HHFC#6: If a candle flame turns blue, it means a ghost is in the house.
Jason Morgan was in trouble.
Retaliation was not a principle he was unfamiliar with. In the business he was in, it was, in fact, a staple of practice, a means of negotiation, and a proven form of persuasion. However, in every former instance of retaliation he had been a part of, his actions had been ruled by either a strict code of conduct or necessity, never his personal feelings, and, despite the fact that he had been warned countless times just what would happen when emotions came into play in a business matter, he simply could not ignore his instincts. Elizabeth Webber, whoever the mystery woman was, needed to pay, and he was intent upon delivering said justice by his own two hands.
So, that was why he found himself in a place he tended to avoid. If the petite brunette knew him through his former connection to Jason Quartermaine, then Jason Morgan needed to go to a source who would be able to, hopefully, link his forgotten past with his known present. With that in mind, he found himself standing in his grandmother's personal parlor, hiding out in the shadows of the room as he waited for the family matriarch to arrive.
After calling ahead and arranging the meeting with Reginald, the enforcer knew he wouldn't have to wait long, and, really, he didn't mind the few quiet moments. They helped him gather his thoughts and provided him with an opportunity to calm down. If nothing else, he had always attempted to hide the darker, more dangerous aspects of his personality from his grandmother, and that certainly wasn't going to change that evening simply because one tease of a woman had managed to get the best of him.
And that she most certainly did.
Jason soon wouldn't forget the sight that had greeted him that morning as he groggily awoke from his uncomfortable sleeping position on Sonny's desk. The fact that he had been able to pass out while hog tied and vulnerable was embarrassing enough, but to be forced into explaining just how exactly he had gotten into such a position… Well, that was just downright degrading. And the worst part was that it wasn't even just his boss and best friend that he was forced to face.
When his eyelashes had briskly fluttered open, for consciousness always came to him rather quickly, there was a whole assembled crowd waiting to greet him, all of them experiencing their own unique reactions to his predicament. Sonny had been furious, shouting on and on about disrespect and how he had never thought Jason would ever do that to him. Carly had been idly sucking on a lollypop, a slight trail of drool forming at the corner of her mouth, and, while the hitman knew her rapt attention was due to the fact that she had not seen him partially naked in years, he personally rather preferred the idea of her suffering from a partially paralyzing stroke. The various guards and employees gathered looked both embarrassed for their organization's second in command and not just a little uncomfortable with being put in the situation where they had to witness such a thing, but, hands down, the worst reaction had come from his attorney who was seated just in front of him, a wicked grin on her smug face while she fanned out several rapidly developing Polaroid pictures. Future blackmail material, Diane had informed him, just in case he ever stepped out of line or gave her any lip.
The whole experience had been downright nauseating, and, for that, Jason was determined to payback the woman who had so easily picked him up, seduced, and then left him twisting in the wind the night before. His only problem was the fact that he still didn't know who she was, despite being in the mental possession of her name, or what she was so pissed off about. And that's why he needed his grandmother's help.
"Jason, dear," Lila Quartermaine greeted him warmly as she maneuvered her chair across the room towards him. "What a lovely surprise. I wasn't expecting a call, let alone a visit from you this evening."
"Grandmother," the blonde enforcer returned, meeting her halfway and then kneeling down to kiss her powder soft cheek. Still level with the elderly woman, he pulled back and asked, "how are you?"
"Wonderful now that you're here. Would you care for some tea," the always polite hostess asked, "or some coffee? I told Reggie we would let him know if we desired any refreshments."
"No, thank you," Jason replied, finally standing back up and moving to push his grandmother towards an intimate seating arrangement before the barren fireplace. "I actually stopped by because I wanted to talk to you about something… or, rather, someone." Seeing her rapt attention, he pressed on. "Do you know of or remember a girl named Elizabeth Webber?"
"Audrey Hardy's granddaughter," Lila asked him rhetorically, smiling in recollection. "Of course I do. I don't think anyone would be able to forget such a beautiful, talented child."
"Apparently," the hitman sighed, bending before the unlit fireplace. It was a cold and drafty fall evening, and he certainly wasn't going to allow his grandmother to take chill. "I can."
