A/N: First, before anything else, this story has an alternative history. Jason was never in a car accident, but, in this tale, he was already Jason Morgan, Elizabeth never moved to Port Charles until college, so her past is altered, Emily is still a Bowen, never met the Quartermaines and never will, Brenda was never involved with Sonny or Jax and was Jason's best friend since childhood, and Lucy was not sucked into the supernatural vortex on the other side of Port Charles, so she's still Lucy, but Kevin is not around. I know that was brief, but more will be explained in the story, and, if you have questions, please feel free to ask. Secondly, my apologies in advance to Niecy4CarLo who provided me with my story's first line. I doubt this is the direction you wanted your line to be taken in, but I had to go where the creative muse took me, and I hope you can enjoy it anyway. Thanks, everyone! Charlynn
High Speed Dating
What kind of fool am I that you so easily set me aside; does he want you with the pain that I do?
Emily Bowen had always been able to find the beauty in her upstate New York, small town, but it was people like PCLoveMatch2799: WannagetLucky? that made her yearn for more people, more culture, more hotspots, more everything for Port Charles. Initially, she had set out to find her best friend a boyfriend, but the only thing the online dating service was giving her was doubt in humanity.
Six years before in a dorm room in need of both a good paint job and a thorough cleaning, her life had changed forever when she met one pint sized ball of trouble. Eighteen year old, brown haired, blue eyed Elizabeth Imogene Webber, her freshman roommate, had charged into her life from Colorado and never looked back. From the moment they bonded over hot chocolate, cheese fries, and pedicures, fate had been sealed, and they had become best friends, never looking back. However, though she had changed after graduation, putting her degree to use by getting a job as a social worker, seriously entering the dating scene, and putting a down payment on her first house, Elizabeth was stuck in her old routine, her old college life, her safe mode.
She still had the same job, working as the assistant to the one of a kind cosmetics entrepreneur Lucy Coe, the same apartment, a run down studio by the docks that was housed in a building which rarely had heat, was a magnet for criminal activity, and was one collapsed roof away from condemnation, and the same 'aim for the stars' dream of becoming an artist. Her best friend didn't date, claiming she had been there and done that, and that the only thing a man did to her life was complicate it and distract her from her art, she rarely socialized, and Emily was afraid she was on a non-stop trip to becoming an old maid. Determined that Elizabeth deserved more from life than a couple dozen cats, Emily had taken her friend's relationship future into her own hands, deciding to venture into the online dating scene in order to find her best friend's, as the site promised, soul mate. So far, the only things she had found surfing the net were psychos, losers, and those on their way to becoming mass murders, and WannagetLucky? was definitely the zenith of the nightmare-inducing, online suitors.
The problem was that the profiles were too vague. At the outset of a search, a person only had to provide their basic information: sex, age, race, occupation, personal status, a basic description of appearance, and a listing of interest and hobbies, so, Emily rationalized with herself, it was easy to be fooled into thinking a guy had potential. It was only after you initiated contact by emailing one of the bachelors and requesting further statistics and data on them that the scary characteristics and stalker-esque behavior became apparent. Since she had initiated contact with PCLoveMatch2799, her impression of him had taken a nosedive straight down into the belly of revulsion. In fact, as soon as Emily had learned his name on the dating service was WannagetLucky?, she knew asking for more information on him had been a mistake.
At first, she was merely annoyed by him; he was the dead fly in a five gallon bucket of ice cream, the unavoidable pothole that threatened to take off your muffler every time you were forced to drive over it, the grapalicious bubbleyum stuck to the bottle of your brand new, expensive, designer shoe, but that annoyance had steadily progressed into irritation, then anger, and then, finally, utter disgust and loathing. A week later, he was still sending her emails and messages, and, whenever he saw that she was in contact with another member's profile, he became jealous, territorial, and possessive, all signs that WannagetLucky?'s elevator did not quite make it to the top floor.
Sometimes, when she was in the mood to torment him, Emily would taunt PCLoveMatch2799 and mock him, but, with her free two month trial of the online dating service about to run out in less than two weeks, she knew it was time to get serious. Blocking him from sending her any more messages, she got to work, searching and weeding through the newly signed-up male members. The first one she found was too young, the second one too short, the third one had hobbies that were a little too kinky for her taste, and she was no prude, the fourth traveled with his job…a lot, and the fifth was contemplating a sex change. Where did these people hide themselves in her fair city? Just as she was about to sign off and call it a night, a brand new account flashed onto the screen, capturing her attention.
