Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, just take 'em out to play every once in a while.
Lizzie Webber did not cry, hadn't for years. There was absolutely no point in self-pity. You make your choices and you live with them. Her parents had taught her that. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, and apologized to no one, especially their younger daughter.
Tonight she came close to tears. She had run away from home four weeks ago, with what she thought was enough money to get her by until she found a job. With no experience and no references, she had been unable to convince anyone to take a chance on her. The money quickly ran out. She had pawned everything she had brought with her except the clothes on her back, her hairbrush, and her toothbrush. Here she was: homeless, jobless, broke, and starving.
There was only one option left and it turned her stomach. Her very empty stomach. Head held high, she paced the street corner.
Jason Morgan didn't understand much of anything. Life was confusing, mostly due to his accident, partly because of two very opinionated women. Robin was honest, giving, and yet trying to mold him into someone she could love and respect. Carly was scheming, selfish, and interested only in great sex. Both were demanding more and more from him. Jason wondered just how much he had left to give. Not much, if his family's view mattered. Which it didn't.
Sonny was bringing him into the business and that Jason did understand. In fact, he was pretty damn good at it. If he played his cards right, he could move up through the organization and make a real life for himself. His job was the one bright spot in his life right now.
Jason looked around. After delivering some papers to one of Sonny's associates in New York City, he had been drawn to this quiet bar. A couple of beers and things were looking up. He was slightly buzzed and knew the drive back to Port Charles would have to wait until morning. Paying his bill, he left the dark room and headed for the neatest hotel.
Port Charles, 2 years later
Elizabeth watched as her boyfriend Lucky and his brother Nikolas teased each other about who was the better bowler. A night of bowling followed by dessert at Kelly's was always so much fun. She rolled her eyes at her best friend, Emily Quartermaine.
It sometimes seemed surreal that she was actually here. After running away and spending four disastrous weeks in New York, she had fled to her grandmother's home. Audrey had been so relieved to see her that she had quickly agreed to let Elizabeth move in.
On her first day at her new school, Emily and Lucky had befriended her. Emily was so full of light and life that Elizabeth was soon able to put those hellish days in the city far behind her. Lucky had developed an immediate crush on her but it had taken time before Elizabeth felt ready to date. A year into their romance, she wondered why she put him off for so long.
Nikolas was older, in college, but devoted to Emily. Just last week, Emily confided in Elizabeth that he had kissed her and asked to escort her to the senior prom. Em was ecstatic and Elizabeth was glad her pal's long-cherished dream was coming true.
The four musketeers, as they called themselves, had the world at their feet.
Emily leaned over the table to talk to Elizabeth. "So, you'll never guess who finally came home."
Elizabeth pretended to think. "Let's see, hmmm, I don't know. Maybe your prodigal brother?"
Emily grinned. "Yep! Seems he finally worked through whatever Robin did to him and realized that he belongs here, where I can see him whenever I want."
Elizabeth shook her head. "You're such a spoiled brat."
"Blame Jason," Em replied with a shrug.
Every time she heard that name, blue eyes flashed across Liz's memory. And every time, she forcefully pushed them far away. "So, when do I get to meet this paragon of brotherly virtue?"
Emily's eyes lit up. "How about now?"
Elizabeth turned, following Emily's gaze to the door. "Oh, no."
Jason Morgan had put it off as long as possible. Returning to Port Charles after nearly two years in South America should have been harder. Instead, he had found himself eager once the decision was made.
His reason for leaving, Robin finding out about Carly, no longer seemed to loom over the town. Robin was now in school in Paris and Carly was married to his brother. He had no idea what she saw in A.J., but they appeared happy and had a little boy. Jason thought Alan Michael Quartermaine was probably the most spoiled kid ever born.
Emily and his grandmother had been happy to see him when he stopped by the Quartermaine mansion last night. Even his parents had behaved themselves.
Sonny had welcomed him warmly and shown him around the new warehouse this morning. All in all, business was good and his family was not pushing him.
Jason made his way to Kelly's for a cup of coffee. He needed to stay awake tonight and go over the specs for a new shipping route through Miami. Sonny wanted his opinion tomorrow.
He stepped inside the cheery diner and noticed his sister first. Emily flung her arms around his neck, squealing about how good it was to have him home. He didn't hear her. All he could see was the beautiful young woman sitting beside Lucky Spencer, the same one who had haunted his dreams in Brazil despite his attempts to purge her from his memory. Strange how you could forget what you wanted to remember but never what you didn't want to remember.
Looking into the dark blue eyes that had once so pulled him in that he threw aside all his misgivings, all he could think was that he still wanted her. "Oh, shit."
Elizabeth wanted to cry, sink into the floor and disappear, scream with frustration, but most of all she wanted to thank him. The man Emily was so cheerfully chatting up had changed her life in ways he probably would never understand. And she couldn't explain it to him without risking losing it all. Maybe he wouldn't remember her.
Jason could see that she had changed. Her eyes, once so lost, now glowed with inner peace. Her head was held high, not lowered in humiliation. Her figure had matured, her curves were more noticeable. He stopped himself there. She was not his, especially given Lucky's hand on her thigh. He wanted to punch the younger man.
Emily dragged Jason over to their table. "Jase, you remember Lucky, right?"
Jason nodded and shook the hand Lucky held out, resisting the urge to squeeze as tight as he could. "Lucky."
"Hey, Jason, good to see ya," Lucky replied easily.
Nikolas stood and greeted him, too. "Jason, welcome home."
Emily's blush told Jason everything he needed to know about Lucky's half-brother. He would have to keep an eye on him. Then came the moment of truth.
Emily wrapped an arm around Elizabeth's waist. "And this is my bestest friend in the whole wide world, Elizabeth Webber. You know her grandmother, Audrey Hardy."
Jason nodded, unable to find the words. Elizabeth cleared her throat. "It's nice to meet you. Emily's told me so much about that I feel as if I already know you."
Jason watched as she bit her lower lip and couldn't help remembering just how sweet she tasted. He took a few deep breaths, warring with his libido and finally winning. "Yeh, she mentioned you a lot in her letters."
Emily grinned, thrilled that the two were getting along. "Hey, Jase, why don't you join us?"
Elizabeth's eyes widened dramatically. She didn't want him here and he didn't blame her. "Uh, sorry, I can't."
Lucky took Elizabeth's hand. "Maybe another time. Soon, okay?"
Jason once again resisted the urge to cause him physical harm. "Sure."
Elizabeth excused herself not long after Jason left. What were the odds that her one-time 'client' was Emily's beloved brother? Would he tell Em about her past? Thinking back on that night, she thought he might not, especially if she asked him not to.
She had tried so hard to forget. Only in dreams did she ever allow herself to remember how soft his lips were against hers, the beautifully sculpted torso that she longed to sketch and the gentle concern in his eyes when she confessed her circumstances to him. He may have begun that night as a stranger but he walked out as her savior.
Now that same savior had the power to destroy her life that was only possible because of him. Fear was pushing her to seek him out and beg him to keep her secret. It certainly wasn't because she actually wanted to see him again.
Elizabeth knew she couldn't approach him at his business. Emily said that he kept a room above a bar called Jake's. It was in a rough part of town but she really had no choice. Hailing a cab, she prayed that she knew what she was doing.
Jason should have gone upstairs and busied himself with work. Instead, he played pool, hoping to push her from his thoughts. Elizabeth...Lizzie...Elizabeth.
She was what, eighteen? That's how old Emily was, which meant she had only been sixteen when they met. He scowled. He knew that she had been young, it hadn't mattered that night. He wished it mattered now.
Jason thought about the familiar way Lucky's hand had rested on her thigh, a thigh that had once wrapped around his waist. He threw the pool stick on the table and headed for the bar. It was dangerous thinking about her like that.
As he drank his beer, a commotion by the door caught his attention. It couldn't be...but it was. She was here and some lousy drunk was propositioning her. Jason was on his feet and throwing the bum across the room before he even thought about it.
Elizabeth gulped. "Uh, thanks."
Jason scowled down at her. "What are you doing here?"
She bit that bottom lip again and it nearly sent him to his knees. "I wanted to talk to you."
His eyes searched hers before he nodded and led her up to his room.
"So, what do you need?" Jason wanted to ask many things but chose to stay with the safest topic.
Elizabeth smiled. "Nothing, really. I just wanted to say thank you."
Jason frowned. What was she thanking him for? Not saying anything? He was slightly offended but realized that she didn't really know him all that well, except for the biblical sense. He watched as she sat on his bed and his mind flew to another night, another room, another bed. She had been looking up at him much the same way then. He hated to see the fear in her eyes now even more than he had before. "I won't tell Lucky or Emily that we know each other."
Elizabeth relaxed. "Thanks. But that's really not why I'm here. I mean, I do appreciate your silence. It's just that, well, I wouldn't have Lucky or Emily or anything good if I'd never met you. You changed my life for the better, Jason, and I can't say thank you enough."
Jason's frown eased, though his mouth was still down turned. "I don't deserve your gratitude. You should hate me."
Elizabeth's eyes flew to his, shocked. "What? Are you kidding me? Jason, you made it possible for me to get off the streets and come here to my grandmother. Without you, I'd probably still be selling myself!" Elizabeth rose and crossed to his side. She reached out and took his hand, squeezing slightly. "I might even be dead. You didn't just change my life, Jason, you saved it."
Her hand was so soft and tiny in his, reminding him once again how she had felt in his arms. He pulled away and walked over to the window. "I wish..."
Jason turned back to her, carefully keeping his hands in his pockets. If she touched him again, he wouldn't let go. "I wish I'd done all that before, well, before we got into bed."
Elizabeth couldn't help shuddering. That night did hold some very painful memories but she kept pushing them to the back of her thoughts. Unexpectedly, the image of a very naked, very gorgeous Jason popped into her head. She couldn't help blushing and he saw it.
Jason pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, I treated you like, like a, a..."
"Prostitute?" she queried. "Jason, that's exactly what I was."
"No, you weren't," he argued. "You were just a scared runaway and I knew it. I knew you didn't belong there and I, I touched you anyway."
Elizabeth wanted to wrap her arms around him and sooth away his guilt. The night she treasured as the start of her second chance was one of regret for him. "Jason," she started and paused, trying to find the right words. "Jason, you were so gentle. I completely forgot the reason we were together and just enjoyed being with you."
"Until I hurt you."
She closed her eyes. "That was just as much my fault as yours, remember?"
