” Elizabeth cut in, “you wouldn’t have had your memory of Jake’s birth triggering everything else. I don’t want you to wake up in a month, in a year—and think I took away your choice—”

“Elizabeth,” he tried again, taking a step forward. “I don’t think—I wouldn’t—”

“Because I don’t want you to push aside your anger at me because I was ill. You said it yourself—I almost died giving birth to Jake. And you walked away from us anyway. I made a mistake—I should have told you as soon as I found out—”

“And I told you I forgave you—” He reached for her, but she twisted away.

“I took away your choices. I was selfish, and I told myself that I deserved to be happy. That it was worth lying to you, keeping you from the people you loved because I deserved it.” She pressed a hand to her chest. “I stood in that room, surrounded by people who always lie, cheat, steal—even kill to get what they want—and they get it. And I told myself this was a good lie, a righteous lie. I wanted to be happy, and I wanted you. So I lied.”

Tears were sliding down her face but she wouldn’t let him make it go away. “You do deserve to be happy, and I want to give that you—”

“Do you?” Elizabeth asked, her voice thick. “Tell me, Jake. Can you honestly say you’d feel the same if we weren’t having another child?”

“I—” Jake stopped, and his hesitation seemed to seal the deal for her, because she just pressed her lips together and looked at the ceiling. He hurried to reassure her. “I just know how I feel today, Elizabeth, and I love you. I know you’re worried about Sam. I don’t blame you—but I looked at her, and she looked at me. Neither of us saw who we used to be. I don’t know if she’ll struggle with that—”

“I just—I want us to be sure,” Elizabeth said. “Because I’ll hate myself forever if you stay, and it’s not for the right reasons. What I did to you, Jake, the choice I made—” She pressed a hand to her belly. “I was no better than Ric.”

“That’s not even—” But she stepped further back when he approached her again.

“It is true, and you should see that.” Elizabeth shook her head. “He thought he could make me happy, that because he wanted me, it justified everything he did to get there—he lied to me, he lied to you. He made you believe in a life that wasn’t yours. How is it any different?”

“It just is.” Jake planted a hand against his chest. “I get to decide what’s fair to me, don’t I? I wish you had told me, but Christ, Elizabeth, in that moment, on that night? I’m not surprised you made the choice you made—”

“Stop making this okay for me!” she shot back. “I was wrong. I lied to you. I made a selfish choice that kept you from your family, from your son, your wife—”

“Just…” Jake finally managed to his hands on her arms, to draw her closer. “Just stop. You are my family, Elizabeth—”

“I just—” She bit her lip, the fight fading as quickly as it had risen. “I love you. And I wish I could be the kind of person who could just accept your forgiveness and move forward, but I can’t. Jake, my track record with commitment is just…it’s horrible. Two devastating marriages, that affair with Nikolas, everything you and I went through before—I can’t commit myself to another unhealthy relationship—”

“You are not walking away from me—” Jake shook his head. “Look, okay. Maybe we’ll both feel better if we take a step back. It’ll probably take some time to unravel the legalities again. And I should—I should be fair to Sam, give her more time to process. To decide what we’ll do about Danny.”

“I’m not—” Elizabeth looked down, her shoulders slumping. “I’m not closing the book on us, Jake. I couldn’t. I love you, but I—we both deserve to be sure we’re in this for the right reasons.”

He exhaled. He’d known she’d punish herself, but he hadn’t seen this coming. “I’ll call Carly—maybe my room is still open.” He’d only officially moved out of the hotel a week and a half ago. “Elizabeth, maybe you don’t like the reasons I’m not angry, that I forgave you—but it’s not up to you. It doesn’t matter to me how we got this point.”

She was quiet as he covered the slight swelling of their child. “I love you. I love your boys. And I love this baby. Those are just facts, and you don’t get decide they’re not true.”

“I don’t doubt any of those things,” she said softly. “But I’m afraid to trust them.”

“So we’ll wait until you’re not.” He framed her face in his hands, touching his mouth to hers, drinking in her scent, the way she tasted. The way she felt just right against him.

“From the moment I woke up in that hospital,” he said, pulling back slightly, “you were all that I could see. All that I felt connection with. It matters that I felt it with you, and not with anyone else.”

7
Will you tear my heart up and tell me how sorry you are

He found Carly in the lobby of the hotel, standing by the reception desk, giving the fish eye to one of her employees. She had been home a day or so, but it was the first time since his memories had returned that he’d seen his old friend.

Carly must have felt his eyes on her, because she turned and flashed him a sad smile—right, Elizabeth had told her the wedding was postponed. She made a gesture at the employee, then approached him.

“Hey, I talked with Elizabeth earlier.” She rubbed his arm. “I thought she was feeling better, but I get it. Better to be healthy and enjoy the day. As long as you don’t pick Christmas Eve or New Year’s, the room is yours—”

“Yeah.” Jake hesitated and caught Michael stepping off the elevators. “Actually, if I could talk to you and—” he raised his voice slightly. “And Michael.”

Carly blinked and looked to her left as her son slowly approached them, hesitation etched in his face. “Michael. Hey.”

“Hey. I was just meeting with a client in the restaurant.” Michael slid his hands in his pockets. “Everything okay?”

“I need—there’s something I need to tell the both of you.” Jake looked to Carly. “Can we maybe talk in your office?”

Carly opened her mouth, but nodded and gestured for them both to follow her.

Once they were in the office, she closed the door. “Jake, is everything okay?”

“I—” Jake stopped. “You’d think this would get easier to say, but…” He leaned against Carly’s desk. “My memories—they came back. I know—I know who I am. Or who I was.”

Carly gasped. “Oh my God, Jake, that’s wonderful—” Then she stopped. “Oh, no, is that why the wedding is off? Are you actually married after all? Oh, God. Poor Elizabeth. Another married man—”

“Mom—” Michael held up a hand. “Maybe you could let Jake clarify.” He met Jake’s careful gaze. “Because there’s a reason he’s telling us together.” He swallowed. “Jake, there’s something—there’s something I’ve wondered. For months. But I thought—there’d be more signs.”

“Michael, what are you talking about?” Carly demanded.

“Sam told me about six months ago that—” Michael swallowed. “And the Cassadine connection. You know? A-And you picked the name Jake. You and Elizabeth—then last week, when we were talking about him—”

“Michael, it sounds like—” But Carly stopped and turned to him, her face blank. “Oh…Oh my God. Oh, my God. Jake.”

“”When I went home that day,” Jake said, keeping his eyes on Michael. “I found Elizabeth on the floor, just like I had before. And it was like my mind put the two images together. It all came back—I could barely breathe. I was still—”

“Oh, God…” Carly stumbled forward, tears sliding down her cheeks. “Jason. You’re Jason. Oh, God. How didn’t I see that before? I dumped my problems on you from the moment I met you—” Her voice was low, almost whispering, as if the words were too painful.

She lifted her arms, almost as if to embrace him, but stopped at the last moment. “I can’t—oh, God, Michael…what if this is a dream?”

“Carly—”

And then she wrapped him in such a tight embrace. “Jason. It’s you. I missed you so much, and I tried so hard to replace you. I tried Felix, he’s adorable, but not right, and then there was you, and you fit. I should have seen it—it fit because it was always you—”

“Mom, you’re…you’re babbling now,” Michael said, looking a bit dazed. He drew her back. “I—I can’t…I wondered, but I can’t…”

“I wanted to tell you before, at the hospital,” Jake said. “But I just—I wanted to talk to Elizabeth first—I had to make sure she was okay—”

“Of course—” Carly’s eyes flashed. “Oh. Oh. Sam. And Danny. Oh, this is—this is all just a mess, but—” She pressed a hand to her mouth. “Oh, God, Jason—”

“I’m sticking with Jake for the moment,” Jake interrupted. “I just—I don’t feel like Jason Morgan. I have—I have the memories but—”

“Of course.” Carly closed her eyes. “I’ll call you whatever you want—I should, I should call Sonny—”

As she started past him, towards the phone, he stopped her. “I—I want to deal with Sonny in my own time. I’ll tell him but I don’t—I don’t know what to feel about him.”

Carly blinked. “But—”

“After what happened last year—” Jake looked at Michael. “What he put you through—and then he and I didn’t get off to a great start. Pretty sure he threatened to kill me.”

“He didn’t…” Carly’s protests died weakly. “Okay. I won’t—I won’t call him. Jas—Jake—”

There was a knock on her door, and an employee poked her head in. “Ms. Jacks, we need you on the floor—”

“In a minute,” Carly snapped. The door shut and she looked back at him. “Jake—”

“I need my old room for a while,” Jake said, not wanting to get into the Sonny situation. “Elizabeth and I—we’re just taking a step back. It’s a lot for her to deal with, for me. And…yeah.”

“Of course. I’ll get it ready—” Carly reached forward. Touched his arm. “There’s nothing that can’t be worked out. You’re here. You remember. Everything else is secondary, because damn it, Jason, you’re alive.”

“Mom—” Michael said, with an exasperated sigh.

“Jake, right, right, I’ll remember.”

Carly left to deal with the crisis on the floor, while Michael remained, studying Jake. “Is that what you were talking about before? About Elizabeth knowing?”

Jake nodded. “She found out at the Nurse’s Ball. Nikolas told her.”

“Ah.” Michael dipped his head. “It’s a pretty big secret to keep—”

“Only if you’re standing where you are.” Jake lifted a shoulder. “I’m working through it in my head, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t change anything for me.”

“Well, you get to feel how you want to feel…” Michael shrugged. “You taught me that. No one else can decide for you.” His eyes filled then, and he looked eye, blinking rapidly. “I know what my mom means—the signs were there. I met you, and immediately dumped my problems on you, too.”

“I wondered why you, Carly, and, especially, Elizabeth felt so familiar. Why it was so easy to be around any of you.”

“But not my father. Or Sam.” Michael frowned a bit. “I guess you can’t predict what your brain will hold on to.”

“No,” Jake said after a moment. “You really can’t.”

8
Is it safe to love you?
Is it safe?

Jake and Elizabeth stepped out of her obstetrician’s office a few weeks later, an ultrasound photo in Elizabeth’s hands. Jake’s hand was at her waist, as if guiding her away from anything that might hurt her.

Not much had changed these last few weeks—he’d moved back into the hotel, but still spent time with the boys. Still managed to see Elizabeth once a day, to make sure she understood she and their family was his priority.

Michael and Ned had leapt on the revelation of Jake’s identity to begin challenging Nikolas’s stake of ELQ stock—because Jake hadn’t been there to vote, and there was talk of reporting Nikolas to the SEC for unethical business practices. He’d known Jake’s identity and said nothing.

