A/N: Yep, this is a new story. For those days when I don't have
flash fic to write and Will to Leave has already been updated, I'll
have this story to focus on. We're slightly changing history here,
folks, so be patient, and, eventually, I'll explain how Jason and
Elizabeth got to their present situation. Other than that, there's not
much else I have to tell you other then, as always, enjoy! Charlynn
In Plain Sight
It was odd, looking back at your life when you were still relatively young, picking it apart moment by moment, dissecting it, examining it in an effort to find every remote second of joy and pleasure, knowing that, at any second, your life will no longer be your own. Reflections such as these weren't supposed to occur until a person's life had reached the point of no return, when their existence was disintegrating before their very eyes. They were supposed to have their loved ones surrounding them - children, grandchild, perhaps even great-grandchildren; they weren't supposed to be alone in a dank, cramped office that smelled of stale cigarette smoke and the discarded remains of a partially eaten hamburger, heavy on the onions, at the ripe old age of twenty-two. But, nevertheless, that's exactly where Elizabeth Webber was in that moment.
A recent art graduate from Port Charles University, she was supposed to be out searching for that first dream job post college, the job that would promise her only great things but end up being more of a headache than a blessing, and the sad thing was that she was actually going to miss not being able to get humiliated by her first sexist, prick of a boss, she was going to mourn the loss of the overwhelming debt most recent graduates must face, and, hell, she was even going to miss straddling that brink of insanity most adults her age attempted to hide from. And it was all because, in a matter of moments, Elizabeth Webber, waitress extraordinaire, wannabe artist, friend to everyone, family to no one, was about to be no more.
"We're going to be sending you to a little town called Dovetree."
"Sounds quaint," the brunette remarked sarcastically, never once meeting the gaze of the older man across from her.
But Agent Adam Houston didn't seem to care. In his early thirties, the dark haired, dark eyed man was nothing if not professional, but, to Elizabeth, he also came off as cold, unfeeling, and definitely unsympathetic to her case. It was almost as if he felt losing one's identity and exchanging it for another was a common practice, something that shouldn't make her even bat an eye. Everything to him was business as ususal. He did what he had to, said what needed to be said, and no extra energy or kindness was expelled to anyone. A shark of an FBI agent, he had risen quickly from the ranks of lowly recruit and was now partnered with one of the senior members of the government agency. Elizabeth hated him; Agent Adam Houston didn't even notice.
"It's a place small enough that it's barely a blip on a map but large enough that you'll be able to blend in and become an accepted member of the community rather quickly. We've already scooped the area out, found you a place to live, a job; all you have to do is adapt to your new lifestyle and forget everything and everyone you once knew as Elizabeth Imogene Webber."
Of course, he would insist upon using her middle name. "And this town, this Dovetree," she asked, closing her now permanently dimmed, always saddened sapphire eyes, "will there be anyone there who will be able to talk to me about the differences between Baroque and Minimalist art, Impressionism vs. Romanticism?"
"Could anybody," the man whom the twenty-two year old estimated to be in his early thirties returned flippantly if not slightly cruelly. "And, besides," he added, "it doesn't matter, because, from the moment you leave this office until the moment you testify at the trial, you won't know the differences between various artistic moments either."
"And just how long is that going to be?"
"Well," Agent William 'Bill' Maloney stated, scratching the side of his stubbled, paunchy face, "that'll be hard to tell. T'all depends upon how quickly we can organize all the evidence you and our other key witness have given us, take it to a judge, and get them to issue an arrest warrant. After that, it'll be in the hands of the judiciary system, and I think we both know how slow the courts move these days."
Without emotion, without response, Jason Morgan simply stared back at the older man across from him. Bill Maloney was nothing what he would have expected from an FBI agent. The man was perhaps even wider than he was tall, jovial, always pleasant, and seemed to treat every person he came across as someone he could mentor. Approximately in his mid-fifties, the balding redhead had kind hazel eyes and a smile and joke ready at his disposal at all times. It was slightly disconcerting to the former enforcer. Never before had he ever met someone so... happy. But he knew he was lucky; he knew that it could have been much worse. The agent handling his case could have been a real prick, someone who treated him like shit simply because, at one time, they had been on previous sides of the law, but Bill had either forgotten that Jason had once been an employee of the mob, or he didn't care. Whatever the reason, the older man treated him with respect and kindness, and, after the last year he had barely managed to survive, it was a welcome change.
"Anyway," the agent announced, standing up from his desk only to waddle slowly towards the filing cabinet that filled the far corner of his office. "Let me tell you all about your new identity."
