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 31, 2018

Notes: I was really disappointed in the GH anniversary episode. The flashbacks were nice, but they didn’t feel all that connected to what was happening on the screen. It felt like random people put in the room. Also, Elizabeth didn’t get nearly the kind of prominence a character like her deserves. So I rewrote the episode, and yeah, it’s heavy on Elizabeth and Jason. That’s who I am as a writer, and it’s also where I think they should be. They’re two hugely popular legacy characters with a deep history and connections to basically everyone on the show. They’ve also barely shared any screen time in the six months Steve has been back. Also. I’ve killed off Audrey. Rachel Ames retired; they ought to let Grams go in peace.

So this doesn’t use all the vets the show did, but I still tried to do the same stories. Writing Mike’s scenes was hard. My grandmother is dealing with dementia, so I wrote his conversations to mirror the way my grandmother slips in and out. And the regret and worry I feel for me and family. I hope you like this.

Update: I wrote and published this on March 31, 2018. On April 21, 2018, my grandmother passed away in her sleep after a short battle with dementia. She had been on hospice, a fact that was not shared with my side of the family because my uncle had taken over her care and refused us access. I don’t think I could have written this story after that fact.  This will likely be the last story I write for a while referring to Mike’s storyline.

Song Credit


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Metro Court Hotel: Restaurant

In our times of trouble

Sonny Corinthos stepped off the elevator and smiled. He had asked Carly to arrange something that would remind them all of Luke’s, the jazz club he’d owned with Luke Spencer a lifetime ago, where his father had tended the bar, and as always, Carly had gone the extra mile.

She’d closed the restaurant for a week, redecorated with dark paneling, a stage that looked very similar to the one B.B. King had rocked on the opening night, and a long dark bar had replaced the restaurant’s smaller, modern modern feel.

“What do you think?” Carly whispered in his ear. She wound her arm through his, the sparkling silver of her dress catching in the dim lighting. “Do you think it’s too much? I never spent a lot of time at the club, but Mama helped. She said it brought back a lot of good memories.”

“It’s—” Sonny took a deep breath. “It’s perfect. I just…for a minute, I thought I was back there. I didn’t even know how much I missed the old place until—” He shook his head. “Until Mike broke into the gallery, I hadn’t even thought about the club in a decade. Not since…”

We only had ourselves
Nobody else

“I didn’t know you when you and Luke were close, but—”

“It cut something in me when he blamed me for Lucky’s death,” Sonny murmured. “He was one of my best friends. Like a brother. I loved that kid. I’ll never forgive myself—”

“But you didn’t—”

“Better security would have kept Helena Cassadine’s goons from stealing that boy’s life. From devastating his family.” Sonny looked over, caught sight of a brunette smiling, laughing with his mother-in-law. “You invited Elizabeth.”

“Yeah.” Carly sighed. “Yeah, I did. I wasn’t going to, but then Mama reminded me all of the years she worked at Kelly’s—and well…” She winced. “This night is about family, right? She’s Jake’s mother. Like it or not, we’re stuck with her.”

“That’s sweet,” Sonny said dryly. “It’s been twenty years. You ever gonna forgive her?”

“For what?” Carly rolled her eyes. “She’s the twit, not me.” And with that, his mercurial wife moved over to the bar to check on last minute additions. Sonny looked at his watch, then pulled out his phone to call his sons to make sure Mike was on his way.

No one there to save us
We had to save ourselves

“I can still remember the first time I was at Luke’s,” Elizabeth Webber said with a smile as Bobbie Spencer passed her a glass of wine. “Amy Vining won a dance contest. There was so much music, so much laughter.” Then her smile dimmed. “And then Nikolas—”

“That was a terrible night,” Bobbie said with a soft sigh. “But Jason was there. And he saved his life.” The redhead turned to find the enforcer deep in conversation with Anna Devane. The two of them looked as though they were arguing, so Bobbie turned her attention back to her former niece-in-law. “I imagine things have been…awkward since he came home.”

“Awkward.” Elizabeth’s lips pressed together as she stared into the wine. “That isn’t…even half of it. I’ve barely spoken to him.”

And when the storms came through

“Really?” Bobbie lifted her eyebrows. “I would have thought with Jake—”

“It’s not like I haven’t wanted to,” Elizabeth cut back in sharply. “I just—Franco—” She closed her eyes. “You know how everyone always gets when Jason and I breathe the same air. Lucky. Ric. Sam. Courtney. Even Carly. They always seem to think we’re just…waiting to go back to each other.” She sipped her wine. “We made our choices.”

“Mmm…” Bobbie nodded. “I know how people are. I know how my daughter is. I just didn’t know you and Jason gave a damn about any of that.” She eyed Elizabeth’s hand with its missing engagement ring. “None of those people are here tonight.”

They found me and you
Back to back together

“I’ve finally managed to convince Robert to give us a hand,” Anna Devane was saying when Jason tuned back into their conversation. “He’s been the devil to track down on this last assignment—”

“I don’t know what help you think he could give me,” Jason muttered. He was tired of everyone treating him like he couldn’t solve his own goddamn problems. Even if part of him thought maybe they were right.

“Well it’s not about help,” Anna said, with some impatience. “But it is clear that neither of us are able to see the big picture. I’ve been looking back of what we have so far—what we managed to glean from Faison—and it strikes me that we’re missing a rather big part of the puzzle.”

“And what’s what?” Jason demanded.

“The Cassadines,” Anna said simply. “And few people know the Cassadines better than Robert. He helped save the world from them. Luke’s out of commission. But Robert—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. The Ice Princess. What about the Cassadines?”

“Well, I’ve just thought it odd we haven’t given them enough thought. Helena had a chip in Drew’s head when he first came back to Port Charles. And she held your son hostage for several years.” Anna gestured across the room where Elizabeth was standing with Bobbie, now joined by Mac Scorpio and his wife Felicia. “And Valentin sent Ava to that clinic where you were being kept. They are the common factor in all of this.”

“They’ve always been interested in playing with people’s heads,” Jason said, almost absently as he remembered the flashing angry eyes of Lucky Spencer and the switchblade he’d held in his hand.

“Precisely. I thought Robert could give us a perspective—”

“Great. Let me know when he gets here,” Jason said, and then abruptly walking away to find Carly.

He didn’t want to think about any of this any more tonight.

And when the sun would shine

The elevator doors opened, and Mike Corbin stepped out, clad in a tuxedo that matched his grandsons behind him. Sonny grinned and stepped forward. “Hey, Mike. Welcome back to Luke’s.”

He took in Mike’s astonishment, felt his smile slip slightly. What if Kevin Collins had been wrong? What if bringing back all of this would just upset his father?

He always felt like he couldn’t do anything right. He never knew what he would say, what would he do to trigger Mike’s irritation, his anger. Kevin could tell Sonny all he wanted that it wasn’t his fault, but damn it, didn’t it have to be somebody’s?

Maybe if he’d been a more forgiving son, a better brother to Courtney—maybe he and Mike could have been closer. What if Mike hadn’t left Port Charles? Sonny would have seen the signs earlier. Medication—something—

It was yours and mine
Yours and mine forever

“We thought it might be nice to bring back some old memories,” Michael said easily as he clapped a hand on his grandfather’s shoulder. “Dad says you were one of the best bartenders in the city.”

“The state, he told me,” Dante offered. “Maybe you want to make us some drinks and settle it.”

Mike swallowed, his eyes looking around. “You…you changed the whole restaurant for this—”

“I’ve been thinking of decorating,” Carly said as she stepped up to her husband, sliding her arm through his. A comfort at his side—thought if twenty years ago, anyone would have told him that Carly would be his solid rock of Gibraltar, he would have though they were insane.  “We don’t have a good old fashioned blues club anymore. Maybe we should invest in one.”

“Maybe.” Mike clapped his hands together with a smile. “Where’s the bar? Let’s get this party started.”

Oh how the years go by

“I can’t think of Luke’s without thinking of Georgie,” Felicia Scorpio murmured to her husband as she took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. “Do you remember that night?”

“I do,” Bobbie said dryly.

“Oh, I think Lucky told me about this,” Elizabeth said. “You had her in the club, didn’t you?”

“I did. I went into labor right at Luke’s.” Felicia pressed her fingers to her lips. “It doesn’t seem right she’s been gone now for so long.”

“Ten years.” Mac stared down into his beer. “It feels like yesterday. And now, with Maxie—” He shook his head. “I’m sorry. This isn’t—”

“We tried to get her to come tonight. To just get out of the house, but I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t push.” Felicia chewed on her bottom lip. “What do you think?”

Bobbie glanced at Elizabeth, tilted her head. “What do you think?”

“What?” Elizabeth blinked. “Oh. Well…I know it’s not the same, but when I thought Lucky was gone—I tried to go back to my old life. Go out with friends. I went to Luke’s, too. But I always felt…pressured to be okay. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me, you know? So I pretended.” Her fingers tightened around the stem of her glass. “Until I almost drowned in the lie.”

Oh how the love brings tears to my eyes

“Oh.” Felicia’s eyes misted over. “Oh, sweetheart. But yes, yes that’s exactly what I think it is happening. We keep trying to bring her out of this, and God knows, Lulu is annoying her with trying to make Maxie forgive her—I just—”

“I don’t want her spin out like she did after Jesse,” Mac said roughly. “I know it’s not a good memory for you, either, Elizabeth—”

“She was so much younger then,” Elizabeth offered. “I always understood it. Lucky was her port in the storm. Her way of feeling normal. She was desperate to find anything that made her feel like she was still part of the world. I felt that way, too. I just…” She lifted a shoulder. “I found someone who would just listen, you know? That’s what she needs. Someone who doesn’t want to fix her. Who makes it okay to live with her memories. Some days are going to be bad. She’s going to want to drown in her grief. And some days are going to be better.”

“We’ll do better.” Felicia touched her arm. “Thank you. I appreciate your advice. And if you and Maxie were on a better footing, I’d say you could be that person—”

“It’s very easy to latch on to the first person you see, to the first person who makes you feel normal.” Elizabeth sighed. “And it’s easier to lose yourself in that lie. But Maxie is stronger than that, Felicia. I promise you that. She’s your daughter. And Mac didn’t raise any fools.”

“On a happier note,” Bobbie said. “Do you remember your first wedding?” she asked Felicia. “The double one with Kevin and Lucy that wasn’t?”

“Oh, of course. One of my favorites.” Felicia took Mac’s hand in hers. “Even if I messed it up later. Elizabeth!” The memory slipped back into her head like lightning. “You caught the bouquet!”

Elizabeth’s startled laughter rang out over the room. “Oh, my God. I completely—I did, didn’t I?” Her cheeks flushed. “I caught it more with my hair, but yeah. Oh, my God. I can’t believe I forgot that.” She shook her head. “It feels like a lifetime ago.”

“It does.” Felicia smiled up at Mac brightly. “We’ve been through hell, you and me, huh? But here we are.”

“Exactly where we’re supposed to be.” He pressed his lips to his wife’s. “You can’t fight destiny.”

All through the changes the soul never dies

“He’s going to be a father,” Carly said, taking a seat next to Jason and setting another Rolling Rock down in front of him. “Can you believe it?”

“No.” Jason exhaled slowly, following Carly’s gaze where Michael was laughing with his grandfather and brother. “I can remember the first time I held him. Bobbie had to show me how—” He stared down at his hands. “He was so small. I was so afraid I would screw it up.”

“I used to feel guilty about abandoning him that first month, that I missed most of his first year,” Carly said. “I still do, but God, looking back, it kills me, Jason, that Michael is the only child you got to raise.”

“I’m—” Jason’s throat tightened. “That’s not true. I’m spending time with Danny now, and—”

“But you’re still not seeing Jake—”

“That’s not—it’s complicated.” Jason shifted. “And you act like I never saw Jake before the accident. I was there when he was born. I held him—”

“Only for Elizabeth to give—”

“Stop.” Jason shook his head. “Just don’t do this, Carly. Jake is my son, and it’s complicated right now. But it’s getting better. He’s alive. I got a miracle. You think I care that he doesn’t love me? I don’t need him to love me. He’s alive, and he’s breathing.”

“Right.” Carly closed her eyes. “Right. Of course. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I guess I still— I blame myself for that, too. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to keep her out of your life, I don’t know, maybe she wouldn’t have lied—”

We fight, we laugh, we cry

“It wasn’t just you,” Jason muttered. He stared down at the table. “And it’s not your fault. Not entirely. You and Sonny didn’t help, but I didn’t let her tell me anything. I told her it was better Lucky was the baby’s father. And she…”

“Thought it meant you didn’t want him,” Carly said. She tilted her head. “You never told me that before.”

“Yeah, well….” Jason tipped his beer back, took a long swig. “Sometimes it’s easier to forget that the reason Jake isn’t in my life, that he had Lucky at all is as much my fault as it is Elizabeth’s. More.”

“Oh, I doubt—”

“I asked her to marry me ten minutes before I found out Michael was shot, Carly. I stepped away from her. From the boys.” He shook his head. “I have to live with that, not Elizabeth. The first year, maybe that’s on her more than me. But the next three? It’s my fault. So stop blaming Elizabeth for everything that’s wrong in my life.”

“I don’t blame her for everything,” Carly muttered. “I don’t think global warming is her fault.” She looked across the room to find Elizabeth with her mother. “Mike said he talked to her in the church. The day she was supposed to get married. I had forgotten he knew her.”

“Well, she worked at Kelly’s with him and Tammy for years.”

Carly tilted her head. “Do you remember everything about Elizabeth? Good God. I bet you even remember the first time you saw her. No, don’t tell me.” She wiggled her shoulders. “I don’t want to know.” She waited. “No, I do. Tell me.”

Jason sat back, in a mood to rile her up. “Actually, it was at Luke’s. The first time I remember seeing her. The night Nikolas Cassadine was shot. She was with her sister in the parking lot.”

Carly glared at him. “In the middle of the parking lot, while you were performing an emergency tracheotomy, you noticed Elizabeth Webber.”

As the years go by

He shrugged. “I always know who’s around me when shots have been fired. But that’s not what you meant is it? You mean do I remember when we first became friends?” He leaned forward. “What exactly are you asking?”

Carly hesitated. “I’ve been shoving Sam at you pretty…strongly since you came home. I did the same thing when Drew was supposed to be you. I tell myself it’s because I want you to be happy, and you and Sam were married when you….left. But part of me…part of me knows that’s a bunch of bull. Because Drew was going to marry Elizabeth. And I wanted you back in my life. I don’t get to have you when she’s around.”

