Part Three

Song: Answer (Sarah McLachlan) (Continued from Part 2)

6
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Jason’s Penthouse

When the door behind him opened, Jason set the photo down on his desk and slid it under a stack of papers. He turned to see Sonny standing behind, his face lined with exhaustion. “Uh…hey.” They were rarely in the same room these days, not since Sonny had learned Jason had helped Carly arrange for AJ to have visits with Michael.

But the anger that had haunted Sonny for so long seemed absent. “Hey,” he responded, and Jason could tell he felt awkward. “Uh…” Sonny coughed. “I just had lunch with Morgan and Michael.”

“Oh.” Jason leaned back against the desk and crossed his arms. “Okay.” He paused. “How’d it go?”

“Good, good.” Sonny looked around the room, probably noting that it had returned to the bare necessities—without any of the flourishes Courtney had added. When she’d left him, she’d taken most of the furniture, since—as she pointed out—she’d picked it out, she liked it and his stuff was in still in storage. “Michael seemed like he had fun…in New Orleans.”

“I think he did,” Jason said carefully.

“And he, uh, said he’s going back in August, for two weeks this time. And maybe for a few days in July.” Sonny walked slowly across the room, to stand by the mantel with photos of the boys. He picked up one of Michael at about the age he’d been when Sonny had adopted him. “He told me that even though he was talking to AJ, that I was his father, too, and he loved me.”

Jason remained silent. Didn’t know what to say. Sonny seemed to be taking this well, but was it just the calm before the storm?

“I remember that I didn’t really care one way or another about AJ Quartermaine until Carly came into my life.” Sonny turned back to look at him. “And he became an obstacle to the family I wanted. I figured he was a drunk, like my stepfather, like Mike, and he didn’t deserve Michael in his life. Carly didn’t want him there, so I…” He waved his hand, as if dismissing the whole notion of AJ. “I made it happen, and then AJ…” His face twisted. “He did what he did to my sister.”

“I know what he did to Courtney,” Jason murmured. “And I don’t forget it. But it was the reason he gave her a divorce without arguments, that he left town immediately afterward, and got himself sober. He looked good, Sonny. I never would have—”

“No, I know.” Sonny blinked and looked at the ceiling. “I talked to Carly after the custody hearing, I apologized for taking it to this point, and now I want to apologize to you. For making Michael, the little boy you entrusted me with, for making his life miserable. I love him, I do, but I think I recognize now…” He planted his hands at his waist and looked down, exhaling. “I recognize now that adopting a child is a gift, one you have to treasure and not take for granted. I did that. I assumed I owned him, because Carly gave him to me. I never dreamed she would turn to AJ to save her son from the grief we were causing him.” He looked up at Jason. “She’s a better mother than I ever gave her credit for.”

“So,” Sonny continued when Jason remained quiet. “Michael told me you’d taken him to the hospital down there.”

Jason blinked. He’d told Michael that he might want to keep it to himself, that only AJ knew about Elizabeth because he’d wanted someone down there to know she was on her own if she had had medical problems or needed help after the baby…but Michael would never think Sonny should be included in that prohibition. “Oh?”

“I knew you’d helped her leave Ric.” Sonny paused. “And I knew she was pregnant. I guess I just didn’t know you’d taken her to New Orleans.”

“I, uh…” Jason cleared his throat. “I didn’t want to take her somewhere where she’d be completely alone, and I needed to talk to AJ about Michael. It just…it just worked out that AJ’s steady enough…” He stopped. “Elizabeth had her son. I was visiting her, and she was at the hospital, and it just seemed…” He shifted, uncomfortably. “You know, her room was kind of bare, and the other women in the wing had visitors and flowers, I just thought she might feel…better. So I asked AJ and Michael to come see her.”

“That’s good.” Sonny nodded and rubbed his jaw. “So, the baby…he’s all right?”

“Yeah.” Jason found himself smiling at the memory, of being in the delivery room so she wouldn’t be alone, of being there when Elizabeth saw her son for the first time. “She named Cameron, for Zander’s father who died in the fire. Cameron Hardy Webber.”

“Webber.” Sonny furrowed his brow. “What about…” he waved his hand again, as he always did when referring to people he rather didn’t walk the Earth.