Jason couldn't believe she was letting him off so easily. "I shouldn't have yelled at you."
Elizabeth laughed. "Well, I really wish you hadn't done that." He kept staring at her and she sobered quickly. "It doesn't matter now. All that matters is that we're both doing good. You are, aren't you?"
He nodded, unable to believe the generosity of her spirit.
Elizabeth smiled again, eyes sparkling. "So am I." She stepped to the door and looked back over her shoulder. "I really am very thankful I met you."
Jason stood unmoving for a long time after she left. He was in much more trouble than he could have guessed. Before this encounter, he had lusted for her. Now, he was beginning to love her.
Elizabeth practically glided across the arena with diploma in hand. She had made it. High school was over and her life stretched before her full of opportunities. The past month had flown by, with prom, graduation parties, exams, and now this. After assuring her grandmother that she wouldn't get into any trouble, she had kissed the dear woman good-bye and was now searching out her friends to begin the real celebrations.
She saw Lucky and Nikolas beside Laura, a grumpy Luke huffing behind them. He hated this kind of thing and only love for Laura got him here to see his son's big moment. Since Lulu was tugging on Lucky's leg for attention, Elizabeth decided to find Emily first.
Another glance through the crowd and she spotted her best friend. Dashing around a classmate she barely knew, she hurried to Em's side, only to stop short five feet away.
Jason was there. Jason, in a dark blue suit with matching dress shirt. The shirt was open at the neck as he didn't wear a tie. The color only highlighted his beautiful eyes and sandy hair. And that small patch of skin at the base of his neck beckoned her. She wanted to kiss and lick it.
That thought surprised her so much that she dropped her treasured diploma. Before she could pick it up, he was there, handing it to her.
"You okay?" Jason asked.
She nodded, unable to think, much less speak.
Jason found himself staring into her gorgeous eyes. They sparkled just as they had that night long ago. He mentally shook himself. There was no way she was thinking about that. No way she would ever think about that, given how badly he had screwed things up.
Elizabeth knew she was in trouble. Never had she felt the tug of desire for Lucky that she felt for this man. Time ceased to pass as they stood, searching each other's eyes. She lifted her hand toward his chest and then the magic was gone.
Emily was waving a hand in front of her face. "Earth to Elizabeth. You still in there?"
Liz tried to smile and hoped that she could fool Em. "Yeah, sure, it's just all the excitement, you know?"
Jason knew. He could see and feel what she was feeling. And it was wrong. He had to get out of here. "Emily, I'm going."
Emily wrapped her brother in a hug. "Thanks so much for coming, Jase. I know how you hate this stuff."
He left with a nod, never again meeting Elizabeth's eyes. She wanted to be hurt but was too thankful. Another moment like that one and she would be throwing herself at him. Considering her innocent relationship with Lucky, the depth of feelings for Jason frightened her.
Nikolas and Lucky walked up then. Elizabeth followed her friends, shaken by the encounter with Jason and determined to put it out of her mind, at least for tonight.
Jason threw the suit coat across the bed and headed for the shower. Cold water had become his best friend lately. Every single time he saw Elizabeth, he wanted her more. Hell, he was practically stalking her, just hoping to hear her voice, see her smile.
Today he had blown it. Emily's presence was supposed to be a good excuse and a buffer against whatever this was. He knew better than to approach Elizabeth.
He truly wished he hadn't. Before he could tell himself that his obsession was harmless and one-sided. Now he had seen the truth. She felt the connection, too, and that made it dangerous.
The cold water was not helping. He could still see her delicate hand, rising toward him, still remember how that hand felt stroking him long ago.
Jason punched the shower wall in frustration, cracking two tiles and bloodying his knuckles. Even that couldn't chase away his need for her.
Elizabeth huddled in her bed late that night, trying to sleep. Instead images of Jason raced through her head. Jason hugging Em, Jason on the docks talking to one of his employees, Jason parking his bike outside Kelly's, Jason in a suit earlier today. Without realizing it, she had locked away each and every time she had seen him since his return to Port Charles.
She tried to analyze what that meant, especially in view of the fact that she had a boyfriend. Lucky was so special and she truly loved him. They were a good match. But his touch didn't send her heart into overdrive and his eyes didn't see into her soul.
Jason's did. He had known exactly what was going on at graduation today and that's why he left. He didn't want her. She couldn't hold back the tears any longer.
When had she fallen for Jason Morgan? In New York? In that perfect moment earlier today?
More importantly, was this just physical desire for the only man who ever touched her? Or was this the real thing? The kind of love she wanted with Lucky?
Elizabeth spent the first week of her newfound freedom locked in the studio her grandmother had given her for graduation. It was small and somewhat dingy, according to Emily, but she loved it. It had become her sanctuary.
She was sketching an anatomy piece to include in her college application packet. She was already late with it and the pressure was tarnishing the drawing. She penciled in a few lines and then quickly erased them.
Her mind began to drift. As usual these days, it went straight to Jason. She couldn't control it, despite numerous attempts to focus on his angry tirade that night in New York or the fast escape he made last week after seeing her feelings.
What exactly her feelings were was still up for debate. She found him unbelievably handsome and those eyes practically swallowed her whole. She liked his honesty, the way he accepted her, and his gentle handling of their rather sticky situation. She had only seen his smile a few times but, when it appeared, she never wanted it to end.
She had a crush. That was all. She needed to spend more time with Lucky and it would go away. After all, big bad Jason Morgan was way out of her league.
She looked down at her sketch pad and realized she had drawn a chest Michelangelo would admire. This was definitely her ticket into the PCU art program. The only problem was that it was Jason's chest, one she hadn't seen in two years but couldn't forget.
Maybe this was a bit more than a crush.
Jason tucked his gun back into his jeans and motioned for Max and Frances to dispose of the body. It had been a fair fight and the bastard had fired first. Still something within him was, well, disturbed.
He looked around, ostensibly checking for witnesses. In reality, he was just making sure she was nowhere near here. He couldn't bear to look into her eyes and feel ashamed.
Jason swore and kicked the dead man's gun into the water. The docks were empty and, even if they weren't, Elizabeth definitely wouldn't be roaming them at three in the morning. Besides, the sooner he saw that look in her eyes, the better. If she hated him, he could get over her.
He gripped the metal railing tightly, wishing it were that easy. Ever since that touch last week, she was his constant companion, even if she didn't know it. He could smell her hair, feel her soft skin, and taste her mouth. His torture never left him and it was starting to show.
That man shouldn't have got off a shot and yet he did. Jason had been daydreaming about Elizabeth and gotten jumped. It wouldn't happen again. He had to make sure of that. Distraction equaled death and he wanted to live. The problem was, he wanted to live for her.
Jason turned and found himself face to face with his tormentor. "Elizabeth, what are you doing down here?"
Elizabeth hadn't really believed her eyes until he spoke. Blushing, she tucked her hair behind her ears. "I lost track of time and Gram is going to kill me if I'm not home when she gets up in the morning."
Jason fought the urge to ask just what had her so distracted. Lucky. And considering their relationship, there was one sure fire reason why she would be with him this late. Jason felt sick. "Lucky should have made sure you got home safe."
Elizabeth frowned. "I wasn't with Lucky. I was at my studio, you know, sketching, and, and I wasn't really watching the clock."
Jason took a step toward her. "Your studio?"
She smiled and he came closer. "Yeah, Gram rented this great little studio with these big windows that are just perfect for catching the morning light. I have everything I need to work on my art. You should come see it sometime." The invitation slipped from her lips before she could stop it. Like he'd want to see her crappy little project.
Jason nodded. "Maybe. Right now, I'm taking you home."
Elizabeth shook her head. "Oh, you don't have to do that. It's really not that far."
Elizabeth laughed. "Funny, but people say that about you."
Jason laughed and her heart soared. "They're right."
She tilted her head. "So, Mr. Dangerous, should I be scared?"
Jason had his chance. He could tell her the truth and send her running far from him but he couldn't bear the thought of her fearing him. "I'll never hurt you again."
His tone was so solemn she knew he could be trusted. "I know that," she whispered.
They turned together and walked to a motorcycle parked nearby. When he handed her the only helmet, she took it. "We're riding this?"
Jason couldn't resist taunting her. "Unless you're too scared."
She picked up the gauntlet. "Not a chance. In fact, why don't you take the long way to Gram's?"
Jason pressed his lips together to keep from laughing at her audaciousness. As she climbed on behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, he decided to take the longest route he could think of, anything to prolong this.
Elizabeth had been faking it. The bike was huge and the driver was known for his recklessness. However, as soon as the machine roared to life and they took off, she fell in love. And not just with the speed. She never wanted this ride to end.
They rode for over an hour before he pulled up to the curb in front of her grandmother's house. She whipped the helmet off and fluffed her hair. "That was the most awesome thing ever!"
Jason grinned. "It's addictive, you know."
Elizabeth returned his smile. "I believe it. I'll ride with you anytime, anywhere."
The statement hung between them. Both realized the implications but neither backed down. Jason finally secured the helmet and moved to restart the cycle. "I just might take you up on that." He raced off into the night.
Elizabeth watched him leave, unsettled by what had just happened. As crazy as it sounded, she thought her life had just changed. She straightened her shoulders and went inside, refusing to consider the ramifications of tonight's events.
Few things in her life had prepared her for this. Jake's was a bar, not a nightclub or a local watering hole. This place was tough and dirty and people came here looking for trouble. Elizabeth had.
Technically, she came looking for Jason, who rented a room upstairs. She should have stayed away. After the ride last month, all she could think about was being with him again. She had stayed away, avoiding all contact, distracting herself with her art project and her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend. Lucky knew something was wrong, told her he was afraid he was losing her. Their conversations were becoming more and more strained. They rarely kissed anymore. He said he was trying to give her what she wanted and make her happy. She had cried most nights.
She didn't want to pretend. She didn't want to hide her past. She didn't want to feel like trash. If Lucky knew the truth, knew that she had sold her body, he would be even more disgusted than she was. If she told him. She had to. He was planning their future, right down to the number of kids they would have.
That brought her here, to Jason's refuge. Since she planned to tell Lucky tomorrow night, Jason had to be warned. She had considered only partially revealing to Lucky and leaving Jason out of it all together. But starting a real adult relationship and planning a real adult life meant dealing with real adult truth, even when it hurt.
Once Lucky knew, he might dump her. Elizabeth had allowed that thought to roll threw her mind over and over again. It didn't hurt the way it should and that bothered her. She refused to believe that meant she didn't love Lucky. Her whole future was riding on him and of course she loved him.