“Carly—” Jason closed his eyes. Shook his head. “That’s not true.”

“It’s not, no, but I guess…” Carly chewed on her bottom lip. “I guess part of me always remembered when you were hurt. When you were shot. You pushed me away—yes, you had your reasons and they were good ones, but all I felt was rejection. And I knew I was losing you. You told me you loved me, but it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel true when you said it.”

“I thought it was,” Jason admitted. “I was wrong. I’m sorry—”

“I don’t want to go back to that,” Carly told him. “I don’t—that part of our life is over. I can honestly say I haven’t thought about you that way in decades. But I will always associate losing you with Elizabeth Webber coming into your life, so yeah, I’ve gone out of my way to demolish her in your eyes.” She smiled sourly. “I don’t think I’ve been good at it, huh?”

“You’re my friend, Carly, and I love you. But no. You need to worry about your own family. I can handle my own life.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Carly sighed. “I’m going to go check on the caterer. You should go talk to Monica. She’s been eyeing you up since she came in, and she’s still hesitant to come near you without some sort of engraved invitation.”

There were times we stumbled

“Luke’s seems like it was a pretty cool place,” Dante said, taking a seat next to his brother. “Whatever happened to it?”

“I’m not sure,” Michael said with a shrug. “Dad owned it until that fire with Jason’s garage, and he sold his interest to Luke. I think Luke closed it after Laura got sick.” He looked at the bar. “He seems like it’s a good night tonight.”

“Yeah, it seems that way. I just—” Dante exhaled slowly. “I don’t know how many of those nights we have left. It’s crazy, you know. We can be having a conversation, and he knows me, but halfway through his own sentence, it’s like he forgets me. We were talking about Rocco’s baseball team, and he was telling stories about Sonny playing stickball—and he asked about my ma. Like she wasn’t my mother. He didn’t know who I was.” His voice faltered. “He and I were never close, you know, but he’s always been good to me. And Christ, Michael, it scares the crap out of me.”

They thought they had us down

“Because it could be genetic,” Michael said. He exhaled slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, Dad was saying something about that. I guess I got lucky. I only got addiction in my genes—”

“Yeah, we Corinthos men got the winning hand. Bipolar disorder, dementia…can’t wait to see what else is in store.” Dante shook his head. “I don’t mean that. I’m sorry—”

“Hey, don’t apologize, man. We can’t say this stuff to Dad. He’s already got enough guilt over Morgan.” Michael rubbed the back of his neck. “Grandfather—Edward, I mean—he was sharp until the last few weeks. Even bedridden, he was always there. I mean, he drove me insane, and I wish like hell I had gotten to know him better.” He stared into space. “I’m glad he died before he found out about Jason going off that pier. That he didn’t live to see the last six years.”

“Losing ELQ would have killed him.”

But we came around

“It was never the company,” Michael said with a shake of his head. “I know everyone always thinks Grandfather was obsessed with business, and he was, don’t get me wrong. But it was what ELQ was supposed to represent. It was supposed to be family. He used it to keep the family tied to each other. That’s why he gave out the stock in his will. To make us sit in a room together. We just…never got the hang of it.”

“Do you think about AJ?” Dante said after a long moment.

“Yeah. A lot. Especially now that I’m about to be a father. I think a lot about what it must have felt like for him to always have to prove himself to everyone in his life,” Michael replied. “To constantly have to prove his worthiness to be my father. I wish I had known him better. And I feel guilty I let Dad back in, you know? He shot AJ. He killed him. And he lied to me for months.”

“Sonny raised you, Michael. No one blames you for not being able to forget that—”

“I blame me. He’s father, and I love him. But I can’t pretend it’s not different now. I know Mom wants me to figure out how to get Nelle out of my life, and I get it. Part of me even agrees, but then—”

“You think about who you thought she was.”

“Who she might still be,” Michael corrected. “I don’t know what kind of mother she’ll be. I just—she deserves the chance to do right by our child. I owe my father that. He spent his life drowning in the bottle, lying, stealing, cheating. Trying to live up to an image. And trying to be my father. Nelle…reminds me of him. She lies like someone people breathe, and I know it’s about protecting herself. Mostly.”

“She also loves to stick it to your mother.”

“Yeah, well, Mom doesn’t really endear herself to many people. And she’s got good reasons not to like Nelle either.” Michael shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess…I’m interested to see what happens when the baby is born. How Nelle handles it. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Does that make me an idiot?”

“It does,” Dante told him. “But you know, if part of you sees this as atoning for letting Sonny back in your life, then well, who I am to argue? The bastard shot me, and here I am in his life. I let my kid call him Grandpa. We’re all stupid sometimes.”

How we rolled and rambled

Elizabeth flashed a hesitant smile as she stepped up to the bar where Mike was carefully measuring out a drink. “Hey. Word has it you’re making a mean pomegranate martini tonight.”

Mike’s face, so familiar to her, creased in a wide smile. “Elizabeth! The prettiest girl in the room! I was wondering if you’d come over to see me. You want a pomtini? Coming right up.”

Elizabeth slid onto the stool. “You look like you’re having a good time tonight.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s a good day.” Mike nodded. He measured vodka into a shaker, followed by the pomegranate mix. “I still remember you, though.” He tapped his temple. “Hard to forget you with Tammy and Ruby always yelling at you for breaking something or forgetting an order.”

Elizabeth laughed, covered her face with her hands. “Oh, man. You remember how bad I was in the beginning? I was hopeless.”

“Nah. You were young.” Mike shook out the glass. “And you were never meant for that life. Waiting on others. You were supposed to be an artist. Tammy always thought you would set the world on fire.”

Elizabeth sighed and accepted the drink he handed her. “Well, life gets in the way. That’s…that’s not my life anymore.”

“Can’t let that happen. Can’t let excuses get in the way.” Mike hesitated, looked across the room at his son. Elizabeth twisted to follow his gaze where Sonny was talking to Carly. “I have a lot of regrets, Elizabeth. I made so many choices out of fear. I didn’t think I could be a good father, so I ran. Twice. And even when I showed back up, I wasn’t the kind of father my kids deserved. And now…I’m starting to forget my little girl.” Some of the mirth fell from his face. “So few of us remember her. And once I don’t—”

“I remember her,” Elizabeth said. She reached out and squeezed Mike’s hand. “I remember when Spencer was born. How hard she fought for him. Nikolas and Jax aren’t here to tell him that. Laura doesn’t know. I do. Sonny does. We’ll keep her alive for him.”

“You’re a good girl, Elizabeth. Always was. Don’t let Ruby get you down. You’ll be a great waitress yet.” He handed her a bottle of Rolling Rock. “Jason looks low on his drink. Why don’t you take him his order?”

Elizabeth’s throat clenched. Just that quickly, Mike had slipped away from her. Away from the evening. Didn’t remember that that she’d never worked at Luke’s. That she’d given up waitressing more than a decade ago—but she flashed him a smile, picked up her drink and the bottle. “Sure thing, Mike. I hope he still gives good tips. I’ve got my eye on some new shoes.”

“Flash him that pretty smile. You can’t go wrong.”

We got lost and we got found
Now we’re back on solid ground, yeah

Jason sat down at his mother’s table, wishing he had stopped at the bar to get another beer so he’d have something to do with his hands.

Nothing made him feel more awkward than a conversation with the woman who was the only mother he’d ever known. “I’m surprised to see you here tonight.”

“Oh.” Monica lifted a shoulder. “I wanted to be here for Mike. I’ve never changed the way I feel about Sonny and Carly, but they’re apart of your life. And Mike has always been good to me.” She cleared her throat. “How are you doing? We haven’t spoken much since—”

“I haven’t really talked to anyone,” Jason admitted. “I’ve tried to focus on finding out who did this more than…”

“How to pick up your life again.” Monica tilted her head. “It must have been a shock to come home, to find out that you had two sons. Especially Jake.” Monica looked at the bar where Elizabeth was sitting with Mike. “I wasn’t kind to Elizabeth through all of that. And after learning she’d lied about Drew—this whole town turned its back on her. I haven’t been as close to Jake as I would have liked.”

Jason furrowed his brow. Elizabeth had suggested things had been difficult after she’d kept the secret of Drew’s identity, but they hadn’t gotten into it.

They hadn’t spoken about much at all.

“Finding out Jake was alive was a miracle I didn’t—I don’t deserve.” Jason paused. “And Danny—yeah. We’re—it’s a lot.”

“Jake has been close to Drew. It—” Monica waited. “I don’t want to draw any comparisons because I don’t know how fair they are, but I wonder if it was anything like I felt after your accident. You were my son. The little boy I had raised into a man, but you didn’t know me. And you didn’t trust me. You turned to other people for support. To Sonny, even to Bobbie. They became your family.”

Jason clenched his fists at his side. “We all made decisions back then—”

“I don’t blame you. And that’s not why I brought it up. I just…I guess I wanted you to remember how you felt. Being told these people were your family when you didn’t know them.” Monica lifted her hands. “I just wanted to give you some advice that I wish I had listened to back then. I wish anything that Alan and I could have those months back. To do it again.”

“What could you have done differently?” Jason asked. “I’m not as angry as I used to be. I used to—Every thing used to be black and white to me. Right and wrong. I didn’t understand all the things in the middle. I didn’t understand how the Quartermaines could treat one another the way they do and still claim to love each other.”

“Oh, Jason—”

“I’m not entirely sure I get it now,” Jason admitted. “But I know hard it is to be a father. To make choices that you want to take back. You and Alan—even Edward. You all did the best you could.”

“I appreciate that.” Monica reached across, squeezed his hands. “But we could have all been more patient. That’s what I’m suggesting to you now. Jake doesn’t know you. And maybe there a lot of reasons for that that I don’t know about. He doesn’t know you. But he will. And if you’re lucky, if you’re patient, and you just keep chipping away, he’ll change his mind.”

“I know. I can believe that.” Jason squeezed her hands back. “Because I couldn’t have imagined being part of the Quartermaines twenty years ago. And today, I know you’re my mother. And I wish I had been able to let Alan—to let my father back into my life. To get to know Grandfather again. I wish we all could have given each other another chance.”

“Hey, I’m sorry to interrupt,” Elizabeth said with a hesitant smile. “But Mike…forgot who I was while he was talking to me, and he wanted me to bring you order.” She held out a bottle of beer to him. “And I just—I went with it to make sure he didn’t get upset.”

We took everything
All our times would bring

“Oh.” Monica sighed, looked at the bar. “I should go say hello to him. Elizabeth, it’s good to see you. How are the boys? Cameron is what, thirteen now?”

“Fourteen in a few weeks..” Elizabeth flashed a more natural smile as Jason accepted the beer from her and set it in front of him. “I really don’t understand how he’s going to be in high school next year. Aiden’s obsessed with Captain America, and Jake is going through art supplies almost faster than I can—” She broke off. “I mean, they’re fine.”

“I haven’t seen them in a few weeks. We should do something for Jake and Cam’s birthday next month.” Monica got to her feet. “I’ve been meaning to ask you if I could spend more time with Cam and Aiden. I know they’re not mine biologically, but—”

“Oh.” Elizabeth blinked. “Oh. That would be, um, great. It’s been hard—my grandmother—” She swallowed hard. “Since she passed away last summer.”

“I still expect to see Steve or Audrey around the corners at the hospital,” Monica said with a sigh. She turned to Jason. “You don’t remember Steve, but he was there from the beginning.”

“When the hospital opened,” Elizabeth said with a sad smile. “General Hospital was his dream. He’d be so happy with how you and Alan kept it moving forward.”

“And he’d be excited his Lizzie is carrying on the family tradition.” Monica touched her shoulder. “I remember you in the summers. You’d come to the hospital, trailing behind Steven and Sarah, completely bored by everything. You were always dragging markers and notepaper around.”

“General Hospital was always a safe place for me. And being a nurse has let me take care of my boys.” Elizabeth laced her fingers together. “But I should let you and Jason get back to your conversation—”

“No, no, I’m going to go talk to Mike. You stay here. I’m sure you two can think of something to talk about.” Monica flashed a smile down at Jason who just raised his brows at his mother. “After all, you’ve known each other your entire lives. Even if you don’t remember it, Jason.”

In this world of dangers

And at that, Monica left. Elizabeth flashed him an embarassed smile and started to slide away. “I see Bobbie over there, I’ll just—”

“No, no, not until you tell me what my mother meant.” He shoved the chair out with his leg. “We knew each other before my accident?”

“Oh. God. No. I mean, yes.” Elizabeth sat down, setting her martini glass down. “You’re older than me, Jason. You were at the hospital with your parents sometimes. And Steven used to hang out with you sometimes. And I followed him around because he was the only one who didn’t think I was insane. So I was someone’s bratty sister.”

“Okay.” Jason squinted. “Did your brother move? I haven’t seen him.”

Elizabeth winced. “No. He ended up—Heather framed him for something not long after you…He’s in Memphis. Serving a jail sentence for—” She sat back. “So he’s gone.”

He decided not to push her on Steven. “And so is Audrey. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s…it is what it is. It’s been a bad couple of years.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Jake. He’s the bright spot. His coming home was like a miracle I really didn’t deserve, you know? But I got it anyway. All of my boys. They’re the reason I get up in the morning.” She bit her lip. “We should do more about Jake. I feel bad that I haven’t—I did try to push him a little bit a few months ago. But I let other things get in the way.”

‘Cause when your heart is strong

“Yeah.” He eyed the empty ring finger. “I can see that.”

“Oh. Yeah.” She stared down at her finger. “He stood me up at the altar—but you knew that. And then he lied. About a thousand more times. I guess I deserve it.”

“Why?” he demanded, leaning forward.

You know you’re not alone

Elizabeth squinted at him. “You—I told you why. I mean, you know better than anyone—I lied. I lied a lot.” She huffed. “The last time I saw you, I was—”

“Telling me the truth.” Jason waved that away. “Why does that mean you deserve…” He couldn’t even say the name.

“I lied about Jake—” She stopped. “Drew. But I called him Jake back then. We all did. I told you. Nikolas told me who he was, but I didn’t say anything. Even after we knew little Jake was alive, I kept lying.”

Jason tilted his head. “Why? Because he was supposed to be me?”

“Oh.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Great. You, too. I would have—” She shook her head. “You weren’t here, so I guess I can’t—no. Jake—Drew and I were already—at least I thought we were. He always seems to forget that I was the only one who gave a damn about him when no one else did. Sonny and Sam hated him back then, did you know that? But I didn’t. I was in love with him. So yeah, I didn’t tell him who Nikolas said he was. Because I know how that story ends and I don’t get the happy ending.” She tossed back the rest of her martini.