“I contacted Diane Miller when I got back,” Jason responded. “She’s filing for divorce and is taking the steps to make sure Ric is out of her life and Cameron’s.”

“Good,” Sonny repeated. “I never understood why she married him again, but you know…” he shrugged. “She was pregnant and scared, maybe.” He cleared his throat. “That the picture you were looking at when I came in?”

“Uh…yeah.” Jason slid the photo out, and after a moment, held it out to his friend. “Just something AJ took. Of Elizabeth and Cameron.”

Sonny studied it and smiled. “She looks happy. Tired, you know, because having a kid ain’t easy, but she looks happier than I ever saw her around here.” He handed it back to Jason. “I know you don’t like Sam—”

“I don’t know her particularly well,” Jason said. “But if she makes you happy Sonny, that’s good. You…” He paused. “You look better than you have in months.”

“Yeah…well…” Sonny smiled a little more broadly, his dimples winking. “Eventually, when everyone is shouting the same thing at you, you begin to think they have a point.” He started for the door, and then turned back. “Ah, the guy I have at the PCPD, you know he gives me an updated list of what cases are getting their focus. I know you’ve been using him the last few months.”

“And?” Jason tensed.

“And,” Sonny said slowly, “He said you hadn’t checked in since you got home last week, so I’m letting you know that Zander Smith’s case has been permanently shelved. No suspects, no evidence…” He shrugged. “Nowhere to go.”

“Sonny…”

“Come over for dinner tonight,” Sonny said. “Get to know Sam.”

7
Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Garden District: Chestnut Street House

When Jason entered the house, he heard Elizabeth’s laughter coming from the back room. He set his duffel bag down and walked down the hallway to Elizabeth’s sitting room. She had only used a few pieces of furniture in the room, arranging it near the large back windows, and today she was sitting cross legged in the empty space behind the sofa. Her son was lying on his back on a soft blue blanket, his legs kicking and arms waving in the air.

Elizabeth glanced up and a warm smile spread across her features. “Jason! I wasn’t expecting you.” She remained seated, so he joined her on the floor, across the blanket. “Everything okay back home?”

“They’re good.” Cameron twisted at the new voice, but when he couldn’t roll over, his face scrunched up in frustration and he let loose a wail. Jason grinned, remembering Michael at this age. “I was heading down to Puerto Rico to check on a few things. Nothing urgent, so I wanted stop in here first.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but the sparkle stayed in her eyes. “Only you would consider New Orleans on your way from New York to Puerto Rico.” He watched as Cameron wrapped his small fist around Elizabeth’s index finger.

“He’s grown just since I saw him,” Jason murmured. “I can’t believe it’s only been what…two weeks?”

“I know.” When Cameron’s fussiness continued, she cradled him into her arms and started to stand. Jason quickly got his feet, and placed his hands under her elbow to steady her. “I feel like he does something new every day, though I’m sure half the time I’m making it up.” She looked down at Cameron’s face. “Today, I’m pretty sure it was the first time he tried to look at someone, so that’s what I’m putting in his journal.”

She moved towards Cameron’s bassinet, which he noticed had taken the place of one the arm chairs. “Did you…” She paused as she set the baby down, and arranged a stuffed rabbit with him. “Did you talk to your lawyer?”

“Yeah…” Jason exhaled slowly. “Diane sent me with some paperwork for you to sign. She wanted to send it to you herself, but I wasn’t sure if you were ready for anyone to know where you are yet.”

“Well…” Elizabeth was quiet for a moment, watching Cam drift into a light doze. “You told me they’ve shelved Zander’s case, so it’s not like I can’t return.”

“No, but you can stay here as along as—”

“Jason.” Elizabeth smiled at him, put a hand on his arm. “I accepted your help because I had very few options and I was at a dead-end in my life. I was pregnant and I was depressed, and staying in Port Charles under those circumstances was…” She shook her head. “But that’s not my life anymore. I have to decide if I want to go home and what I’ll do when I get there.”

She slid her hand from his arm and sat on the sofa. After a moment, he joined her. He didn’t know what to say to her because there wasn’t any advice he could really offer. She was right. This place couldn’t be anything but temporary, but only she could decide what she was ready for. “Okay.”