Jake told them to do whatever they need to do, and he’d vote their way when the time came. He and the Cassadine prince were all but enemies at this point—he could never forgive Nikolas for keeping the truth, for putting Elizabeth in the position to be truth teller, for letting Hayden loose on them all—

He and Sonny had had a general meeting of the mind. Jake told him that once Diane had sorted out the legalities, Jake wanted nothing to do with the business. He was out, and Sonny agreed—too much time had passed and whatever loyalty Jake had felt as Jason Morgan to Sonny Corinthos had dissolved with the way the other man had torn apart Michael’s life.

But even as Jake was trying to reconcile the disparate sides of his new and old lives, two aspects remained unresolved. Sam and Patrick hadn’t spoken of Jake’s identity to him, or to Elizabeth. Cameron and Emma were still as friendly as ever, but Patrick was the go-between with Elizabeth, never Sam.

Jake didn’t know what would happen with Danny—if Sam would be able to allow him into their son’s life.

And if he didn’t know if Elizabeth could trust him to stay.

But today, he wasn’t going to think about any of those things. Today, she’d been given a clean bill of health—and they’d learned the gender of their child.

“Another boy,” Elizabeth murmured as they paused by the waiting area. “I’ll have three boys again.”  She looked at him. “Can you—I forgot to ask inside—can you see the baby on the ultrasound? You used to have such trouble—”

He liked that she had forgotten this aspect of his old self. The more time he spent with Elizabeth, the more he realized that what was between them now was only enhanced by their history—not entirely part of it. She didn’t just see him as Jason Morgan but he really was Jake Doe to her.

“My brain’s been jostled so much,” Jake told her, “I think that part of it must been fixed. I can see him just fine.”

Elizabeth tried to suppress a smile. “You shouldn’t joke about your brain issues. I’ll be relieved if you never have to have your skull opened again—”

“You’re not kidding.” He plucked the photo from her. “So, what are we going to name this kid? Are we going to follow the trend around Port Charles and name him for someone we like, or does he get his own name?”

Elizabeth smirked. “Not hard to see where you’re at on this. I don’t know…” She trailed off as Sam approached, her hand in Danny’s. “Sam.”

“Hey.” Sam looked at them both, then at the ultrasound photo in their hands. “Ah, Patrick told me you had an appointment today, so I thought—”

She knelt in front of Danny. “Hey, buddy, remember what we talked about out? How our friend Mr. Doe is actually your daddy, Jason?”

Danny nodded and turned his beaming smile on Jake. “Yep. Can I have a dog? Mama says no, but maybe you say yes.”

Jake bit back a bubble of laughter at this little boy whose priorities were simple. “Ah, I don’t think so. Not right now anyway.”

“Oh.” Danny frowned. “You think about it.” He looked at Elizabeth, with a considering you. “Mama says I get another brother or sister. I got both now, but I don’ know ‘em. Mama says they’re in heaven.”

He felt Elizabeth tense beside him, not at the implication that Danny was related to their son, but that Sam had taken the time to tell him. “Your mama’s right. You had an older brother, Jake. He would have loved you so much.” She pressed a hand to her belly. “But you’ll have another one in about four months, maybe just before your birthday.”

“Awesome.  I make him do stuff.”

Even Sam laughed at that, then caught her brother as he passed. “Ah, can you keep an eye on Danny for about ten minutes?”

“Sure.” Lucas hefted his nephew in his arms, eyed Jake and Elizabeth before rounding the corner, Danny waving over his shoulder. “Bye, Daddy!” he called.

Jake’s breath caught—no child had called him that since Michael. Not even his first son. Elizabeth touched his arm. “You okay?”

“Yeah, um…” He looked to Sam. “Thank you. I—I know we haven’t talked—”

“By design.” Sam shifted. “I still—I don’t know what I’m feeling about all of this.” She crossed her arms, then uncrossed them, as if she didn’t know what to do with them. “I mean, it seems like it should be simple. You—you were my husband. I thought you were dead. Maybe for some people, it would make sense that we—that we would go back to that. Try to be that again.”

“Sam—”

Her eyes were damp, but she shook her head, holding up her hand to ward off his words. “And I’d be lying if I said that part of me doesn’t wish for it. That we could turn back time and be those people again, because part of me wants it for Danny. But it’s not the right choice.” She pressed her fist to her chest. “I’ll always love you, for how you changed my life and made me better. But I have a new life now, and Patrick—we have a family. We are a family.”

“I know,” Jake murmured. “And going back isn’t an option.”

Sam looked to Elizabeth. “And maybe this is just another sign that it’s always been you two. I used to be terrified Jason would wake up one day and realize what he’d sacrificed for me, for our relationship. That he’d realize it was you.”

“Sam—”

“When he woke up and saw you, before he knew who you were, who he was—it was you.” Sam nodded. “I can live with that.  I can live with knowing that it wasn’t a lack in me, that it wasn’t my fault. He loved you, and he loves you now.” She rubbed her hands together. “Um, we’ll work Danny’s visitation out at some point. Maybe ease into it slowly. You know? I just—I have to go.”

And she was gone, following in the wake of Lucas and Danny.

“Are you okay?” Jake asked Elizabeth, turning to face her fully. “I—”

“She’s right, you know.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “It was always you, for me. I tried other people. I might have even settled for Ric last spring if you’d really been Jake Barnes. But I wouldn’t have been happy. I loved you then, and I love you now.”

“What—” Jake took her hands in his. “Does that mean we’re ready to put our plans back on track? Because I haven’t changed my mind. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

He pressed his lips to hers, but drew back, remembering they were still standing in the middle of the hospital waiting room. “Maybe we should get married here,” he told her as they moved towards the hospital. “I fell in love with you again here.”

“I’m not getting married where I work.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. She held up the ultrasound of their son. “Let’s talk about something else. What are naming this kid?”

“I’ve always been partial to Eugene.”

“Oh…you have not…”

He eventually returned to using the name Jason Morgan, and he married Elizabeth just after Valentine’s Day—not in the hospital chapel, but the ball room at the Metro Court.

And when they brought their son into the world in early April, they eventually settled on David Jacob Morgan.

And they never looked back.

Is it safe to love you?

December 24, 2014

Note: This is a short ensemble story, told in the style of the movie Love Actually, in which there are lots of interconnected characters and stories. The people of Port Charles are ridiculously involved in each other’s lives, and I wanted to try and write something that represented all that.

This is my first time writing half these characters — Morgan, Nathan, this version of Lucas, Dante, Olivia, etc. It also features Jake/Elizabeth as he is on the screen at the moment.

It’s a sort of follow up to my short story, Other People’s Truths, and it saves me from having to write a sequel.

I wrote it in the style of the show with five segments. Nothing on the show happened after Thursday, December 18, 2014’s episode. I don’t know the paternity of Baby Jerome, nor do I know her name. I haven’t watched the show yet, so she’s Morgan’s daughter in this story because I can’t stand the thought otherwise. Ric hasn’t been released yet, etc.


Segment One

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Metro Court: Ballroom

If there was an ounce of tinsel left in the entire state, Olivia Falconeri couldn’t imagine where because it felt like the ballroom had vomited that particular decoration in streams of red, gold, silver, and green.

Christmas was good thing, she told herself as she stood next to her partner, Carly Corinthos-Jacks, and greeted the various guests.

“Ugh.” Carly wrinkled her nose and muttered under her breath Elizabeth Webber and Jake—what the hell was the man calling himself anyway?—walked past.

Olivia raised a brow. “I thought you and Elizabeth were past all that,” she said as she turned her back slightly to avoid making eye contact with Ned Ashton whose dark eyes swept his way as he entered behind Monica Quartermaine and her date. Of course Alexis Davis was on his arm.

Story of her damn life.

“We are,” Carly said, her eyes trained on her son Morgan as he walked in with her mother Bobbie Jones and brother Lucas, Kiki Jerome just behind them. “Just…something about seeing her with Jake bothers me.”

Olivia snorted. “Why, you want to sleep with him too?” she muttered.

“What?” Carly demanded. “No. I just…” She gestured to where Jake and Elizabeth were standing with Sabrina Santiago and Felix DuBois. “I’m sure he can do better.”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Whatever,” she muttered. She saw Alexis wave at her and, pretending not to notice, Olivia turned away.

Fifteen feet away, Alexis frowned and tugged on Ned’s tuxedo sleeve. He turned from a conversation with Monica and frowned. “What?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Olivia.” Alexis gestured towards the front of the room where Carly and Olivia were standing. “She just…looked away. She has a problem with me, doesn’t she?” She frowned. “No. It’s not with me. It’s about me.” She whacked his sleeve. “She likes you.”

“We’re in junior high again?” Ned asked dryly, stepping out of reach of Alexis’s next hit. “Of course she likes me. We’re friends.”

“Don’t you pretend I don’t know what I’m talking about, Ned Ashton. She wants to date you and I’m in her way.” When Ned just swallowed and looked away, she nodded. “Well, I can’t fault her taste.”

“Alexis—”

But Ned’s words were caught off when Sam Morgan stepped up to them. “Mom, you look great,” she said, embracing her. “I love that green on you.”

“Thanks. You look good yourself.” Alexis waved at Patrick Drake and his daughter, Emma, standing a few feet away. “I see you’ve decided to forgive Patrick.”

“We’re…” Sam turned slightly to offer the doctor a smile. “We’re working on it. I actually—” She cast an apologetic smile at Ned. “I’m sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to know if you’d seen Julian since he made bail.”

Ned scowled, but Alexis ignored that. “No, I haven’t.”

“Oh, okay.” Sam shrugged and returned to Patrick’s side.

“She hasn’t seen him?” Patrick asked her, reaching for her hand. Sam tensed, but forced herself to relax. She was going to learn to trust him again. If Jason had forgiven her for lying about Robin’s supposed death, she could find it in herself to forgive Patrick.

His heart had been in the right place.

“No.” Sam sighed. “I don’t even know what I’d say to him if I saw him right now. To know he was working with Faison…the man who killed Jason—” She shook her head. “I just don’t know what to do with that.”

“Did he know?” Emma asked in her bright voice. “Did your dad know that awful man hurt your husband?”

“Emma,” Patrick began.

“It’s okay. It’s a good question.” Sam smiled at Emma. “No, I don’t think he did, but I guess I just want confirmation of that.”

“Hey, there’s Cameron,” Patrick said, changing the subject and gesturing across the room. “Do you want to say hello to him and his mother?”

Sam winced, seeing Elizabeth on the arm of Jake Doe. “Ah, that’s probably not a good idea. For me to go, I mean.” She touched Emma’s shoulder. “I’m sure Cameron would love to see you.”