"Let's see what you have to offer," Emily said out loud to herself as she perused PCLoveMatch9399. "So, you're a male…and looking to remain one," she laughed. "That's a good start. What else?" Browsing down the page further, she read his description. "A 31 year old, Caucasian in the private security field, you've never been married and are currently single. You're 5'11'' with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a muscular build. In your spare time, you enjoy traveling, riding and fixing up your motorcycle, and playing pool."
Staring at the screen, the spirited young woman sat in contemplation. Where was his freak signal, the siren of alarm that should alert her to the fact that this man, PCLoveMatch9399, was a danger to her friend's mental, emotional, and physical well-being? Where were his flaws? After six weeks of using the online dating service, she had developed the ability to spot the warning signs that a man was not all that he was cracked up to be in his profile. They would either be too pretentious, too modest, or too ideal, saying and claiming exactly what every woman wanted to hear, but this man, this latest member, seemed honest and forthright, upfront, and, if his description was accurate, attractive and a perfect personality match for her best friend.
"Alright, 9399, let's tango," Emily announced, clicking on his profile. It was time to take the bull by the horns and ask the really tough questions, questions she already had prepared, and, apparently, luck was on her side that night, and he was online at the same time she was. They could instant message each other back and forth, accelerating the process. "Question number one," she said out loud as she typed, "what is your idea of the ideal first date?"
As soon as the question was sent, she sat in wait of the man's response, but, before it was sent, PCLoveMatch9399 sent his own question for her to answer: If you had to describe yourself as one type of candy, what would it be and why?
Emily couldn't help it; she chuckled. The inquiry was original, strange, and 100 Elizabeth. Thinking as her best friend, she set to work responding, talking to herself as she wrote. "Although I'm traditionally a chocolate girl, chocolate in the morning, chocolate in the evening, chocolate as a midnight snack, I wouldn't really associate my personality with the decadent aphrodisiac. Instead, I'd have to say that I'm a Boston Baked Bean, because I come in a small package, I'm sweet on the outside yet sassy on the inside, I'm traditional but still capable of fitting into today's society, and, most importantly, old men seem to love me." There, the auburn haired young woman mused to herself, that was complimentary but still modest and lighthearted. Clicking send, she waited for a response from the man whose screen name, now that they were communicating, was JMHarley, thinking that it sounded good with the name she had chosen for her best friend: IHeartItaly. The gentle tone of a bell singled that her new message had arrived.
This is new to me, IHeartItaly, so I have to tell you that answering these questions online is still a little weird for me, but there are a few things you need to know about me first before we continue. I hate liars, I see no point in pretending to be someone you're not, and, because of those two things, I live a very simple, straightforward life, so a date with me would not be all romance, champagne, and caviar. Instead, I'd probably keep the first date friendly and without any pressure. Maybe we'd grab a quick dinner at this local diner I like. They make the best chili. Then, afterwards, I'd probably take you to my favorite bar where we could get drinks and either talk or play pool. To end the night, I'd want to take you for a ride on my motorcycle. That would be the true test as for whether or not we would have a second date. Afterwards, I'd take you home. Like I said, the date would be nothing special but, hopefully, fun for both of us. Do you have another question?
"You're damn straight I have another question," Emily fairly shrieked in excitement. "Not only do you like Kelly's chili, but Liz would look great in leather pants." Giggling to herself, she turned to her list of prepared queries and typed out the second one, once again, talking to herself the entire time. "We had a date," she set the scene, "but then I came down with a terrible cold and had to cancel. What would your reaction be?" Sending the question off, Emily waited for both the response and the next inquiry into IHeartItaly's personality from JMHarley. It came quickly which was a good thing, because she wasn't exactly the most patient person in the world. Your apartment building is on fire. If you could only save three things, what would they be?
"Oh, that question is not even fair," Emily snickered to herself. "Elizabeth is about the least materialistic person I know. However," she smiled wickedly, "who am I to turn down an easy question?" Cracking her fingers, she prepared to type. "Strangely enough, I've had to make mad dashes out of my apartment building before, so I'm familiar with this thought process. In case you're wondering, I don't live in the best area of town. Instead of listening to my very wise friend, I stay in my rundown apartment, because the rent's cheap, and it allows me to spend more of my money on art supplies, but that doesn't answer your question. The three things I would save are as follows: a red glass vase I got from Italy when I went there after I graduated from college, my portfolio, and the check I never cashed from the very first piece of artwork I ever sold professionally."
Letting the answer fly across cyberspace, Emily smiled to herself at how well she knew her best friend. There was no doubt in her mind that those were the three things Elizabeth would save from a burning building. It just saddened her that there was no one special who would name her best friend as something they would save on a similar list. Before she could delve too deeply into her thoughts, JMHarley's response to her last inquiry came across her computer screen.