“I don’t know yet what I want,” Elizabeth admitted. “Which is kind of aggravating since I just…” She rolled her shoulders. “I just want to be doing something productive with my life so I can provide for my son.” She glanced back at the bassinet and he was struck by the changes in her face since he’d showed up on her doorstep in Port Charles. The dark smudges under her eyes had faded, the fatigue he saw now seemed less heavy and probably more related to being a new mother, and most of all…the sadness in her eyes, in her posture…it had bled away, replaced by her smiles and her laughter.

That’s what he’d wanted to do all those weeks ago. Help Elizabeth find herself again.

“But I’ll have to learn patience.” She turned back and looked at him, her smile almost permanent. “So, Michael’s back from AJ’s. How is Carly handling all of this?” She hesitated. “How’s Sonny?” Elizabeth hesitated. “Unless you don’t want to—”

“They’re resigned to it,” Jason said, cutting her off. “Michael liked it here, and though neither of them wants to admit it, they know Michael likes AJ. If Michael had been younger when this all happened, I don’t think Carly would have agreed to let AJ in his life.” He shrugged. “But Michael’s thirteen. So there’s only so much control they have. He could just get on his bike and head to the Quartermaines.” He grimaced at that, and Elizabeth laughed.

“Well, it’s natural he wants to know them,” Elizabeth said. “He’s known forever that AJ was his biological father, and he lived there for a while.” When he just winced, she put her hand back on his arm. “Jason, I know your relationship with them isn’t good, and don’t get me wrong, Edward, at the very least, has his moments. But they love Emily. And she loves them. Which means they can’t be that terrible.”

“Yeah…” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Monica came by. She thanked me for helping AJ get involved with Michael again. I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t do for AJ—”

“No, but she knows what it means for you to put in a good word for your…” Elizabeth wrinkled nose. “For AJ. It gives her the pretense of peace in her family. I look at Cameron, and I think…if I ever have more children, I would want them to be close. Not like me, Sarah and Steven. They send cards, and sometimes we call, but even with email we rarely stay in touch. I can’t imagine what it’s like to know your children are so far apart.”

“Yeah…” Jason exhaled. “Yeah, I get that. And Monica has been better. I’ve always gotten along with her, Emily and Grandmother more than the rest. But Edward…” He closed his eyes and shook his head.

“He loves his family,” Elizabeth said, simply, “and he shows it by trying to control them. Because if you can control people, then you can keep them from being unhappy, from making mistakes that will end up hurting them.” She hesitated. “Still, I’m glad he’s not my grandfather.” He looked at her, annoyed because of course, Edward was technically his grandfather. Elizabeth pressed her hand to her mouth, trying to hold back her giggles, but finally they escaped and he was so relieved to see her happy for such a long period of time, that he didn’t care she was laughing at him.

8
When the stars have all gone out
You’ll still be burning so bright

Monday, July 12, 2004

Jason’s Penthouse

When Jason opened the door and found Ric Lansing on the other side, he knew this day that had started out okay was going to be a bad one. He’d stayed in New Orleans two days with Elizabeth and Cam, and then gone on to Puerto Rico to check on a few things. Once he’d returned, Carly was having second thoughts about AJ, not because Michael wasn’t okay with it, but because it was Carly and she always had second thoughts about everything. She was also reeling from the news that Sonny’s new girlfriend, Sam McCall, was pregnant and Sonny had been hiding it for months to spare everyone from Carly’s wrath.

And of course no one was. Carly might have told the world she was giving up on Sonny Corinthos, and Jason mostly believed it, but it was one thing for her to give up and quite another to watch Sonny move on before the ink on the divorce papers was dry. When she’d talked about revisiting custody of Morgan because she didn’t want her son around that slut, Jason had told her that he wouldn’t support her and that if he dragged the kid into court again, he would testify on behalf of Sonny.

He’d thought that was going to be majority of his drama for the week and he was just looking forward to accompanying Michael on his next visit to New Orleans to see Elizabeth again.

Ric held up a sheaf of papers. “I should have known you’d use this opportunity.”

Jason stepped back so the irate man could walk into his penthouse and reminded himself that killing him where he stood was not an option. “I guess you got the papers.”

