This is one of the first things I wrote (actually, I think it was my second fanfiction bit ever) and to be totally, brutally honest, I'm not sure it's any good. But I thought I'd put it up here for your perusal anyway.
When Our Eyes Met
They said the day dawned brightest on those who were awake. And they were dead wrong. The days were never bright, not to her. They were dark. And lonely. And all-encompassing to the point where she felt she couldn't breathe under the oppressive weight of darkness.
And she was awake, even though she had spent several weeks wishing she wasn't. Wishing that this was all some sort of nightmare, and not her life.
Her life was supposed to be perfect.
Well, maybe not perfect, Elizabeth decided, shifting her dog's leash to the other hand. But it was never supposed to be Hell on Earth. It was never supposed to be a constant struggle to convince herself to get out of bed in the morning and continue living. It was never supposed to be a scavenger hunt for reasons to keep on living.
A few years ago, her life had been completely different. She had family, albeit not a complete family unit, but family nonetheless. Her Gram was more than pleased to hover around her twenty-four hours a day, cooking her things, sewing her things, just asking her to visit so they could talk. She worked alongside her Gram in the rose garden, helped fix lemonade for the kids that played in the adjacent baseball field, and even ran around the block and scooted under the porch looking for Gatsby. And when they had finally located the cat, they only had time to feed him and themselves before he ran off again.
She snickered at the memory of her orange tabby. Ever since Jake had entered her life, Gatsby stayed as far away from them both as possible. Even though Jake didn't even growl at her, Gatsby was nevertheless terrified of the German Shepherd.
And now that Gram had passed away, Gatsby was given to Bobbie, since Elizabeth's two pets could not inhabit the same living environment under any circumstances.
A few years ago, she continued her thought, she had friends here. Real friends. But now it seemed she rarely saw any of them. Zander was gone, off in London learning about finance from his uncle, one of the most successful investors in Europe. A real Warren Buffett, she thought with a snicker.
Emily and Nikolas were happily together, and although both made it an effort to see her as often as possible, Nikolas was far too busy managing the Cassidine affairs to have much time for anyone other than his girlfriend of three years.
Lucky was around, but he spent most of his time with his dad. The loss of Laura had hit the elder Spencer hard, and Lucky tried to be a constant presence in his father's life. A week ago, both Spencer men had driven down to Graceland for a week or two of relaxation and the King. Luke had wanted to rent a pink Cadillac, but Lucky had convinced him they didn't make those anymore, and chose instead to rent a modest Camry, much to his father's distaste.
Jake pulled at the leash, urging Elizabeth to move faster. She laughed and switched hands again, retaining a firm hold on the dog.
"Not too fast now, boy," she called, tucking back the hair that the wind blew into her face. "We're not in any sort of a hurry."
She smiled down at the German Shephard who continued to strain at his leash before deciding that arguing with his master was as futile as it had ever been. She snickered when she felt him resume his long strides. Both master and dog were ridiculously stubborn, but at least the canine had some sort of common sense.
Yes, her life was different now. Worlds different. Ever since Sonny Corinthos' baby sister had practically driven a car over her during an early morning jog a little over a year ago. And it certainly didn't help matters that the busty blonde was as high as a kite at the time.
She slowed down slightly, catching Jake's sullen whimper. "Sorry, boy," she whispered, coming to a complete stop. Tangling the leash in her fingers, she reached up to remove her dark glasses and rub her eyes. "Migraine coming on."
Jake seemed to understand her pain, and lay down patiently on the cool pavement to wait until she was ready to resume their daily walk. Every day they'd get out of their tiny studio and go for a walk around the park, and the dog loved every minute of it.
Elizabeth replaced her glasses and swung the leash slightly. Instantly, Jake was on his feet and already tugging. She allowed him to pull her along, a soft smile gracing her face.
"You never get tired of this, do you, boy?" she called down.
Jake swung his back around, slowing his pace a little, to reply with an enthusiastic bark.
She laughed, closing her eyes when she felt a cool breeze wash over her face. Jake resumed his stroll, guiding Elizabeth away from the occasional soda can or candy wrapper carelessly left on the pavement.
And that was how it always was. She'd walk her dog, but her dog was actually walking her. And that was what her life had become.
"Sonny!" He yelled, flinging open the penthouse door. "Carly!" He grinned at the empty living room, the suede crimson couch, crystal on the wet bar, Sonny's favorite leather chair, and Michael's GI Joe's on the floor.
It was good to be back.
"Come on, guys! Is this any type of a welcome?" He marched over to the stairs with his hands cupped around his mouth, his voice booming up the dark stairwell. "Sonny, Carly, Michael! Get up! I'm back!"
"Who the hell is that?" came an angry growl from the top. "Do they know what time it is? What the hell am I paying my guards for?"
"Yeah, nice to see you, too, Sonny!" Jason yelled up the stairs.
"Oh my gosh!" came a high-pitched squeal. "Sonny, it's Jason!" A streak of black topped with blonde raced down the stairs, and Carly threw herself in Jason's arms. Jason laughed and swooped her up, planting a quick kiss on her forehead.
"Mr. Man!" she yelled, turning her head back to the stairs. "Come see who's down here!"
A red-headed bundle of energy and rocket ships jumped down the stairs two at a time. "Uncle Jason! You're back you're back you're back!"
Jason swung the little boy into his arms, laughing into his hair. "Hey there, buddy. How've you been? I like your pajamas."
Michael smiled proudly. "Leticia made them for me. She made them. See the blue rocket ship? She said that since I want to be a astronaut, one day I can go to the moon in it!"
"Going to the moon in a blue rocket ship, huh, Carly?" Jason asked, his blue eyes twinkling. "Kids these days grow up so fast. Seems like yesterday all he wanted to do was just orbit the Earth."
"That was yesterday, Jason," Carly retorted playfully. Her eyes were bright and she couldn't keep a goofy grin off her face.
"Hm," Jason mused, furrowing his brow at the child in his arms. "Well, just to make sure I don't miss out on anything else, I guess I'll just have to come to the moon with you."
Michael bobbed up and down excitedly. "Yeah!" he yelled, raising his arms over his head in triumph. "We can all go to the moon!"
"Sure, Mr. Man, why not?" Carly tossed in joyfully. "I'll even pack us a lunch."