In this world of strangers

Carly scowled as she stepped back out from the office and saw Jason sitting at a table with Elizabeth. Alone.

Not on her watch.

But before she could take more than a step, Sonny grabbed her elbow, swung her around, and twirled her into a dance. “Nope.”

“But—”

“Uh uh.”

“She’s going to—”

“No.”

Carly scowled. “Sam—”

“They’re adults, Carly. And if nothing else, looking at my father…” Sonny sighed, looked at the bar with Monica and Bobbie were laughing with Mike. “It reminds me we have to grab every scrap of happiness we have while we got it. I don’t know how long I’m going to know your face.”

“Sonny—” Carly looked at him, her dark eyes stricken. “You don’t know—”

“No, I don’t. But anything could happen. I could have another break down. Or I could end up like Mike. And I want to make sure that my family knows how much I love them. And how much I trust them to make their own decisions.”

“Fine.” Carly sighed and leaned into the dance, pressing her cheek against his. “But if she hurts him, I’m going to gut her like a fish.”

“Wouldn’t expect any less from you.”

Oh how the years go by

On the stage, Ned Ashton checked the strings of his guitar, getting ready for his last set of the night. It had been a lot of fun to resurrect Eddie Maine for the night, even though his advisors had told him playing for a reputed mobster’s private party wouldn’t bring him much good press.

“Hey, Eddie, can I have your autograph?”

He grinned and turned to find to former rival, almost wife, and partner in crime leaning against the stage. “Hey. You look like a pinup I once had.”

With a smirk, Alexis Davis tossed back her hair. “You wish. Hell, I wish. I used to be younger.”

Oh how the love brings tears to my eyes

“I wish Lulu had come,” Olivia Falconieri-Ashton said with a sad smile. “Since Maxie ended up staying home.”

“She wanted some time with Rocco and Charlotte.” Dante folded his arms and studied his grandfather at the bar. “You know, mostly I think you made the right choice keeping me away from Sonny.”

“And yet?” Olivia prompted.

“I wish I had known so I’d have more time with Mike. With my grandfather. I had an aunt I never knew. A lot of people in Sonny’s life that he talks about like family, and I guess—” Dante shrugged. “You just wonder about the road not taken. Who would I have been if you’d brought me to Sonny when I was Rocco’s age? If I had known Stone Cates. Courtney. Michael talks about his aunt, sometimes. So did Morgan.”

“Oh, sweetie—”

“Like I said—I get why you made that choice. I just…I wonder.” Dante hooked an arm around his mother’s shoulder. “But you and me did okay, didn’t we?”

“We did. But I learned a lesson. As much as I hate Julian Jerome, I never want to explain those choices again.” Olivia sighed. “So Leo gets to know his dad. And Charlotte gets to know Valentin. All you can do is learn from your past, kid. And hope you took away the right lessons.”

All through the changes the soul never dies

Michael twirled his mother away from Sonny as Ned took the stage again and began his final set. “I’m under strict instructions to keep you occupied.”

“What, did Sonny send up a smoke signal?” Carly muttered. “I’m not going to bother them. He doesn’t look irritated.” She squinted, trying to peak around Michael’s shoulder to get closer. If she could just hear their conversation—

“Mom. Why do you care?”

“What?” Carly snapped her attention back to her son. “What?”

“All my life, you’ve gone out your way to irritate Elizabeth. More than anyone else I’ve ever known. Hell, I remember when Sam had an affair with Dad, you forgave her faster.”

Carly scowled. “I didn’t forgive. I moved on.” She had also possibly repressed that memory.

“Jason was gone for five years. He came home to find out that he has two sons. That someone stole those years from him. He gets to figure this out for himself.” Michael twirled his mother so she faced away from the table where his uncle sat. “And Elizabeth has always been good to me. To Jason. So whatever wrong you think she did—”

“She didn’t—” Carly huffed, rolled her eyes. “She didn’t really do anything. It’s just—I broke him once. I broke him into a million little pieces, Robin ground those pieces into dust, and then Sonny shoved that dust off a cliff. I guess…I’m a little obsessed with making sure he’s all put back together.”

“He looks good to me, Mom. I think you can get off guard duty.”

“For now. But I’m keeping my eyes open.”

Falconieri House: Living Room

We fight, we laugh, we cry
As the years go by

Lulu Falconieri sighed as she switched off the television and picked up her phone to look at the background wallpaper. Dante had told her to change it to something happier, something that didn’t depress her.

But she didn’t want to forget.

It was a photograph from the Christmas Party, and it was the four of them. Bright. Shining. Happy. Planning a wonderful future with their amazing husbands, incredible children, and budding careers.

And they were best friends. Against all odds, they had become each other’s families. And with one decision, with one story Lulu couldn’t take back—

She had shattered that image.

And she needed to remember that. Decisions had consequences.

Maxie & Nathan’s Apartment: Living Room

And if we lose our way

Maxie Jones-West sighed and stared at her missed calls. Her mother had called her twice. Bobbie and her father once. And now her mother had called a third let, which Maxie had let go unanswered.

But this time, Felicia had left her a voicemail, and reluctantly, Maxie pressed play.

“Hey, my darling girl. I just wanted to let you know that your dad and I are going to lay off tonight. And tomorrow. I love you. And I want to do what’s right for you. So if you want to sit in your apartment and cry, do that. If you want me to come over and listen while you scream about how unfair this all is, I’ll do that, too. I love you. And you need to do this in your own time. So you send a smoke signal when you’re ready for us. Make sure you get some sleep, though. Because I’m your mother, and I’m allowed to do that. Nathan loved you, Maxie. And you don’t get over that in six weeks. I love you, baby.”

Maxie pressed her phone to her chest and tilted her head back, letting the tears fall. Oh, God. He was dead. Why did it always have to feel so goddamn fresh and new when she thought about it?

Would she ever get past it?

Any night or day

Elizabeth shoved her chair back, feeling irritated that she’d talked to Jason about any of this. “I’m sorry. You don’t—You didn’t come back from the dead to listen to me whine—”

Before she could get to her feet, he reached out to touch her elbow. “Hey. That’s not what you’re doing. I haven’t seen you in five years, Elizabeth. I mean to me, I guess it was more like six months and I guess sort of it was two years or something since he was here—”

“No, five years—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “No, I mean Drew was supposed to be you. But I think part of us all knew—he wasn’t. I kept telling myself he’d been through a lot. That I had put him through a lot, and you know, I always figured I’d finally do something to make you stop giving a damn—”

Well we’ll always be

“Hey—”

“I mean, God, Jason, how much did I hurt you, you know? All that crap with Lucky back when he came home. I accused you of attacking him—and then I—” She shook her head. “And we really don’t have to talk about what a disaster Ric was. I mean, I almost married him again four years ago, so what the hell do I know about learning my lesson, right? And then lying to you about Jake—”

“I don’t blame you for that.”

“Why not?” Elizabeth demanded. “Of course you do. And then when you wanted to Jake save Joss, I slapped you. Like you weren’t losing your son. And that’s just—Anyway. That’s all ancient history. I just wanted to say that I lied to you again that day in the jail. I knew you who you were. I just couldn’t admit that I had blown up my entire life for something that turned out not to be even real.”

“Okay.” Jason tilted his head. “I mean, I knew you were lying, Elizabeth. I can always tell. Except—” He exhaled slowly. “Except with Jake. I mean, I knew something was wrong. But I thought I was just—I was disappointed. I wanted him to be mine, so I guess I thought whatever I was getting from you—”

“We made a lot of mistakes, Jason.” Elizabeth played with the stem of her empty martini glass. “I just wish I knew how to stop making them. I keep trusting people to be honest with me, but I should know better. What right do I have to expect that? I’m a liar, too. Why am I always surprised when people lie to me?”

Where we should be

“Because you usually lie to protect other people,” Jason said gently. “Or to protect yourself from a worst truth.  You said he lied a thousand times. Why didn’t you go before?”

“Because—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. Felt a tear slide down her cheek.  “He stayed.”

Jason furrowed his brow. “Elizabeth—”

“People have a hard time staying,” she confessed in a voice so soft he had to lean forward to catch it. “There’s something wrong with me.  You know that. It’s hard to love me. I expect too much, maybe. And people leave. So…he stayed.”

“There’s nothing—” Jason shook his head, fiercely. “There’s nothing wrong with you. Why would you—”

“Don’t make me do this, Jason. Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to.”

I’m there for you

“What does that mean—”

“You didn’t stay.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You told me that being with me and the boys—that was all you wanted, but you couldn’t have it. And I believed you. I did. I thought it wasn’t me. It wasn’t Jake or Cam. It was how scary everything after Jake got kidnapped again. It hurt like hell, but I think part of me thought we’d get past it. I’d always found a way to convince you to give us a chance again. But you didn’t mean it.”

“I did—”

“Then why were Spinelli and Sam allowed to be in and out of your life? Kristina. Michael and Morgan. Carly. Brenda. You let all those people be part of your life, Jason. You went back to Sam. You married her. You made sure you and Sam could have children. But me? You left me. So don’t tell me there’s nothing wrong with me.”

She shoved herself to her feet and stalked away towards the terrace. After a beat, he followed.

And I know you’re there for me

Felicia jumped as she felt her cell phone vibrate, shaking her black clutch bag in her hand. With an apologetic smile to Mac, Bobbie, and Kevin, she pulled the phone out and gasped. “Maxie…she just—sent me a text.” Her eyes flooded with tears.

“She says that she loves us. That she knows we want to help. And that if it’s okay, maybe I could come over tomorrow and just watch television so she’s not alone.” She pressed the phone to her chest. “She’s reaching out. To me. Not to Nina. Or that idiot boss of hers. Me. Mac.”

Mac put his arm around her shoulders. Pressed his lips to his wife’s blonde hair. “She’ll be all right.”

“I want to find Elizabeth. To thank her for giving me that advice.” Felicia turned just in time to see Elizabeth rush out the terrace doors and Jason Morgan on her heels.

“This should be my cue to say something about how she could do better,” Mac said, “but considering her track record, he might be not be so bad.”

Bobbie snorted. “If only Robin were here for that. Did you get on tape, Kevin? I need witnesses.”

Oh how the years go by

“Thank you for coming tonight, Grandma,” Michael said he turned Monica around on the dance floor. “I know how hard this all is for you. With—”

“I do feel as though a part of me is betraying AJ by being here,” she murmured. “But he would want me to stand by you. And I want to be here for you. I know how hard it’s been for you these last few months. To bring a baby into the world with a woman you don’t trust. I can only hope good things for you.”

“My child will be loved from the moment it comes into this world,” Michael said. “Just like I was. I had a village to raise me. There are kids out there who don’t get one parent who gives a damn, I can’t get rid of the people who see me as theirs. That’s what I choose to think about. How lucky I was to have AJ. Jason. My mother. Sonny. And you and Grandfather. Aunt Tracy. Ned, even when he’s driving me insane. Dillon. Morgan. Dante. Kristina—I have an army behind me ready to love my child. We can make up for anything.”

“You will be the best of us all,” Monica said, hugging her grandson tightly. “I love you.”

Oh how the love brings tears to my eyes

“Thanks for this,” Mike told Sonny as his son sat at the bar. They watched as Ned broke down the stage, talking to his bandmates. “I don’t—I had some moments I think. I forgot—I forgot sometimes where I was.”

“It’s okay.”

Mike nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I know you mean that.” He looked around the room. “It’s okay because I can’t control it. You’d think it’d be simple. I’d mess something up, someone would correct me, and I would know it. I would know the truth. But that’s—that’s the part that’s going away. I’m going to keep messing up, and I’ll stop believing the truth.”

“Mike—”

“And one day, I won’t even be messing up. I’ll just be gone.” Mike laid his hands out on the bar. “Part of me is already gone, you know. I don’t know what to do. How to stop it. I can’t stop it. You can’t stop it, either. And I know that’s driving you insane. You hate not being able to control things.”

“Yeah.” Sonny cleared his throat. “I can’t stop it, Mike. Neither can you. And neither of us can take back the years or time we missed. But we got now. And we got as many moments as this world will give us, so we have to hold on to them.”

“Yeah.” Mike’s voice was rough. “I want to create as many memories for my grandkids as I can. I won’t be able to remember them but they need them. They need to know me before I was gone. I don’t want them to look back and wish they’d done more. I don’t want them to have my regrets, Sonny.”

“They won’t.” Sonny leaned across the bar, clasped his father’s hand in his. “They won’t. They already know you, they already love you. And we’re going to have more nights like this. Maybe not many. But we got time.”

“Yeah.” Mike’s eyes slid away. “Yeah, we got time.”

And they both knew they were lying. Because, yeah, Mike had time. But maybe he didn’t. Maybe he’d wake up tomorrow and be gone.

How the hell was Sonny supposed to do this?

All through the changes the soul never dies

Jason was already dragging off his suit jacket when he approached her standing on the terrace. She didn’t even flinch as he dropped the fabric over her shoulders.

“I’m sorry. I always make it about me. You’ve been through hell, Jason. And I’ve been the worst kind of friend.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I’m so happy you’re you. That you’re alive. It scares me how happy I am,” she admitted. “And I hate myself for not saying it sooner. For making every conversation about him. I always do that to you. I make it about what Lucky needs. What Ric needs. What Ewan needs. And now—of all people for me to throw in your face—you didn’t sign on to support me through my choices, Jason.” She sighed. “I guess—it’s mostly because I know why you walked away. I never put you first, either. I never made it about you. So what happened—that’s not just on you. That’s on me. We were never going to work. You just saw it first.”

He exhaled slowly, looked out over the skyline of Port Charles. “It was months before I knew how much time had passed. I woke up in the clinic, and I knew it was a while before I could fight off the drugs. I hate pain medication. I always have.”

“I remember. You used to refuse it after you were shot. I had to beg you that winter.”

“I hate losing time,” Jason continued. “After my accident, I had lost the first twenty-two years of my life. I didn’t want to lose any more. So I when I saw that newspaper on the ship back—when I realized it had been five years—” He dipped his head.

“So much of your life has been stolen from you, Jason,” Elizabeth murmured. “Unfair doesn’t seem strong enough.”

“I thought about everyone at home. What it would mean for it be five years. What had happened to Michael? To you? To Sam? Were you happy? Were you okay? And then I saw…I saw Sam with him. She was happy. And you had Jake. You were happy. I didn’t know he was—” Jason shook his head. “Maybe it was better before I came back.”