“You’re damn right.” Ric slapped them on the desk. “I asked for your help so I could keep Elizabeth out of jail, so that she could get some peace away from this town, but instead, you’ve talked her into filing for divorce, and stripping me of any parental rights to my son—”

“Elizabeth’s son,” Jason corrected. “I didn’t—” And he cut himself off. He didn’t really give a damn if Ric thought he had sabotaged their relationship. He knew he hadn’t, and that was only because he’d wanted it to be Elizabeth’s decision. “I don’t know what you’re doing here. You should contact Elizabeth’s lawyer.”

“This is bullshit, Morgan.” Ric stepped towards him. “Your wife left you, and you think you can have my family? Elizabeth loves me, I know she does—”

“You’re going to want to leave,” Jason cut in. “And contact a lawyer, I’m sure.”

“You smug son of a bitch. I can’t even contact Elizabeth.” Ric’s face changed and he looked down at the pile of papers. “Diane Miller petitioned for a restraining order, and the judge granted a temporary one.” He dragged his fingers through his dark hair and Jason might have felt some sympathy for him had he been anyone else. He believed Ric loved Elizabeth, but it was a toxic kind of love, the kind that Luis Alcazar had had for Brenda, dependent on control. “I asked you for help—”

“And I gave it. But I wasn’t doing you any favors, and you knew it.” Jason folded his arms across his chest. “If she hadn’t wanted to go, I would have found another way to keep her safe. Ric, I don’t know what you think I can do for you. Even if I did have the kind of influence with Elizabeth you seem to think, there’s no way I would use it on your behalf.” He picked up the divorce papers and slapped them against Ric’s chest. “So when I say you should leave, that’s what I mean. If you ever loved her, maybe you’d give her what she wants.”

Ric gripped her divorce papers and stared down at them. He swallowed hard. “I wanted her to be safe, and maybe I knew it would never work. Not after…” He paused. “But I wanted to try anyway.” He looked up then, the lost expression vanished from his face. “But she never loved me the way I loved her. She’ll never love anyone the way she loves you.”

9
Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Garden District: Chestnut Street House

Elizabeth glanced up from her sketchbook and smiled, watching Cameron pass out to the sound of Jason reading out loud from one his travel books. This time, it was Austria and listening to the description of the landscapes and towns had spurred Elizabeth into making some quick scribbles of one of the castles.

It was the third time Jason had visited since Cameron was born, and Elizabeth liked that she and Jason were friends again, that they had somehow achieved the easiness of those first few months they’d been friends all those years ago when he’d just listen to her ramble, or she’d sit in silence in the studio, painting while he read or napped while recovering from his gunshot.

And if sometimes, when she was by herself in her room at night, she occasionally dreamt that this was the life she could have had with him if they’d both tried a little harder, well…there was no harm in that.

“Do you want me to put him in the bassinet?” she said softly. Jason glanced down, cradling Cameron in one arm, his book in the other, and smiled.

“No, I got him.” Carefully, Jason set the book aside and stood, barely jostling the infant. Elizabeth was horribly jealous—her legs weren’t long enough to get that kind of traction when she stood. Cameron was always disturbed when she moved him.

“You make that look so easy,” Elizabeth said without thinking, but Jason’s face didn’t tighten as it once had at being reminded at all his experience with children.

“He’s a peaceful baby,” Jason responded, returning to his seat.

“Hmm…” Elizabeth set her sketchbook aside. “I want to talk to you about coming back to Port Charles.”

Jason hesitated. “You don’t want to wait until your divorce is final?” He shifted on the couch, turning to face her.

“No, your lawyer suggested I get a restraining order while we were negotiating. I filed a copy with the New Orleans police in case he found out where I was.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I felt guilty about it, because I don’t…I don’t really believe he’d hurt me, and I don’t intend to renew it or make it permanent. I was just afraid…” She sighed and looked out into the gardens, the dying sunlight shimmering through the sheer curtains. “I was afraid I might change my mind because it was easier than being alone.” She looked back at him. “I want the divorce, Jason. Don’t misunderstand me, but all the decisions that are in front of me…I thought I might…fall back. I have a nasty habit of preferring comfort over change.”

“I think you’re stronger than you think, but I’m not gonna lie, Elizabeth, I feel better knowing he can’t come around you without being arrested.”