"I wasn't aware that the two of you were acquainted, dear."
Averting his gaze so the head of the Quartermaine household and family wouldn't be able to see his face, Jason confessed, "we met last night. She seemed… bitter towards me, or, well, towards him, Jason Q."
While he continued to work on making a fire, his grandmother spoke. "Our families have known each other for a long time, and, even though Elizabeth and her siblings were raised in Colorado, she, Steven, and Sarah would often come to Port Charles to visit their grandparents, Steve and Audrey. That's how Jason Quartermaine came to know her. When the adults would meet up to spend time together, you children would play."
"And did we – Elizabeth and Jason Quartermaine – not get along?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Lila answered. "Primarily, both you and AJ were friends with her brother, and, sometimes, you three boys would allow Sarah to tag along, but Elizabeth was quite a bit younger than the four of you, and I think she was oftentimes excluded. Not that she minded, really. You see, Elizabeth was, and still is, an artist, I believe. In fact…"
When the matriarch's words trailed off, the blonde turned in his crouched position. "What is it, grandmother?"
"You know, I think I have a picture or two of little Lizzie from when she was a child. She and her siblings came to visit one year during Halloween, and I remember she had the most precocious costume."
Mumbling under his breath, Jason complained, "now that I can believe."
"What did you say, dear?"
Clearing his throat, the enforcer offered, "would you like me to get your photo albums for you?"
"Yes, that would be lovely. Thank you, Jason." So, as he finished with his task of building a fire, Lila quickly made work of riffling through her photos, narrowing in on the correct album rather effortlessly and then locating the picture she desired right away. "Here you go," she offered her grandson, holding out the photo for him to take hold of as he moved to sit in the chair beside her. "She went as the Mona Lisa."
With an accessing gaze, he observed the slight girl before him. "Oh, yeah," he offered the elderly woman. "This is her."
And it certainly was. Although Elizabeth had obviously and thankfully aged, she still resembled the bright and happy child starring back at him in the photo. Her eyes were the same deep, cryptic blue, her smile just as crooked and mischievous, and she still was in possession of the same thick and unruly chocolate curls. However, even with the proof of their former association in his hands, he still didn't understand why the sexpot was so angry with him.
"Did we have a fight or something?"
"Really," Lila responded, "I'm not sure. As far as I know, the two of you always got along well enough, but you have to remember, dear, that was a long time ago, and children don't often tell adults about all the inner workings of their relationships."
Frustrated, Jason sat back, his sightless gaze moving on its own accord to the blazing fire. The driftwood he had used was aglow with a haunting blue flame, its unique coloration lulling him into a thoughtful calm. Beside him, the Quartermaine matriarch fell silent as well, apparently sensing his need for stillness. The only sound in the room was the greedy destruction of the fire as it consumed its kindling and the ever present and steady pendulum of the small grandfather clock above the mantel.
If it had been any other night and any other set of circumstances, the hitman would have found the situation relaxing. No one put him at ease more than his grandmother, and her private parlor that evening was quiet and warm, peaceful even. But before his lids could droop shut, before he could give in to the weariness inhabiting his stiff and aching muscles, the blonde snapped to attention, the scene in the flames, whether really there or not, captivating him.
What he saw was a seven year old Elizabeth standing absolutely crushed in the middle of a bedroom while he sat before her, taunting her, candy wrappers spread out around him.
"Did I… Did I like candy when I was a little boy?"
Lila laughed. "Of all the things for you to ask me, Jason… But, actually," she confided, "you didn't. Oh, you would eat it when it was offered to you, but you much preferred cook's sweets over store bought ones. I'm afraid cook always had a soft spot for you, so you were rather spoiled. However, AJ, he adored candy, and I remember you would always find a way to either trick him out of his Halloween candy or steal it from him. It just about gave him fits every year."
"And Elizabeth," the enforcer pressed the elderly woman. "Did she like candy as well?"
"Well, I assume so, but, really, dear, I'm not sure. You'd have to ask her… or Audrey. Mrs. Hardy might be able to tell you more if you were so inclined to ask her."
Standing up quickly, Jason was already practically out the door before he remembered to say goodbye to his grandmother. "Thank you… for talking to me this evening. I'll see you again soon," he promised, and, just like that, he disappeared, a plan already being set into motion in his mind.