“Can I go, Daddy?” Emma asked. When Patrick nodded, she bounced on her feet and darted into the crowd.

Patrick eyed Sam. “What’s your issue with Elizabeth and Jake?”


Emma rounded a doctor from the hospital and stopped by Cameron. “Cameron! Hi!”

Elizabeth grinned and leaned down to kiss her son’s friend on the cheek. “You look fantastic, Emma!”

“Thanks.” Emma smiled shyly. “Hi, Mr. Doe.”

“I have to get a new last name,” Jake said, with a wince.

“Mom, can me and Emma go say hi to Spencer?” Cameron asked, his eyes lit up with an unholy glee that Elizabeth recognized all too well.

She sighed. “Yeah, but try really hard not to gloat too much. It tends to backfire with Cassadines.” The last part was directed at Cameron’s back as he and Emma disappeared into the crowd.

“That sounds like a good story,” Jake said, drawing her attention back to him. She rolled her eyes.

“Oh, God, more like a nightmare, but that’s not important.” She frowned. “How long do you think it’s going to take Sabrina and Felix with the drinks?”

“In this crowd?” he shifted, and tugged at the knot of his dark green tie. “You know, I don’t know much about who I used to be, but I don’t think I liked dressing up much.”

Elizabeth laughed and straightened his suit jacket, her fingers lingering on his lapel. “You look nice, though. I figured you’d clean up good.”

His mouth spread into a sheepish grin. “It’s just nice to finally wear clothes I bought for myself, thanks to Michael Quartermaine and the job working on his construction crew. And I’ll earn the advance he gave me.”

“I’m sure you will,” Elizabeth said, smiling back, but she looked away. Because now Jake had a job. Soon he’d move out to his own place. And he’d start making friends that weren’t her.

And that was fine. Mostly.


Spencer groaned when he saw Cameron and Emma approaching him. “Great. The townie.” He winced when Nikolas slapped the back of his head. “Hey!”

“Do not call Cameron a townie, or I swear I will buy the house across the street and make you live there,” he threatened. “Then who will be the townie? He’s your cousin.”

“Hardly,” Spencer responded with a dramatic roll of his eyes. “Aidan is my cousin. Cameron’s the baggage that comes with him—”

“I’m not having another Spencer and Cassadine feud on my watch,” Nikolas told him. “And his mother counts.”

“Whatever.” Spencer frowned.

“Hey, Uncle Nikolas,” Cameron said with his usual bright smile. “We were wondering if Spencer could come with us to go see Joss. We wanted to get milkshakes and Olivia said there was a kid’s table.”

Spencer huffed. “I’m on house arrest,” he told them. “Since I tried to run away and Great-Grandmother showed up.”

“You can go as long as you don’t leave the room or plot any world takeovers,” Nikolas told him, then watching as his son lit up and disappeared with Cameron and Emma.

“Why is my wonderful brother standing all alone over here?” a voice from behind him said. He turned to find his sister, Lulu Falconeri. “You should be the life of the party.”

“I have never been the life of the party,” Nikolas replied, hugging her. “Where’s your husband? Why has he let you loose on the world?”

“He’s with Nathan, having a pity party.” Lulu eyed a spot across the room where Dante Falconeri and Nathan West were sitting at a table, talking. “So, I hear Helena didn’t die again.”

“Yeah.” Nikolas shuddered. “I had a brief run in with her last week. She’s up to something Lulu. God only knows what it is this time. I don’t understand why she’s not dead.”

“My dad always thought it had something to do with a Faustian pact,” Lulu replied. She jabbed him in the chest. “You have not been by to see your nephew lately.”

“I haven’t seen either of my nephews lately,” Nikolas admitted. “It’s all I can do to keep Spencer in line. I’ll stop by tomorrow, I promise.”

“You’d better.”

When she returned to her table, Nathan was still talking about Maxie. “I shouldn’t have promised her I’d get her Georgie by Christmas,” he admitted as Lulu sat down.

“It does seem like a hasty choice,” Dante remarked. “Especially since you know, there’s nothing you could do.”

“I really thought Alexis could help.” Nathan leaned back in his chair. “I was so desperate I asked my mother to help.”

Dante choked on his beer. “Wait, what?”

“You asked Liesl Obrecht for help?” Lulu repeated. “Oh, hell.”

“I know.” Nathan scrubbed his hands over his face. “Clearly, I was desperate. I just…” He looked at them. “I want what you two have.” His eyes moved across the room, and Lulu twisted in her chair to see Maxie Jones with her cousin Lucas. “I wish I could ask her to dance.”


“You should probably stop staring at him.” Lucas patted Maxie’s arm. “Walters is here somewhere.”

“Oh, screw Walters,” she muttered. “I hope he falls off a cliff.”

“Hey,” Lucas put his arm around. “Maybe he’ll piss off a Cassadine. You know, I could probably call my father.”

Maxie let out a startled laugh. “Did you just offer to set me up with the mob? Lucas.” She pressed a hand to his forehead. “What is wrong with you?”

“I hope Michael shows up,” Bobbie said, stepping up to them. “But I don’t think he will. Not with Carly, Morgan, and Kiki here.”

“Yeah.” Lucas switched his attention to his mother. “How does it feel to be a great-grandmother now that Morgan is officially a father?”

“Oh…that’s not even remotely funny.” Bobbie bumped him with her hip. “That makes you a great-uncle.”

“Well, I have always been a great uncle.” Lucas grinned. “Nothing new there.”

“Hey, now that Morgan is the babydaddy, does he get to name her?” Maxie asked.

Bobbie nodded. “And they just signed the papers yesterday. They only waited so long to make sure Ava wouldn’t throw a hissy fit.”

“Well, what did they name her?” she demanded.


“It still feels weird,” Morgan Corinthos told Kiki. He held out his phone to look at another photo of his daughter. “She’s not the baby anymore or the girl, or just my daughter. She’s got a name now.”

“You don’t have to remind me,” Kiki replied. “I spent three hours going through the books with you.”

“I wanted something just right,” Morgan said. “Sophia Grace. I like it.”

“Do you think Michael will be here tonight?” Kiki asked. She stretched up on her toes and peered over the crowd. “I haven’t seen him since Diane served him with the injunction.”

“I’m not sure I want to see the jackass,” Morgan muttered. “Imagine throwing his brother and niece out at Christmas. He’s more like Dad than he’ll ever admit.”

“I just…wish we could have found some other way to resolve it,” Kiki said. “We were wrong, Morgan—”

“That doesn’t make him any less of an ass,” Morgan muttered. “Serves him right. If he wants to evict me, he’s going to have to come to court next month and look me in the face in front of a judge. It’s the only way he’s really going to get it—” He stopped when a familiar blond stepped through the door way. “Kiki.”

“Oh…he’s here.” Kiki twisted her fingers together. “Oh, oh, what now? Do you think he’ll talk to us? Maybe we shouldn’t go near him. What do we do?”

“I’m standing my ground.” Morgan set his face. “Look, maybe I lied, but it’s not like I wasn’t dealing with my own crap. Michael’s just like Mom. Everything’s about him.”

“Oh, God, Morgan, do not ever use that reasoning with him.” Kiki whacked his arm. “You chose your trouble when you crawled into bed with my mother. It’s not like Michael asked for this.”

“Christ. You’ll defend him until you’re blue in the face.” Morgan narrowed his eyes. “Wait, where did Michael go?”

Segment Two

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yule tide gay

From now on all our troubles will be miles away


Elizabeth smiled when she saw Michael heading her way. “Hey! Twice in one week,” she said, as he stepped up to them and kissed her cheek. “And don’t you look handsome in your tux.”

“Thanks.” Michael turned to Jake. “It’s good to see you again.” He offered his hand. “How’s the Courtland Street project coming?”

“In the two days since I started?” Jake asked with an arched brow. But he shook Michael’s hand. “Good, I guess. I haven’t cut off my hand yet, and it turns out I can mix some pretty mean cement.”

“Are the boys excited for Christmas?” Michael asked Elizabeth who nodded.

“Beyond. Cameron decided to give Aidan his old Chuggin’ Charlie train,” she told Michael. “It’s eight years old this year and looking pretty dingy, but it’s Aidan’s favorite thing to play with.” Her smile faded slightly. Jake had loved it, too. “All my boys love motorcycles, trains, and cars. Anything that moves.”

“Must be the time they spent with my uncle.” Michael hesitated. “Ah, you should know I talked to my mom about what we discussed—that I know that she lied to me about my name. I didn’t get very far because we just started arguing about Sonny, but eventually she’s going to come back to find out what I was talking about.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Oh, hell. I wondered what the dirty look was about.”

“I didn’t mention you specifically,” Michael clarified. “But never underestimate my mother’s ability to find someone else to blame.” He kissed her cheek again. “I have someone I have to apologize to.”

As Michael disappeared into the crowd, Elizabeth sighed. “Great. I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. Carly and I were getting along so well.”

Jake frowned. “What’s your deal with Carly? Do you guys have some sort of history?”

“Oh, just the same history I have with most of the women who knew Jason,” Elizabeth murmured. “He doesn’t even have to be alive apparently.” She pursed her lips. “Sorry, I know he…I know Jason comes up an awful lot.”

“It’s cool.” Jake tilted his head. “It doesn’t really bother me much. Did you say your son has a Chuggin’ Charlie?”

“Yeah, why?” Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “Do you remember what is?”

“I…” He shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. It just…sounds familiar.”


Michael frowned when he saw the way Morgan had angled himself in front of Kiki as he approached the two of them near the bar.

“Morgan, Kiki.” He cleared his throat. “I—I heard you found out that the baby is yours.” Michael shifted. “I’m glad.”

“Yeah, so glad you’re throwing us out on the street—” Morgan began, but winced when Kiki elbowed him in the back. “What? It’s not a lie.”

“It’s Christmas, Morgan. Stop being yourself for five seconds.” Kiki stepped from behind him and offered Michael a hesitant smile. “We named her Sophia.”

“I heard that, too.” Michael bit his lip. “I’m dropping the eviction,” he told them. “It’s…not important why. I just wanted you to know that before I ask to speak with Kiki alone.”

Morgan lifted his chin. “Not if you’re going to be an ass.”

“Morgan, go away,” Kiki ordered. “I can handle myself.”

“Yeah, but I’ll be right over there.” Morgan gestured towards Bobbie, Lucas, Maxie, and Carly. “So, you know, if she even looks upset—”

“I promise to behave,” Michael said, irritated. “Go away, Morgan.”

