Show: General Hospital

Title: Change is good

Disclaimer: As much as I'd like, General Hospital and its wonderful characters only belong to me in my dreams… well okay, hallucinations. But, trust me, if it DID belong to me, I'd fire the current writers.

A/N: This idea popped into my head while I was taking a shower… go figure. This story was started in late December 2003 and thus none of the drama happening on the show happens in this story. The story is complete, as I can't handle another fic right now, so enjoy.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Port Charles, NY, early March 2004

Things had changed in PC in the New Year. For one, Kelly's stayed open an hour later, closing at eleven and Elizabeth Webber was pregnant. But pairing an extra hour on her feet with blood rushing to her ankles and hormonal mood swings was not a good combination.

She had been cross with the last few customers, who had taken one look at her stressed face, ordered to-go and left quickly. She was taking the last of the coffee cups to the empty kitchen before she flipped the closed sign at the door and dragged herself home when the telltale jingle of the bell above the door signaled she had yet another customer.

She barely resisted the urge to scream in frustration. "It's past eleven. We're closed," she announced through clenched teeth, keeping her back to the customer.

Jason Morgan watched her with detached amusement. "The sign said, 'Open'," he replied.

Liz whirled around. Much to her dismay, her eyes hungrily drank in his sudden appearance. She hadn't seen him in four months. Well, as far as she knew, *no one* had seen him in four months. Since he and Courtney had separated… well divorced.

Jason watched her watch him. He wasn't prepared for the onslaught of emotions that hit him full force. The last time he'd seen her, things had ended disastrously. She had sided with Ric again. After all he'd done, after all he'd put them through, she'd stuck by him. Her loyalty had angered and baffled him at the same time. He had wished Courtney had done the same. Now, he was amazed at how he could still find her beautiful.

"Jason," she finally managed when she'd recovered her tongue.

"Hello, Elizabeth." He strode up to the counter and, as he'd done countless times before, took a seat.

"This is a surprise," she continued, automatically flipping the coffee machine back on. "You've been gone a while… well not by your standards but still…." She knew she was rambling; she didn't understand why.

"I know," he replied.

Elizabeth couldn't help but notice the far away look in his blue eyes.

"I heard about your divorce. I'm sorry."

Jason's eyes snapped to meet hers at that but her statement was genuine. "Thank you," he replied.

From his travel-weary look, Liz could tell that he had only just gotten back into town and this was the first place he had come. It didn't register that he had probably only come for a cup of coffee; it warmed her heart that, although it was awkward, they were not fighting… yet.

The timer went off. She turned away and lifted the fresh pot of coffee. Wordlessly, she lifted a large Styrofoam cup and poured his coffee, covered it and slid it across the counter to Jason.

He took a sip. It was black, strong and fragrant. Inwardly, he smiled. Elizabeth still made the best damn pot of coffee in PC. He reached into his back pocket for his wallet but Liz shook her head.

"Register's locked. It's on the house," she said with a smile.

Jason nodded in compliance.

Liz took off her apron and knelt to get her purse. When she rounded the counter and headed toward the door, she heard Jason gasp.

Curious, she turned to him, only to see him all but staring at her middle.

"You're pregnant," he stated matter-of-factly.

Liz looked down at her rounded stomach. He had left town before she had announced her pregnancy and her belly had been hidden from his gaze by the apron and the counter. "Yes," she replied, cupping her swollen stomach lovingly.

Jason wasn't sure how to take this. He had known Liz had always wanted to have children but it still came as a bit of a shock. "Congratulations," he replied softly. "You and Ric must be very proud," he added as an afterthought.

"It's not Ric's," she immediately replied.

That had knocked him for six. **Not Ric's?** "I thought you two had gotten back together," he replied with a modicum of bitterness.

"We did. But now we're not," she explained, not meeting his gaze, knowing the answer would shock and possibly anger him.

He would admit it. He was curious. "Then, who's the father?"

Liz lifted her gaze to him, shrewdly assessing his reaction. "It's Zander."

*~*~*~*~*~*

Kelly's, the next day

Emily spotted him through the glass panes in the door and whirled back around. She didn't think she could handle seeing her ex-husband now.

"Emily?" asked Nikolas, gripping her shoulders in confusion. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she fibbed. "It looks packed. Maybe we should just come back later."