"Uh," Jason stuttered, exchanging glances with Michael. "I think I'll travel on a light stomach."
"Me, too," Michael agreed firmly, wrapping an arm around his uncle's neck. His head suddenly perked up as an idea came to him. "Oh, Uncle Jason," he cried, twisting until he had eye contact. "I have the coolest thing to bring along if we go to the moon. Lemme go get it."
"Alright, buddy, alright," Jason agreed, slowly lowering the squirming boy to the floor. Michael raced up the stairs, receiving a loving smack on the bottom from his father as the mobster made his way into the room.
Without a word, Sonny approached Jason and pulled him into a big hug. They stood like that for moments, each man glad to have the other back. Clapping his best friend on the back, Sonny stepped back. "We're so glad you're home, Jase," he said softly.
"It's good to be back," Jason nodded with a smile. "I hope I didn't disturb you." He smirked at the last part when Sonny shot him a glare.
"Oh, no," the mobster conceded grandly, waving his hand in the air. "We weren't doing anything important. Just, you know, sleeping, as we've become accustomed to doing at, oh," he glanced at the clock above the mantle. "Five in the morning."
Jason smiled. "Wouldn't hurt you to be up with the birds every once in a while, Sonny," he joked.
Sonny scowled. "You know what I do with those early birds, Jason?" he asked in a mock-threatening tone. "I sic Johnny's cat on them. Yup, Mr. Bojangles has himself one hell of a time every morning, and I get to sleep in."
Jason hooted with laughter. "Johnny still have that cat?"
"Oh, yeah," Carly snickered. "He loves that thing more than life itself. It's food bowl is right on his desk downstairs, and it's got a silk bed in the corner and everything."
Michael raced down the stairs, a wide strip of canvas in his arms. "See, Uncle Jason, see?" he asked excitedly, waving the canvas and dragging Jason over to the couch.
"Michael, honey, I don't think –" Carly tried to contain her son, but Michael was too excited to notice.
"This is the greatest thing anyone's ever given me, Uncle Jason," the boy crooned, plopping down and situating the canvas in Jason's lap.
"Michael-" Sonny tried to get in, waving his hands slightly to catch the little boy's attention.
Caught up in the excitement of showing his prized possession to his Uncle, Michael failed to notice his parents' attempts.
"See? See?" He eagerly pointed at the giant blue blur in the middle of the inky black sky. "That's my rocket ship, and it's called the Corinthos Challenger, 'cuz my name is Corinthos."
"Mm-hmm," Jason mumbled, smiling down at the painting. He had an idea who the talented artist was. "And what else?"
"Well, see all this black?" Michael asked, half-sitting in Jason's as he waved his hands grandly around the canvas. "That's the sky."
"Why isn't it blue?" Jason asked in mock confusion. Children always learned best when they were asked to explain things, or at least that was what all those child-rearing books said.
"Well," the boy mused, pulling himself completely into Jason's lap. "See, here on Earth the sky is all blue because it has to match the water. Like," he paused, placing a finger thoughtfully on his chin. "If the water turned red, then the sky would have to be red."
"Uh huh," Jason prompted, hiding his grin.
"But in outer space, the sky is black because it doesn't have to match anything. And it's black because Earth is blue and white, and Mars is red, and all the astronauts have to see the planets, so the sky decided to be black out there because it would just be easier that way."
"Well, that was pretty nice of it," Jason nodded, smiling.
"More like good planning, Uncle Jason," Michael informed him.
"Yeah, and see these white letters? They spell Corinthos. I never knew Corinthos was such a long name until Elizabeth spelled it out for me."
"Michael-" Sonny and Carly began in unison, exchanging worried glances.
Jason sighed softly at the first mention of her. "Elizabeth made this for you, huh?" he asked, cutting off an exceedingly nervous Sonny and Carly.
"Yup," Michael nodded proudly. "But I helped. She said she couldn't have done it without me."
"Ooh, that's quite a compliment," Jason responded seriously. "You sure you don't want to be an artist like Elizabeth instead of an astronaut?"
"Well, I thought about it," Michael answered just as seriously. "But when I asked her last year if I could help her, she started crying, and said that she wanted me to be whatever I wanted to be. She said that no matter what happens to us, we should always try our best and live our life the best way we can. She said that if I decided to be an astronaut, she'd be the first person at the space center watching me take off."
"That was nice of her," Jason smiled, his face softening at the memory of the tender-hearted young woman he had fallen in love with years ago. Elizabeth always had a way in bringing out the best in people, Carly being the notable exception. She brought out the generous and caring father figure in the normally stoic and steely Sonny Corinthos, and brought out the inquisitive nature in Michael. She had a way of brightening up a room as soon as she walked in, and everyone seemed to perk up a bit when she was around.
Her smiles were the most amazing thing about her. They had the power to make him laugh, and they even held the power to make him cry. Her smiles brought him to knees sometimes, and other times, they were what got him through the long nights. Just the mere memories of all her different smiles sustained him all those years away from home. Away from her.
He shook his head slightly, snapping himself out of his dazed reverie. He had no right to be thinking about her like that. She was the one that had made it clear he had no place in her little bubble of a life, and he'd be damned if he came crawling back looking for scraps, so to speak.
But he found no reason that they couldn't still be friends. Just this time, he'd be sure not to take things any further. Restraint was his new middle name.
"Yeah, it was nice of her, but I didn't like it when she cried," Michael answered softly.
Jason furrowed his brow, absently rubbing a thumb over Saturn. "Why was she crying?"
"Jason, we need to tell you something –" Sonny tried to cut in, surprised when Jason silenced him with a wave of his hand.
"Why was she crying, Michael?" he repeated anxiously.
Michael's eyes widened. "I don't really know."
"Well, what did you say before she started crying?" Jason prompted. What reason could Elizabeth have had for crying in front of Michael, of all people?
"Well, she was at the park with her dog, 'cuz she walks him every day after breakfast."
"She has a dog?"
"A great big one," Michael responded, stretching his arms in the air to demonstrate size.
"OK, OK, go on."
"Well, Leticia and I were at the playground, and then Brad and I decided we wanted ice cream, so Leticia said we could since it wasn't too close to lunch."