Fortunately, I'm a pretty healthy guy. However, my best friend is prone to colds, so I have the cure down to an art. I'd bring you a variety of things to eat, chicken noodle soup, crackers, sherbet, orange juice, ginger ale, and tea, because, as I've learned throughout the years, tastes can vary from one cold to another. Then, I'd rent you all of your favorite movies, bring over a heating pad and all of my warmest blankets, and sit with you until you felt better. If you wanted to talk or spend time together doing things inside, we would; if you just wanted to be by yourself or sleep, I'd sit on the opposite side of the room and quietly read a book. Whatever you wanted would go, because, after all, you would be the patient.
Not only was JMHarley compassionate and sweet, though those characteristics would probably not make him too happy, but, as Emily happily noticed, the man knew his grammar rules. Though that would be the last thing on her best friend's list of must-have traits in a man, it raised her opinion of him. Two hours later, as she signed off, she had a folder with the printout of her conversation with Elizabeth's new mystery man, a smile on her face, and a date to meet him for lunch the next afternoon. True, he thought he was meeting the real IHeartItaly, but there was no way she was going to send her best friend into the lion's den without taking PCLoveMatch9399 out for a test drive for her first. If she wanted Elizabeth to meet him after she did, Emily would just simply explain her reasoning for helping her friend out, and, if he was half the man she thought he was after talking to him for two hours, then he would accept her protectiveness, appreciate it, and beg for the chance to really meet his online match. Right?
Elizabeth Webber enjoyed the perks of her job: a generous salary, weekends off, and free makeup and perfume, but sometimes she really hated her boss. To say that Lucy Coe was a difficult woman to work for was definitely a favorable description for the overzealous, slightly insane, and, at times, hard to please businesswoman. Unfortunately for her, today was one of those days she wanted to attack her boss and rip out every one of her expensive, designer extensions. She thought she was the Deception owner's personal assistant, but, if she would have been told when she applied for the position during her senior year of college that her job would include both personal guinea pig duties when Lucy got a chemical brainstorm and emergency UPS responsibilities, she would have run away from the interview as quickly as her lithe, petite legs could have carried her. However, almost three years into her job and a month shy of her first showing in a real art gallery, Elizabeth was hesitant to give up the steady work and great benefits for the uncertainty life as a full-time artist could bring her.
So it was with a grimace on her adorable mouth, anger and bottled-up frustration flashing in her sapphire eyes, and a terribly wicked, itchy rash all over her face that Elizabeth stepped out of her environment friendly, compact car. Lucy had sent her out of the office that morning with a whole list of errands, the last of which was to deliver a set of new contracts for Deception's most famous model: Brenda Barrett. Unfortunately, the contracts were in her back seat on the passenger side, so, moving to the other side of the car, she pulled open the door, pushed the seat up, and started to scrounge around for the very important papers.
"You know," a deep, husky, masculine, and ultimately bored voice taunted from behind her, "whatever you're looking for would be easier to find if you didn't live out of the backseat of your car."
"For your information," she snapped, thoroughly baited, "all of this stuff is not mine." Twisting around, she attempted to stand up straight. There was no way she would face her adversary bent over. However, in her attempt to appear calm, cool, and collected, she, instead, smacked the back of her head against the edge of the car door, rattling her brain, giving herself an instant headache, and making her hair fly out of its delicate twist. "Son of a monkey's uncle," she cursed, finally straightening her body and rubbing the sore spot on the back of her head. "Look what you made me do," she yelled at the man standing across from her. "Do you always go around attacking innocent women?"
"I never touched you; I never even raised my voice to you. I simply made an observation."
"Yeah, an observation laced with scorn, judgment, and insult," Elizabeth returned with an icy glare. Her sparring partner was an imposing figure. Six foot of muscle stood across from her, legs spread and arms crossed over his chest. His face was immovable, stoic, his eyes a wall of blue steel, his mouth indiscernible behind his heavy beard and mustache. Even his clothes screamed 'don't mess with me,' the leather jacket, black t-shirt, worn blue jeans, and dependable motorcycle boots a uniform of unapproachable strength. "Look," she finally spoke again after appraising him, "I'm in no mood to deal with you, so just let me drop off these papers for Miss Barrett, and I'll be on my way."
Holding out his hand, the guard decreed, "I'll take those," but Elizabeth refused to hand the contracts over.
"The last time I saw a picture of Miss Barrett, she looked a hell of a lot prettier than you, so back off, Butch, and get out of my way." With her chin in the air and a sure step, she attempted to approach the front door. With her back turned on the man behind her, Elizabeth laughed at her own words. Butch seemed like the perfect name for such the egotistical, rude buffoon of a Neanderthal harassing her. Three steps away from him though, her smile fell as soon as she heard the crunch of concrete beneath his boots. Obviously, he wasn't giving up, and she was in no mood to appease him.