Nikolas looked at her like she had sprouted another head. "We don't have to stay." He paused looking through the panes. "Liz is on duty. We could just order to-go and head back to Wyndemere." Thankfully, he hadn't spotted Zander sitting in the corner.

"Great," she replied, rapidly assessing the situation. "Why don't you go order and I'll wait for you."

He looked at her strangely again before nodding in acquiesce.

Emily sighed in relief.

Nik shook his head at her behaviour and lifted his hand to the knob. But the door swung open before he could turn it and he found himself staring into the dark swirling eyes of his fiancée's ex-husband.

Hostility bristled between the two men. Zander's eyes narrowed as he paused. "Cassidine," he said, his voice glacier cold.

"Smith," Nik returned, knowing now why Emily hadn't wanted to go inside.

Zander continued to stare before adjusting his coat and shouldering past the man who had ruined his life.

Nik scoffed and shut the door, moving fully into the diner.

Elizabeth watched the scene with an air of frustration. In the past four months, things had gone from bad to worst. She walked on eggshells with them – Nik was her dearest friend as was Emily, but so was Zander. They had grown close again within the past months – after all he was the father of her child.

"What can I get for you, Nik?"

Nikolas turned to her, from where he had still been watching the door with barely controlled anger. He took one look at her cobalt blue eyes to know she didn't want any comment other than what he wanted for lunch. "Two lunchtime specials to go." He couldn't help but turn back to the door, but he could barely see beyond it.

"Anything to drink?" Liz asked, bringing his attention back to her.

Nik still continued to look. "Two hot chocolates."

Liz wrote the order and paused to look at her friend. "What do you think is gonna happen?" she asked, cocking her head thoughtfully to the side

"Huh?" asked Nik, turning back to her in confusion.

Liz arched a glossy eyebrow. "You keep looking back as though you expect something to happen."

Nik frowned. "Of course not. Why would I?"

"I don't know. Why would you?"

Meanwhile outside….

"Emily," he said politely.

"Zander," she nodded in reply.

The former husband and wife gazed at each other. But, for once in the few times they had seen each other since the whole Faith Roscoe disaster in December, they looked at each other without a degree of bitterness.

He looked good, she observed. He had matured in the past four months. He had been moonlighting as a bartender at Jake's for a couple months now, but he had a gig lined up as the manager of Liz's art gallery that was set to reopen in the spring. "How have you been?" she asked not sure why.

Zander adjusted his coat and rubbed his gloved hands against the cold. "I'm good. You?" Inside, he hurt. Who would've thought he and Emily would be reduced to making awkward small talk? But it was still better than fighting.

"The same," she replied.

Silence stretched on between them as they continued to stare at each other, their breath frosting in the cold.

"Well, I gotta run, Em. It was nice seeing you," he added as an afterthought.

"Sure."

Zander nodded and turned away.

"Zander?" Emily called. He turned around, question in his eyes. "See you around?"

"Yeah. See you around." He turned back around and walked away, wondering why it had to hurt so damned much.

The bell above the door jingled. Emily turned to see Nik emerging from the diner, their lunch in two plastic bags. She smiled at him and the dark light faded from his eyes. He had no need to be jealous. Emily was his.

"What'd you get?" she asked, reaching for his hand.

Nik smiled and kissed her forehead. "The special and hot chocolate, your favourite."

*~*~*~*~*~*

It had been a strange reunion of sorts when Jason had showed up at Sonny's door last night; he had been wholeheartedly welcomed back, pulled into a surprising embrace by his bestfriend. But, of course, because he didn't speak much, he had excellent powers of observation, and he could blatantly see the light had faded somewhat from his friend's eyes.

The moment he asked, "Where's Carly?" he knew yet another thing had changed in Port Charles.

"She's gone," Sonny replied softly.

"Gone? Where? Why?"

"She left not long after you skipped town," he replied, so matter-of-factly that it worried Jason. "She wasn't the same Carly I'd married Jason," he explained. "She was a ghost… a shell. She saw how much it pained me to know that she wasn't the same person and she tried too hard. Finally she left, about two months ago. We're taking a break… her terms, not mine, so that she can find herself."

"Where is she?"

Sonny shrugged.