"And then I saw Elizabeth brushing her dog, and so I told Leticia to get me a Fireworks popsicle, because they don't melt as fast as the Sparkler ones."
"Uh huh, go on."
"So she said she would, and I went over to where Elizabeth was sitting. I said, 'Elizabeth, it's me, Michael,' and she looked up and smiled. She said, 'Hi, Michael, good to hear your voice again', or something."
"And then I said I had been doing some thinking. I said I didn't know if I wanted to be an astronaut anymore. She looked kinda surprised, and asked why. I told her that she was the one that said I made a good artist, and that if she wanted, I could come visit her every day and help her paint again."
"Wait a minute – again?" Jason questioned, quirking an eye at the boy.
"Jase," Carly started, but clamped her mouth shut when Jason waved a hand at her.
"Yeah. She hasn't painted since she made this for me last year."
"Why not? Doesn't she like to paint anymore?"
"She does," Michael nodded. He smoothed his small hands over the spaceship. "Anyway, so I said I'd come help her paint every day, and she kinda smiled down at me, only it was that really weird smile, and then she covered her mouth with her hand and tears came out of her eyes."
"Wait, Michael," Jason cut in, shifting to face the child in his lap. "If she still likes to paint, why doesn't she?"
At those two words, Sonny and Carly seemed to sag in defeat. Carly dropped her head and stared at her hands while Sonny stuffed his fists into the pockets of his robe and looked away.
Jason turned in their direction, taking in their posture. His anxious eyes sought Michael's once more, a hint of fear in his voice.
"What do you mean, Michael?" It was more of a statement than a question, and Michael watched his uncle's hands fist momentarily in the rough canvas. "Why can't she?"
The child's blue orbs rose up to meet his uncle's icey blues. He looked down slightly, a soft sigh escaping from his pink lips.
"She can't see anymore."
The boy's words echoed through his head. She can't see anymore. He clenched his eyes shut, begging the words to stop. She can't see anymore. They played over and over like a busted phonograph. She can't see anymore.
She can't see anymore.
He hissed out a shaky breath, raising his head to look once again at the child in his lap. Michael's eyes were filled with tender remorse, and he wordlessly looped an arm around his uncle's wide shoulders, pulling Jason into a tight hug.
He tried to speak but soon gave up, burying his face in Michael's red hair. Swallowing past the lump in his throat, he tried to get his thoughts together.
Ignoring Sonny and Carly all together, Jason loosened Michael's arms and pulled the child down until they were at eye level.
"Michael, I want you to tell me something."
The child nodded, his wide blue eyes still tender and caring. As Jason gazed down at him, he couldn't help but marvel at the way children wore their emotions on their sleeves. If it had been an adult who was breaking the news to him, he or she would have tossed in several meaningless remarks. Such a shame it had to happen to a woman as nice as she was. God has a reason for everything He does. No one could have prevented it, not even you.
But his boy remained silent after breaking the news, not jabbering on in a futile attempt to lessen the impact. All that Jason saw in Michael's eyes was tenderness and sympathy mixed gently with sorrow over his friend's loss. He saw genuine emotions, and few people were able to project them as effortlessly as the innocent boy in his arms.
"When did it happen?"
"Officer Taggert said that she was hit by a car."
Hit by a car. It wasn't possible.
"Did they know who was driving the car?" They'd better. Jason would personally hunt the maniac down and make him eat his toes.
Jason's blood ran cold. He twisted slowly, deliberately, on the suede couch until he met Sonny's gaze.
The mobster clenched his fists in his pockets and looked down under Jason's steely gaze. His old friend's eyes had turned from jovial and friendly to lethal. And Sonny knew exactly who was going to be on the receiving end.
Next to him, his wife was facing the same fear. She snaked an arm into the crook of her husband's elbow and cast a worried glance at Jason.
"Jase-" she tried hesitantly. She was rewarded with a deadly glare as Jason turned back to face his nephew.
"Yes." Michael nodded once, dropping his gaze and tenderly outlining the letters of his name on the canvas. He sighed slowly, drawing his hands back and folding them in his lap.
Placing an elbow on one knee, Jason propped his chin in his hand. Carly peered down at his face only to see his eyes squeezed shut and his brow furrowed. And his mouth set. Hard.
She straightened and burrowed closer into her husband's side. Damn. No way was Jason going to let them off the hook this time.
"Tell you what, Michael," Jason began, finally opening his eyes. "Why don't you go hang this up again in your room, and see if you have anything else we can take to the moon with us."
Sonny ran a hand through his hair as Jason dismissed his son. He expected Michael to nod and scurry upstairs like he usually did, but was surprised to see that his boy still hadn't moved, and was staring up at his uncle with wide eyes and a furrowed brow.
"Michael. Please." Jason still hadn't moved a muscle, staring at a spot on the wall directly in his vision. His chin was still propped in his hand, but he shifted his left leg slightly, hoping Michael would pick up the hint.
The boy placed a small hand on his uncle's shoulder, his stubby thumb rubbing a circle in the smooth leather. He gently raised his other hand to Jason's face, until he had pulled his uncle's chin from his hand. Jason stared at him in surprise, Michael's cool fingers on his chin and neck.
"You didn't know."
It was a statement, not a question, and it floored him. Amazed him. Astounded him that this little boy could be so perceptive and so tender at the same time.
He stared into the wide blue eyes, still seeing the same remorse and understanding. His boy was wise beyond his years.
"No." Jason's head dropped slightly, but Michael's surprisingly strong hand refused to let his gaze waver.
"They should have told you."
Sonny snapped to attention at the child's words. His wide eyes met Carly's, and both parents retreated into stunned and defeated silence under their boy's judgment.
Jason stared at Michael in wonder. The child astounded him yet again. He couldn't understand how such a young boy could be so perceptive. Michael's wide blue eyes penetrated his, and Jason saw nothing but tender remorse and endless understanding.
He flashed him a watery smile, his face softening.
"Now you know, Uncle Jason," Michael continued, hopping out of his uncle's lap and grabbing his precious painting. "She might be mad that I told you, but that's okay; she never could stay mad at me too long."
Jason smiled, turning his head as Michael walked behind the couch, clutching the canvas to his chest.
"Just one thing, Uncle Jason."