Elizabeth smiled, because even though she knew she’d pulled herself out of the dark place on her own, she knew his faith in her had been the first step in rebuilding that strength he seemed to think she’d never lost. “Diane said he was pretty annoyed, but well…I figured it was his turn.” She pursed her lips. “So, I want to come back but I just…don’t know what I’m going to do there.” She looked over the back of the sofa at the bassinet. “I waitressed before I got married, and I guess I could go back to that, but all I would be able to afford would be a room above Kelly’s, which isn’t something I could honestly do with Cam…”

“I could…” Jason stopped, but she knew what he might have said, and they both knew she wouldn’t accept charity. “I mean,” he continued, as if trying to find another way to phrase the offer. “I could help you find something temporary. To pay the bills until you make a more permanent decision.”

“Sneaky,” Elizabeth teased. She dragged a hand through her messy hair, and sighed. “And tempting. Because at least I’d be working rather than living off you down here.” She raised an eyebrow. “Or are you gonna tell me Ric’s been giving you money to support me?”

Jason scowled. “He offered but I told him I didn’t need his money. Besides, you were supposed to have been leaving him. How would that have looked? Elizabeth, money doesn’t matter to me. I’ve got it and it just…” He shrugged one shoulder. “It sits in the bank and does nothing. I wanted to help you.”

“I know, and I needed to get my head on straight, so I agreed.” She chewed her lip. “I need to get back to my life. I need to get back to work and not get spoiled by sitting at home, being with Cameron all the time. So…” She squared her shoulders. “It’s not just about me anymore. So, here I am, actually asking you for help without needing my arm twisted.”

“That looked painful,” Jason after a moment, and he grinned when she scowled at him. “I can set you up with something at the warehouse. The coffee side of things…” He grimaced now, and she knew he hated it when he talked about this stuff with her. “It gets ignored sometimes. We’re usually too busy with other things, but it might interesting if we were as successful as we said we were.”

“And how do you expect an ex-waitress with an art degree to help with that?” Elizabeth asked skeptically. “I’m not a charity case—”

“No, no.” Jason held up a hand before she could continue. “We’re always losing contracts and missing meetings with actual suppliers and vendors. Sonny’s been talking about it since the divorce was final, and with Sam being pregnant and Morgan getting older, he wants to leave them something that’s…” He hesitated. “Something where the money is separate.”

“Okay,” Elizabeth said slowly. “So…?”

“So,” Jason continued, “we’ve talked about hiring an office manager to keep track of meetings and keep Sonny in line. Remind him about meetings. Or nag me if came down to it.” He tilted his nod. “You’re good at nagging me, and I think you’d warm up to harassing Sonny.”

“Oh, that’s just not…” She tossed a small throw pillow at him. “I never nag,” she said, but the smile was spreading across her face. “You’re still holding a grudge after five years because I made you eat some soup.”

“Three times a day for three weeks,” Jason retorted with a grin. “I still can’t look at cream of broccoli soup and not think about it.”

“You got better.” Elizabeth crossed her arms and offered a mocking glare. “If I take this job, you’re getting soup every day for lunch.”

“You should take it if only to spare us having to do interviews,” Jason said, and she could tell he was only partly joking. “So, really you’d be helping me.”

“Sure.” But Elizabeth knew he had her. It seemed like an actual position she couldn’t screw up too much, and it would give her room to breathe until she figured out what she really wanted to do. She reached across her sofa and took his hand in hers. “If Sonny’s okay with it, I’ll do it. And thank you.” Her throat felt tight. “Having you in my life again has made everything else about this year easier.” Her cheeks flushed slightly, but she didn’t look away. “Your friendship means so much to me.”

“I’m glad…” Jason paused, his finger tracing a pattern over the back of her hand. “I’m glad that we got back to this place.” After a moment, the corner of his lip curved up. “So, where you going to live?”

10
Take me to a
Place so holy
That I can wash this from my mind
The memory of choosing not to fight

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Harborview Towers: Elizabeth’s Apartment

Elizabeth slid the last stack of Cameron’s onesies into the top drawer of the dresser that had been in the apartment she was renting for a few months. She knew Jason hadn’t furnished her place—he knew her better than to do that without asking, but she wasn’t so positive about Emily and Nikolas—Emily had looked at her rather brightly and ignored her questions.

It chafed that she was going to be starting a job tomorrow that had been given to her because she was friends with the owner or that she was renting an apartment using the advance for a salary that she might not deserve, but when she glanced over her shoulder and saw Cameron sleeping peacefully in the crib his godmother had probably arranged for him, Elizabeth couldn’t find it in her heart to argue.