Running this by Jason wasn't about her silly crush. It was about repayment. He had given her the chance and he deserved to know what she did with it, especially since Lucky might come looking for him. The younger man wouldn't stand a chance in a fight with Sonny Corinthos' enforcer but he could do some damage. After what happened in New York, he definitely wouldn't be Jason's friend anymore.
Jason deserved to know. If Jake's scared her, it would be worth it. Her debt to him would be slightly less.
Jason hated disloyalty and dealing with Raul had been unpleasant. The man had been snitching to the PCPD about Sonny's less-than-legal interests in a new club downtown. He wouldn't be doing that again. It was really hard to talk at the bottom of the lake.
He was just about to round a corner when he heard two familiar voices. He sighed and started to backtrack around them when he realized they were talking about Elizabeth. Knowing he shouldn't but unable to resist, he eavesdropped.
Lucky was pacing. "I hate it, you have no idea how much I hate it, but it's the only thing I can come up with."
Nikolas watched his brother from the bench. "Lucky, if Elizabeth was abused by her father, she would have said something."
"I didn't say that she was," Lucky corrected him. "I said that every time I touch her and try to get close to her, she freezes up."
Nikolas shook his head. "You implied that she was."
Lucky stopped pacing and glared at his brother. "You want the truth? I think she ran away for the exact reasons she told us. I don't think she had any plans to come here until something bad happened, something she couldn't deal with."
Jason closed his eyes in remorse, knowing how right Lucky was.
Lucky continued. "Do you remember how quiet she used to be? How fake her smile was? Something happened. I think, hell, this is horrible, but I think she was raped."
Nikolas sucked in air. "Has she said anything?"
"No," Lucky admitted. "But she doesn't let me hold her, you know, like people in love hold each other. She freaks out."
Jason slouched back against the building. Elizabeth had not been raped, but it had still been traumatic. He was the reason she was hurting, even two years later. His guilt crashed over him again as he relived the brutal way he had treated her. The forgiveness she had given was forgotten as he beat himself up. She was scarred, damaged, because he had used her for his own needs.
Jason didn't notice when the brothers left. He simply stared at the ground, allowing the past to punish him since she wouldn't. Elizabeth should not to have to face her rapist on a regular basis. The word sickened him but also suited his guilt.
With an almost silent moan, he straightened and headed for Jake's to pack. The sooner he was out of Port Charles, the better for Elizabeth.
Jason unlocked his door and tossed his keys to the desk before noticing her.
Elizabeth smiled weakly. "Uh, Jake let me in. I told her we were friends and you were expecting me. She, uh, didn't want me waiting downstairs."
Jason nodded, unable to meet her gaze because of the guilt still reverberating through him.
She stepped away from the window and closer to him. He backed into the door. She frowned. "What's wrong?"
Jason bit his jaw and sidestepped around her, anything to put distance between them. "You shouldn't be here."
She tried smiling again. "I know that but I need to talk to you. In private."
Jason was thankful she hadn't moved toward him again. "There's nothing to say except goodbye."
He nodded, still not looking at her.
Elizabeth was not sure what to say. "When?"
She blinked away tears. "Then you weren't going to say goodbye, were you?"
Jason finally brought his eyes to hers and was shocked to see the tears forming. "I'm sorry."
She threw herself into his arms and he was too shocked to push her away. He held her as tightly as she was holding him. "Jason, if, if you're going away because I make you uncomfortable, then, then I'll stay as far away from you as I can. Please don't go because of me."
He swallowed. "Elizabeth, this is best for both of us. You shouldn't have to worry about running into me. You should be planning college and, and your future with Lucky."
When he said it like that, like her life was all mapped out and finalized, she realized that it wasn't. Standing in his arms, she knew that she didn't want Lucky anymore, wasn't sure she ever really did. She wanted him. "No."
Jason tried to pull away but she held him even tighter. "You're confused. You're hurt and I'm the reason. I have to leave."
Elizabeth didn't know how to convince him to stay and her time was almost gone. "Jason, listen to me. I don't love Lucky. I mean, I thought I did, mostly because that's what everybody else wanted and I wanted their approval. But it's wrong. I need to grow up and make my own choices and, and find my own way."
He didn't look convinced and she began to feel desperate. Without another thought, she reached behind his neck and dragged his mouth down to hers. The kiss was like nothing she had ever felt before. The desperation and desire flowed so strongly that neither could fight it.
Jason stopped pushing her away and clung to her, devouring her mouth and overwhelming her senses. This was what was missing in Lucky's embrace, this feeling that heaven was right here in her arms. "Jason..."
He traced the hem of her top before slipping a hand under it to feel her skin. It was as warm and soft as he remembered. Suddenly he felt like stone. "Elizabeth, stop."
She was confused by this turn and tried to kiss him again, one hand moving down his chest to his jeans. He grabbed it and held firm. She opened her eyes and looked into his cold blue orbs. "What? Why?"
Jason hated himself more in that instant than he ever thought possible. "This is wrong. I'm wrong for you. You know that."
Elizabeth took several deep breaths. "Is this about the past? Because I told you, it doesn't matter. It all worked out for the best."
He jerked away. "Did it? Because Lucky doesn't think so."
She frowned. "You spoke to Lucky?"
Jason ran a hand through over his blond spikes. "No, but I heard him talking to Nikolas. He thinks you were raped."
Elizabeth gasped. "What? You must have heard him wrong."
"It's close enough to the truth."
She closed her eyes. "You didn't rape me. You would never..."
Jason exploded. "You said I was gentle but I wasn't. I hurt you! I hurt you, Elizabeth, and I can't forget that!"
Elizabeth began to cry. "We've been over this and you know I don't blame you. If anything I blame myself. I was so stupid and you were gentle. You took care of me, Jason, and I love you for it." At his shocked expression, she rambled on. "I know, I'm supposed to have this wonderful life with Lucky but I don't want him. He's, he's a great person but I don't love him. I love you. I love you because you see me exactly as I am and you still like me. You gave me a fresh start and kept my secret and make me smile. You say you're leaving because you hurt me? Jason, your not being here would hurt worse than anything I've ever been through."
He couldn't take anymore. Before she could say another word, he was there, holding her and shushing her. "I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt you but I keep doing it."
She hiccupped from her tears. "Then stop. Stay and let's figure this out, find out if you could feel the same way about me as I feel about you."
Jason kissed her forehead. "Elizabeth, I do and that's why I have to go." She didn't understand and he tried to explain. "You're so young. If this, what we have, if it's real, it will still be here when I get back."
She tried to find comfort in that. "So you're coming back? Soon?"
Jason kissed her softly. "I can't stay away from you for very long."
They held each other for a little while longer, kissing once more before he left. She cried herself to sleep in his bed and dreamed of their first meeting.
Two years ago
Jason stared at the young girl sitting on his motel bed. She was young, probably too young, but her eyes had drawn him in. They searched his, looking for something, hoping for something. He couldn't resist. He had brought her from that dark corner up to his room despite her obvious youth. Now the alcohol was wearing off and her age was beginning to bother him.
"You legal?" he asked.
She bit her bottom lip. "You a cop?"
He laughed. "Not even close."
She gave him a small smile that didn't reach her eyes. "Then I'm legal."
He didn't believe her. He should send her on her way with enough cash to eat for a few days. Another look into her sapphire spheres and he was lost. "What's your name?"
She bit her lip again. It was beginning to swell slightly and he couldn't take his eyes off it. With a slight tremor in her voice, she answered, "Lizzie."
"Jason." He wanted to do right by her and that meant not touching her. He was determined to do just that until she whipped her pink top over her head, revealing soft mounds covered in pink lace.
Jason stepped over to the bed and touched her shoulder. She stood and placed her hands on his waist, just under his shirt. Since she seemed to know what she was doing, he forced all his concerns out of his mind and bent to kiss her.
Their lips met and both pulled back, wide-eyed at the sensation jolting through them. Jason jerked her closer and crashed his mouth over hers. She moaned against him and opened her lips to welcome his tongue. Wave after wave of hot desire poured over him as she eagerly returned his kiss and molded her slim body to his. Needing no further words, he lowered her to the bed and stripped off his jeans.
She blushed, reminding him again of how very young she was. He paused but then she stretched a shaking hand out to his member and gently stroked him. "Ah, Lizzie, that's so good," he groaned, head tilting back.
Lizzie forgot that he was paying her and focused only on the incredible connection between them. Innocent as she was, she knew he was feeling the same excitement she was. Emboldened by his reaction, she slid his boxers to the floor. Her first look at a man's penis wasn't nearly as frightening as her sister had claimed. If anything, seeing Jason standing there erect only made her heart race faster and that ache in her lower belly more urgent.
Jason opened his eyes and watched as she removed the rest of her clothes. Her body was slender, yet her breasts and hips were nicely rounded. He bent his head to one of her breasts and began caressing her with soft kisses. She arched into him and gripped his hair. He let his hand wander down her stomach and between her thighs, finding her wet and ready for him.
Jason retrieved a condom from his jeans before joining her on the bed. Her smile caused his heart to constrict. For just a moment he hesitated, feeling like he was soiling an angel. Then his angel draped her body over his and began kissing him again. Hurriedly rolling on the condom, he flipped her to her back and placed himself between her legs. Once again covering her mouth with his, he pushed himself into her.
She jerked and cried out. He stiffened, realizing that he had just taken her virginity. With a snarled curse, he flung himself out of the bed.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?" he demanded.
She was still crying. "I, I didn't think it mattered."
Jason swore again and quickly pulled on his pants. "It matters." As she attempted to control her tears, he watched her and his attitude softened. "I'm sorry."
Wiping her eyes, she pulled the tacky bedspread over her. "Me, too."
Jason sat in the desk chair and studied her. "Why are you doing this?"
Lizzie could see that he genuinely cared and it broke her resolve. "Oh, God. See, I ran away from home."
She sighed. "I thought it would be so easy to get a job, you know, waitressing or something. But everyone wants references and addresses and I just didn't have that. I sold everything I could to try to make it but it wasn't enough."
Jason didn't blink. "So you decided to sell the one thing you had left?"
It was her turn to nod.
Jason thought about his options. Really, there was only one. He dug 500 out of his wallet and handed it to her. When she started to refuse, he shook his head. "Take this. Go home."
He finished dressing and left the room, sober enough now to drive.