As Jason waited for him to retake his seat, he was struck by an image of a merry fat man in a red suit who, supposedly, flew around the world on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, delivering presents to children on Christmas. He had read about the story in one of the insipid books Carly had bought Michael when he was a baby. While he had always preferred to read non-fiction, educational, and what he considered worthwhile books to the baby, his girlfriend at the time had practically lived in a fairytale herself, insisting their child be told about all the various tall tales and fables most children enjoyed. But the memory disappeared as quickly as it had surfaced, thankfully being pushed back into the recesses of the now retired hitman's mind as Bill collapsed into his leather chair, the tired, abused fabric creaking in protest at the agent's heavy form.
"From this point on," the chubby redhead announced, "you'll be known as Jack Martin. While completely unrelated to your previous name, it'll still be close enough to what you're used to that it should be easy for you to remember." Glancing up from the paperwork, the older man asked, "is that alright with you?"
"Good, good then," Bill smiled genially, returning to the information before him. "We've already secured you a house, a car, and a job, completed the necessary paperwork for you. You'll move in tonight, you'll start work on Monday, and, hopefully, within a few weeks, you'll be an accepted member of the town of Dovetree, population roughly estimated at 542. Any questions?"
He wanted to roll his eyes at the name of the town. If the agents could have picked a less appropriate place for him to live, he would have been shocked, but he withheld from making the telling gesture of annoyance, instead inquiring, "what exactly am I going to be doing?"
"Let's see here," the FBI employee said, lowering his gaze, once again, to the folder before him. "It says that you'll be working in construction. Have you ever done that kind work before?"
"Well, I'm sure you'll pick it up quickly," the older man reassured him with a grin. "You're a smart man, physically capable. You'll be fine."
"Yeah," Jason agreed rather unenthusiastically. After all, he wasn't worried about the work being too difficult; instead, he was concerned about it being too easy, leaving him bored and restless after just the first week. "So, if that's it," he remarked out loud, lifting himself from the chair, "I should probably be going."
"Actually," Bill detained him, making the former enforcer freeze midway suspended in the air. "There's just one more thing I need to discuss with you." He said nothing, just sat back down and waited for the agent to continue. "It's about your new identity, your cover. We sort of had to... Well, you see it's like this... You're married."
So far, she had tried to be a good sport. She had calmly accepted the fact that the four years of studying, of hard work, of pulling all nighters to finish a new painting would be simply tossed out the window, her degree in art disregarded and suddenly null and void because Ellis, unlike Elizabeth, had never been to college. She had stoically listened as the agent before her explained that she would be working part time in a flower shop, designing, making, and selling floral arrangements despite the fact that the only plant she had ever been given she accidentally caught on fire. And she had patiently heeded the advice of the older man as he told her she should suddenly become interested in gardening, in refinishing and restoring old antique furniture, in all things winter and athletic even though she had never once worn a pair of ice skates, could barely stand up in snow with her shoes on let alone a pair of skis, and knew more about hot wiring a car than she did snowboarding. But when Agent Houston informed her that she would be Mrs. Ellis Martin instead of just Miss., that had been the last straw.
"Did I stutter," the thirty-something year old questioned rhetorically, finally lifting his cold, dark eyes from the page before him. "I said that you are married. What is so complicated about this that you don't understand?"
"How can I be married when I don't know anybody in Dovebush?"
"It's Dovetree, Miss Webber," Adam corrected her despite the fact they both knew she was being snide and sarcastic, purposely misnaming the small town. "And you're not going to be married to a local; you'll be moving there with your husband."
"So, an agent's going with me to make sure that I'm safe," she suggested in a form of an inquiry. "Aw, that's sweet, Houston. I didn't think you cared."
"About you, not really," he remarked, smiling at her for the first time that morning. "About this case, absolutely, so that's why we're sending your fellow co-witness with you. Not only will he be able to keep you safe, but it'll be easier for us to keep our eyes on the two of you if you're in the same town."
Elizabeth couldn't believe it. Not only was the agency stripping her of every single shred of her former identity, but they were also foisting her into a relationship with a veritable stranger, putting her in a situation where she not only had to live with someone that she didn't know and certainly didn't trust, but they were also going to make her pretend that she was married to the man. Marriage meant affection, genuine concern and attraction towards another person, intimacy. The closest thing to intimacy she knew of with another person of the male gender was her near obsession with Count Chocula, and she had a sneaking suspicion that their relationship didn't count.