"And you're okay with that?" Jason asked incredulously.

Sonny shrugged again. "What can I do, Jason? She's not the same person she used to be. If I keep pushing her to become someone she's not, I'll destroy her. And I love her too much to ever do that. Do you understand?"

Jason nodded. In some strange way, he had understood.

That was last night, after he had shadow-walked Elizabeth back to her apartment. He and Sonny had spent most of the night catching up on the past four months. They had avoided all talk of Courtney, but Jason knew that she had moved back to New Haven. He had sent the divorce papers to PC and the courier service had told him they had been forwarded to her old address there.

It hurt. It had felt as though a white-hot lance had been driven through his heart, but he'd done it. He had severed himself in two and damaged another good thing in his life. It was for the best. But he had expected Courtney to fight back – she hadn't. And somehow that had hurt even more.

Standing outside Kelly's he stared at Elizabeth as she went about her work. He was still in a state of shock with regards to her pregnancy and he still couldn't believe that Zander Smith of all people was the father. But still, stranger things had happened in PC.

**She looked so beautiful.** the thought was so sudden and so random that it took him aback even as he continued to stare. Her slight curves had become femininely rounded slightly along with her stomach in the past four months. Her hair was longer and her skin was an ivory white that glowed with good health. He saw her smile. He couldn't help but smile too. She looked happy.

"Morgan," came the voice behind him.

The smile dropped from his face as Jason turned to meet the dark condescending gaze of Ric Lansing. "Lansing," he replied with cold detachment.

Ric looked past him into the diner, and surmised he had been watching Elizabeth. "I see you've maintained your voyeuristic attitude towards my wife."

Jason bristled. "And I see you're still delusional, considering she hasn't been your wife in six months."

"Clever. A first for you, Morgan." Ric pushed past him into the diner.

Jason scoffed and turned away.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Tammy had been early and, thankfully, Liz could leave before the dinner rush. It was cold and she should probably have taken a cab to her apartment or wait for Zander to walk with her like he'd promised, but the white-blanketed city was so beautiful, she decided a walk alone would be nice.

Elizabeth stepped off the Elm Street Pier and stood on the docks. She sighed and rubbed her fingers for warmth, watching how her breath fogged in the twilight air. Despite the beautiful winter wonderland surrounding her, her spirit was flagging after her run-in with Ric… or was it DA Lansing?

Four months ago, they had been well on their way to rebuilding their relationship. Ric had changed – he was kind, attentive, regretful -- he had seemingly given up his vendetta against his brother, a matter in which she had wholeheartedly supported him. But then, flashes of the Ric she had been married to started to rear their ugly heads again. He had usurped Scott Baldwin's position as District Attorney the moment the incompetent lawyer had put his foot in his mouth with regards to Officer Capelli and Lorenzo Alcazar. He had made it his business to clean up the scourge of the town… no nonsense stances on offenders, his brother once again the main target. He had become cold and calculating all over again. But this time, she had recognized the signs and she had known to get out fast.

But that still didn't stop him from coming around, from professing his love and need for them to be together again to her every waking minute. He was smothering her; Zander had told him to back off but of course that hadn't stopped him. He was always seemingly *there*. To think she had ever even considered passing off her unborn child as his. Thank God Emily had knocked some sense into her.

Lovingly, Liz cupped her stomach and turned to step back onto the pier only to see Jason emerging from around the corner.

Jason paused, seeing Liz standing there on the docks. Surprisingly, she smiled at him, and reluctantly, a rare smile found its way to his lips as he stepped off Elm Street onto the docks and strode towards her.

"Hi," she spoke first, wrapping her coat closer around her.

"Hi," he replied, blowing warm air into his cupped palms. "Isn't it a little cold for you to be out here?" he asked.

Liz smiled. "Thank you for your concern, Mr. Morgan, but we're just fine."

Jason nodded in acquiesce.

Liz turned back to the water lapping against the wooden frame of the dock. "How was your first day back?"

"A little strange. Things have changed a lot in four months," he replied softly, his thoughts on Sonny and Carly.

The soft, regretful tone in his voice made Liz turn to him in concern. "Things like what?"

Jason shrugged. "Sonny, Carly… I come home to find my bestfriends have broken up and might be well on their way to divorce." He spat out the word like it was nasty. In both their experiences, the word *was* nasty.