Lizzie watched him go with astonishment. Did he really just hand her the solution to her problems, no strings attached? For the first time in weeks, she smiled, really smiled.
For Jason, the next five months seemed like an eternity. He was running unnecessary errands for Sonny in South America, trying to give Elizabeth the time he thought she needed.
Every night he relived the moments they had spent together, from the motel room to the motorcycle ride to that last night at Jake's. Slowly he forgave himself just as she had forgiven him for his actions when they first met. He began to realize that she was as responsible for the events as he was.
Every morning he woke up, ready to return and accept that she was as sure about her feelings as he was about his. Then he would have to remind himself that she was still very young, despite her maturity. She may not want it but he was giving her the chance to walk away and end this. Once he truly had her, he would not be able to let go. She had to be certain, he had to be certain of her feelings.
Elizabeth spent the same time shifting her life to accommodate a relationship with him. She broke up with Lucky and confided in an understanding Emily. Lucky had been angry and left town, a lesson he learned well from his father. Emily hated to hear about Elizabeth's time in New York but agreed that Jason had probably saved her life.
As summer melted into fall, Elizabeth began classes at PCU, having been accepted into the art program. Her natural exuberance came out and she blossomed under her favorite professor's encouragement. Her painting improved more than she had hoped and she was soon asked to participate in a local exhibit.
Jason was never far from her thoughts and she realized that he had been right. As painful as his leaving was, it gave her some much needed perception. Her so-called love was fragile and needed tender nurturing. While he could have done just that, his absence caused her to question it.
As her thoughts lingered over every minute spent with him, she saw what he saw: a young girl lost and latching onto the person who made her feel safe. It was true. Her feelings for him were not the love she claimed but that didn't mean the love was not there, growing and deepening each day.
When he came home, she wanted him to see her not as that girl he first met but as a woman, ready to give as much as he did. Her goal set in stone, she pushed herself through grueling hours of self-examination. She found new strength when she remembered those weeks in New York; she could survive anything. She grew wiser when she examined Jason's abrupt departure; she began thinking through things and stopped rushing from one event to the next. She searched her heart and surprised herself with the extent of her capabilities; she was falling in love with him and could wait until he came back to her.
All in all, Elizabeth Webber was finding herself. And that meant she was going to be ready for him.
It happened so quickly that neither saw it coming. One minute they were standing, facing each other across the park. They were so happy to finally be reunited that nothing around them registered, not the cool air of late autumn, not the family strolling by the swings, and certainly not the gunman watching behind the tree.
One minute they were in heaven and the next they were in hell.
Jason struggled to wake up. He knew he was in the hospital but not sure why. He opened his eyes and saw Sonny. "Elizabeth?" he whispered.
Sonny turned his head away, grimacing. "She's here."
Jason tried to sit but found himself trapped by tubes. "Where?"
Sonny put a hand on his shoulder and eased him back to the bed. "OR."
Jason's eyes flew to Sonny's. "Is she, what happened?"
Sonny coughed, glancing at the police officer by the door. "One of Sorel's men spotted you coming into town. He followed and saw Elizabeth, saw how much she means to you. The bastard took a shot at you and then let loose on her. One bullet to the head, two to the chest, one in the leg."
Jason closed his eyes, wishing for the nothingness of just a few minutes ago. She was seriously wounded, possibly dying because of him. Would he ever stop destroying her?
Sonny sighed. "Listen, how about I go get Bobbi, get an update on her condition? Tony and Monica are the best, you know that."
Alan walked in and closed the door behind him, effectively barring the cop from hearing what he had to say. "You thug! It wasn't enough that you put yourself in danger. You put that sweet girl in the line of fire. And the end result is the same as always. You and Sonny are still standing and she's fighting just to breathe. When is enough enough, Jason? When does your job cost you too much?"
Sonny shoved Alan away from the bed and motioned for the cop. "Hey, you! Make yourself useful and get Dr. Quartermaine out of here!"
The officer came into the room and looked from one man to the other. Alan relented with a humorless laugh. "I'll go. But I'm warning you, Jason, if Emily's the next victim, I'll kill you myself."
Sonny eyeballed the cop. "You heard that, right? Anything happens to my friend, you heard that?"
The man ushered Alan out the door without responding to the mob boss. Sonny grunted. "Figures. Only time the PCPD actually does their job is when they think they can take me down."
Jason didn't care about the business or the cops. He needed to know how Elizabeth was doing. "Sonny, go find out about Elizabeth, please."
Sonny nodded and left.
Jason knew people prayed at times like this but he didn't know how. For the first time since awaking from his accident years ago, he really wished he did.
Jason struggled to stay awake while he waited for word on Elizabeth's condition. It was more than an hour before Sonny returned and one look at his face told Jason what he needed to know. "Is she, is she dying?"
Sonny shook his head. "No, all in all, she's not too bad. Her leg was just grazed. One shot to the chest was in the shoulder, no serious damage. The other skimmed her ribs, breaking two."
Jason knew the danger of head wounds. "And the other bullet?"
Sonny bit his jaw. "Tony got the bullet out but there may be some brain damage." Sonny knew how hard this would be for Jason to hear. "They won't know the extent until she wakes up."
Jason turned his face away from his friend, unable to hide the flood of emotions. She could end up as damaged as he was, and because of him. She could be in much worse shape, unable to care for herself. His bright, talented, and, yes, sweet girl may never be any of those things again. "Leave."
Sonny squeezed his best friend's shoulder and left quietly. He understood the need to be alone as you worked through the pain. He only hoped that when Jason was ready to talk, Elizabeth would be awake to listen.
Carly had heard all the rumors about Jason and Elizabeth but refused to believe them. Jason loved her, not some twit barely out of high school. With a flip of her hair, she entered his room. "Jase, hi!" she said in a voice too loud, betraying her nervousness.
Jason raised an eyebrow but didn't speak.
Carly sighed, knowing that as usual the bulk of the conversation was on her. "Okay, so I've been hearing some shit about you and the teeny-bopper. Like you were meeting her in the park and the two of you had some kind of thing going. Tell me it's not true, Jason."
He didn't answer her and she licked her lips before plowing ahead. "Right. Don't talk. Look, you may think there's something there but it'll be just like with Robin. She'll lead you on and then dump you as soon as she realizes what your life is like. You know this. Hell, Jason, she's probably gonna send you packing as soon as she wakes up."
Jason knew Carly was right but refused to admit it to her. "You should go."
Carly sat on the edge of his bed. "No, you should listen. You keep doing this, falling for the goody-two-shoes type. When are you gonna learn? It's you and me, baby. Always has been, always will be."
Jason almost smiled. "That's why you married my brother?"
Carly snorted. "You know why I did that. I couldn't let him take our son."
He took her hand. "Carly, listen to me. I wanted to be Michael's father but I'm not. You and AJ are married and that was your choice. Make the best of it, for me, for you, and for Michael."
She blinked away tears. "You don't mean that."
"Yes, I do."
Carly swept from the room without another word. Jason sighed, hating to hurt her but unable to save her from her own mistakes.
Bobbi poked her head in his door a couple of hours later. "How you doing?"
Jason shrugged, then groaned as he pulled the stitches in his side. "I'm okay. How's Elizabeth?"
Bobbi stepped inside and closed the door behind her. "She's holding her own. The surgery was long but Tony did a good job."
He nodded. "Does she...is she going to be okay?"
The nurse sighed and crossed to the bed. She held his hand as she spoke. "We hope so. It's really too early to tell. Once she wakes up, Tony will be able to better assess the damage."
Jason pulled his hand away. The damage. Elizabeth had denied that he hurt her in the past and he was beginning to believe her. Neither one of them could deny this. He was the reason and the best thing he could do now was stay away. "When can I get out of here?"
Bobbi was startled. "Oh, Jason, it's definitely going to be a few days. That bullet may have missed your vital organs but there's still the chance of infection and you need rest to heal."
Jason met her eyes squarely. "I can do that anywhere."
Bobbi knew when to give in. "I'll see what I can do."
Emily was his next visitor. She was smiling and carrying a book. "Hey, since you're stuck for a while, I thought you might like to read. It's about the history of motorcycles. Pretty lame, huh?"
Jason smiled. "No, it's great."
Emily sat in the chair by his side. "How are you?"
She let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. "Okay, well, then good. Elizabeth's going to be okay."
Jason's heart surged. "Did Tony say that?"
Emily shook her head. "No, I just know it. She's worked so hard the last few months, Jason. She wanted to be ready for you. She really does love you."
Jason swallowed. He didn't want to hear this. "She may not after this."
Emily cocked her head. "You think she's going to blame you? Jase, there's no chance of that. She loves you."
He was quiet for a minute. "How much did she tell you?"
Jason shut his eyes, both wishing that his little sister didn't know what a pervert he was and thankful that Elizabeth had someone to confide in. "She says I saved her. She's wrong. I think she saved me."
Emily smiled. "How exactly?"
"After Robin and Carly, I didn't think I deserved to be happy. After the way I treated Elizabeth in New York, I knew it. But she wouldn't let me believe that. She insisted that I see things her way and eventually I did." Jason lost himself in memories of her smile, her laugh, and her shrieks of joy from that time he took her on his bike. "She's so alive and she just draws you in."
Emily leaned over and hugged him. "You just remember that. She's alive and she loves you. She'll wake up soon and tell you herself."
Jason hoped Emily was right.
Jason checked himself out of the hospital the next day but did not leave. Much to Audrey Hardy's dismay, he stayed at Elizabeth's bedside, hoping his presence could somehow help her find her way back. Emily and Carly both tried to get him to go home and rest. He left for one hour each day to shower and eat.
Lucky arrived on the fifth day. He came and went often, never staying longer than a few minutes. Jason wanted to bar him from the room but Tony and Audrey felt that Lucky could help.
Late on the ninth night, Jason broke. "Elizabeth, you have to wake up. There are things we need to say to each other. Like I love you. And I need you. Tony says you're there, listening and getting better. I have to believe that. But it's getting harder. Just, just wake up. Please wake up."
Audrey listened from the doorway, and for the first time she saw what others saw in this hoodlum. He was a good man, despite his career choice. She might never fully approve, but she began to appreciate his concern for her granddaughter.
Elizabeth hurt. It was the only thing she could focus on at the moment. Opening her eyes was impossible but she was able to slightly move her hand. It was enough to alert someone.
"Elizabeth? Elizabeth, move it again. Let me know you're awake."
