A/N: Is this cliche? Yes. Did I realize that before I started writing it but continued to do so anyway? Yes. Why, you might ask. Well, the answer is that I simply had to. The idea took root in my brain and wouldn't leave until after it was actualized into a one shot. You could sue me for my unoriginality, but, to be frank, I really don't have anything you'd want. Also, just to let you know, this one shot was written in response to the fanfic challenge celebrating The Canvas' 7th birthday. Happy Birthday, TC! Anyway, after those dire warnings, enjoy this piece. LOL Brownie points will go out to those individuals who know where this title comes from and what event spurred the marriage under so much discussion in this piece. Good luck to you, my little Miss Marples. Decipher and deduce away!
Copper and Wool
TCBday: The Seven Year Itch
Staring into her bedroom mirror, she had never felt more alone in her entire life, but the sentiment was utterly ridiculous. She had a family that actually loved her, a husband who doted on her and supported her ideas and passion for art, children, and friends that she could count on. In essence, she lived a charmed life, but, if given the chance, she knew that she would throw it all away for a second go at life.
She was curious about the what-if's, about the opportunities she had passed by during the last decade of her life and what taking advantage of them might have given her, and, although it was wrong, although it technically probably made her a bad wife and an even worse mother, that curiosity was making her malcontent and anxious. It was as if she was trapped within her own body and struggling, fighting for a way out but failing each and every time. Maybe if she would have known the consequences of her actions all those years ago, she would have acted differently, but it was impossible to predict the future and even more impossible to regret something before it even happened.
In one moment of mutual confusion and compassion, of grief and understanding, she had unwittingly forged the rest of her life. From that moment on, no matter what she did, he was always there, lurking around her, needing her comfort just as much as she needed to give it. After years of feeling helpless and almost unnecessary, his presence in her life had made her feel important; he had given her a purpose, and, at the tender age of eighteen, she hadn't realized that she wasn't in love with him or that his feelings towards her were a beguiling mixture of gratitude, desperation, and friendship. So, as only the truly naive can do, they had married for all the wrong reasons while, at the same time, proclaiming them right.
And, now, seven years later, here she was about to celebrate another anniversary of the day she regretted most in her life... not that she would ever tell her husband that. Over the years, he had truly fallen in love with her or at least the version of her she allowed him to know, the version of her that he had created in his mind to worship and admire like a miniature idol or a beautiful piece of artwork. She could see it every time he smiled at her, every time he indulged one of her whims like she was a pet he liked to amuse. In fact, sometimes she felt more like his child than his partner, his equal, but she never said anything, and he never noticed her unhappiness, so their existence together merely continued as it was, ever unchanging, ever imperfect.
Then there were the children - two precious, adorable boys who had done nothing wrong but be born to her from a man she didn't love. In the moments she shared with her children when their father wasn't around, she could forget that, to her, they were constant reminders of all the mistakes she had made in her life, but then one of them would smile and she would see her husband's smile, or one of them would yell at the other and she would hear her husband's voice emanating from within the small, innocent boy, and that blissful feeling of maternal pride and adoration would disappear, and all she would be left with was regret and nostalgia for the things that might have been, for the things that, now, never would be.
Things were only going to get worse, too. For the third time in seven years, she was pregnant, expecting another baby in what she knew would be a long line of never-ending children. Apparently, her body was made to be pregnant, and it was common knowledge that her husband adored kids, making them, in the eyes of the rest of the world, a beautiful match. No one seemed to realize that she was already overwhelmed with taking care of a six year old and a three year old practically all on her own. No one realized that a third child, an infant, would make it nearly impossible for her to ever get away from home to escape to her personal sanctuary, her studio, where she could paint, take a nap, or, if she wanted to, simply stare out the window in quiet contemplation and dreams. No one seemed to notice that she was miserable, but, then again, they would have to notice that she was pregnant first in order to pick up on the more delicate nuances of her personality, and no one, not even her husband of seven years, had realized yet that she was expecting... again.