There was nothing wrong with accepting help, particularly if it was as temporary as she was determined it would be. She would do the best job she could at managing Sonny and Jason’s coffee contracts, and she would save every extra cent so she could find a place that wasn’t being rented to her at bottom-market prices. But Jason had been right as always—she needed space to breathe and a way to develop a new routine for this new path in life.

She finished unpacking Cameron’s miniscule wardrobe, took the second baby monitor and headed into the living room to make tea. It had been three days since she’d left the house in New Orleans and she missed the gardens, the peace and the distance, but that had not been reality and she never going to let herself sink into a fantasy life again. Not after her marriage to Ric.

There was a light knock on her door and Elizabeth set her tea on the coffee table before going to answer it. She smiled immediately. “Hey, I didn’t think you’d be by tonight.”

“Hey.” Jason stepped in, looking around quickly. “I know it’s late, but I didn’t get the chance to stop in before now.”

“Well, come in.” She stepped back and closed the door after him. “I think your sister decided that when I asked her and Nikolas to get my things from Ric’s house that I meant she should stop at Wyndham’s and furnish the place as well.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Jason nodded. “Is the apartment all right?”

“It’s great.” Elizabeth didn’t know what to do with her hands. It had seemed so easy in New Orleans. They’d sit on the sofa, and he’d read while she sketched or took care of Cameron. And now that they were in the real world again, she wasn’t sure if they could get that back.

She squared her shoulders. She was not going to think that way. “Do you want some coffee?” Which she’d stocked up on since she hoped maybe he would still come by when he wasn’t hiding her from the authorities.

“No, I’m okay.” Jason hesitated, and she wondered if he was as nervous as she was. So she cleared her throat.

“So what did you do today?” she asked, heading for the sofa and picking up her tea. As she had hoped, he lowered himself next to her.

“Listened to Carly complain about Sam.” Jason grimaced. “It annoys her that he moved on so effortlessly, or so she thinks.”

“Hm…” Elizabeth sipped the chamomile. “I met Sam briefly yesterday. Sonny came by with a lasagna and brought her.” She paused. “Do you like her?”

“I don’t know her,” Jason replied. “Sonny’s kept her mostly to himself, because of Carly.” He leaned back on the sofa. “But she seems to make Sonny happy. He’s calmer, less agitated all the time.”

“He looked good when he was here,” Elizabeth remarked. She wrinkled her nose. “And he thanked me for taking this job you made up.”

Jason chuckled, and the familiar but long absent sound caused her smile to broaden. “I didn’t make it up,” he assured her. “It’s just a brand-new position.”

“Ha, well if you think I was annoying that December when I refused to let you lift weights or eat pastrami on rye, you’re in for a surprise.” Elizabeth arched an eyebrow. “I have learned so much about nagging since then.”

“I’ll bet.” Jason paused. “Have you…heard from Ric since you’ve been home?”

“No.” Elizabeth set her cup on the table and tucked her legs underneath her. “I decided to stay low-profile. Right now, he’s not contesting the divorce and he didn’t contest the restraining order.” She eyed him. “And the guy at the desk downstairs assured me that Ric Lansing isn’t allowed past the front door, unless accompanied by Mac or a court order, so I shouldn’t worry about it.”

“Well, the court order thing is standard,” Jason admitted. “No one is allowed past the front desk to these upper floors that Sonny and I own unless they’re cleared, and cops are case-by-case basis.” He shrugged. “So I just wanted to make sure they understood that it included your apartment as well.”

“Hmm.” Elizabeth tilted her head. “Well, thank you. But I guess I’ll have to face him soon enough.” She grimaced. “I’m tired of talking about Ric and my life. I feel like all I’ve done for months is put myself back together…” She wiggled her shoulders. “How’s Carly dealing with AJ?”

“Surprisingly…well.” Jason propped his elbow on the back of the couch, resting his hand against his forehead as he faced her. “She told me that Michael had a great time last month when he went for a weekend, and AJ came up last week to see Lila, so Michael had dinner with the family.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “What, are you serious? Carly let him eat dinner with Edward?” She laughed. “I feel like I’m in twilight zone.”