She fought to comply with this unknown voice. Barely wiggling a finger, she succeeded.
"That's it. God, I'm so glad you're okay. Hold on a minute while I get Tony. I'll be right back."
She shifted slightly, sucking in her breath as pain raced through her unused and wounded body. She drifted off again only to rouse when a light flashed in her left eye. She tried to turn away but was held by the hand on her forehead.
"Elizabeth, it's Tony Jones. Can you open your eyes for me?"
Biting back tears of pain, she opened both eyes and was greeted by smiles from two men. The closest was obviously the doctor. Gaining strength from their encouraging faces, she whispered, "What happened?"
"You were shot but you're going to be fine. You had us all scared for a while," Tony answered. "Relax, the pain medicine should hit in a minute."
The other man leaned over and took her hand. "I knew you wouldn't give up. You're too tough to let a few bullets do you in."
She searched his face for something familiar but didn't find it. "Who are you?"
The man's gaze flew to Tony's. "What's wrong with her?"
Tony frowned. "Would you mind waiting in the hall, Lucky? And get Bobbi."
Lucky left with another worried glance in her direction.
Tony was finishing his exam when a redhead walked in. "Lucky said she didn't know him."
Tony nodded. "I was just getting to that. Elizabeth, what do you remember?"
Frustrated by the fact that these strangers apparently knew her, Elizabeth focused on her last clear memory. Jason. "I was, um, I was in a hotel room."
Doctor and nurse exchanged looks. The nurse, Bobbi, smiled at her. "Okay, honey, where was this hotel?"
Elizabeth was ashamed. It was one thing to be a prostitute, another to admit it. "New York City."
Tony jotted something in her chart. "Elizabeth, how old are you?"
She winced. The shit was definitely about to hit the fan. "Sixteen."
Jason walked in just as she answered. He had hurried through his shower and not bothered eating, instinct urging him back to the hospital. Unsure what to expect after Lucky's disjointed ranting, he paused to listen as Tony and Bobbi continued their questioning.
Bobbi tried to reassure Elizabeth by squeezing her hand. "Sweetie, I know this is difficult but I need to try to remember what happened in that hotel room."
Elizabeth's face flamed. She knew what happened and there was no way she was telling anyone. Avoiding the nurse's eyes, she looked to the door and saw him. Jason was here. "Jason."
Tony was relieved. "You know him? You know Jason? That's good."
Bobbi joined in. "Yes, it is. Elizabeth, you're going to be fine."
Elizabeth was more than confused. It was good that she knew Jason? They weren't upset that a sixteen year old runaway was selling her body? Who were these people?
Jason cautiously entered the room. Tony and Bobbi didn't know that he and Elizabeth met before last spring. This wasn't good. She had forgotten two and a half years. But explaining would only hurt Elizabeth more than those bullets already had. "Hi."
Elizabeth could feel herself relaxing. She could read so much in his expression and it frightened her. "Hi."
Tony motioned Bobbi and they left, eager to share the good news with Lucky and Audrey.
Jason stepped up to her side and exhaled. "What do you remember?"
Elizabeth sighed. That was the question of the day, it seemed. "You gave me money to go home and then you left."
She nodded, fatigue catching up with her.
He sat on the chair and leaned toward the bed. "Elizabeth, that was over two years ago. It's not 1998; it's 2001."
She heard him but couldn't fight the tiredness any longer. As alarming as that statement was, she quickly slipped into sleep.
Jason watched her sleep for another four hours. She looked peaceful as the pain medicine was doing its job. He wished it could help her remember.
Jason wanted to talk to Bobbi but couldn't leave Elizabeth's side. Tony was in again to check on her but Jason remained silent. Lucky lingered in the doorway and Emily brought a lunch Jason couldn't stomach.
He turned to his sister. "Yeah?"
Emily ran a hand through his hair. "She's okay. She woke up and now she just needs rest to heal."
Jason shot a glance at Lucky, unwilling to share his fears in front of Elizabeth's ex-boyfriend. "It's not that simple."
Emily slid her hand to his shoulder. "You don't know that. Have faith. She's strong and she has you."
Jason reached up to cover her hand with his. "It's not that simple," he repeated.
Elizabeth was more more alert when she awoke late that evening. She was surprised to see Jason sitting by her bed. He really took this savior stuff seriously. "Jason." He was instantly focused on her and it made her nervous. "Um, not to seem ungrateful, but what are you doing here?"
He rubbed his jaw, studying her. "You said you remember the hotel?" He continued at her nod. "Elizabeth, I'm sorry. But that was two and a half years ago."
Her eyes widened and her body jerked. The movement caused her broken ribs to protest. She winced and he reached for the call button. "Don't. Please. I'm okay." She took a moment to recover and then let loose a stream of questions. "What do you mean? Have could I have forgotten that much time? I mean, I clearly remember everything up to that point so why would I forget what came next? Unless, oh, Jason, I didn't go home, did I? I got stubborn and something awful happened. Tell me."
Jason was about to answer her when Tony walked in. The doctor was smiling. "Good, you're awake. I need to check you over again. It will only take a few minutes, Jason. You can wait in the hall."
Jason hesitated but obeyed the polite command.
Elizabeth wanted him to stay but the shock of not knowing how she ended up in this mess left her speechless.
Tony took his time and evaluated her physical condition. "So, you're recovering nicely. I think you might even be ready to go home in a few days. Your grandmother will be happy."
Elizabeth drew her brows together. "You know my grandmother?"
Tony paused, noticing the confused look in her eyes. "Yes, Elizabeth. Audrey and I work together here at General Hospital."
She went even paler than she had been from her wounds. "I'm in Port Charles?" Did Grams know about Jason? She must since he was here. Elizabeth's shame was much worse than the bodily pain. How could she face her grandmother now?
Tony sat on the stool by the bed. "Elizabeth, I want you to tell me the last thing you remember."
She was beginning to hate that question. "I met Jason in New York when I ran away from home."
The older man nodded and made some notes in his chart. "I heard you spent a little time there before coming here. I didn't know you knew Jason."
Elizabeth didn't understand. "If I didn't know him, why would he be here?"
Tony rested a hand on the bed. "He lives here. His sister is your best friend. I assumed that's how you met."
Elizabeth tried to fit the pieces together, except there really weren't enough pieces to make sense. "No, he took care of me in New York."
Tony stood. "I'm going to order some more tests."
She called to him as he opened the door. "Why can't I remember?"
"I don't know."
Jason paced the hallway, fear for Elizabeth not allowing him to rest. She couldn't remember. She didn't know anything good about them, just that ugly night. Time had allowed her to twist the facts, be grateful when she should have despised him. Time that no longer existed for her. She would hate him, even before finding out that he was the reason she was shot. He should leave and let her rebuild her life in peace.
The problem with leaving was that he loved her. If there was any chance that she could still love him, he had to know. Against his better judgment, he was staying, even if it meant facing her rejection.
Audrey and Lucky strolled around the corner, laughing over something he could never be part of. It took all his self-control for Jason to stand his ground. They would know the horrible truth soon and try to send him away. He wouldn't let them and he needed to start making that clear now.
Audrey smiled. "Jason, how is she?"
"She's awake," he said. "Tony's in there now."
Lucky wrapped an arm around Audrey's shoulders. "I told you she'd be okay. She'll be back under your roof before you know it."
Jason cleared his throat. "She's not okay."
They stared at him like he was sporting two heads, complete with horns. Lucky snarled, "What do you know?"
Jason waved a hand toward her room. "She can't remember anything that happened since she moved here."
Audrey frowned. "But she knew you. Bobbi said that she was confused but that she knew you."
Tony entered the hall before Jason could answer. He led them to a small waiting area and spoke in a soft voice. "She has amnesia. It could be from the physical damage or it could be from the emotional trauma. I'm going to run some more tests and then we'll know more."
"It's not permanent, though, right?" Lucky asked.
Tony shrugged regretfully. "I don't know. I'm sorry, Audrey. I'll do my best to help her."
Jason didn't wait to hear any more. He strode down the hallway and into Elizabeth's room. "Hey."
Elizabeth was staring at the ceiling and didn't answer.
He stepped closer and leaned over so she had no choice but to look at him. "Hey," he repeated.
His tender expression was her undoing. The tears began and she couldn't have stopped them even if she tried. He gently gathered her in his arms, careful of her injuries. For over twenty minutes she sobbed into his shirt. He didn't try to stop her or offer false assurances. He just held her.
When she lifted her head, her eyes were puffy and red. "I have so many questions, Jason. I don't know where to start."
Jason grabbed a tissue from the bedside table. "Why don't you try to get some rest and we'll talk in the morning?"
As she watched him settle into the chair, she had to smile. "You're staying?"
That simple answer calmed her. Whatever had happened, this man could be counted on. Exhausted from stress and weeping, she fell asleep almost as soon as she closed her eyes.
Jason didn't sleep. He had a feeling he was spending his last moments with her and refused to waste any of them.
True to his word, Jason was there when Elizabeth awoke again. It was just after three in the morning and he looked so tired that she hesitated to bother him. Her overriding fears wouldn't be ignored though and she was soon asking him to explain what had happened.
Jason had spent the last few hours contemplating what to say and still wasn't sure what the right words were. "You said you remember me leaving and that's the last time I saw you for two years. You came here, moved in with your grandmother, and finished high school. You became friends with my sister and that's how we met again. No one here knows how we first met. That's just between us." He could see her filing all this away, certain she would have more questions than he could imagine later. "When I came home, we, uh, we connected. We care about each other. A lot." This was the hard part. "I left for a while and had just come back. I was on my way to see you and, I don't know, you were there, in the park. I wasn't paying attention like I should and someone shot at us."
Elizabeth gasped. "Someone shot us? Was it a robbery?"
He shook his head. "No, it was business."
She didn't react at first and, when she did, her confusion was understandable. "Business? What kind of business?"
Jason coughed. "My business. It's, it's not entirely legal."
Her eyes widened. "The mob?" He nodded. "You're in the mob? Oh my God! That's, well, that's just crazy. I mean, I've heard stories and I've seen The Untouchables, but you're the real thing. Geez, Jason, shouldn't you be, oh, I don't know, hiding somewhere? What if the police come here to question me about the shooting?" He tried to interrupt but she was on a roll. "You know, it's a good thing I don't remember because after the way you helped me, I wouldn't want to get you in trouble and since I don't know anything I can't help the feds send you away."
