Empty Promises
A One Shot

The Father's Day Scene Challenge: If Alan remained alive and Jason arrived at his hospital room on time -- how would Alan's survival have changed Jason? What impact would Alan's survival have on the history of Liason? Would Alan's survival possibly spur Jason into claiming his own son?

I can't… I can't shut down.

All my life, at least what I can remember of it, I've been able to compartmentalize my emotions. I could ignore them, shove them into a little box and completely put them out of my mind. But not now, not when I need to the most.

Really, only one thing has changed during the past twenty-four hours, but, at the same time, it feels as if I'm no longer living my own life. I've been a father before. I took care of Michael for an entire year, and I was prepared to raise Sam's baby with her, but now…

Elizabeth is pregnant with my child.

The paternity test has been run; there's no arguing the results. This is the one child that cannot be taken away from me simply because my DNA doesn't match theirs. I'm not a surrogate parent, I'm not stepping up because no one else will or to protect someone else, and I legally have a right to raise this baby. Knowing this makes my head spin. The ground doesn't really feel to be under my feet any longer, the walls seem to be sloping, and I can't catch my breath. I'm no longer a machine.

Oddly enough, though, I'm not running to Sonny. I'm not sure why either. For so long now, he's been my best friend, my mentor, but this is one time I don't want to talk to him. How could he possibly understand what I'm feeling anyway? For years now, he's had his own children, kids that no one can take away from him… no matter how many times both Carly and Alexis try to, and, for the first time, I'm finally realizing the limitations of our relationship. No matter what role he's played for me in the past, he's not my father.

No, that distinction belongs to Alan, whether I like and accept that fact or not, but he's dying. I know it, he knows it, and the doctor's know it. Hell, I was one of the masked men who helped him to the door. While I might not be Jason Quartermaine, I can recognize a heart attack when I see one, and his was severe, severe enough to kill him.

But he's not dead yet. He's holding out for something, for someone, and, selfishly, I find myself hoping that it's for me. For the first time since I woke up from my coma all those years ago, I want to talk to the man who helped give me life. Whether it's the fact that I'm going to be a father myself soon or because I'm having one of those epiphany moments where you come to appreciate what you've always had when it's too late, I don't know. I'll probably never know. But I know that I need to see him, that I need to talk to him, that I need to tell him about Elizabeth, and me, and our baby.

So, I rush down the corridors of GH, ignoring the curious glances sent in my direction by the staff. They all know me… or, at least, the image of me that is presented to them by the media, so, even in my dazed state, I can recognize the fact that they're probably shocked to see me like this: worried, distracted, emotional, but what they don't realize is that I'm about to be a father…

… and my own father is dying.




Sitting up, I look around the kitchen table and finally remember where I am. I'm not that naïve, nervous soon-to-be first time father anymore. No, so much has changed since that fateful day in the hospital so many years ago. But the memory… Well, it just felt so real.

But I won't tell them that, for it will only make them worry about me. Instead, I smile and stand, moving around the various members of my family. Without saying a word, I kiss them all goodbye, even my sons despite their verbal protests, and then I leave without a single backwards glance. I can hear them calling out after me, asking me where I'm going, when I'll be back, if I realize what day it is, and I know all the answers, but I keep them to myself. Eventually, as the back door shuts behind me, their voices trail off, and, in the silence, I can hear their disappointment and anger, but I don't turn back.

When I see them later, I'll explain. I'll tell them about my memories, about my guilt, about why, when I get into these moods, I become so distant. But not now. Right now, it hurts too much to put my thoughts into words. I just need a break, a drink or two to numb the pain and to bolster my courage. In a few hours, I'll be ready to face them.

In a few hours…

I kissed the kids at noon
Then stumbled out the room
I caught a cab, ran up a tab on 7th & Flower

I've never understood a man's need to unburden himself to his bartender. Don't people realize what a risk that is? No matter how nice the man or woman behind the bar seems to be, no matter how friendly their smiles appear, they're still strangers. You can't tell them all your deepest, darkest secrets. That's just asking for trouble. But, then again, not many men are ex-mob enforcers who are trying to blend in with the rest of the world as just another average Joe. I am, though.

And it's so fucking hard.

I get up. I go to work. Sometimes I go home afterwards, and sometimes I stop in some random bar for a beer or two. I go to sleep. I wake up the next day, and I repeat the same routine over, and over, and over again. It should be easy. It should be a sacrifice I enjoy, for it allows me to keep my family safe. Hell, it allows me to have a family in the first place, but it's not that simple.