“Whatever. Dillhole,” his brother muttered under his breath.

“For the last time, Carly,” Maxie said as Morgan stepped up next to her. “I don’t hear from Spinelli all that often. We’re not allowed much contact.”

“I see my mother is making friends again,” Morgan said.

“I’m trying to be friendly,” Carly said, exasperated. “Fine. Lucas, where’s Brad tonight?”

“Working.” Lucas’s one word answer just made his sister narrow her eyes. “Should I elaborate on that so you can practice this friendly thing more?”

“All right, all right.” Bobbie waved her hand between her children. “To your corners.” She looked to Morgan. “This would be a great time to hear all about my new grand-baby. I want to see pictures.”

“Well,” Morgan reached for his phone with a grin. “You should have seen her smile today.”

With the crowd firmly focused on Morgan and his strange love child, Maxie slipped away towards the terrace.

She wished she hadn’t allowed her parents to convince her to come tonight. What if being here, just in the vicinity of Nathan would get her in further trouble?

And of course, there he was. On the terrace, leaning against the wall that overlooked the city. Her life sucked.

“I’ll go back in,” she said when he just looked at her. “I mean…you were here first—”

“Maxie.” He held up a hand. “Just—I wanted to apologize. I know I said I would make sure you saw your daughter tomorrow, but—”

“You were just being a good friend.” Maxie wrapped her arms around her waist. “I know that. But it’s my fault. I didn’t take Judge Walters serious. I…I really care about you, Nathan, but I can’t—I can’t be selfish.”

“I know,” Nathan replied. “I want you to be with your daughter. I hope Alexis’s appeal works—”

“You guys had better scram!” Lulu burst through the terrace doors. “Monica and Walters are headed over to this side of the ballroom. If they see you coming in together—”

Maxie squeaked and grabbed Nathan’s hand. “There’s a service entrance towards the hotel kitchens. I remember from when I worked here.” They disappeared around the corner.

“Hey, they stopped at the bar,” Dante said, joining Lulu on the terrace. “Where did Nathan and Maxie go?”

“Through the service entrance,” Lulu replied. “It opens into a hallway that links the ballroom and the kitchen.” She scowled, planting her hands on her hips. “This is ridiculous! Hasn’t Maxie been through enough this year?”

She narrowed her eyes when she saw the way Dante was smirking at her. “What? Why are you smiling?”

“Because considering all the reasons Maxie is in this particular mess with her daughter,” Dante said, drawing Lulu into an embrace. “It’s pretty sweet of you to be worried about her like this.”

“Oh.” Lulu frowned. “Well, yeah, what happened was pretty awful, but in the scheme of Maxie shenanigans? It’s not nearly as bad as the time she faked her pregnancy by my brother.” She sighed. “Maxie…you know she’s complicated. She tries so hard to be more than just herself. She has a lot to live up to.”

“What? Her parents?” Dante tilted his head. “Why do you say that?”

“Not her parents,” Lulu said, “but her cousin. And her sister. BJ and Georgie died when they were super young—you know Maxie has BJ’s heart, and she went through a really bad time after Georgie. I think she feels like people look at her and think…the wrong sister died.”

“It’s tough,” Dante agreed.

“It’s not just it’s tough, but it’s this impossible standard,” Lulu explained. “To always feel like you have make up for them not being here. To live for them instead of just yourself. She tries too hard to do the right. Way too hard. Which is how you get her rationalizing that giving us her biological child made sense.”

“It was a pretty huge sacrifice she tried to make,” Dante murmured. “And now that we have Rocco, I can’t imagine how she even did it for five minutes.”

“Because Maxie is much more than people give her credit for,” Lulu murmured.


Nathan promised to wait in the hallway for ten minutes before reentering the ballroom, so when Maxie stepped over the threshold, she was alone.

“Maxie!” Alexis rushed up to her. “I’ve been looking for you!”

“Oh, God.” Maxie sighed and smiled at Ned who looked annoyed. “What now? Did Walters put me under arrest or something?”

“No, I just got a text from the clerk’s office.” Alexis grinned. “You’ve been granted an appeal next Tuesday.”

“An—” Maxie swallowed. “An appeal?” She fisted her hands. “What—what does that mean?”

“It means you may not have your daughter for Christmas,” her lawyer told her. “But I might be able to swing New Year’s. There’s no way another judge is going to uphold Walters.”

“Oh my God!” Maxie squealed. In her joy, she embraced Ned and Alexis. “I have to find my parents!”

“It’s nice to finally give good news,” Alexis said, watching as Maxie disappeared into the crowd.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten our conversation,” Ned said. “I want to know how long I’m going to have to deal with the specter of Julian Jerome between us.”

Alexis blinked and looked at him. “I—Ned, I never pretended he and I…that it wasn’t…that I didn’t love him.”

“You…” Ned nodded. “You are absolutely correct.”


“My mother looks upset,” Sam said. “I should go check on her—” But Patrick put a hand on her elbow. “What?”

“You’re not getting out of this so lightly. I want to know what’s wrong with you and Elizabeth?” he asked. “I thought you were past all the stuff from before. That you’d buried the hatchet.”

“We did,” Sam admitted. “When Jason died. There just…didn’t seem to be a point to any of it.” She eyed Jake and Elizabeth across the room.  “If Jason were here, he’d be just as worried.”

“Worried about what?” Patrick frowned. “I’m not thrilled about her getting close to Jake, but he seems all right. Mostly. I mean…” He shrugged. “Things were fine at Thanksgiving, weren’t they?”

“Have either of you seen Spencer?” Nikolas asked, joining them. “He, Cameron, and Emma went to find Joss almost a half hour ago and I haven’t seen them.”

“Hell,” Patrick frowned. “That’s not good.”

Metro Court: Hotel Kitchens

“I want answers, and I want them now.” Olivia planted her hands on her hips and tapped her foot.

Joss nudged Spencer. “This was your idea, you fix it.” And then Cameron shoved him forward.

“Traitors,” the Cassadine scion hissed at the trio who just flashed innocent smiles at them. Ha. Like she’d believe that for a second. She wasn’t born yesterday.  “Ms. Falconeri, you look lovely this evening.”

“Oh, that’s not going to help anything,” Joss groaned. “You are not nearly as charming as you think you are.” She bumped Spencer aside. “Listen, Liv. This is my mom’s hotel, which means I can go anywhere I want to go.”

“Yeah!” Spencer nodded. “How did you find us anyway?”

“We’re going to get in so much trouble,” Emma told Cameron.

“That’s it. You’re all going back to your parents.” Olivia pointed towards the door. “March.”

Segment Three

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore

Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more


Metro Court Hotel: Ballroom

“Sam, I want to know what the problem is,” Patrick repeated and Sam looked around hoping for another interruption. She did not think this was the time and place to reveal her suspicion that one of Patrick’s favorite people might be falling for a sociopathic criminal.

“Why does Olivia have Emma and the other kids?” Sam said, her eyes brightening. “They look…”

“Guilty,” Patrick finished, as Olivia and the brood reached them. “Emma Grace.”

“It wasn’t my idea,” Emma said. “I swear.”

“Yeah, it was all Spencer!” Joss said.

“You suck,” Spencer snarled, jabbing her in the side. “You were supposed to blame Cameron—”

“I found them in the hotel kitchens near one of our large freezers,” Olivia said, putting a hand on Cameron’s head to keep him from lunging at Spencer. “So this one belongs to you.”

“Daddy, I was just—” Emma began.

“Not using your judgment,” Patrick said. “You can’t always blame Spencer—” he continued as Olivia dragged Spencer and Cameron by their arms towards Elizabeth. Joss followed a sullen glare.

“Oh, that does not look good,” Felix murmured, and Elizabeth turned to see her son and nephew heading her way. “I wonder what they did now.”

Elizabeth sighed when Olivia released Cameron’s arm. “What did you do?”

“Spencer was trying to set me up,” Cameron complained. “He wanted me to get Emma in trouble!”

“Hey, Joss blamed me, that doesn’t mean it was actually my fault.” Spencer scowled. “Why does everyone always assume I’m guilty?”

“Because you usually are.” Olivia sighed as she hauled Spencer and Joss across the room.

“Mom, I promise—” Cameron said.

“Don’t start, Cameron. I’ve told you not to get caught up in Spencer’s schemes, but you never listen.” She tugged on his suit jacket. “Now you have to hang out with your mother.”

“It could be worse,” Jake told him when Cameron scowled. “You could be stuck at home with your brother.”

“That’s true,” the boy admitted. “Aidan’s with Rocco and Grandma Lesley,” he reported to Felix and Sabrina. “They’re just babies. I wish Jake were still here. Two is always better than one.”

Elizabeth’s hand slid from Cameron’s shoulder and her face paled. She swallowed hard. “Cameron—”

“Sabrina!” Felix said almost a bit too loudly as Jake put a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder to steady her. “Tell us about the job Michael offered you.”

“Oh.” Sabrina nodded. “Yeah. He’s opening the clinic in AJ’s memory, and he wants me to be the head nurse, but I just don’t know. I mean, it’s kind of him to overlook what happened at GH, but…” She shrugged.

“He seems like a good kid,” Jake said. “It’s a shame what happened with his father, but his mom doesn’t seem so bad.”

Felix snorted while Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Wait until you’ve been here longer than ten minutes, Jake. You’ll learn.”


Olivia stopped by Carly, Lucas, Morgan, and Bobbie. “I found your kid in the kitchens.”

“Mom, would you please explain to the help that we own this hotel and therefore I can go wherever I want,” Joss said, stamping her foot and throwing Olivia a dirty look.

“The help?” Olivia repeated. “You are lucky you’re not my kid.” And with that, she disappeared dragging Spencer along with her.

“Jocelyn Jane Jacks,” Carly began.

“That is a seriously horrible name,” Lucas murmured to Morgan who snorted.

“We’ve got to do something about this sense of entitlement,” Bobbie said, shaking her head. “Joss, you know very well Olivia shares ownership in this hotel.”

“Only because my father gave it to her cousin,” Joss said, with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Right, Mom? That’s what you said last week—”

“Carly—” Bobbie sighed.

“Oh, suddenly this is my fault?” Carly demanded. “I’m going to go find someone who doesn’t think I’m a horrible person.” She took Joss’s arm and left the group.

“You know, I love my mother,” Morgan said after a moment, “but I’m thinking in this room, that’s a difficult thing to do.” He leaned around. “Oh, hell, she’s making a beeline for Michael and Kiki.”