“No.” Elizabeth shook her head fiercely. “No. Don’t you dare ever say that. No one’s life was better because you were gone. These last five years, Jason? My God. Carly and I almost married Franco. Sam—she almost lost Danny to cancer. Michael has been through hell. I’ve been through hell. When Jake came home, he struggled with what happened. He’s still struggling, and I just—you would have had the words. I kept wishing for you. The old you. Because Drew wasn’t—he isn’t you.”

“Elizabeth—”

“You’ve been home for five minutes, and it’s like a fog has cleared. If you were still gone, I’d probably still be accepting and swallowing every lie—” She pressed her lips together. “You’re the only one who makes me think I do deserve something better. Because you’re the only one who gets so angry at me for destroying my own life.”

“Elizabeth—”

“You don’t even know half of the crap that Sonny and Carly went through. With AJ and Ava—God, if you’d been here for Morgan—” Tears spilled over her lashes. “We hurt without you, Jason. Not with you. I don’t care if you’re complicating Sam’s perfect life. Who the hell cares about her anyway? You matter to me. I want you to matter to Jake. And there’s Michael and Spinelli—”

“Okay.” He held up his hands, chagrined. “I’m sorry.” Jason managed a smile. “I forgot how you get when you’re mad.”

“Well, don’t mess with me then.” She jabbed a finger in his chest. “We’re going to find out who stole you from us, Jason. I have an opening in my schedule, and I’m not going to rest until I help you get to the truth.”

We fight, we laugh, we cry

She looked up at him for a long moment and then moved into to hug him tightly. “I’m so glad you’re you, and that you’re home. Don’t you ever forget how much we all love you.”

“I won’t.” He pressed his lips to the top of her head. “You deserve more than better, Elizabeth. Stop settling for anything else.”

“I’ll just have to start listening to you more.” She pulled away with a watery smile. “You’re always right, anyway.”

As the years go by

January 6, 2015


Inspiration

Once a upon a time, in August 2002, I wrote my first Jason and Elizabeth story called Deserving. And then I decided to rewrite in the most asinine fashion–it became The Sisters and has sat on this site for many many years gathering dust while I stared at it, wishing it were a person I could punch. I know I’m usually pretty hard on my older stuff, but this particular piece is particularly putrid and I’ve known it since the beginning.

I’ve always had a yen to go back to the summer of 2002 before the Jason and Elizabeth storyline went off the rails, before Brenda’s return decimated all the other storylines, before Courtney turned into whatever the hell they decided she was going to be. So really, my inspiration comes from just wanting to fix the worst rewrite I ever did. I actually don’t even have the original version of Deserving, which makes me sad. Pieces of it survived into The Sisters: Sweet Revenge, but not the good pieces–if those ever existed. I just lifted scenes rather than attempting to actually rewrite it. I can’t…understand what I did back then.

Timeline

So in this rewrite, rather than simply returning to Summer 2002, I’m actually going back much further. After roughly about December 2001 and the Liz and Lucky wedding that never was, I’m rewriting the first half of 2002. Here are the major changes and the basic story set up for the opening.

For the most part, the months between December 2001-April 2002 will be filled in during the first few chapters as backstory so I won’t harp too much on those changes.  I did tweak the way Sonny and Carly’s divorce happened. Carly did her betrayal stuff in April 2001, and she and Sonny separated that summer. Their divorce was final in the fall of 2001, the two of them have mostly gone their separate ways.

We start in April 2002. Christ, I was still in high school then. Wow.  Let’s not even discuss that. As I mentioned, I’ve moved the timeline back to late 2001 — Lucky and Elizabeth didn’t get married, but Gia also broke up with Nikolas, annoyed with it all. Sonny didn’t adopt Michael, but still put AJ on a meat hook. Courtney showed up, married AJ who was disowned by the Quartermaines, etc. Other than that, I think most of it speaks for itself.

A note on characterization:  I’ve chosen to portray Sean Kanan as AJ, Lucky as Jacob Young, Nikolas as Stephen Martines (or Coltin Scott, which I think he was using as his professional name back then), and whenever you hear about Carly, it’s Sarah Brown.

A note on Courtney: She is going to be a major character in this story. I’ve taken her back to the very beginning — the girl I used to like quite a lot in the beginning. A bit naive, sweet, and believes the best in AJ. I hope you guys will give her a chance.


Media


Characters

elizabeth2002 jason2002 sonny2002 gia
bobbie2002 courtney michael_child
zander edward lucky_jy emily_amber
luis lucas_cj alan  sarah
nikolas_coltin

Chapters

November 29, 2014

alleweare

We won’t say our goodbyes
You know it’s better that way
We won’t break, we won’t die
It’s just a moment of change


Inspiration

After I rewrote Poisonous Dreams as A Few Words Too Many, I eliminated the marriage of convenience angle. It’s a concept I like reading in general because there’s a vast difference between developing a relationship outside of marriage and then making it work once you’re in one. So I started to think how I could do that concept again. What would make Jason and Elizabeth take that step? Spousal privilege, of course.

And from there, I looked at different time periods until I found my favorite one: Summer 2006. My God, the amount of story I’ve planned that uses this as a jumping off point is legion. I loved 2006 so much.

Timeline

So, this begins in October 2006. All of the events of the summer have happened through the point Lucky leaves for rehab in mid-September after throwing Elizabeth to the floor. Ric has taken over as DA for Alexis due to her cancer. Elizabeth has told Jason about the paternity issue, but rather than running the test at GH, she had it done at Mercy for more secrecy. I haven’t changed much except for the Jason and Sam relationship. There’s been no real movement to getting back together. Also, while Sam and Carly are aware of the NOP, only Sonny knows about the paternity test.

2017 Update: I hadn’t really watched the 2006 scenes as closely as I should have before writing this and I completely forgot that Emily did know about the paternity and blackout night. I also forgot just how supportive of Elizabeth she ended up being. I also kind of flubbed the Sam stuff in this story. I didn’t want to deal with her, so I really didn’t. And I feel bad about it. Not bad enough to rewrite, but just note that I didn’t really stick as close to GH canon as I thought I had.


Media

+ Soundtrack, Volume 1: Mood Music
+ Soundtrack, Volume 2: Songs From the Story


Characters

elizabeth Jason Morgan sonny ric
robin patrick scott diane
emily lucky nikolas carly
sam jax epiphany

Chapters

November 22, 2014

christmas
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
 


Inspiration

So as a rule, I don’t tend to do a ton of holiday stories. There are a few reasons, but usually it’s because I’m so bogged down with writing projects that the thought of doing one more is insane, so the few Christmas projects that are on ths site are short stories or longer stories with Christmas celebrations.

However, this year I wanted to do something fun and light-hearted (for the most part) because so much of what I’m working on at the moment is either really complex or just angsty and dark with mental illness, domestic abuse, and whatnot. Plus I almost never write alternate universe — General Hospital canon is just so complex and filled with incredible characters and history that I get distracted for that. So AU is another challenge for me.

Timeline

All I Want is an alternate universe, so here’s my disclaimer. The Jason Morgan in this story has a characterization that’s closer to a blend of Jason Morgan and Jason Quartermaine, raised within the Quartermaine family but rejected by his stepmother, Monica, for the most part. Because there’s no accident and no mob, it makes sense that his character would not be as stoic or constrained as JM on screen.

Really, all you need to know is the short-hand abbrievations I use for the ELQ corporate structure, since ELQ is pretty important. Jason is the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and AJ is the COO (Chief Operations Officer). They both report to Ned as the CEO (Chief Executive Officer). Emily is the corporate events planner, and Elizabeth is her admistrative assistant. All other things will be set up in the story. So to speak.

Trivia: Creating this story page led me to realize that there were no character images for Ned and Alan yet, which means I don’t write about them often enough. Challenge to myself in 2015: Write more for the characters I don’t use often enough. I…have rambled enough.


Media


Characters

elizabeth Jason Morgan aj ned
robin nadine monica alan
tracy sam emily edward
courtney kiki maxie olivia
georgie  michael

Chapters

May 1, 2014

I can’t remember why I wrote this. It’s labeled as a response to a challenge in my writing folder, so I’m assuming I was supposed to write about a traditional PC event. Anyway. This is kind of set in my Hand Me Down universe, in which Michael and Sonny were killed (see If I Don’t Try With You) and Elizabeth and Jason are married with the boys, and a daughter, and Carly has Cece.  Other than that, not much else is needed.


July 4, 2010

The annual Fourth of July picnic was one of the few days of the year when the citizens of Port Charles gathered and managed to remain civil to one another for at least three hours. That particular record had been set by the Quartermaines themselves in the early nineties. They had been within fifteen minutes of three and a half hours, but Edward had blustered about something that Alan had taken offense to and somehow, the mayor had ended up with mashed potatoes in his hair.

Each year, the celebration had grown in attendance until one couldn’t go to the park on that day and not tread over a picnic blanket, a table or in the case of more well-to-do residents – an entire tent.

On this particular day, the tent in question belonged to Jason Morgan. He was there with his wife, their two boys and their newborn daughter, Juliet. He had invited his best friend Carly, her husband Jax and their two children. It was a bittersweet celebration as neither Jason nor Carly were completely adjusted to spending this holiday without Carly’s ex-husband Sonny Corinthos and son Michael. Both had died just two years earlier.

They had endeavored to move on with their lives and both had done so with the birth of subsequent children. Each had solid marriages to their spouses and if life wasn’t exactly perfect, it was as close as either of them had ever been.

Despite the shade the tent offered, the day was steaming hot and sweat dripped from Jason’s adopted six-year-old son Cameron’s face. Cam had been chasing Carly’s son Morgan in a circle and both were red-faced and panting from the heat.

His wife, Elizabeth, bit down on her lower lip. “Maybe I should take them back to the car. Sit in the air conditioning for a while.” She adjusted her two month old daughter in the portable crib that had been set up and studied Cameron and their three-year-old Jake, who didn’t look much cooler. “It’s hotter than it was supposed to be.”

Carly gripped the front of her sweat-soaked cherry red tank top and pulled it away from her chest. “Well, it is summer,” she said with a smirk. “I’d be surprised if it was chilly.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Anyway,” she said, directing her remarks to Jason. “Maybe we should feed the kids and take them home. We can bring them back for the fireworks.”

“No!” Cameron argued. He shook his head. “I want to stay!”

“It’s too hot out here.” Elizabeth reached for a napkin, dipped it into a glass of iced water and started to wipe down her son’s face. Cameron squirmed.

“Come on, Mom!” he complained, twisting away. “I’m not a baby!”

“Which is why I didn’t spit on it first.” She sighed and released him. “Fine. Go. Run. Get heatstroke.”

“Thanks, Mom!” Cameron immediately tagged Morgan. “You’re it!” he crowed and took off.

“I’m taking Jules back to the car,” Elizabeth told Jason. She reached down and picked up the infant. “I can take Cece if you want.”

Carly glanced over to her fourteen month old daughter who was chattering away to her daddy about a ladybug she’d seen crawling on her arm. “I think she’s okay for now. I’ll make sure the boys don’t keel over from too much sun.” She glanced over at them and narrowed her eyes. “Excuse me. My kid is wandering too close to the Quartermaine tent. Nothing good comes from that.” She made a quick exit to grab head off Cameron and Morgan.

“We can all go back to the house,” Jason offered. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I mean, I’m okay, but if you think the kids are going to get too sick—”

“No, no,” Elizabeth shook her head. She smiled. “It’s the first year we’ve all been together as a family. Last year Carly and Jax were visiting Lady Jane,     and I know Cam’s having a good time with Morgan.” She brushed her hand over Juliet’s almost existent fluff of blonde hair. “I just don’t think it’s good for Jules.”

“I wasn’t able to stop Edward from coming over to see his great-grandchildren,” Carly huffed, hauling both boys back, a hand wrapped around each one of their arms. “What did we say about wandering away from the tent?” she demanded.

“To stay away from Robin Drake,” Morgan said with an impish smile.

“And the Zacchara tent,” Cameron added dutifully. He grinned, revealing his dimples.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not what I said,” Carly muttered.

“And I’m almost positive that I said not to leave the immediate area,” Elizabeth said, arching an eyebrow. “Isn’t that right?”

“Possibly,” Morgan nodded. “But Cam was gonna tackle me and the last time he did that, I ate dirt.” He shook his head. “So not interested in repeating that experience, Aunt Liz. I think you can get what I’m saying.”

“I can get that you didn’t follow my instructions or your mother’s,” Elizabeth remarked. She grinned. “Because I’m pretty sure we both said to stay away from the Quartermaine tent.”

“That is…” Cameron paused. “Entirely possible.”

“Mayday,” Carly hissed to Elizabeth. “Incoming. Quartermaine at ten o’clock.”

“You think if I hide Jake under the table, he won’t notice him?” Elizabeth asked. “The last time we took the kids over, Edward was trying to convince us it was time for Cam to go away to boarding school.”

“I told you visiting Edward was a mistake,” Jason shook his head. “But you insisted.”

“To be fair, I took them to see Monica,” Elizabeth reminded him. She pasted a smile on her face as Jason’s grandfather joined them. “Mr. Quartermaine,” she greed politely.

Edward rubbed his hands together, looking uncharacteristically harmless in a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she’d ever seen him out of a suit. “Now, now, my dear, I’ve told you to call me Edward.” He smiled charmingly. “Or Grandfather.”

“Right, Mr. Quartermaine,” Elizabeth nodded. She turned to Jason. “I think I should take the kids to the car for the air conditioning. They need a break from the heat.”

“Oh, but I’ve just arrived.” Edward leaned closer trying to get a closer look at Juliet. “And I’ve hardly had time to meet my great-granddaughter.”

“Will you try to enroll her in college before she can walk?” Jason asked, a little resigned.

“It’s never too early to plan for the future,” Edward advised firmly. “If you have a firm idea now, you will be able to execute it without a flaw later. It’s solid parenting advice that Lila and I followed for our children and it worked. Alan was a splendid doctor and Tracy is well…” he paused. “She had great potential at one time. I can’t quite fathom her marital choices, but she’s not bad at business.”

Elizabeth glanced at her husband, looking for some direction. Jason just shrugged. When it came to Edward, it was best to let him have his say and avoid conflict. “That’s very nice advice, Mr. Quartermaine,” she said. “Jason and I appreciate it.”