"Miss Barrett is not home," the guard announced while grabbing her elbow and harshly turning her around to face him, "and, for the record," he added, "the name's Jason."
"Bully for you," Elizabeth taunted. "I see your parents deemed you worthy of a name before they left you to be raised by a pack of wolves. Now," she seethed, gritting her teeth, "will you kindly point me in the direction of Miss Barrett's personal secretary so I can give her these contracts."
"You are not setting one foot further onto this property until you tell me who you work for and give me some form of identification so I can run a quick background check on you."
"This isn't Pennsylvania Avenue, and you're not the secret service, so back off, buddy," Elizabeth stated, pulling her arm free of Jason's vice like grip. "I'm not a terrorist or some crazed stalker. I simply work for Miss Coe, and I need to leave these papers from her for Miss Barrett." Putting her hands on her hips, she asked sweetly, "was that easy enough for you to understand, or do you need pictures, too?"
"You know, for someone who works for a cosmetics mogul, your face is a mess," he taunted her, mimicking her stance. "That's proof enough for me not to believe a word you say."
"It's called an allergic reaction, jackass! Last night, while she was sleeping, Lucy came up with this new idea for a face cream, and, this morning, after she finished mixing it up, she wanted to try it out on me, because I didn't have any makeup on. After working with her for three years, I've realized resistance is futile, and it's easier to just let her do what she wants instead of fighting her. However, something in the new lotion caused me to break out in hives, so I'm sorry if I don't meet your high beauty standards, but not all of us get to walk around with a dead animal plastered across our face like you."
"You talk a lot, don't you?" When she simply rolled her eyes at his observance, Jason continued. "They say that's a sign that someone's trying to hide something. What are you hiding, Miss…."
"Webber," she answered, not offering her hand to him. "Elizabeth Webber. Do you need me to spell it for you, or do you think you can handle that oh so complicated name?"
"I think I've got it," the guard grinned at her, his smile anything but friendly or warm, "but thanks. Now, like I asked, Miss Webber, what are you hiding?"
"Sigmund," she shouted, making his brows crease in confusion. However, Elizabeth didn't stick around long enough to see his reaction. Instead, she took off across the driveway, waving her arms, yelling and screeching as loud as she could, and running in circles. "Sigmund Balthazar Coe get your little fanny back here! Your Mommy is going to be very mad at you…and me…if we get back and you've got your newly cleaned feathers dirty!"
"What….or should I say who," Jason bellowed, spinning around to face her, "are you screaming at?"
"Sigmund," Elizabeth answered as if it was the most reasonable response in the world, pointing towards a large, decorative garden to the side of the driveway where snow was piled high up against sculpted bushes and evergreen trees, "Lucy's pet duck. I just picked him up from the groomer's, and if there is a single feather out of place when I get him home, I could very well lose my job."
She started off towards the garden with Jason following her. "Over Easter dinner," he asked, chuckling to himself, "you would get fired over that?"
"Sigmund is Lucy's prized possession, her best friend," the upset brunette explained. "She would risk her life to protect him." Huffing in frustration, she stomped her high heeled boot down harshly. "Now would you quit standing there asking me stupid questions and help me. He's underneath that spruce tree, so you're going to have to crawl in and get him out. Don't worry though," she assured him, "he's had all his vaccinations, and his quack is worse than his bite."
"It's not my damn duck," he protested. "You get him."
"Are you crazy," Elizabeth countered, "I'm in a skirt! If I crawl through those bushes and the snow, I'll tear up my knees, and I'll be freezing for the rest of the day. You're the guard," she pointed out, "protect me."
"If I do this for you," he questioned, "will you give me those contracts and leave?"
"How do I know that they'll get to Miss Barrett?"
"I work for Brenda; we're friends," Jason pointed out. "I won't do anything to jeopardize her career, and her job with Deception is important to her. You have my word I'll hand her the papers as soon as she gets home from her lunch date."
"Fine," she agreed, motioning towards the garden, "now hurry. I do not need Sigmund getting a cold. The last time that happened," she grumbled underneath her breath, despite the fact that Jason was already crawling through the snow, "I had to feed him soup through an eyedropper for a week. I'm so not doing that again."
Five minutes later, contracts in hand, Jason slammed her car door shut after safely depositing the duck into the back seat. "Do me a favor," he snapped at Elizabeth before she started the car. "Never, under any circumstances, come back here again."