She was just about to start a new painting when an obnoxious, obtrusive pounding sounded from just outside her studio, and Elizabeth knew she'd get absolutely no work done if the rude visitor continued on with their assault of her door. So, tossing down her paintbrush, she sighed, making her way towards the sole entrance into what was both her home and her workplace.
"What, what do you want," she demanded, hefting open the closed barrier only to be greeted with a countenance she never expected to see again. "You? How did you…"
"That doesn't matter," Jason Morgan interrupted, shoving his way inside her apartment. While she waited for him to say more, he seemed to be taking stock of his surroundings, observing everything quicker than she could even fully observe him. "So, you really are still an artist."
"I take it you've remembered who I am. Took you long enough, I must say."
He ignored her jibe, though, and stalked across the small room to stand before her fresh canvas and awaiting easel. "I don't really see or understand art that well," he confided, and the young brunette couldn't help but wonder where he was going with his strange conversation. "But I guess that doesn't matter. What are you working on?"
She really didn't want to answer him, and, in fact, she really wanted him to leave, but Elizabeth had a weak spot for anyone, even a pompous ass like Jason Morgan, who asked her about her passion in life. Maybe it was the fact that her parents had never cared and still didn't about her chosen profession and hobby, or it might have just been the fact that she couldn't pass up the opportunity to share her love of art. Whatever the reason, she shockingly found herself talking to the one person in the entire world she never thought she'd ever confide in.
"I'm trying to finish this new series entitled elements. It goes along with my oil study of astrology. I have earth, water, and fire completed, but I just can't get the wind right. I've tried. Oh, how I've tried, several times in fact, but nothing I do seems to come out right. I just can't see it, you know."
The man before her was silent for a few minutes before turning around to face her, a challenging gleam in his eye. "I could show you."
"Really," Elizabeth asked sarcastically, twisting to mess with the various supplies she had out on her work table. For some reason, she was suddenly feeling nervous around the stranger, and she needed something to distract her hands while she continued to banter back and forth with him. "By how – dropping me out of a moving airplane, forcing me to train surf?"
"No," the hitman remarked, and she could hear the snicker in his voice. "Although those are both not bad ideas, but what I was thinking of is a little bit safer."
"And that would be?"
"Have you ever been on a motorcycle before?"
"What do you think," the petite artist tossed back at him. When he just quirked a sandy brow in her direction, she asked, "is this you offering?"
"My bike's outside, and it's a clear night, perfect for riding."
Elizabeth grinned; she couldn't help it. "Well, don't just stand there," she instructed him, fairly bouncing with anticipation. "Lead the way."
And he did.
Two hours later, she found herself completely and utterly disoriented after the fastest, most dangerous, but also most exhilarating ride of her life. Being on the back of a motorcycle, on the back of Jason Morgan's motorcycle, was completely freeing, and he had been right; she had seen the wind with him.
"Thank you," she gushed, spreading her arms out wide as she spun around in a dizzying circle. "You have no idea how absolutely alive I feel right now."
"Good," the blonde remarked. To the artist, it sounded almost like a grunt. "Because you're going to need all that adrenaline."
"For finding your way back into town," the enforcer answered, kickstarting his bike before she could even react to his words. "See you around, Elizabeth."
"Wait," she yelled after him, and she was relieved to see that he paused long enough to listen to her complaints over the roar of his motorcycle. "You can't just leave me out here. I could die. I have no idea where I am, no memory of how to get back to my studio."
"Really, no memory, huh," he taunted her, practically laughing. "You don't say. Well, doesn't that just suck for you? Oh well."
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because I can," Jason answered, shrugging his leather clad shoulders. "Because you got to get your vengeance on me, so why shouldn't I get to have mine on you as well? And because you put me in a situation where I couldn't remember either. Next time, little girl," he warned her. "Do some research on your target before you come after them. You just might save yourself some hassle… and a pair of shoes."
And, with that, he sped off into the night, leaving Elizabeth practically quaking with unreleased fury. While the blonde might have thought he had just gotten her back for tying him up and robbing him blind, what he had actually done was just set her off once again.
This game between them was just getting started.