“So, what did you want to talk to me about?” Kiki asked after a moment of silence. “Because if it’s about the injunction—”

“No.” Michael shook his head. “No. It was getting that notice a few days ago that made me realize how insane this all is.” He sighed. “I don’t want to be this person, Kiki. I try to tell myself I’m not going to say something, that I’m just going to stop it—and then…I don’t know. I step outside of myself.”

“You’ve been dealing with so much,” Kiki began.

“No, don’t excuse me.” He held up a hand. “I’m not going to get caught up in my anger. I talked to someone who made me realize it’s not what my father would have wanted.” He looked away. “Every time I turn around, I learn how much my mother has kept from me. How much she continues to lie.”

“I’m so sorry that I lied to you, Michael.” Kiki stepped towards him. “I’d take it back if I could. I just…I want to be there for you.”

“You decided to tell me the truth in the end,” Michael told her. “Not as soon as I’d want, but you could have kept lying. There was no reason to tell me the truth. But you decided to come clean, and you know, that’s something I’m thinking about. You told me even though you knew how angry I would be.”

“I don’t want to be another person who lies to you.” Kiki chewed on her bottom lip. “I don’t want you to be as angry with me as you are with your mother—but I promise you, there’s nothing else I’m keeping from you.”

“Which is definitely not something I can say about my mother,” Michael muttered. “I just found out she lied to me about my name. She told me Jason named me for Sonny. That he named me Michael Corinthos. And it was just another lie to serve her purpose.” He paused. “He named me Michael Morgan. Because everyone believed he was my father.”

“What?” Kiki’s eyes were wide.

“Who the hell told you that?” Carly hissed from behind them. Michael turned to find his mother standing, Joss standing next to her with her jaw dropped.


“Finally!” Olivia said, spotting Nikolas near the dessert buffet. “Nikolas, I have someone you’ve been looking for—”

But she stopped abruptly as she realized Spencer’s father was standing next to Ned and Alexis. She stopped in her tracks. “Ah.”

“Spencer…” Nikolas narrowed his eyes. “What did you do now?”

“Technically, I didn’t do anything,” Spencer told him. “I may have planned to do something, but the lovely Ms. Falconeri foiled my plot, so when you think about it—”

“I think—” Olivia swallowed and looked away from Ned. “There was something about framing Cameron Webber, but I’m not sure I got that right. I’ll leave you to it.”

She spun on her heel and headed for the terrace.

“Olivia, wait!” Ned called, following her.

Nikolas frowned and looked back at his aunt. “What is that about?”

“It appears,” Alexis said, slowly, “that Ned is fed up because I haven’t quite managed to put Julian in my past.”

“Aren’t we all?” he replied dryly.

“Hey!” Alexis jabbed a finger at him. “You, of all people, do not get to judge my bad taste in romantic partners.” And with that, she walked in the opposite direction.

“Women,” Spencer said with a sympathetic shake of his head. “What are you gonna do?”

“Don’t start.”


“Dante, Lulu!” Maxie halted when she saw that the duo were standing with Nathan. “Oh. Um.”

“I’ll go.” Nathan reached for his drink on the table.

“Wait, I think I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” Maxie grinned. “Alexis got me an appeal! I just know another judge is going to take care of this!”

“Maxie, that’s fantastic!” Lulu squealed and embraced her best friend. “Dante, did you hear that?”

“Because I’m standing right here, yes.” But he was smiling and clapped Nathan on the back. “Do you think your mother helped?”

“Your mother?” Maxie asked. “Oh, God, you asked Obrecht for help?”

“Well,” Nathan began.

“Ms. Jones.” Judge David Walters’ deep voice boomed from behind the group. “I see that you still aren’t taking me seriously.”

“Oh, my God!” Maxie groaned as she turned to face her worst nightmare. “What, did you plant GPS on my ass?”

“Young lady,” Walters began but apparently it was all Lulu could take.

“What is wrong with you?” Lulu demanded. “It’s Christmas for Christ’s sake. She’s my best friend, and Nathan is Dante’s partner. They’re supposed to be rude to one another and pretend they never knew one another? What is your problem anyway?”

“What’s going on here?” Monica asked, stepping up next to them. “Lulu—”

“Monica, how could you date someone like this?” Lulu asked.

“Lulu,” Maxie said, her eyes wide. “I don’t think this is necessary—”

“I mean, do you even know the crap he’s putting Maxie through?” Lulu ignored her and stepped right up to Monica. “C’mon, you of all people must know how horrible it is to be separated from your children.”

Monica paled, while Dante groaned. “Lulu, knock it off—”

“I think you’d better tell me what’s going on. Right now.” Monica turned her attention to her date. “You’re the judge on Maxie’s case?”

Metro Court Hotel: Hallway

“Olivia, wait—!”

Oh, hell. If she kept hauling ass to her office, she might be able to close the door. Surely, he wouldn’t just barge right in.

But she didn’t quite trust that, so she turned abruptly and Ned nearly ran right into her. “What?” she demanded.

“Uh.” Ned swallowed, backing up a bit. “I wanted to talk to you.”

She lifted her chin. “So talk.”

“Ah.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Listen. I-I was wrong before. About you. And me. And Alexis.”

“Well, that clears it all up.” Olivia folded her arms. “I’m busy here, Ned—”

“There’s no second chance with Alexis for me.” He stepped closer to her. “I want to take you to dinner—”

“You mean you finally wised up to the fact she was using you to forget about Julian Jerome?” Olivia cut in. “That you’re her second choice? Well, news flash, Ned. I don’t want to be yours.”

And she walked away. Fast. Because if she thought about it, she might jump him and that would be hell on her new sense of self-esteem.

Segment Four

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough


Metro Court Hotel: Ballroom

Cursing under his breath, Ned returned to the ballroom only to find his aunt arguing with her date for the evening. As Ned drew closer, he overheard the words Maxie, bastard, son of a bitch—

“Is everything all right?” he asked, stepping up to the group which included Dante, Lulu, and Maxie, all of whom looked upset. “Monica?”

“David is the judge on Maxie’s custody case,” Monica said, her cheeks flushed with anger. “Who took away her daughter—”

“Monica, this really isn’t something I can talk about with you,” the judge said, with his hand up as if ward off an attack. “It’s unethical—”

“Oh, because cornering Maxie on a date with Nathan here at the hotel was so ethical!” Lulu spat. “You just don’t like that he lied to you!”

“Where’s Alexis?” Ned asked Dante.

“Nathan went to find her,” Olivia’s son responded. He eyed Ned with a suspicious eye. “Where’s my mother?”

“Ah—”

“Monica,” David began again.

“You cannot keep this woman from her child because you don’t like her boyfriend,” Monica snapped. “And Lulu tells me you used our lunch together at the hospital as evidence as against her—”

“Nathan’s a good man and a good cop who just got shot in the line of duty,” Lulu cut in. “You know, Maxie, we should have thought of this before—let’s take it to the press!”

“The press?” Maxie repeated. Her eyes narrowed. “Yeah. Let’s talk to the newspapers. My lawyer knows Julian Jerome—”

Ned sighed and rolled his eyes. Fantastic.

“—and he runs the local paper. And I bet I can find someone who’d listen to me. Just wait until they find out how you’re maligning poor Nathan—”

“Let’s not be hasty,” David said with a patronizing smile. “Perhaps some consideration is order—”

“Ned, can you help me find my lawyer?” Maxie asked with a dazzling smile. “I think Alexis needs to get Julian on the phone.”


“I told the two of you to be careful,” Alexis sighed as she and Nathan moved towards the scene in the front of the room. “Seriously. I got an appeal, not a miracle—”

But Maxie broke through the crowd before they could reach their goal. “Alexis! Nathan!” She was nearly bouncing in excitement. “Monica totally freaked out on Judge Walters and then Lulu threatened him with the press—”

“Because Nathan is an upstanding member of society,” Alexis said. “Did it work?”

“He vacated the ruling!” Maxie threw her arms around Nathan. “We can date. And Spinelli can bring Georgie to me!”

Nathan lifted her off her feet and spun her in a circle. “That’s fantastic!”

“Oh, I’m so glad, Maxie.” Alexis offered her temporary client a brief hug.

“I want to tell my parents!” Maxie took Nathan’s arm and dragged him away. He offered a wave before a crowd enveloped him.

“Hey, Aunt Alexis.”

Alexis looked down at the small voice next to her and narrowed her eyes. “Where’d you tie up your father?”

“I’m small, it’s easy to duck under people,” Spencer offered with a grin. “How come you’re alone again?”

She huffed. “That’s a damn good question.”

“I’m alone, too,” Spencer said. “Because Emma prefers Cameron. I don’t get it. Is it a Cassadine’s fate to die alone? Maybe we expect too much. That’s where I went wrong with Emma, I think.”

“And now I’m getting advice from a ten-year-old.” Alexis pressed a hand to her temple.


“Have you seen Spencer?”

Elizabeth turned and rolled her eyes. “Nikolas, when are you putting that kid on a leash?”

“As soon as I find him this time, we’re going home.” Nikolas looked down at Cameron. “Do you know where he is?”

“Joss has shown him a lot of places to hide in the hotel,” Cameron reported. “Can I help Uncle Nikolas, Mom?”

Elizabeth sighed. “All right, but Nikolas, try not to lose my kid as well.” She grinned because they both knew she was teasing, but he scowled anyway.

He disappeared into the crowd, her son in tow.

“Spencer seems like handful,” Jake said from beside her. “Isn’t that the second time Nikolas has stopped by looking for him?”

“He’s a bit mischievous,” Elizabeth allowed with a half-smile. “I think it comes from the amount of moving around he’s done, and sometimes, suffering from a bit of a too much time with nannies. His mother died when he was born, and Nikolas’s fiancée was murdered later. It was a rough few years. For all of us.” She sighed and looked away.

“You were close with his fiancée?” Jake asked.

“Best friends.” She pursed her lips. “Emily was more of a sister to me than my own. It’s been eight years since she died, but God, it still feels like yesterday.” She rolled her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I feel like I’m always bringing up people I’ve lost.”

“It’s fine.” Jake wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m just sorry you’ve had so much loss.”

“Elizabeth!” Bobbie stepped up to them, and squeezed her hand. “So, Carly and Michael just had a bit of a fight.”

“Oh, hell.” Elizabeth saw Carly’s blond head waving towards them from halfway across the room. “Michael dimed me out.”

“Well, I love my daughter, but I think she’s had this moment coming for a very long time.” Bobbie flashed a smile at Jake. “Hello, you must be Jake. My grandson has mentioned you.”

“Oh…” Elizabeth put a hand on Jake’s sleeve. “Jake, this is Bobbie Spencer, one of my favorite people in the world even if she is Carly’s mother. Bobbie, this is Jake Doe. He’s staying with me.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Bobbie shook Jake’s head.