But she couldn't wallow in thought or self-pity. That evening, her husband's business associates were throwing them their annual anniversary party, and, there, she would be expected to smile and dance, make small talk and dote on her spouse, all in all behave like a Stepford wife with no personality or personal will. At least, after seven years, she was good at pretending, and she knew that no one would be the wiser to what she was really thinking, really feeling about both her life and those people who were in it. But, before she could get ready for the dinner, she had to find something, some of kind of present, for the man she had married, the father of her children, and the man who, if he wanted something, simply went out and bought it for himself.
Without a sound, she slipped on the shoes she had picked out earlier that morning, sliding her delicate, silk hose clad feet into the stiff, leather deathtraps. The boys were at school, and her husband was at work, so she had the entire morning to herself, and, because it was expected of her to primp and pamper herself before every formal gathering held by her husband's associates, the boys were being watched that afternoon by their grandfather, giving her hours upon hours to herself. The only plan she had was to find another insipid, ridiculous gift for her spouse, have it wrapped, and then delivered to the banquet hall hosting their anniversary party, and, then, she was free for the rest of the day to do whatever she wanted to.
It wasn't until she reached the door of her penthouse home that she felt even a flicker of hope that her day to herself might turn out to be relaxing and perhaps even joyful, two things she needed more than anything, and it was a lone, heads-up penny that gave her that hope. As she slid it underneath her shirt for it to drop unnoticed into her bra, she smiled to herself. For some reason beyond her understanding, she had a feeling it was going to be a good day.
At eleven o'clock in the morning, the bar was open, but it didn't surprise her. Jake's had always been like that - the opposite of what someone who looked at it simply on the surface would expect. Over the years, Elizabeth had found that the same could be said for many of the establishment's customers, and she liked that unpredictability the bar embraced. Although it had been a long time since she stepped down into the dive, as soon as her left foot touched the worn, scarred boards of the floor, she felt at home, immediately taken back more than seven years to the very first time she had, on a whim, decided to stop by the bar.
Not much had changed; the entire looked practically the same. There were a few more stains on the walls and a few more scratches on the bar top, but, in general, Jake's was Jake's, and the mother of two had the feeling it always would be. The jukebox still stood proudly in the corner, its bright lights adding most of the illumination to the otherwise dim room, and, instead of a dance floor, the main attraction in the small, crowded space was a pool table, something she grinned wistfully at despite the fact that it only brought more melancholy to her already disheartened existence, for, to Elizabeth, pool tables meant freedom and the ability to be anything you wanted, and those were two things she had forfeited seven years ago to the day when she had gotten married.
At least, for the moment, her husband's life was calm and settled. There were no rival businessmen looking to move in upon his territory, no revengeful, hatred filled individuals who were coming after him through his wife and family. The reprieve granted her the opportunity to go about town by herself. She had no bodyguard's following her every move, no driver to police where she went and when she decided to go there, because, otherwise, there was no way that she would be standing in some seedy bar before lunch. To a person who was otherwise tightly controlled, the liberation was heady, almost like a drug, and she found herself laughing in glee. Trailing her fingers over the splintered top of a forlorn looking, beer drenched table, Elizabeth realized that, if she had her way, she would never leave Jake's. She would stay there for the rest of her life, claiming a room upstairs as her own and taking a job behind the counter, each day a new adventure, each night a new face to meet in the crowd, a potential new friend to make.
"What are you doing here?"
There was no recrimination in his voice, no judgment, just curiosity, and she found his stance upon life refreshing, but she still didn't turn around to face the older man. Instead, she savored the moment, capturing the image in her mind at what she guessed he looked like just then as he questioned her appearance in his bar. If she was right, then he would be standing feet slightly apart to brace his strong, muscular body, arms crossed over his chest, pulling his t-shirt even tighter against his straining arms and shoulders, and his head tilted down slightly to observe her at a more natural angle. He would be dressed in his ubiquitous motorcycle boots, jeans, and, somewhere on his person, whether dangling from his hand, tossed over his back, or even around him, he would have his leather jacket, too. Although it had been years since she truly had the privilege of saying she new the man behind her, she also would never be so out of tune with him, so far away that she couldn't picture him true to life in her mind.