"This has to be some kind of joke."
"Do I look like I'm trying to be funny," the older man asked her, narrowing his unfeeling gaze into a pointed stare. "In fact, as soon as we're finished with this meeting, I'm going to walk you out into the hallway, you're going to meet your new husband, and the two of you are going to drive to your new home."
Instead of replying, she simply glowered at the agent across from her. Folding her delicate, graceful arms over her tank top covered chest, the twenty-two year old attempted to appear aloof, disinterested, and untouchable. No matter what, she wouldn't let some opportunist FBI agent shake her; she wouldn't let him see her cry.
"There's just one more thing we have to discuss," Adam Houston informed her.
Demandingly, she asked, "and that would be..."
"How important it is for you to never, under any circumstances, reveal anything about your previous identity or life to anyone."
"I don't think I have to tell you how dangerous Mr. Corinthos still is," Bill stated. "Until he's in police custody, locked away in a federal prison, you're going to be permanently at risk. We'll try to protect your involvement in this investigation and case for as long as possible, but, once it goes to court, once his attorney receives copies of all our evidence, he'll know that you turned, and he'll be gunning for you. If he would happen to succeed in taking you and our other witness out, the case against him would be dismissed, and he'd be free to continue his reign of terror until another case could be built against him, and the whole process would start anew."
"I'm well aware of all the risks I took when I agreed to do this," Jason calmly replied, his voice completely monotone and flat. Although he didn't regret his decision to roll on his former boss, business partner, and friend, it certainly wasn't something he was proud of either.
"I figured as much," the agent agreed. "And that's part of the reason why I wanted you to be with this other witness. She's a complete innocent in all this, got caught up with the wrong guy for all the right reasons, and, now, she has nobody. She's trying to start completely over, too, and I wanted you with her so that she has a fighting chance to survive. Keep her safe, Morgan," he beseeched the younger man. "Keep her safe, make sure she's as happy as the circumstances allow, and, above all else, watch her back."
"That's exactly what I wanted to hear," Agent Maloney announced, wiggling his way free of his chair so he could stand up. Extending his palm out, he shook Jason's hand warmly before pushing his way around his behemoth of a desk to lead the two of them out of his rather crammed and dirtied office. "Now, what do you say we go and meet the Mrs," he teased, slapping Jason affectionately on the back.
The former enforcer didn't respond.
Bill Maloney stood back, leaned heavily against the wall behind him, and readied himself for the fireworks display that was about to erupt in one of the many corridors of the FBI building he worked out of. Under normal circumstances, a forced marriagebetween two strangers would automatically become a tense situation, but throwing together two people who already knew each other and didn't like one another, well, that was practically a powder keg set too close to the fire. There was only one inevitable reaction to Jason and Elizabeth coming face to face with each other and realizing they were joining the witness protection program together... as a married couple, and he was going to make damn sure he had a front row seat for the show.
They didn't disappoint.
Jason was standing beside him, hands shoved into his jeans pockets, permanent scowl marring his otherwise handsome features, as they waited for the second agent on the case, Bill's partner, Adam Houston, to finish meeting with the young woman. Although the ruddy haired agent didn't much care for his partner on a personal basis, he had to admit that the junior officer knew his stuff. He was a good man to have at your back, and, despite his personality flaws, he was a good man to have on the Corinthos case, too. He was impartial, treated each suspect like the next, and didn't fawn over yet still managed to take care of those who came to them with evidence in exchange for protection. However, the younger man wasn't much for conversation, subtlety, or even kindness, so Bill had a feeling Miss Webber was going to be even more unprepared for the revelation of herhusband than Jason was for his wife.
The adjacent office door opened, the petite brunette exited as quickly as her small feet could carry her without actually sprinting, never once glancing back at or acknowledging her agent's presence, and that left the thirty-something shark lounged in the doorway, a tired smirk lightening his otherwise foreboding features. Oh yeah, Bill realized silently to himself, those two had really hit off; Adam had madequitethe impression upon the young woman. But then she glanced up at the two people standing before her, and all of his thoughts fluttered away.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"Absolutely not," Jason exploded, pointing distracted towards Elizabeth while drilling the redhead beside him with a gaze brimming full of hatred and abhorrence. "I'm not going to be stuck with her for months on end, pretending to be her husband."