“I think we need to change locations,” Elizabeth said. “Maybe find Dante and Lulu?” she suggested.

“Oh, but before that…” Bobbie gestured towards the space above their heads. “Bad luck to ignore the mistletoe!”


“I’m sorry for my mother’s interruption,” Michael said, his eyes looking past Kiki to where his mother was making a determined beeline for Elizabeth. Joss had escaped during the confrontation, so God only knew where his sister had ended up.

“Should you go ahead her off before she finds Elizabeth?” Kiki asked, half-turning to follow Michael’s eyes.

“Elizabeth can take care of herself. She’s got a lot of history with my mother.” Michael looked back at her. “Kiki—”

“You forgive me,” she interrupted. “And I don’t hold anything against you. Does that mean…” She licked her lips. “Can we just…be together again? I love you—”

“I love you, too.” Michael brushed his fingers against her cheek. “But this last year—you lied to me more than once. And I’ve hurt you. Not just…with the way I spoke to you. But there was Rosalie—”

“Michael, none of that matters—”

“In this moment, maybe not,” he allowed. “But tomorrow? The day after that? I don’t want to pretend we haven’t done damage to this.”

“And I don’t think we should throw it away.” Kiki stepped closer to him. “Trust has to be earned, I get it. But Michael, I love you enough to try.”


“Looks like that’s starting to work out,” Lucas murmured to Morgan as they both watched Kiki and Michael talk in hushed tones. “Is that okay with you?”

“Look, my family is screwed up enough. My mother used to date your father, but you’re also my uncle. I was once married to my daughter’s sister, and my brother dates her.” Morgan glanced at Lucas. “Kiki and me? We had fun. But it’s over now. She’s good for Mikey.” He glanced down at his phone whose new wallpaper was his little girl. “I’m going to go home and concentrate on my daughter.”

“And I’m going to go try to save the world from my sister,” Lucas said.


Dante found his mother talking to a server near the bar. “Hey, Ma! Did you hear Maxie’s good news?”

“It’s been going through the room since the fight was pretty loud.” Olivia embraced her son. “Your first Christmas with your boy! I remember when you were that young.” She sighed and ruffled his hair slightly.

“You okay, Ma?” He touched her shoulder. “This…this has been a rough year.”

“But this is going to be a better year.” She leaned her chin on his shoulder to look up at him. “You and Lulu are better than ever. Maxie has her life together, her daughter will be back. I have a fantastic job. It’d be easy to dwell on the things I don’t have—” She shook her head. “But I have so much.”

“Come over with me and Lulu. We’re toasting to Nathan and Maxie—”

“No, no…” Olivia kissed his cheek. “You go be with your friends. I have a lot to do tonight.”

As Dante disappeared into the crowd on the left, Ned emerged from the right. She pressed her lips together and turned away.

“Olivia, you’re not going to get away from me that easily,” he said. He took her by the elbow and gently turned her back. “I’m not satisfied with how we left things.”


“Crap, my father found me.” Spencer sighed as he saw his father and Cameron pass Felix and Sabrina and make a beeline for him.

“Well, it was bound to happen,” Patrick said.

“We’re going home,” Nikolas announced. “Sam, Patrick. I hope he’s not bothering you.”

“No, I saw him heading towards the door with Joss,” Sam said, “so I corralled him until you passed by. I had a feeling you were on the hunt of my young cousin.”

“Farewell, my lady.” Spencer bowed with a flourish to Emma as his father dragged him away. Cameron scowled after him.

“Sam—”

She rolled her eyes. “Emma, do me a favor? Can you walk Cam back to his mother?”

“Sure!” Emma chirped.

When they were gone, Sam looked to Patrick. “Fine. I think Jake held me hostage. And I told Elizabeth, and she laughed in my face.”


Lucas caught his sister’s elbow just before Carly was able to reach Jake, Elizabeth, and Bobbie. “Walk with me, sister dear.”

“You know, you never used to be this bossy,” Carly said as he steered her into the hallway by the elevators. “What’s your problem?”

“You’re going after Elizabeth because she told Michael about Jason pretending to be his father,” Lucas said. “Seriously.”

Carly scowled. “How do you even know?”

“This is a small town with an even smaller ball room.” Lucas stepped towards his sister. “I don’t know exactly what Elizabeth told him, but knowing her, she probably sugar coated it.”

“Ha! You all defend her.” But Carly folded her arms and looked away. “She didn’t know the worst of it anyway.”

“Michael was smart to go to her, because she’s been around forever and knows everyone. Carly, you were a horrible person.”

“That’s not…” Carly looked down. “I know that, but why does Michael have to know it too?” Her eyes were damp when she met his. “I was horrible, Lucas. But I’m not that person now—”

“No, but you’d also rather pretend it never happened. You didn’t want Michael to learn from someone else that Jason named him Michael Morgan?” Lucas arched a brow. “Then you shouldn’t have lied. Again.”

“I just…He changed his name.” Carly sucked in a breath. “He threw away all the plans I had for him—”

“And he’s making his own. Look, I should hate you.”

Carly bit her lip. “I guess.”

“My mother should hate you. Instead, we made you part of our family.” He touched her shoulder. “I had another sister once. I had BJ. And the only way my mother ever really recovered from losing her was finding you. You weren’t a replacement, but you filled part of her heart.”

“Lucas—”

“It was hard to let go of what happened to my father,” Lucas continued. “But I managed it. Because most of the time, I know you’re a better person now. But you have got to stop white-washing it. Michael has a right to know about his own life. He had a right to know AJ, the way I have a relationship of sorts with my father.”

“Lucas—” Carly tried again.

“Michael is never going to forgive you if you don’t own your mistakes and stop lying to him.”

Segment Five

Here we are as in olden days

Carly blinked and sighed. “So going after Elizabeth for just doing what I wouldn’t….” She pursed her lips. “Not a good idea huh?”

“Probably not going to help your case with Michael, no,” Lucas said.

“Then I’ll take your advice this time.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks for being a good brother.”

As she disappeared back into the ballroom, the elevator door opened and Brad Cooper stepped out. He grinned. “Lucas!”

“Hey!” Lucas kissed him. “You broke free of Obrecht early?”

“Yeah, let’s go have some fun.”

As Lucas and Brad stepped inside, Nikolas all but dragged his son towards the bank of elevators.

Why do you have always to push me?” Nikolas asked, jabbing the down button.

“Because it’s fun,” Spencer admitted. “It could be worse.”

“I fail to see how,” his father responded.

“Well, I could be Uncle Luke. Or Grandfather Stavros or Great-Grandmother Helena. Or hey, even like Uncle Sonny.” Spencer beamed. “Those are all worse.”

Nikolas paused to look at him as the elevator opened. “When you put it that way, a smart-ass is better than all those options. You’re still grounded.”

“I figured.”

Happy golden days of yore

“Sam—” Patrick blinked. “You think Jake—” He stepped away, in the direction where she knew Jake and Elizabeth were standing. “Sam—”

“Hey, I have no proof…” Sam caught his arm. “And I made a mistake telling him and Elizabeth I suspected him. So don’t make it worse. Let’s just…play it cool.”

“Fine, but if he hurts one hair on her head—” Patrick began.

“He’ll pay for it.” Sam frowned and looked around. “Have you seen my mother lately?”

Metro Court Hotel: Lobby

Faithful friends who are dear to us

Alexis stepped out of the elevator and stopped in her tracks when she saw Julian Jerome standing in front of her. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m coming to see you.” He tilted his head and offered a smile. “Where are you going?”

Maybe we expect too much.

And maybe the ten-year-old had a point. “I’m coming to see you.”

Julian grinned as he reached for her hand to draw her close. “What about Ned?”

“He found someone better.”

Metro Court Hotel: Ballroom

Gather near to us once more

“Ned, I really don’t think this is a good idea—” Olivia began. “I told you, I don’t want to be your backup plan—”

“It’s scary, isn’t it?” Ned stepped closer to her, so close she could smell that delicious aftershave that made her head feel a bit lighter. “Starting something new. Particularly when you really care about someone and you don’t want to lose the friendship you have—”

“Yes, well…” Olivia twisted her fingers. “That’s…why I said no to you, but—”

“It can be tempting to stick with what you know. To take a familiar path.” He grinned. “But you know what? I think I want to try the road less traveled.”

Olivia sighed. She wasn’t a martyr after all. “Dinner. But I make no promises.”

Through the years we all will be together

“If he hurts my mother…” Dante began as he watched his mother smile up at Ned Ashton.

Lulu patted his hand. “Ned is fantastic and he’ll be the best thing that’s happened to her since she hit town.” She glanced across their table at their companions. “It’s been a good night for all of us.”

“I think she has my smile,” Maxie said, showing Nathan another photo Spinelli had sent to her on her phone. “Did I show you this one yet?”

“Three or four times.” He grinned. “But I’m more than happy to see them again. I can’t wait to meet Georgie.”

“I can’t wait either.” Maxie sighed, her eyes shining. “I’m finally going to get it right, Nathan. And everyone’s going to be so proud of me.”

“They already are,” Nathan said. He leaned forward to brush his lips against hers. “This is going to be a great year.”

If the fates allow

Michael sighed when he saw his mother coming back towards her. “I’m not in the mood for another go around,” he began, tucking Kiki behind him slightly.

“I know.” Carly sighed. “I just wanted to apologize for earlier. And for lying. Again. I hate that Elizabeth told you, but…” She shrugged and looked away. “It’s not like she lied. So if you have questions, I promise to tell you the truth.”

He eyed her, and she rolled her eyes. “And you can double check the facts with Elizabeth or something.”

“This doesn’t change anything,” Michael told her. “I think I’m better off without you in my life—”

“Michael,” Kiki murmured. “Don’t—”

“But I don’t want to fight every time I see you either.” He sighed. “So let’s declare a cease fire.”

She frowned, but nodded. “I’ll take it.”

Carly turned and caught Jake and Elizabeth across the room. Something about that just set her teeth to clenching, but she was not going to say anything.

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough

“I’ll go distract Carly.” Bobbie patted Elizabeth’s shoulder and moved away.

Jake glanced up at the spring of greenery over their head. “So. Mistletoe.”

“Hmm…” Elizabeth bit her lip. “So.”

He grinned. “I think I’ve had enough bad luck to last me a while, so…” He brushed her hair behind her ear and leaned down.

His lips brushed hers, and then he stepped back with a frown. She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes a bit. “What?”

“It’s just…” He looked down for a moment then back, up. “It was like—”

“Deja vu?” she suggested. “I know what you mean.”