And, sure enough, when she finally pivoted around to address him, he was standing there just as she had predicted, and the knowledge that she still knew him enough to really see him, even if they didn't talk a lot any more, that even though he sometimes went out of his way to avoid her, that their relationship was no longer perfect and innocent like it had been years ago in the past, made her heart spring to life and beat rapidly in her chest. "I don't know. I left the house this morning to buy an anniversary present, and, before I knew what was happening, I was here."
"Me, too," he acknowledge with a simple shrug of his shoulders, his brow wrinkling slightly in thought. "You know, it's been years since I've been back here. For a while, things were just too... different to return."
"And work," she prompted, needing to keep their first real conversation in months going for as long as she could. "I thought you had a lot of stuff to do today."
"I did... I do."
"So why are you here then?"
Without answering her question, he turned it back around to her. "Why are you?"
The only response she could give him was silence, and, before she knew it, the comfortable distance they had been existing under disappeared, their conversation dried up, and, in the awkwardness of the moment, she started to bite her bottom lip. It was Jason who finally broke through the quiet by offering her something seemingly so simple on the surface, but, underneath, it was a dangerous, almost forbidden temptation.
"Would you like to sit down," he suggested, gesturing towards the table she had just been touching moments before so reverently. "We could... talk."
"About," she asked even as she took a seat like he suggested, throwing caution to the wind. After all, it was her wedding anniversary - a day of celebration, a day of presents and glee, a day to forget what was expected and, instead, do what felt right, what was beautiful.
"Tell me about your art," he requested of her. "What kind of pieces are you working on right now? Tell me a picture like you used to."
The topic caught her off guard. It had been so long since he had seemed interested in anything she had to offer the world. Instead of being Elizabeth Webber, budding artist, she had become Elizabeth Webber, wife, mother, and responsible member of society first, last, and always, and his sudden interest again warmed her entire chilled body, making it tingle from the tips of her ears all the way to her fire engine red painted toenails.
"Actually, I barely have time to paint right now. When the boys are in school, I have errands to run, housework to do, and, when they're at home, I have to take care of them, leaving me very little time to go to my studio."
"I should help more." Apparently liking the sound of his declaration, Jason nodded his head before continuing. "The next time you feel inspired to paint, call me, and I'll come home to watch the boys for you."
"You don't have to do that. I mean, you work hard enough already, and I know that you have a lot of responsibilities..."
"Elizabeth, it's alright," he assured her. "I kind of miss those guys. I haven't been spending enough time with them, and this will give me a chance to fix that."
"Well, if you insist..."
"I do." Offering her a half smile, he watched her for several silent moments, neither of them willing to break the spell of communication and friendship they were currently existing under, but, then, the enforcer got another idea, and he started talking once again. "What if you took the boys with you to the studio some, too? With you as their mother, I'm sure they have some artistic ability, and you could show them how wonderful of an artist you are, and..."
"Jason," she stopped him, laughing softly. "I think wonderful would be pushing it a little bit."
"Why? You're the only artist I know who has ever been able to capture the wind in a painting, and you always managed to explain your pieces to me even though my mind doesn't work that way. Don't diminish your talent or what you're capable of. I know that I never would."
"No," the wife and mother of two agreed with him. "You wouldn't, because you've always had faith in me... even when I didn't believe in myself. And," she relented, really considering his idea, "maybe I will take the boys with me at least once to see how they like it, and, if that goes well, then it could be an option for the future."
"At least for a little while."
"Wait, what," she inquired, leaning back in her chair and narrowing her gaze. His statement had caught her off guard, and, although she knew what those six words meant to her, she didn't know what the enforcer meant by them. "What was that supposed to mean?"
"Well," he hedged, suddenly uncomfortable for whatever reason she didn't know. Looking away, not meeting her probing gaze, and shifting uncomfortably in his chair, Jason finally said, "you're pregnant, aren't you?"
"How did you know that? Did the doctor's call when I wasn't at home and you spoke with them? Did I leave my prenatal vitamins laying around?" Another idea made her stiffen in her seat, her eyes flaring wide with accusation while her back became ramrod straight. "You didn't go through my things, did you?"