"Jason…" Despite the fact that he only said my name, I can hear the strain in Alan's voice. That one word was almost too much for him to handle, but, still, he continued to talk. "You're… different. You look…"

"Elizabeth's pregnant with my child."

I didn't want to tell him that way. Hell, there was a part of me that wasn't even sure I would tell him at all when I first stepped into his hospital room. But, as I pulled the little stool closer to his bed and took a seat, the words just seemed to tumble out of my mouth. I couldn't stop them… even if I really wanted to. But did he even need me to say something? Despite the past animosity between us, despite the fact that I barely know him and he doesn't know me, he could still tell that my life had been forever changed. I guess, in that moment, I finally accepted that he really and truly was my father.

Alan smiled, his genuine happiness pushing aside his discomfort for a fleeting moment. "Congratulations, son."

For the first time since I woke up, that endearment didn't make me feel trapped. "I just found out; she just told me." Meeting his deep, dark gaze, I admitted, "I don't know what to do."

"Give it time." After a panting breath, he continued. "These things… it'll work out."

Abruptly, I stood up. "You don't understand," I snapped, angry at the situation, not him. But, in that moment, I couldn't see past my fear, my worry; I didn't realize the stress my bedside confessional was putting upon him. "My life… you know what my life is like. Michael, Morgan, Kristina, they've all been hurt by it. Lily and her baby didn't even survive."

"Then leave."

That stopped my pacing. Glancing up at the man across from me, I met his steady gaze. "What?"

"Take your family and leave."

Could I? "But there are other things to consider," I stuttered over my words, both repelled by and attracted to the idea. "Our jobs, our families…"

"You're going to be a father, Jason." After reminding me of this point, Alan paused to gather himself. Finally, after several painfully deep breaths, he pressed on. "Nothing else but your child… and its mother should matter now. Nothing."

"Hey, man, can I get you another?"

The bartender, who knew at this point not to try to engage me in small talk, stopped to see if I wanted my drink replenished. Glancing down at the empty tumbler, I realized that I did want more. I wasn't nearly numb enough to face my family yet, but, as I looked up to tell him yes, I noticed that it was dark outside.

Beth's recital.

Without answering, I simply stood and tossed a few crinkled bills onto the old, worn mahogany of the bar top. As I grabbed my battered, leather jacket, I nearly tripped, and, cursing, I made my way out of the bar. The fucking floor was unlevel, and the last thing I needed when I was in a hurry was to put up with such things. I had already missed Jake's graduation from elementary school two weeks before, and I certainly did not need another night like that. He had gotten into a fight, pissed off that I wasn't there, and my entire family had ended up leaving early.

Elizabeth blamed me, said it was my fault because I constantly pushed off my duties as a father onto her, because I sometimes forgot about things, because my son had my temper. She bitched at me for an entire week over that, and the last thing I wanted was to give her another reason to be mad. She had enough of those already.

By the time I made it to the dance studio, the performance had already started. From the back of the room, I could see my wife and sons in the front row. Cameron was videotaping Beth, Jake was taking pictures, and Elizabeth simply watched. Her back was rigid, her shoulders rolled back in that proud, stubborn way of hers. Never once did she glance at the empty seat beside her, the seat she had saved for me, and never once did she look around the auditorium in an attempt to find me. But I was there, god damn it.

But she won't believe me.

Beth's recital I had to run
Missed my son's graduation
Punched the Nichols boy for taking his seat
He gets all that anger from me

We were in bed.

With what felt like a mile of distance and pushed aside quilts between us, I watched her in fear. Not once since we had gotten home had she even looked in my direction. We had a celebratory, family dinner for Beth, and, during the whole meal, Elizabeth had been warm and loving towards the kids but never once towards me. Even when I offered to clean up the mess in the kitchen, she gave me the cold shoulder. Finally, I had given up and gone to bed, and, after she tucked Beth in, she joined me… at least, physically.

Despite the fact that it was late June, she had the blankets tucked firmly around her legs, and the nightgown she wore was high necked and concealing. On the other hand, I was just in my underwear and had shoved even the sheet aside. The night was balmy and sticky, and what I really wanted was to go back downstairs, turn on the television, and grab a nice, cold beer or two. As I went to do just that, after all, it wasn't like my wife actually wanted me with her in our bed, Elizabeth finally spoke.

"Don't even think about it."

"What?" My one word response was belligerent, denying. After all, we both knew where I was going, what I was planning to do, what I was thinking about, but I refused to give her the satisfaction of admitting she was right.

"I swear to you, Jason, if you go downstairs and get drunk by yourself again, I'll…"

"You'll what?"