"Don't let her think you feel sorry for her. Don't ever let her think that." With that, Michael scurried up the steps, his bare feet making no sound against the polished hardwood.
Jason sat still, Michael's words washing over him. No. He'd be damned if she thought he pitied her. Their relationship had never been about pity, and he wouldn't be the one to change things now. They had been about concern, honesty, and support, and he was going to stick by that.
Sonny and Carly watched him anxiously, nervously awaiting the onslaught of Jason's anger. Carly squeezed her nails into her palm. She knew Jason's anger. She had seen it, heard it, felt it. She knew that once he got started…everyone else had better watch out.
But now it was about Elizabeth. And that was all the more reason for why she and Sonny were screwed.
Elizabeth was Jason's angel. Carly knew that. She'd known it for a long time. Heck, Elizabeth was everyone's angel. But now she was the one that needed someone to watch over her. Carly knew that she and Sonny had done all they could to help the young woman, but Elizabeth was too proud to accept too much.
That was why they both had slowly faded out of the picture, allowing the young brunette to live her life the way she wanted. The way she needed.
Why they hadn't told Jason, she still didn't know.
But now, staring at Jason's face, a mixture of raw anger, pain, fear, and sadness, she cursed their stupidity. He was the first person who should have known.
Why didn't they tell him? Fear? Guilt, that they hadn't watched over his angel the way they should have? Selfishness, knowing that he'd abort his operations and come home at once to take care of her? What was it?
Jason twisted on the couch to face them, and Carly gasped. Gone was the fear, the sadness, the pain. In its stead was rage. Unbridled and unchecked.
"Courtney did it."
His words pierced through the silence, and Sonny winced. Struggling to find his voice, he replied the only way he knew. "She did."
"One year ago."
"Courtney. Your sister."
Sonny looked at the floor, not sure what to do. He wanted to beg Jason to forgive him, he wanted to run out of the room before things got too bad, he wanted to stand up to this and take the consequences of his mistake. But for the first time in a long time, Sonny had no idea what he should do.
"And you never told me."
A tear slid slowly down Carly's cheek. "No," she whispered, gazing down at her best friend.
Jason couldn't help it. He laughed. His bitter chuckles surprised both Sonny and Carly, and they turned to look at each other, not knowing how to respond.
As abruptly as his laughter had started, it ended. "Damn it!" Jason pounded his fist down on the glass coffee table, and was rewarded when the glass cracked under the impact. A gigantic spiderweb spread out on the once glistening surface. Carly squealed in fright, half jumping into Sonny's arms.
Jason stood up, ignoring the slow trickle of blood down his hand. He faced Sonny, shoulders back, hands fisted.
"We talked every day, you son of a bitch. Every damn day."
"No. For once in your miserable life, you're going to listen to me." Jason stalked forward angrily, stopping about three paces away from Sonny. He didn't trust himself to get any closer; he was sure he'd be tempted to beat the pulp out of his former mentor.
"We talked every day. Every damn day. I called in to report on our progress, you called back with suggestions and precautions. You told me what to tell the men. You told me how to handle the kingpin. We talked about Michael. About Carly. About the guards back home. We talked about Emily and the Quartermaines. We even talked about, oh, guess who? Elizabeth."
"That's right, Sonny, Elizabeth. Remember her? I'd call at first, almost afraid to ask about her, dropping hints until you started laughing, and telling me she was just fine. 'She's made a new painting for my office, Jason', or 'she knit Johnny's sick mother a new pair of socks', or 'she took Michael and Francis' nephews to the zoo and got them to ride a camel'. And then the information stopped, Sonny. Why?"
Unable to speak, Sonny looked away. Jason's eyes blazed and he raised his voice, forcing Sonny to look to him once more.
"I'd hint around, but you'd keep your mouth shut. I even sucked it up and asked directly about her. You told me she was fine. Fine."
"No. Don't even start. Fine. You said she was fine. Never once did you tell me that your slut of a sister plowed over my Elizabeth with her car! Never once!"
Jason stepped closer to Sonny, his eyes fiery and his voice low and deadly. "Tell me one thing, Sonny."
The mobster remained silent, his eyes conveying his submission.
"Was she drunk?" Lord help them all if she was. He'd been on the worse end of a drunk driving accident. He'd lost his life, and woke up with another one. Now the same thing had happened to Elizabeth – waking up in a world of darkness – and he didn't know what he'd do if Sonny's precious sister was intoxicated at the time.
"She was….drugged up." Sonny's head sagged in defeat.
Jason stepped closer still. "What did you say?"
"As in intoxicated."
"Now, Jason, please, don't," Carly begged when she saw his eyes change. She knew this would happen, she knew it. She didn't want him destroying the house, she didn't want him destroying her husband. But most of all, she didn't want him destroying himself.
He turned on her swiftly, his eyes hard and his voice venomous. "Don't. Don't you dare. I know what it's like to be involved in an accident where the driver is intoxicated, Carly. Or had you forgotten? Hm?"
She averted her gaze, unable to speak against his rage.
He stepped back, pounding a hand against his chest. "I know what it's like. My head was smashed against the trunk of a tree because my brother had a few too many beers. I woke up in the hospital with a dozen IV's in me, and I couldn't remember who I was. I couldn't remember my family. I couldn't remember my girlfriend. I couldn't see pictures, I couldn't make believe. I couldn't be normal. That was taken away from me by an intoxicated driver. So don't tell me to calm down and don't tell me to don't. Because I'm not listening."
He paced away from the two, stopping when he neared the edge of the couch. Right before him was a large, sprawling painting, hanging right above Sonny's desk.
"The Storm," he murmured, remembering another one of her paintings. It was modeled after one of her favorite short stories by Kate Chopin. He remembered her telling him that she painted it in a photographic style, which meant he could comprehend it easier. Tall, dark trees were whipped around by a gray wind, a powerful tornado already showing over the horizon. Formless debris was strewn randomly, at the will of an unappeased Mother Nature. Bright streaks of crimson and orange, gold and warm brown were used prominently, adding a sense of passion and chaotic love to the dangerous and forbidding landscape. "The Storm."
"Oh, shit," Carly mumbled.
Jason turned around, angry blue eyes once again seeking Sonny's defeated brown ones.
"The Storm. That's The Storm."