“Don’t patronize me, young lady,” Edward said sternly. “It’s not my fault that they were both incapable of raising their own children. Lila and I did a fine job but our entire crop of grandchildren was worthless. Except for Emily, of course. She was a fine girl who is still missed greatly.”

“Of course,” Elizabeth replied, softening. She held out her daughter. “Would you like to hold Juliet for a moment? It’s a bit warm out here for her so I’m going to take her into some air for a while, but I’m sure she’d like to meet her great-grandfather first.”

Edward’s eyes lit up as she placed the infant in his arms. “That’s very kind of you, my dear.” He cradled Juliet in his embrace and smiled down at her. “I was very pleased when Monica told me Jason was marrying you, you know.”

Jason shook his head, knowing that Elizabeth was a lost cause now. She’d insist Edward have regular visits from now on, she’d feel obligated to both the old man and his sister. His wife had always been a soft touch.

“You were always so good to Emily,” Edward continued, “and you had such a good work ethic and a strong moral compass. You are the exactly the right woman for my grandson and for the mother of his children. He is very lucky you chose him.”

He handed the baby back to her. “You get that child out of the sun,” he cautioned. He looked to Jason. “You have a very nice family. Don’t screw it up.”

Edward ambled back over to his tent where Monica and Tracy were arguing, Dillon was attempting to hide behind Alice and Ned was ignoring everyone and speaking to his daughter, Brook Lynn. Another day at the Quartermaines.

“I give them five minutes before Tracy throws water in her face,” Carly nodded.

“Ten before the ribs goes flying,” Elizabeth replied.

“I doubt they’ll hold out that long,” Jax joined them. “I can see Monica eyeing up the hot dogs.”

“You’re all wrong,” Jason surprised them by speaking up. “Tracy’s hand is inching towards the chicken wings.”

Sure enough, a moment later, Tracy flung the first chicken wing at her sister-in-law. Monica retaliated with a hot dog and Dillon ducked in the picnic table entirely to avoid the ribs that flew a moment later.

“They’re going to need that water,” Carly remarked. “To cool down and to clean up.”

Elizabeth laughed and reached up to kiss Jason’s cheek. “I think I can take Jules back to the car now. I’m glad I didn’t miss the annual food fight. It’s just not the Fourth of July without it.”

April 29, 2014

bestthing3
But remember the time I told you the way that I felt
That I’d be lost without you and never find myself
Let’s hold onto each other above everything else


Inspiration

This story has changed so much since I originally envisioned it in 2004. Lila Quartermaine had just died, and I found myself wondering how Port Charles would handle Audrey’s death. So I began writing based on that idea, and had six or seven chapters written before a computer crash killed them all. Almost ten years later, I returned to it, and changed it around so that there are very few aspects of that old story that remained: really just the title and the way I deal with Jason changing Sam’s paternity results.

Timeline

For the most part, the major backstory will be explained in the first few chapters. I’ve changed only a few things. I pick up the show about May 2004 (or whenever Jason changed the paternity results), and go from there. So from that period on, only what’s in my story is what happened. Basically — just how Sonny and Jason deal with his changing the results. Elizabeth does not come home in June 2004 and enroll the nursing program. Emily and Nikolas are together, after he comes back from the dead. None of the Mary Bishop going insane stuff happens. Not that it’s important, but I liked Mary so…pfft.

Steven Webber is played by Shaun Benson, rather than Scott Reeves, simply because I never really watched Scott as Steven, but I really liked Shaun’s portrayal back then. A note about Steven as a character: John Durant is not a factor in this story, so he’s just a normal doctor at General Hospital, having moved to Port Charles over the summer.

Carly is played by Tamara Braun because she was playing her in 2004 and her characterization drives Carly’s motives, rather than LW or SBr.

Thanks to Cora for her incredible help during the outlining stage, and then for her skills as a beta 🙂

Author’s Note

Sonny is going to struggle with mental illness in this story, particularly a type of bipolar disorder with mixed episodes. This basically means his mood swings occur much more rapidly, and even occasionally simultaneously. I don’t know anyone personally with this disorder–everything I know comes from hours of research.  People who have this disorder are not innately violent, so I want to make that disclaimer. I just tried to adapt the disorder to someone with Sonny’s specific characteristics. I hope I do this illness justice and make Sonny less of a caricature and feel more like a living, breathing man struggling with a difficult illness.

If you have any experience with this, please contact me to let me know if I’m making this work or if I’m messing it up. I don’t want this to be a soap opera disease where I make it up as I go along.


Extras

Volume 1, Mood Music
Volume 2, Songs from the Story


Promotional Video

Both soundtracks may shift and change as the story continues.

As part of my Fanfiction 101 series, I discussed the development and concept of this story in much more detail: Inspiration, Characterization, and Development: The Best Thing

Feeling daunted by the amount of chapters already posted and the thought of sitting at your computer to catch up? Consider the ebook, which now has all the chapters.

The Best Thing .epub | .mobi | .pdf 


Characters

Jason Morgan
monica

Chapters

Part One: Sanctuary
Part Two: Redemption
Part Three: Mercy
Part Four: Salvation

April 12, 2014

In 2003, the ABC writers decided to let fans play with the storylines. That’s all I remember about the idea for this story. I think I decided to switch roles or just…I don’t know…go insane, because there’s a Sonny/Skye pairing in here that makes no damn sense to me, but eh, such is life. I can’t really explain what this is about.


Segment OneScene One

Jason Morgan stands at the window and looks out over the harbor. His hands are in the pockets of his black dress pants and his expression is thoughtful, bordering on the distracted.

He hears a sound behind him and glances towards it. He allows a small smile to cross his face as his wife slides an arm around his waist and leans into his side. “You know you’re overreacting,” she murmurs. Her other hand traces the lines of his abdomen through his black button down shirt.

He wraps an arm around her shoulders and shakes his head. “Maybe,” he allows. “But it doesn’t change anything.”

She sighs and tilts her head up to look at him. “He’s your best friend, Jason. And she’s your sister. You don’t want them happy?”

“It’s not that,” Jason denies. “It’s–” he stops and shakes his head. “I can’t explain it. You’ll just have to trust me.”

She shakes her head and pulls away from him, wrapping her arms around her upper body. “How would you like it if my brother had said it to you?” she asks softly. She stares out the window. “Would you have listened?”

“You don’t have a brother,” Jason reminds her. She rolls her eyes.

“Don’t be so literal,” she snaps. Her blue eyes meet his. “Do you know how many people told me that you were too dangerous, that you would only hurt me?”

Jason closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Elizabeth, please don’t.”

“I lost count of people warning me about you,” Elizabeth continues. “And I didn’t list to one of them. Because nobody tells me how to live and who to love.”

“You don’t get it–”

“No. You’re right. I don’t,” Elizabeth replies. She shakes her head again and heads for the doorway. “I’m going out.”

“Wait.” Jason turns and watches her pull her coat and flip her hair over the black collar. “Elizabeth”

Elizabeth bites her lip and looks away, pulling the lapels of her jacket tight around her. “I love you, Jason. I am always going to love you. But right now–I don’t like you very much.”

She pulls the door open and it clicks softly shut behind her, but the sound is like a gunshot in the suddenly empty and cold penthouse.

Segment OneScene Two

Skye Chandler paces the docks nervously, her eyes darting to the left set of the stairs and when finding them empty, she turned her attention to the right set. Where was he?

It’d been a hellish few days. Since her brother had found out about her relationship with his enforcer, he’d been giving her the silent treatment. Elizabeth had been sympathetic and promised to talk to Jason, but their marriage was troubled enough these days, Skye knew that. She didn’t want to add to the trouble.

Not to mention that she was almost positive she was about to get her heart broken. She knew her brotherknew him almost better than he knew himself. And Jason had double standards. It was fine and dandy for him to have Elizabeth in his life, but the second Sonny wanted someone for himself, problems came up.

Okay, that wasn’t being fair to Jason. After all, Sonny wasn’t involved with just anyone. He was involved with the boss’s sister. A major no-no. She knew in other organizations, men could be shot for less. If anything, Sonny was extremely lucky to still be breathing, but it didn’t make it any easier to accept.

She hears footsteps behind her and turns to face Sonny Corinthos as he comes down the stairs.

He stops a few feet from her. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She hates the way her voice sounds. Low and breathy with just a hint of tears. “Did-did you talk to Jason?”

Sonny exhales slowly and looks away. “Yeah. I did.”

“Oh.” Skye looks away. “It didn’t go well, I guess.”

“No.” Sonny chuckles a little, bitterly. “No, it didn’t at all.”

She blinks away the sudden tears. “What happened?” she asks softly. She knows how difficult it was for Sonny to even go against Jason in the slightest.

“He’s right,” Sonny says suddenly. “You don’t belong with me. You’d be better off with someone else.”

“No,” Skye says firmly. She shakes her head. “No,” she repeats. “That’s not true and even if it were, it is not your decision to make. It is not my brother’s either. It ismy decision.” She takes a deep breath and meets Sonny’s eyes. “Now, if you want to end this because your feelings have changed, if you don’t love me anymore, that’s fine. But do not hide behind your job or my brother.”

“Skye,” Sonny begins. “You know how much I love you.” He steps towards her and touches her face. She closes her eyes and leans into his touch. She jerks her eyes open when he pulls away abruptly. “But it’s over.”

Skye glared at him. She took a step back. “Fine,” she said in a short, clipped tone. “If that’s what you want.” She stares at him for a beat before turning on her heel and stalking away.

Sonny stares after her as she walks up the stairs and turns a corner, walking out of his life.

Segment OneScene Three

Emily Quartermaine-Smith sips her hot chocolate and eyes her sister-in-law across the table at Kelly’s.

Elizabeth keeps her eyes trained on the wooden grain of the table, but she can feel her friend’s eyes on her.

“You need to talk to him,” Emily says finally.

Elizabeth shrugs and looks away. “I try,” she replies. “But he doesn’t listen to me anymore.”

“He loves you.”

“And I love him,” Elizabeth says. She twists her small gold wedding band around her finger. “But it doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.” She takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders and looks up. “How are you feeling?”

Emily smiles, absently rubbing her growing tummy. “I’m feeling great right now,” she replies. “Zander is being over protective as always. I was lucky he even let me come here alone.”

“I can’t believe you’ll be a mother in three months,” Elizabeth mused. “I’m so excited for you.”

“You’ll do a mural for the nursery, right?” Emily asked.

“Sure,” Elizabeth agreed, her eyes sparkling at the opportunity to do some painting. “I’ll start some sketches and–”

“When was the last time you painted?” Emily cut in. Elizabeth sighed and looked away.

“Em–can we just not talk about this anymore?” she asks. “Let’s just accept that I’m miserable, okay?”

“Why?” Emily presses. “You have exactly what you always wanted. You’re married to Jason, the person you told me you couldn’t live without. You told me that you loved him more than anyone else in your life and that as long as you were with him, you would be happy.”

“I was young and I was nave,” Elizabeth replies bitterly. Her eyes are distant and cold. “He’s shut me out. He doesn’t talk to me anymore. He tells me to trust him–that as long as I trust him, he doesn’t need to explain the things he does.”

“Is this about his job?” Emily asks hesitantly.

“No. This has nothing to do with the way he’s chosen to live his life. It has to do with the way Jason treats me. Like I’m a fragile doll that needs to be set on a shelf. Never played with, never touched. Just there for show.”

Segment OneScene Four

Carly Quartermaine enters the kitchen of their cottage and stops just inside the room as she observes her husband and their six-year-old son eating breakfast. AJ is reading the newspaper and is in the process of explaining the finer points of the Dilbert comic strip to Michael.

Michael is giggling, his round face messy from eating scrambled eggs dipped in ketchup. She smiles softly and wonders how they managed to get to this place in their lives.

AJ glances up and catches her eye. “Hey.”

Michael looks up and grins. “Mommy!”

“Hey,” Carly greets them. She crosses the room and leans over to kiss Michael on the forehead. She wipes his face with a napkin and tousles his red hair. She moves to kiss her husband good morning but AJ surprises her by wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her into his lap.

“Morning,” he says quietly, smiling at her.

His smile is infectious and she can her own spreading across her face. “Morning,” she repeats softly. She leans forward and brushes her lips across his.

“Ewww…Mommy and Daddy are kissing!” Michael squeals. Carly breaks away and laughs.

“That’s because I love Mommy,” AJ explained to Michael. “You’ll find out what that means when you meet a girl as great as her.”

“Ick, girls suck,” Michael said grimacing. He pushes his chair away from the table and starts to run towards the living room. “I’m watchin’ Scooby Doo!” he calls back to them.

Carly wraps her arms around AJ’s neck. “So what are your plans for today?”

“Other than watching a large cartoon dog?” AJ asks, grinning. “I’ve got to go into work for a few hours. After that?” he shrugs.

“I’ve got something to tell you,” Carly says hesitantly. She searches his eyes for a second.

“What is it?” AJ asks, curiously. He tightens his hands at her waist.

Carly bites her lip, trying to contain her smile. “It’s good news,” she tells him. “Really good news.”

“Well, tell me,” AJ urges.

“I’m pregnant!” she announces gleefully.

Segment TwoScene One

Skye stalks into the penthouse to find her brother standing at the window. “Are you happy?” she demands harshly.

Jason sighs and shakes his head without turning in her direction. “I don’t want you to be unhappy.”

She laughs bitterly. “You could have fooled me. You’ve got a great lapdog in Sonny, I hope you know that.”

His shoulders slump and he sighs. Against her better judgment, Skye comes closer to him. Her voice is a little softer when she speaks. “Where’s Elizabeth?”

“She went out,” Jason replies. He turns then and meets his sister’s eyes. “She’s not happy about this.”

“Please. She hasn’t been happy in a long time,” Skye replies stiffly.

“Yeah. I know that.” Jason shakes his head again. “Do you love him, Skye?”

“More than anything in this world,” Skye replies quietly. “Make me understand, Jason. Why is it not okay for me and Sonny?”

He pulls out a chair and motions for her to sit. Skye does so and he takes a seat across from her.

“We’ve been taking care of each other for a long time,” Jason begins, clasping his hands and keeping his eyes trained on them. “You’ve seen me through a lot of bad times and I like to think I’ve been good to you.”

“You have,” Skye assures him. She reaches across the table and covers his hands with one of her own. “You’ve done everything in the world possible to make sure I have everything I want. That’s why I don’t understand.”

“You helped me to see that I loved Elizabeth and that I needed her. She’s in my life because you wouldn’t let me kick her out. I don’t know if I ever told you, but–”

“Jason, I know of all of this,” Skye cuts in.