Jason had to laugh. "Calm down, okay? I'm safe, the cops around here are incompetent, and even if you had your memory you don't know anything that could hurt me."
She smiled. "Well, that's good. Isn't it? Unless, I mean, oh God, am I in the mob, too?"
He was shaking his head when a nurse came in to record her vitals. After the nurse left, Jason sat back down by her side. "You are exactly who you should be: an art student at PCU with a part-time waitressing job. You live with your grandmother and hang out with your friends."
She arched an eyebrow. "One of whom is in the mob."
He sighed. "Can we get past the mob thing?"
She grinned. "For now." Feeling tired and knowing sleep was beckoning, she reached a hand to him. "Thank you."
Jason took her small hand in his. "Don't. This is my fault."
Elizabeth was drifting to sleep but still managed to mutter her answer. "Thank you for being here."
Jason released her hand and clasped his own together between his knees. He hadn't told her about his feelings, about the love they shared. He had seen it in her face in those few precious moments before the bullets started flying at the park. He wanted to tell her, wanted to hold her, wanted so many things that were out of reach. Her love was stolen by a bullet meant to hurt him, a bullet that succeeded beyond imagining.
Jason was gone when she woke next. Another man was sitting in his chair. Elizabeth recognized him as the one from yesterday but couldn't recall his name. It was something ridiculous. "Um, hi."
He perked up and leaned closer. "Hey. How are you feeling?"
"Sore. Tired. Confused. Take your pick," she replied. This guy was a friend, she told herself. Be nice. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
He frowned but quickly covered. "Lucky Spencer, your boyfriend."
Elizabeth thought Jason had shocked her with the mob thing but that was nothing compared to this. Boyfriend? "Oh." She really didn't know what to say. With Jason, there was a pull, a trust. With Lucky, there was nothing.
He waved his arm as if to wave off her concern. "It's okay. You've been through a lot and we're just gonna take it one step at a time. Before you know it, all your memories will return and we'll be as in love as before."
She wanted to vomit. Did he really believe that junk? Should she? More importantly, where was Jason? "You know, I'm really tired. I think I just need more sleep." She had to get him out of here.
Lucky bent and kissed her cheek. "Sure thing, babe. I'll be back later. Love ya."
He left and her nausea subsided. This was wrong. She had no idea why but something deep within her screamed that Lucky could not be trusted. Tears she had been holding back flowed down her cheeks. Again she wondered where Jason was and when he would be back, if he would be back.
Jason forced himself to stay away from the hospital. Hiding his emotions was foreign to him. He strove to be honest with himself and others. People said he didn't feel and they were right to a degree. He didn't react the way normal people did, didn't emote the way they wanted him to. But he did feel and what he felt for Elizabeth was stronger than anything else.
Emily stepped up beside him. "Thought I'd find you here. You always like to watch the water while you think."
He glanced at her. "You been to see Elizabeth?"
Emily nodded. "She was asleep but Tony seemed optimistic about her recovery. He thinks the amnesia is from emotional strain and not physical damage."
Emily searched his face for an opening. Not finding one, she decided to create her own. "That means it will be back. She'll remember and the two of you will be together."
Jason stared at the murky river, unspeaking.
Emily took his hand. "Jason, you have to be there for her, let her know how much she means to you. She needs you and, even if she doesn't know it right now, she loves you. Hang on to that."
She leaned her head on his shoulder and joined him in his silent observation of the flowing water.
Lucky watched from the shadows, anger coursing through his veins. His dear friend Emily was encouraging this killer to take his girl. That crap about Elizabeth loving Jason made the younger man want to shove his fist into Jason's face. He and Elizabeth were on a break but they were always meant to be. He'd sure as hell not step aside for Jason Morgan.
For the first time since getting the call about Elizabeth's shooting, Lucky was thankful. She was a clean slate and this time he'd make sure he was the only one doing the scribbling.
Elizabeth sat thinking. Her grandmother had just left, confirming everything Lucky had said. She loved Lucky. Or at least they said she did. It felt wrong and she still didn't know what role Jason played in all this. Were they friends? How could they be, given her foolishness when they first met?
That night was the only fresh memory she had. He had been so kind. What other man would hand over 500 and walk away without touching her again? Would sit by her side in the hospital despite knowing she was in love with someone else? He did know. He had to. Everyone else seemed to.
She concluded that they must be good friends, probably bonding over past mistakes and connected by Emily. Connected. He said they had a connection and she felt it. How could she be drawn to him and in love with Lucky? Could amnesia change that much about a person?
Elizabeth was awake when Emily entered the room. "Hi!" the young Quartermaine said with a perky smile.
Liz now knew that this was her best friend. What should have been awkward was not because Elizabeth felt like this young lady belonged in her life, unlike Lucky. Her 'boyfriend' had been an almost constant presence in her hospital room and still she felt like he was hiding something. "Hi, Emily."
Emily tilted her head to the right, studying Liz. "So, nada on the whole memory thing?" At Elizabeth's soft laugh and head shaking, Emily purged ahead. "Well, then, we'll just pick back up with the story. Where were we?"
Liz couldn't begin to express her gratitude to this girl. For three days now, Emily had patiently told and retold everything she could about the time since Liz came to Port Charles. "Prom, last year. My first date with Lucky." Even as she said the name, she wanted to scream with frustration. Lucky kept telling her that they were planning a future but it made no sense. Elizabeth could not help but think that, if they were talking long term relationship, they would not need a break.
Emily frowned. "Do you really want to hear about Lucky? I mean, he's here all the time. Hasn't he told you about the two of you?"
Elizabeth chose her words carefully. "I'd like another opinion."
Emily sighed. "You were good together."
Emily eyed her best friend. Whatever Lucky had told her, she deserved the truth. "It was a high school romance. You know, well, I guess you don't, but it was sweet and fun and, and you really do care about Lucky."
The boy in question appeared in the doorway. "Of course, she cares about me. She loves me, Em, as much as I love her."
Something in his expression sent shivers down Emily's spine. Unsure what it meant, Emily chose to leave. "I'll be back later."
Elizabeth had the distinct impression that her friend was fleeing. Lucky had to be the reason, confirming her suspicions. Whatever Lucky was telling her could not be trusted.
Lucky bent down and kissed her, causing Liz to cringe. "You look good, babe. Your color's coming back. Pretty soon we'll be escapin' this joint and heading to New York City."
The last place she wanted to be was the city. "New York? Why?"
Lucky grinned. "Surprise! I sent your application to NYU's art school. You were accepted!" He didn't add that it took a considerable bribe to get her in at this late date. He was really thankful for that card counting trick his dad had taught him. He could always get some extra cash when he needed it. "Then I found us this great studio apartment in the village. There are huge windows all along one wall, perfect light for your painting."
Elizabeth stared at the ceiling. "You should have talked this over with me."
"Then it wouldn't be a surprise," he griped.
She tried to imagine the life he was describing. It sounded foreign, which pretty much meant it was just like everything else in her life. The difference was that, while she wanted to have her memories of Gram and Em and even Jason, she didn't want this life with Lucky.
Elizabeth ran her hands through her hair. If she had her memory this would be so much easier. She would know if her antagonism toward Lucky was from the injuries or if there was more to it. Every time her thoughts drifted down that path, Jason's face swam into her mind. What was the connection, the one they supposedly shared? Was it friendship or more? Was Jason the reason she and Lucky had broken up? If not, if they were only friends, why had he been here so much when she first woke up? More importantly, where was he now?
"Elizabeth? You did it again. I think we need to talk to Tony about this," Lucky was saying.
She shook her head. "No, really, I'm just trying to sort things out."
Lucky raised an unbelieving eyebrow. "You zone out a heck of a lot."
Elizabeth lost her temper. "Well, it's hard! You aren't the one laying here, with people always trying to force you to remember them. You aren't the one filled with questions and no answers. I'm trying, Lucky, I really am! All your pushing just does not help! I need some space to sort through everything. I need to try to put some of the pieces together on my own!"
Lucky held his hands up and backed from the room. "Ask and receive. Elizabeth, I'll always give you what you want."
After he left, she cried. She cried because part of her thought his plans were wonderful. She cried because most of her hated them. She was so confused and the only person who truly comforted her was staying away. She wanted Jason, not Lucky, and that was wrong. Lucky was her boyfriend and her future. Jason was her very disastrous past.
Liz made up her mind. She was going to stop feeling sorry for herself and get back to a life she couldn't remember. That meant all thoughts of Jason Morgan had to be squashed. She would be who Lucky wanted her to be, because apparently that was who she had wanted to be as well.
Even as she thought it, her nausea returned in force.
Jason rode for hours, circling the small city of Port Charles countless times. He had finally taken his sister's advice and returned to Elizabeth's room. Standing outside her door, he had heard Lucky going on about their new life. He had left without even letting her know he had been there.
Had he been fooling himself? Was she really coming to him that day in the park? Or was she planning to tell him that it would never work? Emily told him that Elizabeth loved him, but did she really know that? Or was it just what her romantic streak dreamed up?
In the end, it didn't matter. Elizabeth was with Lucky. Jason pushed the motorcycle faster, trying to drive away the pain.
Elizabeth left the hospital four days later and moved back into her grandmother's home. Lucky really seemed to be trying to understand. He was being supportive and yet giving her some much needed space. For the first time since waking up, she began to see him as someone who genuinely cared for her. Given time, she thought she could love him again. After all, Jason definitely was not an option.
That thought stopped her short. Why did she think Jason was an option in the first place? He had not come to see her in days. Their friendship was apparently just that, a casual friendship maintained for Emily's sake. She wanted to cry but refused. If she were going to cry over anything, it would not be Jason Morgan.
Elizabeth spent hours sorting through her belongings. Yearbooks with cute inscriptions. Pictures of herself with Emily, Lucky, and Nikolas. Hundreds of sketches. Clothes that fit but felt wrong.
It wasn't until her third day home that she discovered the diary. It was hidden under a loose floor board in her closet. She would never have noticed if she hadn't dropped a box of textbooks and it knocked the wood slab loose. As she held the tiny book in her hands, her heart raced. Her own words were waiting to tell her what she desperately wanted to remember.
She started at the beginning, reading of her first weeks in Port Charles and the beginning of her friendship with Emily and Lucky. Soon, she 'met' Nikolas again and discovered why she dated Lucky.