He brought a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose, a few chuckles escaping. Drawing in a deep breath, he straightened once more to stare Sonny dead in the eyes.
"She made that. She called it The Storm, after Kate Chopin's story. It's about passion and forbidden love in the most unlikely of places. The swirls of red and orange – warm summer colors – show the lust that was predominantly shown through the syntax and diction of the entire story. The stormy weather represents Calixta's marriage, even as she's having an affair with an old lover. The two trees in the front, see them?" He pointed toward the painting. "They represent her husband and son. Notice that although they're bent and swaying, neither one is broken. See the tornado, in the background? See how small it is? It foreshadows future trouble in the marriage. But that trouble's not important. Her husband didn't know about her affair, and he never will. It means whatever troubles are coming, they'll be able to face them. The author went a little overboard trying to cast off male chauvinism, but Elizabeth painted it in the perfect light, don't you think?"
Sonny's eyes remained fixed to his big toe. "Yes."
"Bullshit. You didn't even know what the painting was about. All you saw was a storm. Violent. Turbulent. Powerful. Bright. And God help you, you wanted that. Not for what it meant in the artist's heart, but for what it looked like it was supposed to mean."
Sonny looked up hesitantly, his brown eyes full of shame.
"You never knew so much, Sonny," Jason continued, his voice slightly hoarse. "So much. Tell me, did you really not know it was there, or did you just choose to ignore it?"
"I don't kn-"
"Bullshit. You knew. Even while I was pretending no one did, I knew you knew. Hell, I knew everyone knew. The whole damn town knew what I felt for her, didn't they?"
The two remained silent.
"Didn't they!" Jason repeated. Receiving a slight nod from Sonny, he turned back to face the painting, almost as if he were talking to it. "They all knew. I didn't even know, and they all did. You both included. I'm sure you had your ideas about what I felt for her, even when I was still struggling to understand. I'm sure you saw the way my eyes lit up when I mentioned her, the way I seemed to zone out every once in a while when I saw her or thought of her. The way I gave Lucky the death stare from all the way across the room."
He walked towards the painting. "You chose to take it for it's face value. So did I, for a while. A petite, innocent artist, almost in her twenties. A mobster approaching his thirties. Both just friends. Both like to see the Wind, both like to smell the snow. Just friends."
He paused, cocking his head at the Storm.
"But then I finally took it for what it was meant to be. What it always was. In my heart, I knew how much she meant. Even when she dismissed me, I couldn't deny what I felt. I couldn't make it go away. I traveled all over the world to see if I could make her go away. She never left. She did the opposite. I could always expect that from her, you know? She meshed with my body and soul until she was a part of me. She still is, and she always will be."
He turned back to Sonny and Carly.
"Imagine what would have happened if I had chosen to take our relationship at it's 'face value'. I would have lost out on the most amazing woman I ever met."
Sonny looked away, not liking the direction this was going.
"And it looks like I already have. Lost part of her, anyway. I lost the part that I would have abandoned all my responsibilities for. I lost the part that I was supposed to watch over in the hospital. The part that I was supposed to cheer up and laugh with and cry with, and just be with. I lost the part that I would have cared for and loved and supported for the rest of my life. All because you couldn't mention to me – in our daily conversations – that your god damned whore of a sister took a joy ride at the expense of my Elizabeth!"
Knowing he should keep his mouth shut, Sonny couldn't help himself. "Jason, that's my sister you're talking ab-"
"Yes, it's your sister!" Jason yelled in anguish. "That's my entire # point! Maybe this wouldn't hurt so bad if I knew it was some random maniac with faulty brakes. Some alcoholic too boozed up to be within a ten mile radius of a car. Maybe this wouldn't hurt so much…" he trailed off, striding over to Sonny until they were face-to-face. "Maybe this wouldn't hurt so much if it wasn't the high-as-a-kite sister of the man that pretended to be my best friend."
A tear slipped down Carly's already glistening face. "Jason, you can't mean-"
He turned on her fiercely. "Look!" he yelled, pointing to the painting that hung mournfully over Sonny's leather chair. "Look at that! Look at it, really look. She's an artist, damn it, Carly, an artist. Because of this, she can't get dressed, she can't go to the movies with her friends, she can't drive a car, and she certainly can't paint!"
His wide blue eyes implored her to grasp the reality of his pain. His voice cracked in anguish as he continued. "I used to tell her that she was my eyes, Carly. Mine. Because of her, I saw things I never would have before. She opened up a whole new world for me, and I can't ever repay that. But damn it…" His shoulders slumped and his voice dropped to just above a whisper.
"No one ever told me that one day I'd have to be her eyes."
He rubbed a hand over his wet eyes and slowly turned towards the door. Opening it slowly, he released a deep breath before walking out, leaving the brown door open behind him.
"You know what? I've totally got a song stuck in my head."
Elizabeth's soft voice carried a hint of irritation as it drifted down to Jake's ears. The dog continued walking, accustomed to his master's talking.
"Gosh, I hate it when that happens, don't you?" Elizabeth asked, swiping a lock of hair away from her glasses. "It's like you can't think about anything else, and that song just totally overpowers your brain and converts it to jello."
Jake answered with a bark, and guided Elizabeth around the curve.
"Gah!" she exclaimed. "I hate hate hate it when that happens. Even if it's a good song, it just sucks. You know what it is, boy? It's that one Lean on Me song. I know it's a great song; I love it, I really do. It's just that it's playing over and over and over in my head and I can't think of anything else!"
At the sound of her mumbling, Jason poked his head out from behind the tree he had just walked up to. Not too far away, there she was. Dressed in a very sensible black blazer-and-skirt outfit with sensible heels. Her hair was a bit longer now than it had been, and her lacy tendrils of chocolate brown cascaded freely down her shoulders, occasionally scattered by a soft gust of wind.
Michael was right when he said she had a big dog, he mused. Walking protectively before her was quite possibly the largest German Shepherd he had ever seen. The dog's muscular legs hit the pavement solidly, his eyes on the lookout for obstacles or strangers, or anything else that would harm his master.
Leaning against the tree trunk, Jason debated over the best way to approach her. Was he to just pop out from behind the tree, saying, "Surprise! You left me several years ago, standing in a park, but now I'm back"? Was he to bide his time, maybe follow her?
No, Jason, he chided himself. That's called stalking.