“These last few months…things have changed around here,” Jason continues. “Ever since Alcazar–”

“You’ve been shut inside yourself, I know,” Skye replies. “Elizabeth knows it, too.”

“And I haven’t been treating Sonny like the brother he’s always been,” Jason tells her. “Skye, the reason I am opposed to the two of you together…it’s a selfish one. It’s irrational and it’s not fair to you. Either of you.”

“Then tell me,” Skye pleaded. “Tell me and we’ll fix it.”

Segment TwoScene Two

Sonny sits in Jake’s, sipping a beer and staring into space. He hears footsteps behind him and turns.

Elizabeth Morgan is standing there, her hands deep in her pockets. “Hey,” she greets him.

“Liz,” Sonny states. She slides onto the stool next to him and orders a beer. “Are you here to give me the lecture?”

“No,” Elizabeth replies. She sips her beer and sighs. “I’m here to commiserate. I think Skye’s at the penthouse pleading your case again.”

Sonny shakes his head. “I don’t think it’s going to work.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Elizabeth says. “If anyone can change his mind, it’s Skye. He loves her.”

“After everything I’ve done–” Sonny sighs.

“This has been hard on Jason,” Elizabeth says, trying to defend her husband. “He–”

“Save it, Liz,” Sonny cut in. “He got what he wanted. I broke up with Skye and now she hates me. So why don’t you go home to your happy life and leave me the hell alone?”

Stung, Elizabeth pulls out a few bills and lays them on the counter. She stands, and hesitates for a moment before turning around and walking away.

Segment TwoScene Three

Emily enters her apartment and smiles when she sees the door to the guest room. She can see Zander making a vain attempt to put the crib together.

“Hey you,” she says, grinning. “How goes it?”

“Damn thing sucks,” Zander grumbles, consulting the instructions again. “They say Leg B goes into Slot C and I’ll be damned if I can get it anywhere near Slot C.”

She giggles. “I could always call AJ,” she offers.

Zander snorts. “AJ wouldn’t know a crib from a table. He wasn’t around when Michael was born.”

“AJ’s always been good at putting things together,” Emily replies. She sighs. “I could call Jason.”

“No, no. I’ll get this figured out if it kills me,” he replies. He stands and crosses to her, kissing her cheek. “How was breakfast with Liz?”

“It was fine. She’s going to do the mural for the nursery.” Emily hesitates, her hand making slow circles around her abdomen.

“That’s great. You know, the last few times I’ve stopped by the gallery, her wall is kind of bare.”

“Yeah, she hasn’t been painting a lot lately,” Emily tells him. “It’s too bad. Pretty much everything else is going well. She’s got this great art gallery, she’s going to be an aunt–” Emily stops. “Okay, so those are really the only things going well.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Zander asks.

“Nothing substantial, I don’t think. I think it’s just this whole Skye and Sonny thing,” Emily replies. “I think it’s wearing on Jason and in turn, not helping Elizabeth. I’m going to try and keep her mind off it.”

Zander leans forward and brushes a kiss on her nose. “You’re such good friend. That’s why I love you.”

Emily raises her eyebrows. “That’s the only reason?” she asks.

He grins. “Okay. So it’s not the only reason.”

Segment TwoScene Four

AJ grins. “You’re pregnant?” he repeats. “Seriously?”

Carly nods, excitedly. “Completely and totally serious.” She laughs as AJ pulls them both to their feet and spins her in a circle

Michael, hearing the commotion, runs into the kitchen and starts jumping up and down, excited. “What’s going on?” he asks, happily.

“You’re going to have a little brother or sister!” AJ announces swooping Michael up into his arms and hugging him.

Michael’s face creases. “This is good news?” he asks.

Carly tousles Michael’s hair. “This is extremely good news,” she tells her son.

Michael shakes his head. “Uh uh. I’m the baby,” he states clearly.

“No, you’re a big boy,” AJ corrects.

“No, I’m the baby.”

“Big boy.”

“Baby.”

“Big boy.”

Michael squirms out of his father’s hold and takes off down the hall towards the stairs, screaming. “I don’t want another baby!”

Carly looks at AJ, stricken. “What are we going to do?” she asks.

AJ sighs and presses a kiss to Carly’s forehead before heading towards the stairs. “I’ll talk to him,” he promises.

Segment ThreeScene One

Jason sighs and looks away. “I’ve seen what living this life has done to Elizabeth,” he tells his sister. “I know that you’ve grown up with it and that you can handle it,” he assures Skye before she can rip into him. “But it’s one thing to be my sister and another to be with Sonny.”

“I don’t understand,” Skye replies. “Jason–”

“In the past three years that we’ve been married, Elizabeth has become withdrawn and quiet. I know you see it.”

“Yeah,” Skye admits. “But I’m not Elizabeth and Sonny isn’t you. We’re not like you. We don’t hide from our problems. We scream and yell at each other until we’re done. We don’t pretend everything’s great.”

“Is that what you think Elizabeth and I do?” Jason asks, stung.

“Jase, you and Elizabeth are the masters of hiding behind walls and that’s what you’ve been doing since the day you got married.” Skye sighs and pushes her hair behind her shoulders. “She’s terrified of losing you and you’re terrified she’ll leave you. So you both have erected these high walls to keep the other out and neither of you can see it’s killing the other person.”

Jason sits back and stares ahead. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I know I’m right.” She shifts in her seat. “Is that why you don’t want me with Sonny? Because you think what’s happened to Elizabeth will happen to me?”

“I just don’t want to see someone else I love destroyed by this life.”

“You haven’t destroyed Elizabeth,” Skye says firmly. “She loves you. She wants nothing more than to be with you. You just have to let her, Jason.”

“I want you to be happy,” Jason tells his sister. “And I know you’re going to do what you want anyway.”

“So, me and Sonny?” Skye asks, hopefully.

“If that’s what you want,” Jason replies. “I can talk to Sonny about it.”

Skye throws her arms around her brother and hugs him fiercely. “It means so much to me that you approve,” she says softly.

Jason hugs her back. “And I’m glad you found someone who can make you happy.”

Skye pulls away and studies him. “Are you going to talk to Elizabeth about this?”

Segment ThreeScene Two

Elizabeth sits on the bench at Vista Point and pulls her knees into her chest. When did her life get soout of control? It seemed like just yesterday she’d been happy. She closes her eyes and sighs.

When winter comes in summer
When there’s no more forever
That’s when I’ll stop loving you

“I love you,” Elizabeth whispers, touching Jason’s face. He stares at her for a moment, swallows hard and gives her tremulous smile.

“I love you, too,” he replies.

That’s when I’ll stop loving you
I’m sure you’ve heard these words before
And I know it’s hard for you to trust them once more
You’re afraid it all might end

“Oh, you two are ridiculous,” Skye says, rolling her eyes. She puts her hands on her hips and glares at the two of them who’d just come in from a ride. “It’s so obvious!”

Elizabeth frowns. “I’m sorry–you’ve lost me.”

“You’re in love with each other. Now stop making the rest of us sick and get it over with,” Skye replies, waving her hands. She pushes past them and walks out of the penthouse.

In a broken heart it’s scared of breaking again
Cause you gotta believe me
I’ll never leave you
You’ll never cry as long as I’m am there
And I will always be there
You will never be without, no

Elizabeth folds her arms across her chest and takes a deep breath. “Okay.”

“Okay, what?” Jason asks, amused.

“Okay–kiss me,” she tells him.

“Kiss you,” he repeats slowly. He frowns. “Are you sure?”

“Jason,” Elizabeth says rolling her eyes. “Don’t be so difficult. If I wasn’t sure, then I–”

He grasps her elbows and pulls her toward him to kiss her.

When winter comes in summer
When there’s no more forever
When lies become the truth
Well you’ll know then baby
That’s when I’ll stop loving
That’s when I’ll stop loving you

She opens the velvet box and her eyes dart up to meet his. “Jason. You–this is–” She takes a deep breath. “Oh…wow…”

He takes the box from her and pulls out a small gold ring with an average-sized diamond in it. “I love you,” he tells her. “More than I thought I could ever love anyone. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” He swallows hard. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she says the second he’s finished speaking. “Yes, yes, yes–” She stops abruptly and kisses him hard.

That’s when I’ll stop loving you, yeah
As long as sunlight lights the sky
The light of love will be found in these eyes of mine
(These eyes of mine)
And I will shine that light for you
You’re the only one I’ll ever give this heart to
What I’m trying to say is nothing will change this
Loving on time you will find there
Cause I will always be there
You will always have all my love

“I, Elizabeth Webber, take you, Jason Morgan, to be my lawfully wedded husband,” she says in a trembling voice. “To love and to cherish, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, forsaking all others, all the days of my life.”

Jason clears his throat and stares into her glossy sapphire eyes. “I, Jason Morgan, take you, Elizabeth Webber, to be my lawfully wedded wife. To love and to cherish, to have and to hold, in sickness and in healthy, for richer and for poorer, forsaking all others, all the days of my life.”

When winter comes in summer
When there’s no more forever
When lies become the truth
Well you’ll know then baby
That’s when I’ll stop loving
That’s when I’ll stop loving you

Segment ThreeScene Three

Emily twirls the phone cord around her fingers. “Yes, Mom,” she replies. “Uh huh. Yeah. I’ve been going to–right, Mom. Okay–definitely–I’m eating well–tell Grandfather over my dead body. Right. Okay. Bye–Okay, yeah. Right. Bye.” She hangs it up and leans back to let out a loud frustrated groan. “What is it with my family?” she asks.

Zander enters the room with a plate of salad. He hands it to his wife, before taking a seat next to her. “What’s wrong?” he asks.

Emily sighs. “Well, Mom wanted to know if I was seeing a doctor and to let me know that any time I wanted to come home I could.”

Zander frowns. “They do realize that we’re married, right?”

“I sure hope so. Who paid for the wedding otherwise?” Emily asks. “Not to mention that Grandfather is pushing for me to drop the Smith entirely so that the baby will be the Quartermaine heir.”

“What happened to Michael?” Zander asks.

Emily shrugs. “I think AJ finally made them realize he’s a grown man and will do whatever he pleases with his children. Including keeping Michael away from Grandfather.”

“How long do you think it will be before they realize you have that right, too?” Zander asks.

“A good ten years,” she says dryly. She gasps suddenly. “Oh!”

“What’s wrong?” he asks, leaning forward. He studies her. “Em?”

“The baby kicked,” she breathes. She takes one of his hands and presses it against her abdomen. “Can you feel it?”

Zander waits and then a grin breaks out on his face. “Oh my God. I can feel it! We’ve got one hell of a soccer player here!”

“Oh my God, I’m so excited!” Emily squeals. “The baby is kicking!”

He brings his other hand up to brush hair away from her face. “I love you,” he murmurs, leaning in for a kiss.

Segment ThreeScene Four

AJ pushes Michael’s bedroom open. “Hey, buddy,” he murmurs, taking in the sight of his small son sitting on his bed, his arms tightly crossed and his mouth set in a firm scowl.

“Go away.”

AJ sits next to him and is amused when Michael moves down the bed. He certainly had Carly’s stubborn streak.

“You know how much I love you,” AJ begins. “Your mother and I both love you.”

“Then what do you need another baby for?” Michael demands gruffly. Or as gruff as a six-year-old could be.

“Because your mother and I love each other. And we want more children,” AJ tries to explain. “We aren’t trying to replace you with another baby.”

“I’m the baby,” Michael tells him, seriously.

“You’re a big boy,” AJ corrected him. “Big boys get to go to the park and swing on the swings. Big boys get to go to work with me and help Mommy cook.”

Michael eyes him. “And big boys get to visit Uncle Jason?” he asks hopefully.

AJ tries to control his instinct to scowl. “Sure. But babies don’t get to do those things. Babies have to sleep in cribs and lay around all day. They can’t watch television or walk around.”

Michael’s noses wrinkles up. “Being a baby sucks.”

“Well, it doesn’t suck,” AJ says, grinning. “It’s just not a lot of fun. Besides, you get to be a big brother.”

“What does a big brother do?” Michael asks, intrigued.

“Well, a big brother looks out for their little brother or sister. They take care of them, make sure no one else messes with them.”

“Can I order them around?” Michael asks eagerly.

AJ grins. “Within reason, I guess. Hell, what’s the fun of having siblings if you can’t mess with them a little.” He reaches over and tousles Michael’s hair. “So, you read to go back downstairs and congratulate your mother?”

Michael heaves a big sigh. “Yeah. I guess.”

Segment FourScene One

Elizabeth opens the door to the penthouse to find Jason still in the same place as when she’d left. She closes the door quietly and clears her throat.

He turns and a look of relief crosses his face. “Elizabeth.”

“We need to talk,” she says softly. She makes no move to cross to him and he stays where he is. “We can’t go on like this.”

“I know,” he admits. “I talked to Skye earlier. I gave her my blessing.”

“You did?” she asks, surprised. “But I thought you–”

“It comes to mind that I was doing it for the wrong reasons,” he replies. “I wasn’t happy about it because I didn’t want Skye hurt. And even though I knew Sonny would cut off his right hand before he hurt her–I didn’t want them to be like us.”

“Us,” Elizabeth repeats.

Jason shoves his hands in pockets and sighs. “We’ve been walking around here these past few monthsthe last year or so especiallylike strangers. And I hate it.”

“I hate it, too,” Elizabeth tells him.

He holds his hand out to her and she crosses the room to take it. The second her hand is in his, he pulls her to him and wraps his arms around her. She slides her arms around his waist and looks up at him.

“I love you,” he says. “But I still think you’re going to see me for who I am–and your face will change and you’ll leave.”

“Don’t you get it?” she asks. “I love you, Jason. I’m not leaving. Ever. I know who you are and I love you. I know what you do…my face isn’t going to change,” she swears.

“I know that most of the time. But–” he stops and shrugs a little. “Sometimes I think about it. And I think about what my life would be like if you did…leave.”

“When you walk out that door,” she begins in a quiet voice, “some days, I am so terrified that you won’t come back. I try not to show it because I want to be better than that, I want to be the strong wife that you need, but some days it’s worse than others and I can’t…I can’t deal with the idea.”

He rests his forehead against hers and sighs. “We’re a mess,” he murmurs. “Skye was right. We’re both so scared the other is going to leave….that we’re not even seeing what our fears are doing to the other person.”