Jake rolled his shoulders, then grinned again. “Hey, maybe we knew each other in a past life.”

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

The End

April 12, 2014

Set after April 28, 2003, I think the episode after Ric kidnapped Courtney and Jason confronted Elizabeth or something. I barely remember what happened on Bones last week much less the nonsense on General Hospital a decade ago. (OH MY GOD, was it really a decade ago?)


Good Intentions
Tag: 4.28.03

Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m not telling you anything.” She glared at Jason and started to stalk towards the door. Jason grabbed her arm and spun her back around.

“If you don’t tell me, he’ll kill Courtney, is that what you want?” Jason demanded.

Elizabeth yanked her arm out of his grasp. “Go to hell,” she spat.

“Wait a second,” Carly cut in. Her brown eyes were panicked. “What about Courtney, where is she?”

“Ric knocked me out and took her,” Jason reported, ignoring Elizabeth’s scoff. “Sonny’s on his way to meet him, but Ric told him he put Courtney somewhere else.” He glared at Elizabeth. “Where would he take her?”

“Why should I believe a word either one of you say?” Elizabeth demanded. “Neither one of you would know the truth if it bit you in the ass.”

Carly took a deep breath. “Elizabeth, I know it’s difficult to believe this right now, but Ric is not the man he obviously led you to believe he was.”

“Stop it!” Elizabeth cried. “Why are you saying these things?”

“Because they’re true,” Jason snapped, impatiently. “Damn it, Elizabeth. You’re smarter than this.”

She whirled around and glared at him. “Don’t you dare presume to tell me what is and what is not true, do you understand me? I don’t believe a damn word you say!”

“I have never lied to you before,” Jason shot back. “So–”

“That’s a load of shit and you know it!” Elizabeth retorted. “You lied to me about Sonny and you lied to me about Courtney, so don’t try and act betrayed when I have a little trouble trusting you.”

Carly rolled her eyes. “Oh, do not tell me you’re still clinging to the idea that Jason was cheating on you. Grow up.”

Elizabeth glared at her. “Yeah? So why don’t you tell me why they were always together, claming to be friends and then poof, they’re sleeping together? Tell me how that one happened.”

“You think I was seeing Courtney behind your back?” Jason sputtered. “When in the hell would I have found time for that?”

Elizabeth’s eyes burned with tears. “I wouldn’t know. I never saw you.” She took a deep breath and looked at Carly. “All right. I’m going to ask you straight out and I want an honest answer. Do you honestly believe that Ric raped you?”

“Yes,” Carly said immediately. “Yes, I do, Elizabeth. I am sorry you got mixed up with–”

Elizabeth held up a hand. “Spare me the apologies. We both know you don’t mean it.” She folded her arms tightly. “Offhand, I can’t think of anywhere he’d take her, but he, ah, probably would have taken her some place that you can’t get to easily, but in plain site. You know, since he hasn’t lived here long.” She frowned and bit her lip. “There’s a construction site down the street from his apartment. Maybe there’s something there.”

“Thank you.” Jason left without another word.

Elizabeth wiped her tears away and turned to Carly. “I’m sorry for calling you a liar, but this isn’t easy for me,” she whispered. She started towards the door.

“Elizabeth, wait.” Carly took a step towards her and ran her hand through her hair, placing her other hand on her hip. “I hope you believe me when I tell you that I am sorry you got mixed with Ric.”

“If what you’re saying is true, then he’s either really good at lying or I’m just a schmuck,” Elizabeth murmured. “You’d think I’d learn to spot a liar by now, but apparently not.”

“Jason didn’t start seeing Courtney until after you left him,” Carly said quickly, not sure why she was telling this girl anything, but feeling the need to make her feel better in some way. She’d been dealt with a harsh dose of reality today and Carly didn’t feel right about her leaving like this.

“He probably didn’t,” Elizabeth allowed. “But I think she factored into why he decided I didn’t exist anymore. I can’t remember the last time we talked without yelling at each other or me blowing up. One day, we were together and the next I wasn’t even a blip on his radar,” she said softly.

“Have you ever tried to talk to him about it?” Carly asked, trying to suppress the sympathy she felt. Elizabeth had walked out on him, after all.

“He doesn’t understand,” Elizabeth said. “He thinks this was because he lied to me, and yeah, that’s part of it. But–” she stopped and shook her head. “I don’t know I’m telling you any of this.”

“Could you stay here?” Carly found herself asking. “Just until I hear from Sonny or Jason. Because I swear, just sitting here by myself is going to drive me up the wall.”

“Why would you want me to stay?” Elizabeth asked, surprised.

“Because the only friend I have this world other than Sonny and Jason has been kidnapped,” Carly remarked dryly. “And you’re about all that’s left.”

Elizabeth sat down and sighed. “Must be nice.”

Carly frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Having friends who’d do anything for you. Having friends to worry about when they’re gone, who worry about you when something’s wrong.”

Carly sank into the seat next to her on the couch. “Oh, please. Don’t play this with me. You have got tons of friends.”

“I used to.” Elizabeth glanced at her. “How did Sonny take it?”

“Take what?” Carly asked.

“The…thing about Ric.”

Carly shrugged. “He’s been good about it. I didn’t expect him to believe me, but I was thankful when did. I thought he’d think I was dirty at first, but he loves me just the same.”

“That’s good,” Elizabeth replied. She stared at her hands. “It’s good that you’ve got your friends around you. You’re gonna need them. Especially Sonny. I know after it happened to me…” she trailed off and shook her head. “I didn’t sleep for almost a week. Every time I closed my eyes…”

“If you don’t mind me asking…how long has it been?” Carly asked.

“Six years,” Elizabeth murmured.

“S-six?” Carly echoed. She did some mental math. “Jesus, you were only what? Fourteen?”

“Fifteen. It was a few months after my fifteenth birthday,” Elizabeth replied quietly. “Sometimes it feels like it’s been decades. And other days, it feels like–” She stopped.

“Feels like what?” Carly asked softly.

“It still feels like I’ve just crawled out of the snow,” Elizabeth breathed. She swiped at her eyes again. “There are some details that will stay with you, no matter how much you try to forget. The texture of the bench I was sitting on, the damp snow, the cold ground…”

“The smell of the sheets, the shag carpet and the yellow sink,” Carly said shakily. “I don’t know what’s worse, not remembering or remembering everything.” She rubbed her hands together. “On the one hand, you can remember it and your nightmares will replay it in your mind.”

“And on the other hand, you’re left wondering what happened. You have no idea what he did to you,” Elizabeth finished. She took a deep breath. “God, I hope I don’t have a nightmare about it tonight.”

“Does it happen often?”

“Not anymore,” Elizabeth replied. “But if I think about it or the anniversary is approaching–”

“It must be horrible, living like that.” Carly shook her head. “I don’t know what I’d do.”

“You get used to it after a while. It becomes a part of your life, something that it’s in your history, part of who you are.”

“I am sorry that it happened to you Elizabeth,” Carly told her sincerely. “I can’t imagine being that young and dealing with it as well as you apparently have.”

Elizabeth smirked. “You should have seen me in the year or so afterwards. I was scared of shadows, scared of everyone I knew. If someone sneaked up on me, I’d scream.” She frowned a little. “I was scared of Jason, too.”

“Scared of him?” Carly repeated. “Why?”

“I didn’t know him that well. He’s so…big, you know? And you hear things about him.” Elizabeth shrugged. “But I was scared of pretty much every guy that wasn’t Lucky, Luke or Nikolas. It’s kind of what happens when you have no idea who did it.”

“Did they ever find him?” Carly asked curiously.

“I found him by accident,” Elizabeth replied. “I was helping Emily find out who was blackmailing her and they turned out to be the same guy. He’s in jail for what he did to her.”

“How’d you meet Ric?” Carly asked suddenly.

Elizabeth frowned and looked at her. “What?”

“I’m just curious. How did you meet him?”

“I was at Luke’s” Elizabeth smiled a little. “It was the night Alcazar was killed, actually. I was waiting with Lucky to meet with Luke’s psychiatrist and I went up to get our drinks. Ric was at the bar…” she trailed off. “He was watching Sonny and you, probably.”

“Probably,” Carly replied. “I remember that night. I don’t remember Ric offhand, but it makes sense that he was around then.”

“He was looking inside the windows of Kelly’s later that night. He was pretty rude at the time, but I guess eventually–” Elizabeth looked away. “Oh my God…”

“What?” Carly asked.

“He didn’t startacting remotely interested in me until after I told him that I knew Sonny. Up until then, he’d been a jackass, really.” Elizabeth sighed and bit her nail. “He used me.”

“More than likely,” Carly replied. “Hey, I bought his act, too. Right up until Valentine’s Day.”

“Valentine’s Day?” Elizabeth asked. She frowned. “That’s when it happened?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I–” Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s just a strange coincidence, that’s all. I–I was–it happened on Valentine’s Day for me.”

“Huh,” Carly murmured. “That is strange.” She glanced at Elizabeth. “You’re not as awful as I thought you were.”

“You either.” Elizabeth smiled weakly at her.

The penthouse door flew open and Courtney and Jason came in. Courtney glared at Elizabeth. “What are you doing here?” she snarled.

Elizabeth stood. “I suppose that’s my cue to leave.” She looked at Carly. “Thanks for the conversation. It was interesting.”

Carly stood. “Maybe we could talk some more?” she suggested.

“I’d like that,” Elizabeth said softly. She turned to the duo. “I’m glad you’re all right, Courtney–”

“Save it,” Courtney cut in. “You helped Ric get away, you’re the reason any of this is happening!”

Elizabeth sighed and started past her. Courtney grabbed her arm, stopping her. “Will you let me go?” Elizabeth asked, tiredly.

“Courtney,” Jason said, putting a hand on her arm. “Just stop it. I wouldn’t have found you if it weren’t for her.”

“I bet Elizabeth was part of the plan,” Courtney said, ignoring Jason. “Isn’t that right?”

“You’re just being ridiculous now,” Elizabeth sighed. She arched her eyebrows. “You gonna let me go now?”

“God, Elizabeth, do you hate Jason that much that you’d try to set him up?” Courtney cried.

“Wait, what?” Elizabeth asked, frowning. “Are you delusional?”

“Courtney, just stop it,” Carly said. “Elizabeth wasn’t in on any of this–”

“I mean, you did tell Jason exactly where Ric shoved me, didn’t you?” Courtney accused.

“I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t,” Elizabeth replied, irritated. She yanked her arm away. “Can I go now?”

“Who is Ric and what does he want from my brother?” Courtney demanded.