Her soft voice snapped him out of his reverie, and he was surprised to see her much closer to him, and gaining.
"Geez, I can't stand it! I have to get it out of my head, otherwise it'll annoy me all day," she huffed. "I'll just sing some other song. But what?"
Jason smiled softly, tears threatening to invade his eyes. Amazing that her personality hadn't changed drastically – she was still the same sweet, silly Elizabeth he remembered.
But parts of her would have had to have changed, he thought with a frown.
"Oh, the Graduate!" she grinned. "Only one of the best movies ever. Dustin Hoffman did a great job. I hope I still have that soundtrack. I should, if Emily hasn't borrowed it for the hundredth time. She loves Simon and Garfunkel almost as much as I do. My favorite has probably got to be the Scarborough Fair one, though."
Jake barked in agreement.
"I loved how they started naming the herbs, you know, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. They pronounce thyme right, of course, but it makes you think of time, and how he's running out of time. It's kind of a paradox, almost, because he literally wasted so much time, and now he's being made to pay for it."
Jason's palms grew sweaty as she approached. It was now or never. He wasn't ready for now, and he sure as hell didn't think never was even an option.
"That was the greatest song ever. So sad, so sweet. It made you want to jump up and cheer for him, but then sit down and cry your eyes out at the same time. So much confusion, pain, betrayal, longing, and potential joy all wrapped up in one little melodic package."
Jake spotted Jason ahead, and unsure of what to do, slowed his pace, still eyeing the stranger warily.
Elizabeth barely noticed his slackening speed, still caught up in her memories. "It was the greatest part," she sighed softly. Humming a few bars, she softly began singing.
Jake looked towards Jason as they approached, silently daring him to move.
Elizabeth failed to notice the mounting tension. "Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Remember me to one who lives there, ra ta ta tum…"
Jason cleared his throat softly, his voice rough with unshed tears and silent fears. "She once was a true love of mine."
"She once was a true love of mine."
She blinked at the voice, the soft, sorrowful notes bringing her to a crashing halt. Jake's collar pulled against his throat, half strangling him, and his menacing growl towards Jason was cut short. He stopped in place before Elizabeth, the hair on his neck bristling, his ears back, his lips curling into a snarl.
While she felt her dog's extreme displeasure, more powerful stimuli were overwhelming her senses. The leash loosened from her grip and she felt her knees grow weak. Taking a step back, Elizabeth tried to process the sensory perceptions that were bombarding her.
A soft gust of wind swept across her cheekbones, bringing out a delicate flush. Taking in a shaky breath, she tried to calm herself down.
The wind blew once more, bringing a wild assortment of scents to her nose. Gentle rain. Wind from astride a motorcycle. Old Spice soap. Fresh mint toothpaste. Worn leather, soft with age and use.
Tears sprang to her eyes. It couldn't be. Not him. Not now.
Jason's heart beat painfully in his chest as he watched her register his presence. Her dark glasses partially hid her eyes from view, but the transparent gray glass still showed him her shock.
He stepped closer, his eyes trained intently on her. Christ. He didn't want to scare her away from him, but he had to go to her. Had to let her know he was here for her, and that he'd never leave again. Nor would he allow her to leave.
Jake's growl brought him out of his reverie, and his eyes widened as the muscular animal took a threatening step towards him, almost pulling the leash from Elizabeth's small hands.
In an instant Elizabeth was crouched on her heels, calling her dog back. She wrapped an arm around his neck and stroked his chest gently, trying to calm her savage beast.
"Don't be silly, boy," she soothed softly, a hint of tears in her voice. "He's not going to hurt me. He's not a bad guy, Jake."
Jason blinked, then crouched down in front of her. After making sure the dog wouldn't scratch his eyes out, he turned to Elizabeth.
"Jake? Is his name Jake?"
Despite herself, Elizabeth smirked. "Yeah, it is. What's it to you?"
"I don't know," Jason smiled. "I've just always liked that name."
She rolled her eyes, her voice taking on a playful sarcastic tone. "Don't flatter yourself, Morgan. I didn't name him after Coleman's dive."
"Ouch," he winced good-naturedly. "Hey, come on now, let's not belittle the bar. If I remember correctly, you really loved that dive."
She snickered, running her hands along Jake's flanks. The dog had quieted down considerably under Elizabeth's hands, but still glanced warily at Jason every few seconds.
"Maybe I did, but I certainly wouldn't name my dog after it."
It was Jason's turn to laugh. "So why did you name your dog Jake?"
She glanced towards where his voice was coming from, her eyes distant. "Jake means to follow after. I just thought it was oddly appropriate. Ironic, even."
And there it was. What neither of them had been wanting to discuss.
Jason drew in a deep breath. "Sonny and Carly told me today," he said softly. "Or rather, Michael told me."
Elizabeth's face softened at the mention of the little boy. She stopped stroking her dog and slowly stood up, smoothing her skirt across her thighs.
Jason reluctantly followed suit, brushing the gravel from his hands. Jake peered up at them both, then crossed his paws on the pavement and lay his head down, waiting for any signals from his master.
Elizabeth remained silent, unsure of where to look. Rather than face the direction where she knew he was standing, she chose instead to point her face towards the ground, absently twiddling her thumbs.
"They never told me before. I had to come back, five years later, to hear it from my nephew instead of him."
She remained silent. He waited for her to say something, the muscle in his jaw involuntarily twitching.
"Do you remember how it happened?"
She looked up at his question, slightly surprised with his directness. Swallowing, she began, unsure of what to say. "Um, I was jogging in the morning about a year ago. It was spring, and I was out early. I crossed Sinclair and headed for the library, and a car just came barreling around the corner, and before I knew it…"
"It was too late," he finished. Elizabeth blinked at the tone of his voice. Was that…anger?
"What happened then?"
His voice cut through the afternoon haze, strong, resolute. Official. Geez, was this a police interrogation or something?
Gritting her teeth at her unexpected annoyance, Elizabeth continued. "I woke up in the hospital. I was told I suffered a heavy blow to the head, and I sustained a double facture in my knee and broke one arm. I had countless bruises and several deep gashes, including one along my hairline that I needed stitches for."