“I don’t want to be like that anymore,” she tells him, closing her eyes. “I don’t want to be scared that you’re going to leave and I don’t want you to think that there’s ever a day that’s going to come when I’m not going to love you and that I’m not going to be here.”

“I guess we’re just going to have to trust each other.” He moves his face and presses it into her soft brown curls.

“I can do that,” she replies, tightening her arms. “How about you?”

“I can try.”

Segment Four
Scene Two

Skye takes a deep breath and knocks on Sonny’s door at Jake’s briskly. She waits a few minutes, hearing some shuffling noises from inside. When it becomes apparent that he isn’t going to answer, she pushes the door open.

Sonny is slumped in a chair, a beer bottle in his hand. He frowns. “Skye.”

She enters the room and closes the door behind her. “Sonny.”

He takes a sip of the beer. “What’re you doing here?” he asks bluntly.

“I talked to my brother,” Skye replies. “And I know why he was against us.”

Sonny shakes his head. “I know why. Because I’m nothing but a killer–”

“No!” Skye stalks towards him and takes the bottle from him. “That’s not it, and you’re not a killer!”

“We’ve had this discussion,” Sonny says, sighing. “You know what I do for your brother–”

“Yes, I know that!” Skye snaps. “But to say that you are nothing but one is just ridiculous. I would never have fallen in love with you otherwise!”

“Skye, the point is–”

“The point is that Jason never had a problem with you!” Skye retorts. He stares at her for a second.

“Then what?”

Skye sighs and sits down on the bed. “It’s no secret that Jason and Elizabeth haven’t been…wellthat they’ve been having problems these last few months.”

“Yeah” Sonny sighs. “I saw her, today. Snapped at her pretty badly.”

“I think it hit an all-time low today. She walked out of the penthouse and I know Jason was worried she wouldn’t come back. See, he’s always been worried that she’s going to leave him. So scared he’ll lose her…he shut her out. And Elizabeth has been withdrawn and quiet…she shut him out, too.”

“What does that have to do with us?” Sonny demands. “Was he taking his frustrations out on us?”

“No directly. He was worried about me,” Skye confides. “Worried that what happened to Elizabeth–would happen to me.”

“That’s stupid,” Sonny cuts in. “I’m not Jason and you’re not Liz.”

Skye sighs. “I know. But he was worried about me. I talked to him about it–and it’s done. He’s finished with it. He’s going to talk to Liz.” Skye stands. “And he’s stopped objecting to our relationship.”

Sonny eyes her warily. “Are you sure?”

Skye nods. “He wants me to be happy.” She smiles tremulously. “And you make me happy.”

Sonny stands and crosses her to her. “I know you were disappointed when I chose to end our relationship instead of losing my job–”

“I was,” Skye interrupts. “But I understood. Jason’s not just a job to you. He’s your best friend.” She takes his hands in hers. “I love you, Sonny. And I don’t want to go through life without you.”

He pulls a hand free and touches her face. “I love you, too,” he tells her softly.

Segment FourScene Three

Emily giggles. “Come on. Just give me the ice cream already!”

Zander shakes his head and holds it away from her. “Nope. You’ve had enough.”

“Maybe,” Emily allows. She smiles. “But little Zander, Jr. doesn’t think so.”

He glares at her mockingly. “Not fair, bringing the tyke into this.” He hands the carton back to her.

“You can’t refuse me anything,” Emily teases, digging into the Rocky Road.

Zander studies her for a moment. “Em?”

“Yeah?” Emily asks, her words muffled by the ice cream.

“We haven’t really discussed names,” he says, “but I was wondering…if maybe for a boy, we could” he shrugs. “Peter?” he suggests.

Emily’s eyes soften and she sets the carton down on the coffee table. She touches Zander’s cheek. “I think that would be a great name,” she tells him. “And what about Paige for a girl?”

Zander covers her hand with his own, holding it to his face. “You’ve got it,” he promises, leaning over to kiss his wife.

Segment FourScene Four

Carly is sitting on the couch. She stands up quickly hearing her husband and son’s footsteps on the stairs. “Hey,” she says.

“Now, Michael,” AJ says, shoving the boy forward. “Don’t you have something to say to Mommy?”

Michael sighs. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles.

“And?” AJ prompts.

“And I’m happy about the baby.”

Carly kneels in front of him. “You know that this baby could neverever replace you in my heart,” she tells him softly. Michael shrugs and looks away. Carly grips his chin her fingers and forces him to look at her. “You are my first baby, the love of my life.”

“Hey,” AJ grumbles from behind them.

“What if it’s a girl?” Michael asks stubbornly.

“Then you’ll have a big job ahead of you,” Carly says firmly. “Because it’s going to be your job to make sure that she’s safe and happy. That no one hurts her.”

“But you’ll still love me?” he asks, hopefully.

Carly pulls him into a tight embrace. “Nothing could ever change how I feel about you,” she swears. “I love you so much.”

Segment Five

When the road gets dark
And you can no longer see
Just let my love throw a spark baby
And have a little faith in me
And when the tears you cry
Are all you can believe
Just give these lovin’ arms a try baby
And have a little faith in me

Jason and Elizabeth are sitting on the couch in the penthouse, his arms tightly wrapped around her. She leans against his chest, her eyes closed.

“Maybe we need to move,” she murmurs.

“Move?” he echoes.

“Yeah. We could pretend we’re almost normal. Like with a house or something. With a backyard.” She shifts, snuggling deeper into his embrace. “And a front lawn where we can have a mailbox.”

“A mailbox,” Jason repeats, highly amused.

“Mmm-hmmm…I can plant a garden and the yard would have to be big enough for a swing set.”

Curious, “A swing set?”

She opens her eyes and tilts her head to the side so that she can look at him. “Oh. Right. I didn’t tell you.”

A smile begins to tug at the corners of his mouth. “No, I guess you didn’t.”

“Well…about six months after Emily’s kid is bornhe or she is gonna have a cousin,” Elizabeth reports.

Instead of answering her, he tilts her face further and leans down to kiss her.

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me

Skye opens her eyes, and rests her chin on Sonny’s chest. “I love you,” she tells him again.

“I love you, too,” Sonny replies. He runs his fingers through her dark red hair. “Marry me,” he says suddenly.

She raises her eyebrows. “Marry you.”

He nods. “See, I love you, you love me-why not?”

“Why not, indeed,” Skye smirks. “That’s the most romantic proposal I’ve ever heard in my life.”

“So I’m not the hearts and flowers type,” Sonny shrugs. “I can deal with it if you can.”

“I suppose if I must,” Skye replies, sighing. “Sure, why not?”

He grins. “That’s the most half-hearted acceptance of a proposal I’ve heard,” he teases.

When your secret heart
Cannot speak so easily
Come here darlin’
From a whisper start
Have a little faith in me When your back’s against the wall
Just turn around, you will see
I will catch you, I will catch your fall
Just have a little faith in me

“Okay, we’ve decided,” Emily declares. “Paige Lila for a girl and Peter Alexander for a boy.”

Zander wrinkles his nose. “Not to be picky, but Lila Paige kind of flows better.”

Emily repeats both names. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Hey, what if we have twins?”

Zander shudders. “Lord, don’t even joke about that. I barely survived one crib!”

Emily grins evilly. “Or triplets.”

“I can’t hear this!” Zander cries, clamping his hands over his ears. “We’re having one kid at a time.”

“Must be nice to think you have a choice,” Emily cracks. “But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.”

“It will,” he says fiercely. “I just won’t accept anything else.”

Emily rolls her eyes. “Honestly, sometimes you’re such a baby.”

Well, I’ve been loving you for such a long, long time baby
Expecting nothing in return
Just for you to have a little faith in me
You see time, time is our friend
For you and me there is no end
And all you gotta do is have a little faith in me

Carly shuts off Michael’s light and closes the door. “I think that went rather well,” she remarks to AJ as they head for their bed room.

AJ groans. “Easy for you to say. You’re not the one that had to explain where babies come from. You’re taking the next kid.”

Carly opens her dresser and pulls out a nightgown. “It wasn’t that bad.”

AJ heads for the bathroom. “Uh huh. So when Michael asked you why boys were different from girls, you didn’t pretend to have morning sickness?”

Carly scowls. “I was not pretending,” she said indignantly. She pulls the nightgown over her head. “I did have morning sickness.”

“Pretty convenient timing,” he teases. He stares at his face in the mirror of the bathroom. “Maybe I should grow a beard.”

“Maybe you can sleep in the guest room.”

AJ digs out his shaving cream. “Too hot for a beard,” he grumbles.

She appears in the doorway and leans against the door jamb. “I love you,” she says. “I just wanted you to know that.”

He sets the shaving cream aside and pulls her into his arms. “I love you, too.”

I said I will hold you up, I will hold you up
Your strength is enough
So have a little faith in me
I said hey baby oh baby
All you gotta do is have a little faith in me
All you gotta do is have a little faith in me

SongHave A Little Faith In Me by Jewel

 

Set in October 2002, after Sonny is publicly known to be alive, but before that ridiculous breakup scene in the penthouse. Twelve years, people, and I’m still annoyed. Frickin soap operas.


October 6, 2002

— Harborview Towers —

Carly Corinthos jabbed the button of the elevator viciously and turned to Scott Baldwin. “Will you go away?” she snarled.

“Well, I’m headed to the police station anyway,” Scott replied, smiling his trademark smirk. “Might as well give me a ride, eh, Carly?”

“That’s Mrs. Corinthos to you.”

The doors opened and Carly ran right into Elizabeth Webber, fresh from her shift at Kelly’s.

“Whoa, Carly,” Elizabeth said, holding her hands up. “Is everything okay?”

Carly hesitated. “I have to go to the police station,” she said, loathing to be the one to tell Jason’s girlfriend he’d spent the last three weeks lying to her.

Elizabeth’s eyes widened in fear. “The police station?” she said softly. “What happened? Is Jason okay?”

“Jason’s just fine,” Scott jumped in. Carly threw him a nasty look. “In fact, I bet he’s just great, you know since, his boss is alive and everything.”

Elizabeth frowned and glanced at Carly. “What is he talking about?”

“Sonny’s alive,” Carly said, irritated with being held up. “Look, come with me and I’ll explain on the way.” She pushed the brunette back into the elevator and the doors shut before the district attorney could get in, too.

— Port Charles Police Department —

Jason Morgan leaned against the table in the interrogation room, his arms crossed. “How much longer are we going to be in here?”

“Long enough for those idiots to realize that we haven’t broken any laws,” Sonny muttered. He rested his hands on her hips and squinted through the blinds outside the window. “I think we’ve got a problem.”

“What?” Jason asked. He straightened. “What is it?”

“Carly and Brenda just saw each other,” Sonny murmured. “Not good.”

Jason peered through the blinds and exhaled slowly seeing the petite brunette behind Carly. “What is Elizabeth doing here?”

“Came with Carly, probably,” Sonny replied. He eyed Jason from the corner of his eye. “She’ll understand, Jason.”

“I doubt it,” Jason said under his breath.

It was another fifteen minutes before Taggart kicked Jason out of the room to question Sonny. Instructing the enforcer not to leave, he closed the door. Jason turned and stepped hesitantly towards Elizabeth.

“Elizabeth–”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now,” she murmured, keeping an eye on the snarling women in front of her. Part of her knew she should pull Carly aside, but a larger and angrier part wanted Brenda to kick the blonde’s ass, wanting Carly to feel some pain for the mortification Elizabeth was feeling right now.

“I–”

“I said that we’ll talk about it later,” Elizabeth snapped, finally looking at him, her eyes cold and angry. “Because you do not want everyone around us to hear what I have to say.”

Jason nodded and rubbed the back of his neck, knowing this night was going to get worse before it got better.

Finally, Mac Scorpio stepped in and announced that Sonny and Jason were to go home but to be careful not to leave town. They hadn’t broken any laws that night–but Sonny was going to be fully investigated for shooting Luis Alcazar.

— Limo —

The limo was cloaked in silence as Elizabeth sat next to Jason and pointedly ignored him. Carly wasn’t speaking to Sonny currently, pissed about Brenda’s return from the dead.

“After all that talk about honesty,” Carly muttered. “After making me promise not to keep secrets.”

“Carly–” Sonny began, his tone patient and indulgent.

“Do not start with me, Sonny Corinthos. You had no right to keep this from me!” Carly yelled.

“I knew it would just upset you–”

“You’re damn right it upsets me!” she raged. “You lied to me!”

Elizabeth snorted and shook her head. The hypocrisy level in this car was going to choke her.

“Did you know?” she asked, suddenly, interrupting Carly’s tirade.

Carly paused and looked at her guiltily. “Yeah.”

Elizabeth stared at her for a moment and closed her eyes. “That’s what I thought.”

“Elizabeth,” Sonny began, seeing a battle he thought he could win. “This wasn’t kept from you to hurt you.”

“Sonny–” Jason tried to cut in.

“We couldn’t just trust anyone,” Sonny continued, sure that Elizabeth would understand.

Carly groaned and rolled her eyes, sensing that Elizabeth’s outrage was going to take over in about five seconds.

Jason shifted, uncomfortably. Sonny’s choice of words hadn’t been good and he could feel the waves of hurt and anger coming from the woman beside him.

“Right,” Elizabeth drawled. “Because, hell, who am I, right?”

Sonny winced. “Okay, that’s not what I meant–”

“I’m just the girl that’s been cooped up in the penthouse, who’s been kidnapped and shot at twice just because I happen to know you and Jason. But hey, we can’t just tell anyone the plan right?” Elizabeth said sarcastically. “We can tell your wife, who turned you in the government, but not the girl who’s risked her life several times for Jason, right?”

“Hey,” Carly protested. “That’s not fair.”

“Elizabeth, that didn’t come out right,” Sonny tried again. Jason chose to stay silent for the moment, knowing his friend wouldn’t shut up until he had nothing left to say. “What I meant was it was completely necessary that this secret was kept.”

“Sonny, just shut up,” Carly advised.

“Of course,” Elizabeth said, sweetly. She narrowed her eyes. “Because God knows I couldn’t keep a secret to save my life right? I mean, completely excusing the fact that I trashed my reputation and let people think I was sleeping with Jason so they wouldn’t know he was shot or that I lied to everyone I knew and hid Jason in my studio, why the hell should you trust me?”

Sonny frowned. “Elizabeth, this wasn’t about you.”

“You’re right,” she said softly, the fire draining from her. She stared out the window. “I don’t matter at all.”

Sonny opened his mouth again, but Carly elbowed him in the ribs. “You’re just making it worse,” she muttered.