"Don't worry," she assured him, "I'd rather gargle glass." Without a backwards glance, she peeled out of the driveway, kicking up bits of gravel from her spinning tires onto the fuming man behind her. She had never met such an infuriatingly impossible man before, and she hoped she never saw again….ever!
The Port Charles Grill was modestly full for a Wednesday afternoon, but, luckily, Emily Bowen already knew which table she was meeting PCLoveMatch9399: JMHarley at. However, as she entered the dining room and made her way towards the corner booth, a confused frown puckered her brow and brought out wrinkles too deep for her early age.
"You are not short, brunette, or blue eyed," the person seated across from her stated, their large, brown eyes snapping with thinly veiled annoyance.
"And you're not a man!"
"Well, thank god for small favors," the cheeky, famous brunette quipped, standing up and offering the woman across from her her hand. "Brenda Barrett."
"Emily Bowen," the auburn haired woman introduced herself as well. "I'm here representing IHeartItaly, and I assume you speak for JMHarley?"
"Can we please use their real names," Brenda asked, rolling her eyes. "Jason would kill me if he knew I let anyone refer to him by an online nickname.
"Sure," the younger woman agreed, taking a seat. "My best friend's name is Elizabeth. I'm doing this for her."
"As I am for Jason."
"Can I ask you something," Emily queried, suddenly worried. "Don't get me wrong, everything you've told me so far about your friend makes him sound great, but why exactly does he need a dating service to find a girlfriend?"
"He says his life is fine without a significant other, that he doesn't have the time or the patience to date," Brenda answered, shrugging her shoulders to show that she didn't agree with her best friend's opinion. "I think it's just that he's too stubborn to admit that he's lonely. What about your friend," she turned the question around. "Why does Elizabeth need an online dating service?"
"For basically the same reasons," Emily responded, "but Elizabeth is also too wrapped up in her artwork to venture out of her apartment on a Friday night. I swear that girl does nothing but eat, sleep, work, and paint, but, if she met someone she liked and just lived a little bit, I'm sure romance could be very inspiring for her painting."
"Inspiring is one way to put it," the brunette laughed, taking a sip of her water before continuing. "However, all joking aside, how are we going to do this; how are we going to get them to agree to meet each other if they're both so willful?"
"What if we don't really tell them," the younger woman suggested wickedly. "Of course, they're going to have to meet each other somehow, but, if I know Elizabeth and I do, she'll never agree to go out with a man I found for her online. We need to somehow make her feel obligated to meet him."
"Like a favor," Brenda supplied helpfully. Sighing, she stated, "I think that's the only way I'll get Jason to agree to meet her, too."
"But the question is where?"
"Oh, that's the easy part," the older woman waved off Emily's concerns. "I got this small role in a film, and, to celebrate, I'm throwing this Old Hollywood themed party. All we have to do is get them both there and arrange it so that they're each others dates."
Thinking quickly, the auburn haired woman asked, "you model for Deception, don't you, so you know Lucy Coe?"
"Know her," Brenda countered, "we're friends. She's already RSVP'd for the party. Why?"
"Well, Elizabeth works for Lucy," Emily told her, "and I know if we let Lucy in on the plan, she'd gladly help us trick Elizabeth into attending the party. She's always trying to get her to go out more, and, if nothing else, Lucy is a romantic at heart."
"She'll just hate that she didn't come up with it first," the older woman chuckled at the thought of her employer's expression when finding out about the ruse she was helping with. "As for Jason, leave him to me. I've mastered the art of guilting him into doing anything I want him to. Trust me, by the time I'm done shaming him, he'll be putty in my hands."
"Well," the auburn haired woman announced, "that was much easier than I thought it would be. "Now, we'll just have to sit back and watch all our hard work pay off."
"Speaking of which, why don't you give me your address so I can mail you an invite," Brenda suggested. "You deserve to be there, too, and, if you need help getting a costume at the last minute, just let me know. We'll exchange information after lunch."
"Lunch," Emily asked, slightly confused.
"Of course, lunch," the brunette said decisively. "Just because our business is finished does not mean we're not going to eat. I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Plus, we have something to celebrate."
"Don't you think it's a little bit premature for that?"
"Nonsense," the older woman argued. "Between the two of us and Lucy, Jason and Elizabeth do not stand a chance. They're going to be head over heals for each other before the orchestra even finishes tuning up their instruments. They're perfect for each other."
"You're right," Emily agreed with her, smiling widely. "I'm just being paranoid. Of course, this is going to work, and, of course, we should celebrate." With a gleeful laugh, she exclaimed, "break out the bubbly! After all," she quipped with a wink, "we might as well start tasting things for the wedding preparations. This is going to be too easy."