"No, of course not, Elizabeth. I wouldn't do that. You know me better than that..., don't you?"
Suddenly feeling guilty for accusing him of such a thing, the weight of the day and the state of turmoil her emotions were currently under finally caused her to break down, silent tears making their way free of her searching, troubled sapphire orbs only to fall and roll seamlessly down her otherwise pale and unblemished face. "I know, and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that, but..."
"How do I know, right?" The only response she gave him was the nodding of her head. "I know you," the dirty blonde across from her finally admitted. "I've known you for a long time. We've been there for each other when no one else was. I've watched you go through pregnancy twice already, and, even if this was your first baby, I would still know simply because you're Elizabeth."
His words, without thought, made her stand up. Slowly approaching him, she reached out for his hand, entwining their fingers together as she gently and without force, guided him up from his chair, towards the back of the otherwise silent and empty bar, and up the creaking, wooden stairs towards the second floor of the establishment where there were rooms to rent and privacy to be found. Although, obviously, he didn't live at Jake's any longer, the mother of two went to the room she knew to have been his in the past, opened it without pause, and led him inside without a word to explain her actions. Finally, when they were behind closed doors, she turned to face him, a serene, enchanting smile lighting up her face and banishing any signs of her former tears or sadness. Taking hold of his free hand, she pulled herself within intimate closeness of the man before her, glancing up at him with all the emotions she felt inside of her fully on display, emotions she had once felt but had somehow either forgotten or buried so deeply within her over the past seven years that she had hadn't been able to recognize them.
Seeing the questions in his riveting, unblinking gaze, she confessed, "you noticed. When no one else could see me, you did, and that's the best gift anyone could have given me today."
Without further explanation on her part or doubt on either of their parts, she lifted herself up on her tiptoes, allowing her parted lips to whisper against his still closed mouth, her breath coming rapidly and unevenly as the weight of the moment, of her actions, of their actions settled within her. But she wasn't afraid. On the contrary, she had been waiting seven years for the moment she was currently sharing with Jason - complete understanding and love, two things she thought she would never manage to have while married. However, a few seconds of contentment were not enough. She needed more, and, as she felt the enforcer's arms come up to encircle her petite body, holding her close to him, promising them both that, at least for a few hours, he wouldn't let go of her, she knew that he felt the same way, too.
Needing his dominance and craving his power and strength, Elizabeth almost immediately relinquished all control of their coupling to the man before her. With every gentle touch of his hands upon her body, her clothes melted away, leaving her nude and vulnerable to his hungry gaze and starving, desperate form. When he encountered the penny she had ever so discretely placed in her bra that morning, he paused in his actions, lifted his gaze to study her, and laughed, fingering the small piece of copper between two calloused, tanned fingers.
Kissing him before replying, she finally pulled back only to confess, "it's a little bit of good luck. I thought I might need it today."
"You and your coins," he teased her, laughing heartily before pocketing the penny and lifting her up into his arms. After placing her down upon the bed, he stood back up to remove his own clothes, smirking in obvious delight as she reclined naked on the bed, her limbs outstretched in blatant offer and want towards him as she watched his every move. Seeing him undress for her was hypnotic, seductive, and it was only the thought that there was more to come that prevented her from calling out and requesting he get dressed and start all over again.
But, then, he was there, his body braced over top of her, and all thoughts and desires except for one disappeared. The only thing she wanted at that point, the only thing she could demand or ask for, beg or plead for was to feel him inside of her, moving, joining, completing. She knew that, instead of rushing their time together, she should cherish every tiny nuance and second, but they were both too desperate for anything but sheer intimacy. It had been so long since either of them had felt so connected to one another, so, because of that desperation, with that almost crazed insanity they felt to be together, the slow burn and gradual increase of passion that came with foreplay was replaced with the bliss of instant and intense gratification.
Minutes, hours, days, years later, she couldn't tell, they were in each others arms, simply being with each other, their bodies sated, their hearts overflowing, and their minds at peace, when he spoke up. "Are you okay?"