“I know. It’s…” Jason paused, as if trying to find the right word. “I don’t even know. He’s going down to New Orleans next week for two more weeks, and Carly and AJ are talking on the phone, because he’s thinking of shifting back to Port Charles, at least part time now that he can be closer to Michael.”

“Are you worried about him being back here?” Elizabeth asked. “That he won’t be able to stop drinking?”

Jason was silent for a long moment, as if considering his response. “Yes,” he finally admitted. “But maybe that’s why he’s coming back. It’s one thing to separate yourself from the reasons you keep falling over the edge and do all right, but maybe AJ wants to prove he really has changed.”

“I hope for Michael’s sake…and yours,” Elizabeth said, “that it’s true. But if it’s not, I’m sure you’ll be there for Michael.” She smiled. “Just like you always are.”

11
If it takes my whole life
I won’t break, I won’t bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Jason’s Penthouse

Carly pushed open the penthouse door and sighed in relief. “Finally! I was beginning to think I would never catch you at home.” She raised an eyebrow. “Where have you been spending the evenings? Not here. Not all week.”

Jason closed the warehouse ledger and pushed the chair out from the desk so he could stand and look at his friend. “You could have called.”

“I notice you’ve avoided the question.” Carly planted her hands on her hips. “Listen. I need you to talk me down.”

“Again?” Jason pulled the ledger and a few other files from the desk top and secured them in a drawer. “If this is about AJ and Michael—”

“It is.” Carly hesitated. “But not the way you think.” She tapped her toe. “I think I’ve gone insane. I just hung up from an almost pleasant phone call with AJ Quartermaine in which we calmly discussed our son, AJ’s plans to come up for Thanksgiving and stick around for a few months, and he asked me very nicely how I was and how Morgan was.”

Jason paused by his bookshelf, a travel book in his hand. He frowned. “And…I need to talk you down from this?”

“Did you not hear me?” Carly demanded. “I just had a perfectly normal and pleasant conversation with my ex-husband regarding a son of whom we share custody. This is a sign, Jase, that something has gone terribly wrong in my life.” She pointed towards the door. “And I saw Sam getting on the elevator as I got out, and damn it, Jason, I said hello to her.”

“You’re right. Something has gone terribly wrong.” Jason raised his eyebrows. “Could it be…maturity? Realizing that not fighting with AJ isn’t good for Michael, and that Sam’s daughter is going to be Morgan and Michael’s sister. That trying to make Sonny’s life miserable affects Morgan.” A warm feeling spread in his chest because he could sense that finally…after all these years…

Carly was going to be okay on her own. He didn’t have to worry about her anymore, run after her cleaning up her plans and schemes.

“Carly, you’re a good mother.”

“You say that like it was ever in doubt,” Carly grumbled. She folded her arms across her chest. “But yeah…I guess maybe I am. I think…” She pursed her lips. “AJ told me that one of the reasons it was difficult for him to stay away from alcohol is because he always felt like I was there, representing all his mistakes. Every time he looked at me, he thought of Michael and the mistakes he’d made to lose custody. He wanted to find a way to make peace, because he wasn’t sure he could stay sober if we were always going to be at each other’s throats.”

“Sounds like AJ grew up, too. Wonders never cease,” Jason muttered. He put one book back and picked out another. Not Switzerland. Too cold. Michael had always liked the one about Africa. Maybe…

“And I realized that I was exhausted with fighting. I’ve been fighting for years, Jason. I fought my mother, even though she didn’t know it, I fought you, I fought Tony, and AJ, and Sonny, and Alexis…” She shook her head. “But I don’t have to live that way anymore. I have The Cellar and Jax is letting me buy back into Club 101, and I thought I could talk him into a partial ownership of the Port Charles Hotel he’s rebuilding.” She grinned. “Look at me, Jase. A whole new woman. Are you shocked?”

“No.” Jason put back the book on Africa and selected one for Australia. He’d never been there before. “Carly, why do you think we’re friends despite everything?”

“Um…I guess I always assumed you were one of the people who figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” She shrugged, as if it were a joke, but he could see there was something to her statement. That she really believed Jason considered her a friend because it was easier than kicking her out of his life.

“You drive me insane,” Jason replied, gripping the new book and coming back to the desk. He tossed it on the desk and took her hands in his. “You always had some way to fix my life, your life, everyone’s life, but you never stopped to see the flaws or consider what to do when it backfired, because it always did. And I helped clean them up, because I always knew…your heart was in the right place. You’re just…not good at helping.”