She could feel his gaze directed at the area she had mentioned, and continued regardless. "Doctor Lindstrom told me I had bandages around my eyes, which was why I couldn't see." She chuckled softly, causing Jason's eyes to narrow into dangerous slits.
"He told me he'd be taking them off in two weeks. When the two weeks rolled around, he came into my room and told me that they'd take them off now. Ten minutes later, I heard the movement in the room slow, and then cease." She looked up towards him, her eyes wet with tears. "I asked him if he had taken them off yet."
Staring down into her violet eyes, Jason felt as if someone had just punched him in the gut. He knew what the doctors' answer would have been. Yes, they had taken off the bandages. But their worst fear had come true: their patient didn't know that because she still couldn't see. And there was nothing they could do about it. He squeezed his eyes shut, forcing back tears of his own. Damn.
"Did you know who had done it?" He fought to keep his voice strong and clear, but it came out slightly muddled.
Elizabeth nodded slowly, turning her face in the direction of the softball field the local kids were playing kickball in.
"I knew. Taggert told me."
Son of a bitch. "What do you mean?" He'd like to know how Cueball told her, all right.
"He visited me in the hospital," came her answer. "I was asleep half the time, and the other half I was drugged up, but he waited for three consecutive days until he finally got a chance to see me. He walked in and asked me how I was feeling. We kept up the small talk, then I heard him pull up a chair. They told me they had found the person who had run me over."
His blood boiled and rushed to his ears, threatening to drown out her words.
"At that point, I barely even knew I was attempted road kill, so I listened to the rest of what he had to say. He said that a block from where I had been hit, they found a car. The intoxicated driver was still inside, bawling and babbling to herself."
She raised her eyes towards the clouds, her voice softening.
"He told me Sonny Corinthos' little sister was the one that had nearly killed me."
Jason's hands fisted, and all he saw was red. He thought he had worked over most of his anger in the penthouse, when he had mangled his hand on Sonny's imported Italian glass table, but he was wrong. Hearing the account from her made him even angrier. So angry he could barely see straight.
Jake raised his head from his position, staring pointedly up at him. If he didn't know better, he could have sworn that the dog was telling him to chill.
She continued, unmindful of the rage and panic that swirled within him. "I couldn't believe it. I asked what had happened, and Taggert told me they had her in lock down and were trying to get her convicted. He said Alexis Davis was the prosecutor, and that some new lawyer, Richard Lansing, I think, was Sonny's representative. I thought it'd be fairly cut and dried; a seasoned pro like Alexis, with one of the best reputations in law on the East Coast, and a newbie like Lansing. But it wasn't. A week or so later, Taggert came back and told me what had happened. Sonny had gotten Courtney out somehow, bribing the officials, he said he thought, and had sent his sister out of the States."
Yet another detail the mob king had left out, Jason thought with contempt. Bastard. Rat bastard.
"After that, it really didn't matter to me. Sonny could have gone and screwed himself for all I cared. He oh-so-generously covered my hospital bill and my treatment, paid for therapy which I didn't attend, and tried to buy me a dog. Instead, I sold a couple paintings and bought Jake myself. Sonny was always offering to do all sorts of little things for me, but I had no intention of ever taking him up on it. I remember once he tried to buy my studio from the landlord, and I sent him back his money with a little note saying, "Spend it on Courtney." He's left me alone since then."
A corner of Jason's mouth curved up. That's my Elizabeth.
"And that's about it."
His brows quirked. "What do you mean, that's it?"
She shrugged. "What do you think I mean? I mean, that's it. Nothing more to tell. I live my life, Sonny and co. live theirs, and never the twain shall meet. I get up, I work, I eat, I sleep, and that's about it."
He didn't like the way she was speaking, as if her life had little to no consequence anymore to anyone.
"Elizabeth, just because you're-you're-"
"Blind, Jason," she cut in. "Say it. Blind. Seeing impaired. Go ahead. Nothing wrong with it."
"No," he ground out. "No, I won't say it. Because I don't believe it."
"What?" What the hell was he talking about?
"I don't believe it." His voice had picked up a hint of desperation, not missed by Elizabeth.
"What don't you believe, Jason?"
"That you can't see anymore," he blurted out.
She rolled her eyes. "Jason-"
"No, no, just hear me out." He was talking quickly and the words jumbled out of his mouth. " Just listen. Who says this is permanent?"
"Who said this is permanent? Who says you can't see anymore? Medicine is a marvelous field, evolving every single day. New treatments, new equipment, new information. Elizabeth, why can't you see again?"
His question took her aback. Was he serious?
"No, no, just listen. Who's to say you can't get your eyesight back? I know an excellent doctor in France, Dr. Jamal. He studied at Oxford and specializes in cataract surgery. He owns a lab off the riviera, and his researchers are always working with the latest state-of-the-art equipment. It's kind of complicated, but I helped him out and he feels indebted. I'm sure he'd help us out."
Oh, brother. "Jason-"
"Don't want to go to France?" His voice rose slightly in pitch, and he moved his hands emphatically. "What about India? They're making amazing strides in medicine. Pakistan? Ever heard of Agakhan Medical Institute in Karachi? I had three gunshot wounds two years ago, and I stayed at Agakhan for two weeks. Dr. Siddiqui was my physician. Her husband heads up the neurology department, and her brother is a higher-up in the Visual Impairment department. How about that?"
"Jason," she said softly. "Think clearly. You're in denial."
He ignored her, his words growing more frenzied and his gestures growing more animated. "Want to stay in the US? How about Johns Hopkins? That's pretty close. Remember, my parents called them up when Helena pumped someone full of some rare poison the last time I was here."
"Jason." She moved forward, closing the distance between them. Her arms fumbled around his chest before finally finding his arms. She curled her fingers around his biceps, giving him a slight shake.
"Jason." She could feel him shaking, trembling, she could feel the heat radiating off his body. She could also feel his fear. "Jason, listen to me. I am blind. I am. And there's nothing that can be done about it."
"No-" The word came out as a strangled whimper before Elizabeth's slight weight managed to shake him once more.
"No!" He broke free of her grasp, earning a glare from Jake as the dog sprang up to crouch coiled, protectively, near Elizabeth's ankles.