The twenty-two year old scoffed. "Like I would want you to be. Look, guys," she beseeched both of the agents, "I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself." While no one dared to contradict her, all three men in the room shared a knowing, disbelieving glance with each other. "Let Morgan go play in traffic for all I care. I'm not going to be his wife, not even his pretend one. If this is the best thing you two stooges can come up with, then maybe this whole idea was a bad one. I'll just retract my statement, take back all the evidence I provided you with, and go back to my old life, thank you very much."
"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that, Miss Webber," Agent Houston told her patronizingly. "This isn't the playground. You can't uncross your fingers and change your mind; this is the FBI."
The former artist mumbled something under her breath, but Bill had a hard time picking up on what she was exactly saying. He did, however, catch the word blowhard and knew that he was better off left in the dark. Realizing the events at hand were quickly spiraling out of control, going from entertaining to downright dangerous, he decided it was time for him to step in.
"Like it or not, this is the way it's going to have to be. And it's not like you'll have to spend that much time together," he lied. In an attempt to convince the two seething witnesses before him, he continued. "You'll both have jobs, you'll both have separate interests that'll keep you busy, and, when you're alone in the house, you don't have to even see each other. Just make sure you make enough public appearances, civil ones, to convince the town that you're a happily married, young couple. That's all that we ask."
"And how many appearances would be enough?"
The balding FBI employee turned towards the onetime hitman and sighed. "That's pretty hard to judge, Jason. You're good at reading people, though, aren't you? So, read them. If you think they're doubting the sincerity of your relationship with Elizabeth... or, shall I say, Ellis, take her out for dinner one night, hold her hand, smile at her a time or two. I promise, it won't cause your face to break apart. And you," he turned to regard the recent college graduate, "use your woman's intuition. My wife goes on about it enough that it should be able to do something beneficial. If your female friends start questioning your relationship with Jack," he nodded towards the towering blonde beside him, "then share a mushy story about how the two of you met or take your husband lunch one afternoon, putting on a good show for his coworkers. This isn't rocket science, folks; it's a cover story. If you want to survive, you'll make it a good one."
He sensed that the two of them were still unhappy about their circumstances but that they were done complaining about them. Though both Elizabeth and Jason had their flaws, he also knew from talking and working with both of them extensively that they were fundamentally good people, and, if he said so himself, they made a damn fine looking duo, fake or not. But his decision to put them together as a married couple had nothing to do with a ridiculous urge to play matchmaker and solely to do with keeping the pretty, young brunette alive. Morgan could take care of himself. He always had, and, Bill suspected, he always would, but Miss Webber was a different matter.
She had no self-defense skills, she had never once held a weapon, be it knife or gun, and, even if she had, she had no idea how to use one. She was naive and trusting; she always tried to see the good in everyone, even when there was none there to be found. That was part of the reason why she got so messed up with the Corinthos in the first place, and maybe it was sentimental of him, maybe he was taking his job a little too far and making it personal, but he wanted to see her live through the next year or so, survive the trial, and get a chance to live a real, honest, and good life. The budding artist deserved nothing less, and, if he had to make her and the former enforcer both slightly uncomfortable for the next several months to accomplish that, then so be it. One way or another, Elizabeth Webber was going to out live every single one of them in that hallway if he anything to say about it.
Attempting to alleviate the dark cloud of dread that had settled around them, Agent Maloney joked, "and, hey, look at it this way: the two of you already sound like an old, bickering, married couple. Reminds me of me and my own wife. You've practically got the routine down, and we haven't even left the agency yet."
No one, not even Adam, found him amusing.
"Alright, well, let's be on our way," he gestured for the three younger individuals to precede him down the hall as they made their way outside. "It's going to take you all afternoon to reach your destination. There are directions in the glove compartment, and, when you get to the house, there should be a moving truck there waiting with everything we've purchased for the place. Plus, of course, your clothes and a few personal affects will be packed in the truck as well. If you have any questions or concerns, you both have mine and Agent Houston's numbers. Call us anytime."
"Between nine and five," his younger partner added.
Ignoring him, Bill stressed, "any time, day or night." Although he didn't argue again, the thirty-something year old ladder climber beside him glared at the redhead. "I'll be in touch," he promised them. As one last, parting word, he added, "drive safe," before thenewlyweds disappeared out of sight and climbed into the waiting SUV the bureau had provided them with. As long as neither Morgan nor Webber ended up killing each other, he had a good feeling about the investigation he was in charge of - a really good feeling.
Betsy Northam had been living in the same house, on the same street, in the same town for nearly seventy-five years. There was no one in Dovetree that she didn't know, and nothing occurred around her that she didn't take notice of. She had never married, and she had no siblings, no family of her own, so she kept herself entertained, alive, and kicking by insinuating herself into other people's lives. Was she a busybody, perhaps, but, given her age, anything was excusable.