“Believe, at this point, if I knew, I’d tell you,” Elizabeth replied. “I just hope he gets what he deserves and if I ever see him again, it’ll be too soon.”

“Oh, sure, Elizabeth, play the innocent victim,” Courtney snarled. “But I think we all know the truth.”

“What, that you’re a paranoid delusional nitwit? Yeah, I think we’re getting that,” Elizabeth retorted. “You know what, Courtney? I’m sick of this. I’m sick of your accusations, I’m sick of your petty little comments about how much Jason loves you, I’m just plain sick of it all. When you grow up and start acting your age rather than your shoe-size, maybe then–” she shook her head and chuckled bitterly. “You know, even then, stay the hell away from me.”

She glared at the blonde for a moment before stalking out of the penthouse.

Courtney rolled her eyes. “My God, what a drama queen.” She turned to see Jason and Carly staring at her. “What?”

January 30, 2014

I’m standing on a bridge/I’m waiting in the dark/
 I thought that you’d be here by now/There’s nothing but the rain/
No footsteps on the ground/I’m listening but there’s no sound
Isn’t anyone trying to find me?/Won’t somebody come take me home?


Inspiration and Timeline

This is a set of stories that begins in late May 2003. Ric has been revealed and taken care of. Elizabeth learns she was just part of the plan. Emily has learned about Zander and Elizabeth’s one night stand and left her alone. Lucky and Elizabeth have spent a lot of time together while Jason and Courtney are still dating.

The inspiration for this story came, ironically, from listening to an Avril Lavigne song, and I’ve quoted the pertinent lyrics above. I remember thinking at the point Ric pretended to sleep with Carly (and let’s just call it what it was–an emotional rape) that Elizabeth was so isolated on the canvas of the show at that point, where would she go if she, a rape victim, discovered she’d been dating a rapist? The show never really delved into that part of the storyline, and they missed an opportunity I think. But anyway 😛

Thanks to the girls at LU for all their wonderful encouragement in writing this, particularly Cathy, Pia, Waheeda, Maja, and Nicole. This is some of the best writing I personally think I’ve ever done.


Characters

Jason Morgan
zander

Stories


Inspiration

I fell in love with Patrick and Robin literally from the moment I saw them, and my love remains strong. I have four characters on this show that can do no wrong — Elizabeth, Dillon, AJ, and Patrick. Patrick appears to be the only character the TPTB love as much as I do.

So North Star was my first attempt at a semi full-length Scrubs fic, but I didn’t quite have a handle on either of their characters, it meanders a bit but not in a bad way. My second attempt at a Scrubs story was much better: Sanctuary.

Timeline

This story begins after Patrick and Robin have their first date in January of 2006, shortly before the virus story that killed Courtney. Which, I cannot state enough, was the one gift Guza came me in like seven years. I still celebrate February 20 as a personal holiday. Everything is should be self-explanatory.


Characters

robin

Chapters


Inspiration

Let me take you back to July 2006, a brighter, happier time. It was the summer of the great Liason reconnection and we still were naive as a fandom to believe that this time would be different. This time would be special. Foolish children. *cough* Anyway.

The first spoilers about August 2006 and the blackout came and we were told, as we always are that NOTHING WOULD EVER BE THE SAME. Except, this is GH. So within a few months, it was all the same. Ric was the villain, Sam was the martyr, Elizabeth was back with Lucky, Dillon walked away from Lulu to stay with Georgie — everything changed for about five minutes. As it always does when GH promises us it’s all going to hell in a hand basket.

But among these spoilers was the holy grail for Liason fans: Our couple was finally going to do the nasty. I did not trust GH to do this the way I would do it, but in only this one circumstance–GH surprised me. They wrote the Liason Night of Passion (Forver known as NOP) better than I ever could.

And they promptly screwed it up by having Jason go back to Sam, and Elizabeth go back to Lucky. FML. This is the point where the banner year of 2006 starts to dip in quality. They start taking the safe ways out. And do not get me started on the paternity debacle.

So, I was inspired to write the blackout based on spoilers. That’s what the first part of this story, Choose Your Moment, depicted. And then someone wanted a sequel, and then I got an idea. So here we are.

Timeline

SO! If you don’t remember this momentous event (and why should you? GH’s momentous events are never as momentous as promised), here are dirty details.
+ Elizabeth found Maxie and Lucky together three times in about forty-eight hours, so my girl is pretty annoyed with life.
+ Jason and Alexis both saw Sam and Ric doing the dirty at separate times. Carly was kind of separated from Jax at that point, in the wake of the Oh-btw-John-is-Nikolas’s-son debacle. I don’t remember the details and they’re less important.
+ Dillon and Georgie are having issues because Georgie, for some reason I cannot fathom, flirted with Diego Alcazar, one of the dumbest characters to cross my screen in many moons. Lulu has discovered she’s pregnant from her night with Dillon, but the two are angry with one another.
+ Patrick and Robin are kind of seeing each other, but he’s reeling from possibly contracting end-stage AIDS during a surgery.

And, theoretically, that’s all the information you need.


Characters

Jason Morgan lulu_julie
robin
maxie_young sam georgie_teen

chooseyourmoment
Part One: Choose Your Moment

Part Two: Look After You


noel


Background

A challenge from Christmas 2005, with Jason having the brain issue (that brought me the delectable Patrick Drake, so I can live with it), but before his surgery in which Jason is visited by three ghosts of Christmas, as in The Christmas Carol. Um back then, Elizabeth and Lucky are married; Jason and Sam are together (but I disliked her, which is easy to tell from this), Carly was in the loony bin, and Emily was hanging out with Sonny a lot.


Characters

robin aj

Chapters

January 29, 2014

Carly Corinthos was having a very bad day, thank you very much. She’d overslept, missed a meeting with suppliers at the hotel and then had to cancel lunch with an investor for a new club because her pregnant cousin needed someone to drive her to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment because the useless moron who had impregnated her had had some sort of family emergency. Carly always dropped everything for Lulu because she wanted the girl to know that someone was at least on her side in all this. As long as Lu didn’t feel alone, she might not do any Carly-like things and screw up her life.

And her day was getting worse after running into Sam at the hospital and seeing her all teary over Alexis, who’d been sick for months and had hidden the illness. If Carly had a husband as annoying as Ric and a daughter as useless as Sam, she would have hidden it too. You just couldn’t depend on people to take care of things for you–especially not your kids. Sam had been all teary-eyed because she and Jason were still not back together and the only way to shut Sam the hell up was to promise to talk to Jason.

She’d talk to him, he’d ignore her and then with any luck, she could go home, eat dinner with her boys and maybe this day would end better than it had started.

She shoved open the penthouse door (Carly Corinthos never knocked and didn’t intend to start, knocking was for people who had time to waste and she didn’t) and shrieked. “Oh, my God, I’m blind!” She slapped her hands over her eyes.

A brunette squeaked and fell off the couch, grappling for something to cover her naked body.

“Carly,” Jason Morgan glared at her and tossed Elizabeth Spencer the t-shirt from the back of the couch. He tugged a pillow over his middle. “What the hell do you want?”

“Can’t talk, traumatized.”

Elizabeth sprang to her feet and tugged the shirt down further, as if it didn’t already come very close to reaching her knees. She looked around frantically and found Jason’s jeans tossed over the pool table. She skirted around the sofa and tossed them to him. “Ah, Carly–”

“Oh, god I wasn’t hallucinating,” Carl whimpered, “you really are here.”

“Carly,” Jason growled, sliding into his jeans and pulling them up around his waist. He zipped them but didn’t bother with the button. “What do you want?”

“Is it safe to look yet?” Carly asked, not moving her hands.

“Oh my God,” Elizabeth muttered, dragging her fingers through her tousled curls. “Carly–”

“Carly, take your damn hands from your eyes and tell me what you want,” Jason said shortly.

“Okay, okay…” Carly reluctantly slid her hands away and breathed in relief. “Good, you’re somewhat decent.” Still, she felt somewhat nauseous and damn, Jason looked pissed. She must have interrupted him before he could finish–oh, God, she was going to be sick. “Um, so my reason for coming here is obviously moot now.”

“Just say it and go,” Jason replied, irritated.

She frowned and glanced at Elizabeth before looking at Jason oddly. “How long has this been going on anyway?” She gasped. “Is this why you really broke up with Sam?”

“Oh my god,” Elizabeth repeated. She leaned against the pool table. “This isn’t happening to me.”

Jason strode forward, grabbed Carly’s hand and shoved her into the hall. He joined her, shutting the penthouse door behind him. “From now on, you knock,” he instructed, jabbing a finger in her face.

“Do you intend on screwing the muffin in the living room often?” Carly demanded. Her face paled. “Oh, God, I’m never going to get that image out of my brain. I’m going to havenightmares.”

“Carly,” Jason said, his teeth clenched. “You will knock from now on. And you’re not going to tell anyone about this, or so help me God–”

“Don’t worry, I will never forget to knock again,” Carly assured him. She narrowed her eyes. “And why can’t anyone know?” she demanded. “Does the brat still think she’s too good for her? Well, you just give me five minutes and I will have her teeth knocked out–”

“Carly.”

It was that tone that told Carly she might have gone too far. The glare on his face, the clenching of his jaw. Clearly, keeping this a secret was important and he wasn’t asking her, he was demanding her to comply. She narrowed her eyes. “Jason, look, I’m not about take an ad out in the paper about this. Believe me, I don’t even want to know this is going on. But you deserve better–”

“No, Elizabeth’s son deserves better,” Jason cut in. “He needs to be safe and the only way he can be is if no one knows.”

“That’s not fair to you–” Carly began again.

He sliced his hand through the air. “I’m not going to push her away like I did before, like I did to Sam. It doesn’t work. But this way everyone gets what they want and what they need. So you’re keeping your mouth shut, Carly, and you’re letting me have this.”

She closed her mouth and nodded. “Okay. Okay.” She hesitated. “So I guess coming over here to talk you into giving Sam another chance is not going to work right?”

“Probably not,” Jason said, exasperated.

She shrugged. “I only agreed so she’d leave me alone. Geez, Jason, what did she do that was so horrible–” she stopped. “Nope, don’t even tell me. I’m better off not knowing.”

“Carly,” Jason called as she started for the elevator. “And you’re not allowed to tease, torment or in anyway use this information against Elizabeth in public.”

“I would never,” Carly said, insulted. Damn him, he knew her too well. She jabbed a button. “And damn you. You always take the fun out of having a secret.” She stepped onto the elevator and heard the door to the penthouse open and close. She did not want to think about what was going in there now.

This was definitely a bad day.