Dear Diary, I started school today and it seems as good a time as any to begin this diary. Gram said it will help me sort out all the changes. If only she knew! Anyway, the first person I met was Lucky Spencer. Typical teen guy, he flirts and tries to be all cute. Which he is, so he really doesn't have to try too hard. We have 3 classes together. In the second (ugh, geometry), he introduced me to Emily Quartermaine. I have not been in this town long but I have heard of the Quartermaines. Rich and powerful are just two of the things I've heard. Emily was surprisingly down to earth and I think we're going to be good friends. I'm going to meet her later for pizza.
Dear Diary, I met a prince! He's Lucky's brother, well, half-brother. His name is Nikolas Cassadine and he's hot! He seems kinda aloof but I guess it's just that I've never been friends with royalty before. He's nice enough, a little older than us. He doesn't laugh a whole lot but Lucky says that's the Cassadine in him. I'm not sure what that means.
Dear Diary, last night Lucky asked me to Prom. I knew he wanted to, knew he had this crush on me. But I really thought Em wanted him. Turns out my best friend has been hiding a love for the Prince! Oh, diary, I was so surprised! And then relieved. Because, you know, Lucky is so sweet and so cute and he makes me laugh and he always does such sweet things. Like he carries my books and remembers that I prefer real Coke to that diet stuff Em drinks. It's hard to believe that a year ago I thought my life was ruined and now I have this wonderful best friend and a hottie who just may end up being my boyfriend. Please, oh please, let this work out! I want Lucky to love me!
Diary, Prom was everything I dreamed of! Lucky was so handsome in his tux and he brought me the perfect little wrist corsage to match my dress. Guess he must have talked to Gram. We had dinner at the PC Grill with Em and Nikolas. They're so cute together! It's like, Nik doesn't know what's happening and she's leading him along by the hand. The poor guy doesn't stand a chance! Back to me and Lucky. We danced. Oh, I loved the slow dances, curling up against his chest and swaying to the music. I never wanted it to end. I used to dream about what a normal life would be like and this is so much better. When he walked me to the door, he kissed the corner of my mouth. I put a hand on his cheek and that must have encouraged him. The next thing I know, his mouth is caressing mine. Geez, I sound like a bad romance novel but I can't help it. It was heavenly. I think I'm falling in love.
Dear Diary, Lucky and I have been together for 5 months now and it just keeps getting better. He told me that he loves me and of course I told him that I love him, too. We talked about what we were going to do after graduation. He wants to study photography and I want to study art. Lucky says that NYU has the best programs for both of us. We're going to visit next month. It will be just the two of us. Lucky wants to share a room, and I kinda do but, I'm afraid. Last time, Jason…
Liz looked up and saw her grandmother. "Hi, Gram."
Audrey smiled. "Darling, Lucky is here. He wants to take you out if you're feeling up to it."
Elizabeth glanced at the diary. She had been in love with Lucky. There was just no getting around it after reading it in her writing. Determined to reclaim a life she appeared to have wanted, she shoved the journal under her pillow and followed Audrey downstairs.
Jason watched as Lucky and Elizabeth laughed over their milkshakes at Kelly's. He had been hungry but now food was the last thing he wanted.
He thought about leaving again. Part of him wanted to run, hated seeing her happy with someone else. Another part of him kept hoping her memory would return and she would be his again.
The problem was that she had never been his, not that night in the city when they first met and not that day in the park when the bullets started flying. She had been just out of reach and probably always would be. He had to let her go. She'd been through enough and deserved more than he could give her.
Jason walked away.
Elizabeth entered her room after her outing with Lucky. She dug the diary out again and idly flipped through the pages.
If she were honest with herself, she could admit that she hadn't been searching for her past by reading this. She had been trying to find out what Jason was to her. It was obvious that she loved Lucky and not Jason. She was going to get her memory back and she would hate herself if she ruined her future with Lucky and her friendship with Jason and his sister by indulging in a pointless crush.
Taking several deep breaths, she tossed the diary into the garbage can and quickly grabbed a matchbook. This was it. The end of the Jason fantasy train. No more daydreaming about his eyes and that so-called connection.
She almost didn't do it, almost retrieved the precious book and once again gone searching for the truth she desired rather than the reality she knew. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she lit and dropped the match.
Elizabeth dreamed of the wind rushing past, the colors bleeding together, her arms wrapped around solid male flesh. She woke with her heart racing and her skin flushed. Was that a memory? Of Lucky? Or was it a fantasy? Another in the long list of Jason dreams?
Frustrated in more than one way, she hurried into the shower and attempted to scrub away the thoughts of Jason. Lucky was being so kind, so sweet, just like he had in the past according to her diary. She owed it to him to try harder. She owed it to herself.
Elizabeth grabbed a croissant for breakfast and left to meet Emily and Lucky at the park. There was a special art exhibit and one of her pieces was being featured. She was happy and nervous and lost in her thoughts. At least that was the excuse she told herself for not revealing her presence to her two friends on the other side of the shrubbery.
Emily was angry with Lucky. "You have to tell her the truth or I will!"
Lucky jabbed a finger at her. "You keep your damn mouth shut! She's happy and safe and better off."
Emily shoved his hand away. "She knows something is wrong. She's not stupid and her memory will return! What do you think she'll do then? Do you really think she'll thank you and the two of you will live happily ever after? Lucky, you're making a huge mistake! You're wrong and I can't just stand by and watch any longer!"
Lucky nodded. "What are you going to do, Emily? Tell her the truth? What do you think will happen then? Tony said her amnesia is temporary but that a major shock could make it permanent. I think your little revelations would qualify." He gloated at her obvious despair. "Do you think she'll thank you for destroying her chance to remember?"
Emily fought back tears. "She needs to know, Lucky. You can't keep this up much longer."
Lucky smiled and it sent shivers down Elizabeth's spine. "Emily, sweetheart, I'm protecting her. I can and will keep protecting her as long as I live."
Elizabeth whirled and ran home.
Elizabeth ignored the frequent calls on her phone. She couldn't face either Lucky or Emily right now. They were keeping something from her, something that would change everything. She hadn't even suspected.
With shaking hands, she plied open the loose floor board and retrieved the singed diary. At the time, she had really wanted to destroy it but doused the fire anyway. Now she was extremely thankful. She had to know the truth, even if the shock caused permanent amnesia.
Oh, diary, you won't believe this! It's like something right out of a soap opera. Jason, my Jason, is Emily's brother!! He came home and we 'met' today. He acted like he didn't know me but I can see he remembers. I'm just so happy and thankful that he didn't tell her. Emily would hate me! Lucky would dump me and Nikolas would never speak to me again. And Gram? She would kick me out, I know it. But Jason didn't say a word. It was so noble of him. Of course, he's probably just as embarrassed by the whole thing as I am. I mean, really, finding out that you deflowered your little sister's best friend? That sucks!
Dear diary, Jason and I spoke today. We really talked about what happened, you know. And it was good. I've hated myself for so long and finding out that he blamed himself was almost a relief. Like, I don't know, we're connected and we're the only ones who can help each other. Despite what everyone says about him, he really is a good man. Not to mention such a hottie! Lucky just doesn't compare. Not that I'm comparing, because I love Lucky. Okay, so I compared. Jason's just so good-looking and so sweet. I almost feel disloyal to Lucky. That's ridiculous. I mean, Jason would never look at me that way and I do love Lucky. Really I do.
Dear diary, I graduated today. I thought that was the biggest thing ever. I also thought that I loved Lucky with everything I had. I was wrong. The biggest thing ever happened after graduation. The love I thought I felt for Lucky faded as soon as Jason touched me. There was this, I don't even know how to describe it. We just connected. It was like my whole world tilted and then righted itself and Jason was at the center of it. This crush or whatever it is, this is so much more than I ever suspected. Because he feels it too. What am I going to do?
Shocked, Elizabeth skipped over the remaining pages and flipped to the final entry. It was dated the day before her shooting.
Dearest, dearest diary, I am so happy! Jason called and he's coming home! He'll be here tomorrow! I can't stand the wait. It's ridiculous after all these months that the last few hours apart should be the worst. Time feels like it's standing still. Tomorrow we'll see each other and hold each other and begin our life together. It's my dream come true. Emily, of course, is also over the moon. Not only is her beloved brother coming home but her matchmaking is paying off. I'm not sure matchmaking is the right word. She really had nothing to do with us falling in love but she has been such a cheerleader over these long months apart that I can't think of a better description. Oh, diary, Jason is coming home!!
Elizabeth knew tears were falling down her cheeks but she felt almost numb. As the journal dropped to the floor, memories began assaulting her. Jason in a suit. Holding him while he pushed the motorcycle to reckless speed. Jason kissing her and saying a regretful goodbye, promising to return to her.
It was true. She loved Jason. Jason loved her. Relief washed over her. She had her memories back. Now she needed to find him and get her guy back as well.
After spending four fruitless hours scouring Port Charles and not finding Jason, Elizabeth resigned herself to going to Sonny Corinthos. It wasn't that she really thought he would hurt her; it was just that the idea of marching up to the front door of a reputed mob boss was completely alien to her. She shook herself as she exited the elevator. Jason was in the mob. She had to get used to this if they were going to have a future together.
The guard at the door merely nodded at her before opening the door and announcing her presence to Sonny. He then waved her inside.
Elizabeth straightened to her full, albeit still petite, stature. She could do this. She could do this. She really could do this.
"Elizabeth, what can I do for you?"
Sonny was not tall, which eased her nerves somewhat. He was smiling and she felt the charm of those dimples. Underneath the pleasant exterior, she could sense power. This was not a man to trifle with. Elizabeth suddenly felt horribly out of place and wanted nothing more than to run. She stammered, then began again with as much control as she could muster. "Um, Mr. Corinthos, I'm sorry to bother you. It's just that, well, I can't find Jason and I was hoping you could, well, of course you can, but I was wondering if you would tell me where Jason is. It's really important and I need to see him as soon as possible."
Sonny's mouth twitched as he fought against laughing at her nervousness. With a straight face, he asked, "Are you in trouble?"
Elizabeth's eyes widened comically. "No! No trouble, really, I mean, not your kind of trouble. Not any trouble." Elizabeth realized she was making a fool of herself and sighed. "I shouldn't have come here. I'm sorry."
Sonny grabbed her arm as she turned to leave. "Wait. Listen, Jason is taking care of some things for me. He'll be back in a week or so." Sonny released her and then caught her again as she lost her balance and almost fell. "I could give him a message."
Feeling more like a silly child than a young woman, Elizabeth blushed. "No, it's okay. Thanks for your time."