She had been intrigued by the old Park residence for the past week. It was located three houses down from her own on the opposite side of the paved street, and, from her kitchen window, with binoculars, of course, she could see everything that went on at the craftsman style bungalow. From her post, she had watched a man in a nondescript suit come and meet with a real estate agent, she had seen them shake hands, effectively finalizing the deal for the house, and she had witnessed the remodeling that had taken place over the last few days. Windows had been replaced, new doors had been put in, and a security system had been installed. What was so wrong with the previous windows and doors, she had no idea, and, as far as some new finagled alarm went, well, she saw no purpose for it in Dovetree. The changes to the old Park place made her believe her new neighbors were city folks, and she didn't much care for city folks.
They were loud, in her opinion, rude, and they generally did not fit in well with their small town atmosphere. Dovetree worked as well as it did because the citizens respected and liked each other. There were town picnics in the park, softball Saturdays, and festivals honoring every season. If you resided within the town limits, you were expected to participate in every town event, but city folks, as Betsy Northam had noticed over the years, didn't much care for their rural entertainment, and, in exchange, she didn't much care for them either.
Nevertheless, though, new neighbors meant new gossip, and new gossip meant there would be something to entertain her friends and fellow nature enthusiasts in her garden club. She and the women met every other Sunday afternoon, the host varying. They would have tea and cake, they would discuss the latest trends in garden design, and, most importantly, they would whisper and confide in one another about the various goings on, illicit or not, that occurred in their small town. It was the very thing that Betsy looked forward to the most, and, now, thanks to her new neighbors, at the next meeting, she was going to be the one with the best information.
She was just about to sit down and watch her requisite hour of TV that night when she heard a vehicle pull into a driveway. Knowing that all her other neighbors had been home for quite some time already that evening, she got up from her easy chair and made her way into the kitchen, picking up her trusty binoculars on the way past the island. There, just three doors down and outside her window, sat a bright and shiny, brand new SUV. She hated the gas guzzlers, thought they were an eye sore and an environmental outrage, so she knew her new neighbors, the city folks, must have arrived.
"Well, all be," she exclaimed, glued to the show that was being played out live before her.
They were young kids, too, probably hooligans. The man was tall and, from what she could tell in the dusky shadows, good looking with dirty, messy blonde hair. Although she couldn't see his eyes, she figured they had to be blue; the color was the only one fitting the rest of his appearance. He ran around the vehicle, opening the door for a young woman, and, from the way he wrapped his arm around her waist and led her to their front door, she supposed the pretty brunette was his wife. Even she had to admit that they made a fine looking couple, no matter if they belonged in Dovetree or not.
A moving truck arrived just minutes after the young couple did, but neither of them seemed to pay it much attention. The men set to work, unloading their furniture, and the man and woman stood aside, watching the progression. They seemed quiet, as if they had nothing really to say to one another, and Betsy wondered if perhaps, instead of a good match for one another, they were merely physically infatuated and in lust. It wouldn't be the first time she had seen such a relationship, and she knew it wouldn't be the last.
Minutes changed to almost an hour, and, when the movers were finally finished, their truck backing up as unobtrusively as it had arrived, the young couple, once again turned to each other. The man smirked, at least that's what it looked like from her binoculars, before bending over slightly to pick up his petite wife, holding her in his arms and carrying her over the threshold of their new house. While the old spinster had never been married herself, she had to admit that it was a romantic if not gaudy tradition, and, once the front door was closed, hiding her new neighbors from her visage, she went back to her chair and sat in thought. There was a story behind the young residents of the old Park place, and she was determined to figure out just exactly what that story was.
As soon as Jason kicked the door shut behind them, Elizabeth struggled in his arms, telling him without words that she wanted put down. He did so without delay or objection. As they made their way through the house, they worked together, silently, to close all the blinds, hiding themselves from the outside world. When they were finished, their new home a disaster zone filled with boxes of belongings, new purchases for their new life, and furniture, some of which still needed to be assembled, they went their separate ways - Jason towards the dining room where a pooltable, per his request, had been installed, and Elizabeth upstairs to the master bedroom where there was a bed that the movers had put together for her as she had asked them to. It would be a bed she would occupy alone.
It was their own little home sweet home, and it felt like they were trapped in a suburban hell. Apparently, the honeymoon phase for Jack and Ellis Martin was already over.