“Elizabeth,” Jason quietly. “You know that’s not true.”

She turned to look at him, her eyes full of tears. “Do I?”

The limo pulled into the underground parking garage of the towers. Elizabeth shoved the door open and stalked towards the elevators, not waiting for the trio behind her.

Jason watched the elevator doors shut behind her, a pained expression etched onto his face.

“I didn’t mean to hurt her,” Sonny said, firmly. “She’ll come around.”

Carly rolled her eyes. “Yeah, okay. Let’s just go upstairs.” She looked at Jason and touched his arm. “Look, she’s angry right now. Very angry. And she has every right to be. So, just let her vent. Let her yell and scream at you. Do not try and defend yourself because we both know it was wrong not to include her. But whatever you do, do not let her leave you. Because I’m willing to bet that will be her first instinct.”

“Actually, Jason, I need you to come over to the penthouse,” Sonny cut in. “We have some things to work out.”

Carly stared at him. “Are you insane?” she asked incredulously. “He cannot come over right now–”

“Damn it, this is more important,” Sonny interrupted angrily.

Carly felt Jason tense beneath her hand. “I’ll go talk to her,” she promised him. “You get this thing figured out with Sonny.”

“Fine,” Jason said shortly.

— Jason’s Penthouse —

Carly pushed the door open silently and saw Zander zipping up his bag. “Hey.”

He glanced at her. “Hey.”

“Going somewhere?” she asked, gesturing towards the bag.

“Elizabeth told me that Sonny is alive. She advised me to leave,” Zander replied. “She’s right. After we both risked our lives for him and then to be lied to…I don’t trust any of you to keep me safe. I’ll take care of myself.” He lifted the bag. “She’s upstairs packing now.”

He left, slamming the door behind him. Carly sighed and waited for the other woman to come downstairs.

She could hear her slamming around above her and winced every time a drawer slammed shut. For such a tiny girl, she sure packed a lot of violence.

Before Elizabeth came down, the door behind her pushed open and Jason entered, his face ashen.

“Is everything okay?” Carly asked, worried.

He hesitated a moment before speaking. “Sonny’s taking everyone to the island,” Jason told her.

She frowned. “Wait, what?”

“Tagliatti–” Jason’s jaw clenched. “He got caught laundering money and he’s going to make a deal with the DA.”

“A deal?” Carly asked softly. “What kind of deal?”

“He’s turning on Sonny,” Jason replied. “We have to leave now before the arrest warrants are issued.”

“Okay.” Carly tried to smile. “Well, at least Elizabeth won’t be able to leave you if she’s stuck on the island.”

Jason looked towards the stairs. “I’m not–I’m not taking her.” He looked back to Carly. “I don’t know how long we’ll be gone and I can’t ask her to give up her life here.”

“You can’t just leave–” Carly shook her head. “Jason–”

“You’d better go pack,” Jason told her quietly. “We’re leaving tonight.”

Carly sighed and left, cursing Tagliatti and Jason mentally.

It was a few more moments before Elizabeth descended the stairs, dragging a suitcase behind her.

She stopped in front of Jason. “I can’t be with someone who doesn’t trust me,” Elizabeth said softly.

“I understand.”

She waited. Waited for him to stop herto say something, to say anything. When he didn’t–when he only stared at her sadly, she clenched her jaw.

“Fine.”

— Hallway —

“You packed quickly,” Johnny mused, as Elizabeth dragged her suitcase towards the elevator. She stopped and stared him, irritated. “But didn’t Jason tell you? We’re not leaving for another hour.”

She frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“The plane doesn’t leave for another hour,” Johnny clarified. When the confusion didn’t clear from his eyes, he narrowed his eyes. “Didn’t Jason tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Elizabeth asked quietly.

“We’re going to the island–someone turned on Sonny and Jason,” Johnny explained. “We have to leave before the arrest warrants are issued.”

Elizabeth glanced towards the door of the penthouse. He hadn’t said a word. Hadn’t even told her he’d be leaving town. He’d just said he understood and let her leave. He hadn’t even cared enough to ask her to go with him.

She looked back at Johnny and sighed. “He didn’t tell me anything. I’m going home to my studio,” she said. “I was leaving him.” She hesitated. “I am leaving him.”

Johnny shook his head. “Wait, Miss Webber, we can’t not take you. You…you’ve been living with Jason, everyone knows the two of you are together. It’s not safe to leave you here by yourself.”

“That’s funny, Johnny,” Elizabeth said, pushing the button for the elevator. “Because if anyone knew anything, they’d know I mean nothing to anyone who lives on this floor.”

“Now that’s not true either,” Johnny argued. “Miss Webber–”

The doors opened and Elizabeth pulled her suitcase into the elevator. “Call me Elizabeth, Johnny. There’s no reason to pretend anymore.”

The doors shut on those words and he just stared at the closed doors.

November 18, 2002

— Sonny’s Island —

Jason stared out over the water from the deck of the large home adjacent to the casino. He could see Carly and Michael playing on the beach from where he stood.

“Did you get the reports?” he asked Johnny quietly.

“Yeah.” Johnny folded his arms across the suit he still wore. He was the only member of the inner circle still able to travel back and forth between Port Charles and the island, the only person that hadn’t been charged with racketeering and a host of other crimes.

He went back to check on the progress of the caseto let them know when it might be safe to return. He also went back for reports on members of the family they’d left behind. Courtney. Mike. Bobbie.

Elizabeth.

Courtney had barely noticed her estranged older brother had left town. Mike missed Sonny, but was still angry with his son for making him mourn for nothing. Bobbie missed Carly sorely and was working her charm on Scott, trying to get the charges dropped.

Elizabeth had moved back into her studio and was working at Kelly’s again. She almost seemed normal, but anyone who knew her knew that she was miserable.

Johnny had tried to convince Jason to let him bring Elizabeth back to the island, knowing the girl would jump at the chance to have any indication that he still cared. But Jason had refused, not wanting to disrupt her life.

Johnny strode forward, putting himself in Jason’s line of sight. Jason frowned, taking in the other man’s bruises. “What the hell happened to you?” he asked.

“One of Alcazar’s men paid me a visit,” Johnny replied. “Just a warning. Also left me with this.” He shoved a picture at Jason, not caring that he probably wouldn’t make most of it out.

Jason stared down at the black and white photo. “What is it?”

“It’s a picture,” Johnny snarled. “Of the girl you won’t let me bring here. Seems Alcazar is curious about her…curious why you left her behind.”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “He’s watching Elizabeth?” he demanded.

“Yep,” Johnny drawled. “Satisfied now?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“You tried to do the right thing by letting her leave, trying to pretend that she isn’t in deep enough to matter. But if you want my opinion, Jason, there ain’t a man in the organization or in the families who doesn’t know Elizabeth Webber. Everyone knows about that bomb Sorel put in her studio, about the kidnapping, about her hiding you in her studio twice–it was fucking stupid to think you could her alone in Port Charles and pretend that none of that happened.”

“You done?” Jason demanded.

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Jason tossed the picture back at him. “Get the plane ready.”

“I’ll bring her–”

“I’m going to go get her,” Jason cut in. “Tell Sonny where I went. Tell him that I’m just going to get her and I’m bringing her back. I don’t have time to make the rounds, so he’ll have to deal.”

“You can’t go to Port Charles,” Johnny reminded him as he followed Jason into the spacious front room. Jason headed for the steps. “Taggart will have you thrown in jail.”

“Then he’ll have to throw me in jail,” Jason said. “Because I’m going to get Elizabeth.”

November 19, 2002

— Kelly’s —

Elizabeth closed the door to the diner behind her, making sure it was firmly locked. She sighed and tucked the key in her purse before stepping away to walk home to her studio.

She was halfway across the docks when she felt someone grab her arm and pull her underneath the dock stairs. She opened her mouth to scream, but a hand covered her mouth.

“Don’t scream,” Jason told her. “It’s just me.” He let his hand fall away.

“What are you doing here?” Elizabeth whispered. “You’re supposed to be on the island.”

“You know where I’ve been?” Jason asked in surprise. “How?”

“Johnny told me the night I left,” she replied. “The cops have been asking everyone if we’ve heard from you or Sonny. There are even charges against Carly aiding and abetting–”

“We know all of that,” Jason interrupted.

“Then why are you here?” she demanded. “You’re going to get caught–”

“I need you to come with me.”

She blinked. “What?”

“You have to pack a bag and come back with me,” Jason told her.

“Are you crazy?” she hissed. “It’s been a month since you left. A month. Why now? Why not the night you left?”

“Because I thought you’d be safer here,” Jason answered. “Because I didn’t realize how much I’d miss you.”

She frowned. “Okay. So what’s the real reason?”

“Alcazar’s watching you,” Jason said without hesitation. “I’m worried he’s going to make a move.”

“You came back here, risked prosecution and possible jail time to get me?” she asked softly.

“I’m sorry for what happened…and I’m sorry that I let you walk away without a word, but you have to believe me that I do care about you and–”

“Let’s go,” Elizabeth interrupted. “We’d better get out of sight anyway. Cops patrol these docks like crazy now.”

“You’re going to come with me?” he asked, skeptically. “Without any argument?”

“Do you want me to waste time and argue?”

“No.”

“Then let’s go.”

The End

I’ll be home for Christmas

Elizabeth Morgan set the last present under the tree and shifted the telephone to her other ear. “You’ve never missed Christmas before,” she sighed.

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry,” her husband Jason apologized. “I thought I was gonna be home but the planes are all grounded–“

“I just…it’s her first Christmas, Jason. We should be together.” Elizabeth pushed her hair out of her face. “I’ll see you when you do manage to get home.”

You can plan on me

Jason hung up his cell phone and slid it back into the pocket of his leather jacket. He should have refused this assignment but the chance to finally nail mob kingpin Sonny Corinthos had been too tempting and he’d flown off after Thanksgiving.

The job had been done but now Jason would miss his daughter’s very first Christmas. He glanced at the clock on the wall and then to the car rental counter. Maybe not.

Please have snow and mistletoe

Elizabeth tucked their six-month-old daughter Noelle into her crib and set her stuffed teddy bear next to her. She smoothed her hand over the soft blonde downy hair and sighed. “Don’t worry, honey, next year you won’t even remember that Daddy wasn’t home,” she promised.

And presents on the tree

“You’ll be home in time for Christmas right?” Elizabeth asked as she watched Jason pack to for the South America trip from her seated position on the edge of the bed.

He nodded. “They don’t think it’ll take more than two weeks to get this case wrapped up.” He zipped his duffle bag and kneeled in front of her.  “I know I promised I’d be on vacation this month but I’ve been working the Corinthos file for three years.”

“You don’t have to explain it to me–just promise me you’ll be here.”

He kissed her forehead. “I promise.”

Christmas Eve will find me

Jason leaned towards the windowshield, eyeing the thickly falling snow. The roads were dark and he was almost worried he’d get lost.

He was almost three hours from home–his last plane had gotten held up in Delaware. But he’d never missed a Christmas with his wife since the day they’d met and he wasn’t going to start now.

Where the love light gleams

“Oh…was I supposed to get you a present?” Jason laughed as she looked at him with a glare in her eyes. “You didn’t mention that.”

“Oh–dont be such a guy,” Elizabeth huffed. “You know very well that it’s Christmas and it’s also our four month anniversary so just…stop playing around and give me my present.”

“I’m serious, Elizabeth, I don’t have anything.”

She slugged him in the arm. “After I went through God knows how many applications to get approved so I could buy you that stupid gun you were always drooling…” her tirade was cut off abruptly when he finally handed her the department store wrapped jewelry case. “Well, then…that’s better.”

I’ll be home for Christmas

Elizabeth stood on their sun porch–safely glassed in and climate controlled–and watched the snow falling. God this didn’t seem fair. His stupid job had disappointed her again.

She should have known better after he missed Noelle’s birth.

If only in my dreams

“I’ll be there for the next one.”

Elizabeth sniffled, her hormones still out of whack. “But she’s our first born, Jason. You knew the labor was near–and you took the assignment anyway.”

“We had a lead about Corinthos–”

“Oh screw Sonny Corinthos.”

I’ll be home for Christmas

The car ran out of gas an hour away. A mere hour. He slammed his fist on the steering wheel and sat back in the seat, defeated. He’d done all he could to get home.

Except stay home like he’d promised in the first place. Now that the Corinthos case was closed, he get promoted to a desk job and he’d never have to leave home again.

Not that it would really help his case tonight.

You can plan on me

It was almost four in the morning when the phone roused her from her sleep. She came out from a pile of covers and grabbed it. “Yeah?” she asked sleepily.

“I’m outside the state line. I tried–I tried to get there, I really did, but the car–“

“Jason?” Elizabeth sat up and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “Where are you now?”

Please have snow and mistletoe

“About an hour from home. I rented a car and now I’m stuck just outside of the state line in Jersey. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. I tried to get there but the car ran out of gas and I can’t see four feet in front of my face in this snow.”

She curled up in her bed and brought his pillow to her face, breathing in his scent. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not.”

And presents on the tree

“It really is,” she assured him. “I know how important this case was to you–”

“You and Noelle are more important and I should have sent someone else in–“

“But you closed the case and after three years, you deserved to be the one to arrest him. It’s okay, Jason. I mean–yes, I’m angry but I forgave you six months ago, this is no big deal.”

Christmas Eve will find me

“They’re promoting me.” He stared down at the bracelet hed bought her in Brazil. In the sunlight, light streamed through the prism-like stones and reflected all kinds of colors. Exactly the type of gift she’d adore.

“Thats great news,” she smiled.

“A desk job. In PC.”

Elizabeth hesitated. The part Jason had loved most about his job was the investigations, the intrigue, the places he’d go. Depending on the type of case, she used to go with him sometimes.

He’d hate being chained to a desk.

Where the love light gleams

“You don’t have to take it though, right?” she asked.

“Elizabeth, I’ll be home all the time–we can spend more time together, I won’t miss anymore of Noelle’s major milestones or any holidays–“

“But you’ll be miserable at your job and I don’t want that either.” She fingered the edge of the comforter. “I understand it takes a lot of time and patience to do what you do and it might not always seem like it, but I’m proud of you Jason, and I want you to be happy.”

I’ll be home for Christmas

Marveling at the wonderful woman he’d married, Jason shook his head. “God, I wish I were there right now.”

“I do, too,” she sighed. She closed her eyes. “But you’re here when it counts so its okay.”

“I love you, Elizabeth. I’ll be home tomorrow.”

“I love you, too.”

If only in my dream