Liz reached out to touch his forearm. Their gazes collided as a shock of tingly awareness traveled through their gloves and up their arms. She pulled back her hand. "Don't worry too much about those two… they've been through a lot worse… they'll find their way back to each other."

He certainly hoped so.

"I ran into Lansing today," he added. He shrewdly noted how Elizabeth's eyes darkened at that. "I didn't know he was the new DA."

Liz looked away. "Scotty Baldwin messed up one time too many and Ric was right there to clean up his mess and step into his shoes," she explained bitterly.

Jason didn't push. Obviously, the subject was a sore spot for her.

"Have you seen Emily?" she asked cheerfully, blatantly changing the subject.

He didn't mind. He wasn't in the mood to talk about one of PC's oiliest criminals either.

"No. I was tied up at the warehouse all day. I'll go over to the Quartermaine's to pay her and Lila a visit later."

"You don't know do you?" she asked incredulously.

Curiosity furrowed his brow. "Know what?"

"Emily is engaged to Nikolas Cassidine. She moved out to Spoon Island three months ago. They're getting married next month."

Jason wasn't sure how to take the news. He'd known his little sister and the Cassidine Prince were serious, but he hadn't expected her to want to rush back into marriage so soon after her divorce from Zander. Obviously he was wrong. But *Cassidine*? The self-righteous do-gooder who only helped out in shady dealings when it suited him to his advantage? Gee, lil sis sure could pick 'em.

Elizabeth cocked her head and looked at him in contemplation. "Why do I have a feeling this little announcement doesn't sit too well with big brother?"

"Isn't it too soon? I mean has her divorce from Smith even been finalized yet?"

"Alexis Davis fast-tracked the divorce proceedings like she did with mine. It's final in a couple weeks. Why the seeming objection? I thought you liked Em and Nik." At Jason's frown Liz chuckled, "But obviously, I was wrong." She chuckled again, cupping her stomach.

Jason's gaze landed on the slight swell barely visible behind her coat. "How far along are you?" he asked softly.

"Five months. I'm through with the morning sickness, but I've become great friends with the toilet considering the baby's using my bladder as its personal punching bag."

Jason smiled softly. She was reflecting on her pregnancy with a great deal of humor. "So Smith, huh…" he trailed off, his curiosity getting the best of him.

"Yeah, Zander. Trust me, it was a big surprise to everyone, so you're not alone in that department."

His protectiveness towards her began to show again. Zander Smith was not one of his favourite persons, not far down the list from Lorenzo Alcazar and Ric Lansing. He had sided with Faith Roscoe and had set a bomb that had almost gotten his sister and her boyfriend killed. "How's he treating you?"

Liz arched an eyebrow at the way Jason asked the question. She bristled a bit. "He's treating me just fine, wonderfully in fact."

Jason looked at her pointedly.

She sighed, her anger fading. Blame it on the mood swings. "Listen Jason, you weren't kidding when you said things have changed a lot. Zander's not the same person he was four months ago. He's through with Faith; he's got his life on track. He's been nothing but supportive towards me. He's going to make a wonderful father to this child one day." The defiant look in her dark blue eyes challenged him to say anything differently.

"I hope for your sake and the baby's that you're right," he said dubiously. "Smith's messed up a lot before. Do you honestly think that a baby's going to change all that?"

Elizabeth scoffed. "You are incredible!" she exclaimed, her anger rising again. "You skip town and come back four months later when everything's changed spouting the same accusations? Zander's changed, Jason. You're the one who hasn't!" With an angry shake of her dark curls, she pushed past him and made her way to her apartment… and Zander.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Jason certainly hadn't expected Elizabeth to get so mad at him as he watched her hurry away in mild alarm. And he was a little wounded – her tirade had reminded him a lot of the 'conversations' they used to have the year before when everything had soured between them. Well, some things never changed.

He stood on the docks, looking out to Spoon Island, its lights a beacon in the night. He wanted to see his sister, to talk to her, hoping she could help his sort through the madness of the past few months, but that visit would have to wait for tomorrow. Instead he turned away and headed off towards the Quartermaine estate.

TBC...

A/N: As I said, this story is complete, so it will be regularly updated once a week. R&R, tell me what you think.