Carly scowled. “Sometimes my plans worked. I seduced the shit out of my stepfather.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she closed her mouth. “You may have a point, Jase.”

“So, we’re still friends because I always knew you meant well, even if you didn’t.” He released her hands. “I know it’s weird to be on good terms with AJ, but Michael is happier. And Sonny is relieved you’re not trying to figure out how to get rid of Sam anymore, which makes the boys happy because they want a new sister and they like their father being happy with Sam. So, you’re just going to have to suck it up and…” He hesitated. “Get comfortable with the fact that you don’t have to fight any more to be happy, and learn how to actually enjoy happiness.”

“I never could have gotten to this place without you.” She wrapped him in a tight hug. “So I want you to be happy as well.” Carly drew back and noticed the travel book. “You used to read these to Michael.”

So Jason waited, because his best friend was not nearly as scatterbrained as people thought. She narrowed her eyes. “You’ve been with Elizabeth Webber and her son all these nights. Since she got home and divorced Ric.”

“Yes.” Jason picked up the book. “And I’m going down for dinner tonight.” He stared at her, hoping that the Carly who could now converse with AJ Quartermaine without plotting some way to screw him over could learn to accept Elizabeth in his life.

“My first instinct is to criticize,” Carly said finally. “Which is how I know it’s wrong. So let’s try something new. This is your life, Jason. You always let me make my own decisions—for better or worse—so if she…” Her face twisted into a slight grimace. “If she makes you happy, then…all right. Clearly, I am destined to put up with her since every time I turn around, she pops back into your life.” She shrugged. “Who am I to argue with fate?”

12
‘Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all burned out
You’ll still be burning so bright

Wednesday, November 5, 2004

Elizabeth’s Apartment

Jason nodded to Cody, Elizabeth’s evening guard, and lightly pushed open the door, his face unconsciously spreading into a smile when he saw Elizabeth on the sofa, with Cameron and a bottle ready. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She waited for him to sit down before assuming their usual position for Cameron’s final bottle of the day. She leaned into his side, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, watching as she began to feed her son. “How are Sam and Sonny?”

“Ecstatic,” Jason remarked. “They named her Adela Lily, because Sam wanted to honor the women in Sonny’s life who left him too early.”

“I’m so happy everything turned out so well,” Elizabeth replied. “He was so scared when he hurried out of the office today. I don’t know a lot about medicine, but placenta previa was one of the more terrifying complications I read about when I was preparing for Cam. If they don’t catch it early…” She shook her head. “But it’s all okay now, and they have their little girl.” She tiled her head up to look at him. “So, we finished Australia last night. Where are we going tonight? India? Denmark?”

“I thought…” Jason held up an old dog-eared book he’d owned for years. “I thought we might read about Italy.”

She’d already been content when he came in for the night, but the mention of Italy lit her up in a way he only saw when she was looking at Cameron, and lately…at him. “Really?” she asked, pulling her lower lip between her teeth.

Because he wanted and also simply because he could, Jason leaned down to capture her lips with his, soothing the tiny nicks in her lip from her teeth. Drawing back, he tightened his hold on her. “Well, if we want Cam to see it in the spring, we should start preparing now.”

“Well, that’s just logical then.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, and one tear slowly slid down her face. “When I think of how this year…how this year started, and now how this year is going to end, I am just…I am so happy. I have everything and everyone I could possibly want in my life.” She leaned the top of her head against his jaw. “I didn’t know a person could just…overflow with bliss.”

“That makes two of us,” he replied softly. “I love you so much.”

“And I love you.” She sniffled a bit. “But you’re right. We have to be logical about this. So, let’s talk about Italy.”

“The beauty of northern Italy,” Jason began, “is its diversity. You only have to have to take a short train ride out of Turin…”

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind

THE END

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Comments

  • Loved this story and sad to see it end. Loved the ending Carly actually growing up and being happy. Liz being content with Jason and him not pushing her away.

    According to leasmom on March 18, 2014
  • I love this story AJ and Micheal getting to know each other and Jason and Liz finding there place in each other live’s and a grown- up Carly

    According to Debbie on August 11, 2015