As she left, Sonny rubbed his chin and thought. He then called out to Johnny at the door. "Call my pilot and get the plane ready."
Johnny nodded with a smile. Looks like Jason was coming home sooner rather than later.
Elizabeth ran into Lucky as she took a shortcut along the waterfront. Restraining herself, she waited for him to speak first.
Lucky smiled and kissed her cheek. "Good to see you feeling better, babe. When you didn't show up at the park, I was so worried."
"I bet you were." Her voice was detached.
Lucky pulled her over to a bench and sat with his arm around her shoulders. "I'm gonna miss this, sitting here with you. Don't get me wrong. New York will be fantastic and there will be plenty of new places to make our own. It won't be the same." He kissed the top of her head. "Personally, I think it will be better."
As he leaned down to meet her mouth, Elizabeth asked, "Were you ever going to tell me the truth?"
Lucky frowned. "The truth about what?"
Elizabeth stood and let him have it with all the anger that had built up with the return of her memory. "Us! We broke up, Lucky, and I moved on! We're over and you knew it!" Tears she hated began to rain down her cheeks and she swiped them away roughly. "Why would do this to me, Lucky? I loved you and I trusted you and you lied to me," she whispered brokenly.
Lucky remained frozen on the bench during her tirade. He dropped his gaze to the boards of the pier. "I'm sorry."
Elizabeth's body started to shake from the emotional pain. "You're sorry? I was desperately trying to build my life based on your lies and that's all you have to say?"
He bit his lip. "Liz, one day with Jason and you almost died. I was trying to save you. He's not safe; he never will be."
Elizabeth backed away from the boy she had once loved so much. "That wasn't your choice to make, Lucky." She turned and walked away as he watched.
Audrey Hardy had known from the moment Elizabeth woke up that the day of reckoning was coming. She had hoped that it wouldn't until long after Jason Morgan died in some illegal activity. As much as she wanted her granddaughter happy, she wanted her alive more. As soon as Elizabeth entered the house, Audrey knew her time was up. "Elizabeth, darling, Lucky was here looking for you," she said, hoping she was wrong about what was in Elizabeth's eyes.
The younger woman stopped and read Audrey's face accurately. "You, too, Gram?"
Audrey sighed and reached for Elizabeth, who moved out of reach. "Oh, sweetheart, I never want to see you lying in a hospital bed like that again but, if you insist on seeing Jason Morgan, it will. Please, darling, you've been given a second chance. Don't waste it."
Elizabeth closed her eyes. "You don't get to dictate my life."
"I'm your grandmother," Audrey pleaded, "and you live in my house. The very least you can do is listen to my valid concerns about your choices."
Elizabeth nodded. "You're right. I listened. Now it's your turn. I'm moving out."
Audrey gasped. "Elizabeth, you're overreacting!"
"Overreacting?" Elizabeth screeched. "No, I'm taking charge of my life instead of being lead around like everyone's favorite lapdog!"
As she ran up the stairs, Elizabeth could hear her Gram's tears but hardened her heart. She had to show everyone that she could and would make her own decisions. When her so-called loved ones accepted that, then maybe there could be reconciliation.
Four days later, Jason entered Kelly's and immediately saw her behind the counter. When Francis told him that she had moved out of her grandmother's and took a job here, he couldn't resist coming home. All of Sonny's nagging about her visit to the penthouse had been ignored. That could have been for any reason but this. She had walked away from Audrey and Lucky. This was irresistible.
Elizabeth knew when he walked into the diner. Her pulse began to race and her breath hitched. Slowly she raised her eyes to his, making sure all her love was there for him to see.
Jason felt her gaze hit him harder than any bullet. He took a step toward her.
She rounded the counter and flew into his arms. "I'm so glad you're home!"
Jason wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. "Me, too."
Elizabeth pulled back slightly and placed her hands on his face. "I remember."
Jason nodded. "I know."
She wilted. "I wanted to be the one who told you."
He leaned close. "You just did. I could see it in your eyes."
Elizabeth smiled. "You know me that well, huh?"
"Yes." Jason kissed her softly.
Elizabeth stared into his eyes, seeing the love and knowing that this was right. "Did I mention that I'm happy you're home?"
Jason tilted his head. "I think you said glad."
"Glad, happy, ecstatic. Pretty much all of the above." Elizabeth raised up on her tiptoes and placed her mouth over his. Jason eagerly returned the kiss and they both forgot that the lunch crowd was even there.
"Hey, lovebirds! Either get a room or order something," Tammy called out in a friendly voice.
Elizabeth blushed and turned to her new employer. "Uh, Tammy, could I…"
The former hooker waved them off before Elizabeth could finish her question. "Go! But call if you aren't coming in tomorrow."
Jason walked around the studio closely examining everything. "It's in a bad neighborhood and that door needs to be replaced with something more secure."
Elizabeth cocked an eyebrow. "We're finally together and alone and you're doing a security sweep?"
Jason sighed. "Elizabeth, you know what I do. Once my enemies find out about us, you'll be a target. I almost lost you and I don't want to go through that again."
She had to agree. "You're right. But I just needed something and I already had this place so I came here."
"Why did you leave Audrey's?"
"You have to ask?" Elizabeth plopped on the old couch. "She knew Lucky and I were through before the accident. And she still pushed us together when I woke up. I mean, she kept this huge secret so that I would live the way she wanted me to." She looked up at him. "You understand, right? Em told me why you left the Quartermaines."
He sat beside her. "Yeah, I do." He took her hand and stroked her smooth palm. "I'm sorry."
Elizabeth rested her head on his shoulder. "It's okay."
Jason stood again. "No, it's not. I should have told you the truth. I lied the same as Audrey."
Elizabeth rose, allowing him no retreat. "There's a big difference. You kept the truth to yourself to protect me. Gram and Lucky lied to manipulate me into being someone that they could love."
He pulled her into his arms. "It's not a big difference."
"Yes, it is," she mumbled into his chest.
He chuckled. "Okay, so I'm noble."
"I'm glad you see that. I have known it from the first time we met."
Jason stiffened. "We need to talk about that."
Elizabeth grimaced. "We have talked. We talked and we put it behind us."
"It's not that easy."
She racked her brain for the words that would put him at ease. "I was desperate and scared and then you were there. You made me feel so special and then you gave me exactly what I needed. You gave me a chance to start over. I began falling in love with you that night and when I saw you again in Port Charles the feeling just kept growing."
Jason took a deep breath before revealing his own heart to her. "I don't know why I took you back to the hotel with me. I wasn't looking for that but something about you touched me. And then we started, we started touching each other and I was lost. You were so sweet, so perfect, you still are, and I felt dirty for wanting you. Maybe I still do."
Elizabeth caressed his cheek. "Don't. Don't ever feel wrong about what we have. I want you, too." She lowered her gaze to the floor. "Lucky used to kiss me and I wanted to like it but something was missing. I didn't figure it out until I saw you again. You see, I tried to forget about you. But Lucky never made me feel the things you did. I thought I was the dirty one."
Jason put a finger under her chin and raised her eyes to his. "No, you aren't. You said it before: you were desperate and scared. And if Lucky didn't do it for you, then it's because he wasn't the right guy for you. You're the type who can only give her body once she's given her heart."
She laughed. "You do remember that I was a prostitute."
Jason shook his head. "When we touched, neither one of us was thinking about money. We were falling in love."
"For a man of few words, you sure do know how to use them," Elizabeth whispered.
Jason grinned. "You motivate me."
He traced her bottom lip and then covered her mouth with his own. The kiss deepened and their tongues met forcefully. Jason lowered her back to the couch and stretched his body out over hers. His right hand found its way down to her breast and gently massaged the bud to life. Elizabeth shifted her legs to allow one of his to slide between hers.
Jason paused for breath. "I don't want to rush you."
Elizabeth panted. "I don't want to stop."
He sat up. "Neither do I but this, this isn't how I want you."
She straightened her blouse. "You're right. We've already done fast and easy."
He leaned his head back against the couch. "Don't worry. We'll get back to fast and easy."
Elizabeth giggled as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Many times, I hope."
Jason darted his eyes to her. "More than you can imagine."
He raised his arm and she snuggled into his embrace. Elizabeth took his hand and kissed his knuckles. "This almost doesn't feel real."
She turned her face to his. "Yes, it is." As she stared into his eyes, there was only one thing left to say. "I love you."
He ran his hand through her mussed hair. "I love you."
New York City
Jason saw her first, standing alone on the corner two doors down from the bar. Even at this distance, he could tell she was young and beautiful. And more importantly she shouldn't be there. He knew what she was doing and was angry with her for it. However, he couldn't resist approaching her.
Lizzie felt his presence before she lifted her eyes to his. This man had no use for a prostitute; he was so handsome and his strength was undeniable. She could tell he was upset and pasted a smile on her face, hoping to entice him.
Jason appeared casual as he walked her way but his gaze took in everything: the drunk passed out on the bus stop bench, the drug deal taking place on the opposite corner, the three taxis rushing by, the couple making out against the closed drug store window, the nervous bodyguard just a few feet away from the sweet girl on the corner.
The man shot a quick glance at Elizabeth and nervously cleared his throat. "Yes, boss?"
"If you ever let my wife talk you into something like this again, I'll kill you myself."
Elizabeth shook her head. "Go easy on him. I would have just snuck out if he hadn't come with me." Jason flexed his jaw. She wasn't scared. "Oh, come on, Jase," she cajoled as she placed her arms around his waist. "When you said you had a meeting in this bar, I couldn't resist reliving our first meeting. It's romantic."
Jason nodded at Francis, who left with great relief. "It's dangerous."
She scrunched her brow. "You're supposed to come up with something else."
He sighed. "I can't joke about your safety."
Elizabeth knew it was time to give in. "In that case, let's skip that rat hole from last time and head back to the Hilton." She removed her arms and took his hand, leading him over to his motorcycle. "Oh, and on the way we can stop for ice cream. You know that place you took me to last year? Ever since we got here, it's all I can think about."
Jason smiled. Her rambling continued as she secured her helmet. "You didn't do this for the ice cream or the romance. You wanted to ride the bike."
She grinned. "Maybe I did it for all those reasons."
He could argue with her; it was what she was expecting. It wasn't all she was expecting. He gave in and mounted the bike. "This is gonna be slow and easy. I'm not taking any chances with you or our baby."
Elizabeth happily climbed on the seat. "Of course."
As they drove off into the night, neither one looked back at that dark street corner. The future was simply too promising.