Instead of answering him, she sighed in contentment, burrowing further into his embrace and turning her head slightly to kiss the heated flesh of his chest right over where his generous and steady heartbeat was lulling her to sleep. Obviously understanding her silent response, he chuckled, his hands surprising her by finding their way towards her stomach. Exploring her smooth abdomen, he stopped when he encountered the small bump from the baby already growing inside of her. It was barely noticeable, slight, even forgettable if one wasn't looking to find something, but Jason was, and, as she remained there in bed with him, the mother of two realized that he was the only one who could have found it.
"You're even more beautiful when you're pregnant, do you know that?" She blushed, pleased yet embarrassed at the same time by his attention and compliments. "Go to sleep," he instructed her, brushing a kiss across her brow before sliding them both deeper into the cotton sheets of the bed they were occupying technically without permission. As if sensing the protest she was about to make, Jason assured her, "don't worry. I'll be here when you get up."
So, that's exactly what she did, falling asleep within minutes. It was the first moment of pure peace she had experienced in more than seven years.
"I think that, by now, you all know me well enough to know that I'm not a man who likes to make flowery speeches. I say what I mean, when I mean it, and I say it quickly and effectively. Tonight, however, deserves a little more attention, a little more finesse. It warms my heart to see you all here with my wife and I this evening, celebrating our seventh anniversary with us. It wouldn't be near as special if we didn't have our friends and family surrounding us on this special day. You've been there with us..."
Knowing that her husband would talk for several minutes, simply repeating almost the same exact thing he had said the year before in his annual speech during their wedding anniversary celebration, Elizabeth allowed herself to glance around the room, skipping each and every person there until she found the man she was looking for. As their gazes locked together, midnight meeting ice, she felt a chill run down her spine, a chill of awareness, of pleasure, of illicitness, and, in that moment, she realized everything that they felt for one another being was being spoken out loud silently - the love, the friendship, the passion, and the understanding, and she knew that, with his support, she could tell her husband the truth... or, at least, some of it.
Interrupting her man beside her, she touched his hand, the simplicity of the movement just enough to distract him from his speech and bring his attention to her. Leaning down to accommodate her sitting position, he listened as she spoke, never once noticing that her attention was solely focused on the man he trusted with his own life and his family's safety. Cutting to the chase, the mother of two simply said, "I'm pregnant," and then sat back in time to see the obvious joy and excitement wash over her husband of seven years' face. But his happiness did nothing to inspire her own. Instead, her own contentment was wrapped up in another individual, a forbidden someone, whom she wasn't supposed to see as anything more than one of her husband's employees, her husband's enforcer, but Jason had always been more than a friend to her, and, after years of avoiding one another, that afternoon, she had learned just how much more than a friend he really was.
As Sonny announced the impending arrival of their third child, the room broke out in celebration for the young couple, and she spotted a way to escape the party. Recapturing her spouse's attention, she said, "I'm really feeling tired and a little nauseous. Do you think you could get someone to take me home?"
"Do you want me to come with you?"
"Oh, no," she quickly reassured him. "You should stay, finish your meal, and spend time with your friends. They came here to see us, so at least one of us should stay until the end of the party. It would be rude otherwise."
"You're right; it would be. But if you're not feeling so good..."
"I'll be fine, Sonny. We've been through this before. You know that being pregnant takes a lot of me."
"I remember," he admitted, grinning so wide his dimples were on full display. Watching him as he glanced around the room, Elizabeth almost gasped in glee when her husband stopped at Jason who was lounging against a wall looking putout and bored beyond belief. "If it's okay with you, I think I'll ask Jason to drive you home. Of anyone, he'd most appreciate a reason to leave the party, and he's been here long enough to put in an appearance and to assure the five families that business is as good as usual."
"Whatever you say," she went along with him, knowing that she couldn't appear too eager to spend time with her husband's best friend, trusted confidant, and business partner.