"Jason, please," she begged. It damn near broke her heart to hear him talk this way. Her Jason was always so calm, so rational. He knew his limits and he knew the limits of others. He tried his best and at the end of the day was satisfied with what he had accomplished. This Jason was…
"Don't you ever say that. You're not…You can see again, Elizabeth, you can."
She remained silent, gazing in his direction, a pained look on her face. He couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't take the way she was looking at him. He couldn't take how calm she was, how…accepting. And he sure couldn't take the way that dog stood at her constant vigil. If he had his way, she wouldn't even need the damn animal. It would have been him, standing by her side as long as she'd let him.
He whirled around, unable to bear the look on her face. She heard him turn, heard the whoosh of his leather jacket with the rapid pivoting movement. Heard him stamping the sidewalk angrily.
"God damn son of a bitch," he ground out, his hands fisted at his sides as he paced and whirled on the narrow sidewalk. "Mother-# pig. Would it have killed him to tell me? Was his damn operation in God-forsaken Columbia really that # important that he'd let you… let me… let us.."
He trailed off, his anger having gotten the better of him once more. She heard him stamping about, heard his blue streak of curses that would have made a sailor blush. Heard him damn his best friend to Hell and beyond.
Unsure of what to do, she took a small step towards him. Should she say something? Would it be a good time? Did he just need to work out his anger?
Her questions surprised her. She should know the answers. She was the one that knew him so well, and yet she had no idea what to do at the moment. What did she usually do when his anger got the best of him?
"Rat bastard. I come home, I hug him and I kiss his wife, I pick up his little boy. And he stands by and watches me, knowing he's kept something from me! What, did he think I'd never find out? That I'd never see you again in town? That if you came near, I'd yell out, 'Sorry, Elizabeth, I didn't come back for scraps' and that would be it? He's always spouting off # about loyalty and honor and integrity and honesty and betrayal, and he's the one that stabbed me in the back by not telling me-"
His words were cut short when he felt her hand on his back. He whirled around, and Elizabeth rested her hands on his shoulders, her face set and determined.
"What didn't he tell you, Jason?" she asked knowingly. She knew it was about her accident, but if there were any underlying feelings, she wanted him to get them out so they wouldn't eat away at him. Just like her mistake, all those years ago in the park, had been eating her up. Was still eating her up.
His anger and panic seemed to bleed out of him under her gentle hands. Suppressed tears replaced them, and he bowed his head under the barrage of his liquid emotion.
"He never told me that the woman I loved would never see my face again."
His voice broke with anguish and his shoulders trembled as he fought back his sobs. Looking down at her, he could see the shock reflected in her wide violet eyes.
"W-what?" Her grip on his shoulders loosened, but he quickly wrapped an arm around her slender waist to keep her in place, pulling her flush against him.
Tears made his voice low and husky, bringing wetness to her own eyes. "Don't tell me you never knew."
She would have collapsed to the floor if his strong arms hadn't been holding her up. Her mind was spinning and she looked up at him in confusion.
He sniffled slightly, as if embarrassed by the sound. "If there was one thing that Sonny and Carly did tell me, it was that pretty much the entire town knew."
Her mouth curved up softly in a hesitant smile. "But, Jason, after all that I- I left you there, Jason, I didn't, I didn't chose-"
He cupped her face gently, silencing her. His callused thumb swept away her warm tears, and she seemed to come alive once more under his gentle guidance. Gone was the cool and calm exterior; this woman in his arms was alive. She was vital and emotional and…perfect.
"You may not have chosen me then," he whispered. "But I chose you long before. And I still choose you. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing will ever change how much you matter to me. I used to think Nothing was a place, and then you showed me it was a feeling. I used to think Nothing was the rock-bottom, that it was all-encompassing. But now you've shown me it's conquerable."
She gazed up at him in wonder. Damn. If only she could have seen him say those words. The emotion in his blue eyes, warm and icy at the same time, the crooked smile. The love. That's what she wanted to see most.
But as his hand began to softly rub circles on the small of her back, she realized she didn't need to see it. She felt it. She felt it as he wiped away her remaining tears, as he sniffed away the last of his, and as that same motion on her back made her blood hum and her nerves sing. She felt it. She was his love.
"Besides, I think that day's really not that important anymore, in the grand scheme of things," he continued, not noticing the look that invaded her deep sapphire orbs.
He blinked in surprise when she raised her hands to his face. "May I?"
He nodded deftly, unable to do anything else. He closed his eyes slowly, her long cool fingers gliding over his cheeks. She effortlessly absorbed and banished the rest of his tears, brushing away the slick trails left on his face. Her fingers played along the curve of his nose, her thumbs swept across his lower lip. He flicked out his tongue as if on reflex, but was too late as her fingers glided up to his temples.
She gasped as he pulled her flush against him, his hands wrapped securely around her. Resuming her exploration, her index and thumb stroking the curve of his ear before fingering the shell. One smooth hand brushed across the stubble on his chin, while the other one gently scraped its nails on the nape of his neck before moving higher to play amongst his unruly wheat-colored spikes.
He opened his eyes, lowering his face until they were both nose-to-nose.
"You know something, Elizabeth," he began tenderly, unable to mask a hint of sadness that crept into his voice. "I've been thinking about your smiles all day. So tell me, honey, do you still smile?"
Her heart melted at his question. She twined her fingers together around his neck, her thumb still stroking his nape. Her mouth slowly curved up into one of her signature smiles. "I stopped for quite a while," she replied honestly. "But things change."
He closed his eyes at her words, then opened them when he heard her voice once more. "But I don't ever intend to stop smiling again."
A tear tumbled down his cheek, dropping onto the fabric of her blazer. He sighed in a combination of relief and exhaustion, lifting her up against him until she was at eye level.
"Good," he whispered, his eyes trained on her soft pink lips. Craning his head up slightly, he brushed his own against hers and apprehensively awaited a response.
Fresh tears rose to his eyes as she instantly responded, wrapping her arms more tightly around his neck. One hand braced her back and the other he used to sweep away her lacy curls. Feathering a thumb along the column of her throat, he swiped his tongue across her lips, demanding entrance.
She opened under his tender insistence, allowing him full access to plunder the depths of her mouth. Their tongues mated sensuously, dancing together until both were gasping for breath. Pulling back slightly, Jason gazed up at her flushed face.
"Good," he repeated. "Because I won't ever give you a reason to."