With one last fake smile, she pulled away from the man she was married to, slipping effortlessly out of the party to wait for Jason in the lobby of the banquet hall. He was at her side in less than a minute, a spring to his step as they made their way outside. Before they had even passed through the front doors, he had his tie stripped off, his jacket unbuttoned and pulled free from his shoulders, and the first few buttons of his dress shirt undone, once again, looking like the Jason she knew so well. Wordlessly, they walked together until they reached the limo where he opened the door for her and helped her in, sliding next to her once she was settled and sitting too close to her to satisfy the opinion of the rest of the world but not close enough for her taste.
"You know that I can't leave him." Looking straight ahead and not risking a glance in the blonde's direction, she pressed on. "I love my husband and my children, and I can't do anything that would purposely hurt them."
"Elizabeth," he sighed, twisting to face her and reaching up to tilt her chin in his direction, not allowing her to avoid him. "Don't you realize that I already know you well enough to know that you wouldn't leave Sonny. Your loyalty and your absolute refusal to put yourself before anyone else are just two of the things that I love about you."
Smiling softly, she lifted a gloved hand up to rest it against his stubbled cheek. "You're the same way, you know, and I love those very same things about you, too." He nodded in acceptance, swallowing thickly but not saying anything. "And I know this might make staying apart worse, but I have to say it anyway." Bracing herself, she confessed almost breathlessly, "while I might love Sonny, I'm not in love with him, and I never have been. I'm in love with my more than friend."
"More than friends, huh?"
"That's what we've always been," the mother of two stated confidently, sliding her body even closer to the enforcer's. "And nothing is ever going to change that."
Resting his forehead against hers, his light lashes whispered closed before he admitted, "I'm in love with you, too, Elizabeth. I have been for years. I just..."
"You're an honorable man, and, before today, before I started all of this by kissing you, you had too much respect for Sonny to ever act upon your feelings, and I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry," Jason told her harshly, grasping her shoulders and shaking her lightly. "You did nothing wrong, and no one makes me do anything that I don't want to do. What we did this afternoon, what we did together, was something I've wanted since long before you ever married my best friend. It's just... our timing was never right."
Despite herself and the serious nature of their conversation, she found herself laughing. "That sounds like something I would say."
"Well, you're an intelligent woman, Elizabeth Corinthos."
She blushed, her only acknowledgment of his compliment. "But you know that this," she motioned between them while biting her lip. "Us, we can't happen again."
"I know," Jason agreed, sighing before wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to rest against his body, her entire form sitting between his two very strong, very comforting legs.
From that point on, they fell silent as the limo continued on its way towards Harbor View Towers and the penthouse she called home with her husband and children, savoring the last few intimate moments they would have with one another. Then, once the vehicle came to a stop in the underground parking garage, he helped her stand and walk towards the elevators, keeping his distance from his partner's wife until the doors closed after them and they were hidden from view in the ascending lift. Alone again, she leaned into his side until they reached the top floor of the building her husband owned. Knowing there would be no guards at the door and that her children were safely tucked away, sleeping, at their grandfather's, she opened the door to her home and silently led the enforcer in with her.
"Before I go," he stopped her from taking the stairs to her room. "I have something for you... a present."
Calmly, she waited, knowing that the blonde's gifts were never something one could expect, and what he pulled out from his suit pants' pocket proved her suspicions. He had managed to give her another original gift even after all the years that her marriage had kept them separated. "It's your penny," he explained, placing the small piece of copper under her dress and directing it until it fell back inside her bra where he found it hours earlier.
"It looks shinier."
"I found some old steel wool and cleaned it up," Jason explained. "It seemed... fitting for the occasion."
Nodding in agreement, she never stated her appreciation. Instead, she followed her instincts and moved closer to the man before her, taking his hand, turning around, and leading him towards the stairs that would take them to the bedroom she shared with Sonny, her husband and his best friend. Her actions were so like their ones from earlier in the day but, at the same time, so different. The first time they had made love, it had been on a whim, a stolen, scandalous moment, but the second time, even if subconsciously, even if it came from the back of her mind, would be planned, and, unlike their first time together, they both knew that it wouldn't be their last. After all, they had seven years to make up for even if it was technically wrong in the eyes of the rest of the world. However, if nothing else, the penny singeing itself into her breast reminded her that, at least, they had luck on their side now and that maybe timing wasn't everything.