She twisted to glare at me, her voice rising to a shouting level despite the fact that the kids' bedrooms were just down the hall. "You missed your daughter's dance recital this evening!"

"No, I made it."

"Late, like always," she challenged. "If you make it to anything at all, you have to show up in the middle or at the end, reeking of cheap booze."

"I was not…"

But my contradiction was interrupted by her demanding question. "Where were you all day today then? You left here this morning…"

"It was noon!"

"But still happy hour somewhere, right," my wife tossed back harshly.

"Lay off, Elizabeth," I warned her, standing up. Without meeting her tear filled gaze, I repeated, "just lay the fuck off. You don't know… I just…"

"What, Jason? What," she wanted to know. "How can I understand if you won't talk to me?"

But I didn't answer her. "Look, it's not that bad. If I want to have a few drinks, who are you to judge me? I work. I pay the fucking bills. You and the kids are safe. Just… leave me alone for once, please!"

"With pleasure," she tossed back, immediately returning to the book she had been reading only moments before.

And I didn't do anything to stop her. Instead, I continued to leave the bedroom we shared in name only. I moved past the kids' rooms, knowing they had heard every single word between me and their mother, I went down the stairs, and I bypassed the beer in the fridge for the gin in the hall sideboard. Just a few drinks, and, then, I'd go to bed.

Still, things could be much worse
Natural disasters, on the evening news
Still, things could be much worse
We've still got our health
My paycheck in the mail

The next time I woke up, I was in the hospital. Immediately, I recognized the grey floors and the industrial white walls. Though it smells the same as GH, it looks nothing like the hospital in Port Charles. No, I was in the same place where Beth was born, where we took Cameron when he fell off the tree and broke his right arm, where Jake had his tonsils out. But why am I here?

Blinking my eyes open wider, I see my family arranged around me. They're all there – at least, the members of my family who know I still exist. My wife, my two sons, my only daughter, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will not be any more children. It's not because my life brought danger and injury to Elizabeth's beautiful form. No, it's just that she no longer wants me that way. It's pretty hard to have another kid when your wife won't let you touch her.

Beth's sprawled out on a small cot, her mother wrapped protectively around her, and both boys are positioned in chairs on either side of the rollaway bed. It's like their standing guard over their little sister and mom, and I'm proud of them and their dedication to their family. My family. Our family.

Slowly, as if sensing that I'm awake, my wife's long, dark lashes flutter open. At first, her gaze is filled with love and warmth, but, then, she sees me looking at her, and her sapphire orbs harden and freeze, all emotions fleeing her still youthful face. "How's the hangover," she finally speaks, taunting me. Although her words are only murmured, there's no mistaking the bitterness infused into them.

But I ignore her question and ask one of my own. "What happened?"

"You had a little too much to drink." At the widening of my gaze, she laughs, but there's no humor in the gesture. "I know, hard to believe, right, that you actually have a limit? Apparently, you do, though."

"I'm sorry, Elizabeth."

Snapping, she barks, "don't apologize to me. Apologize to my son who found you passed out in a pile of your own vomit."

My son.

So, Cameron found me. At first, all of the kids were ours, but, now, it's like she cherishes the fact that her oldest child doesn't share my DNA. Sometime during the past few years, he, once again, became just hers, and, even though I can't blame her, I kind of hate her for the distinction.

But hate is an interesting emotion. That's something I learned all those years ago when I saw Alan in the hospital after his heart attack. It's impossible to truly hate someone unless a part of you loves them as well, because it's just too ugly, too powerful of a feeling to waste on someone who doesn't mean anything to you. And, just like with the Quartermaines all those years ago, my hate for Elizabeth is wrapped up in so much love, I can't see where one emotion begins and the other one ends.

Swallowing past the bile that has surged up in my throat, I nod my head, agreeing with everything that she has said. "I will," I tell her. "I'll talk and apologize to Cameron."

And that seems to satisfy her… at least, momentarily. For several quiet moments, we allow the years of hurt and disappointment to swell up between us. If it wasn't for the oxygen tubes I was wearing, I think I would have choked upon the shame and guilt. "Something has to change, Jason. We can't keep going on like this. You can't keep going on like this. It's slowly killing all of us."

"I know."

And I did.

"I have two weeks of vacation coming up. We'll go away, all of us – as a family, and, while we're gone, you and I, we'll talk, really talk. It'll get better, Elizabeth," I promise her, meaning the words I'm whispering. "I can get better."

She doesn't say anything in response, but her silence, I can tell, is her assent. She'll try it my way… for now.

I settle back down in my bed, shutting my eyes in a vain attempt to push aside the ever-present dissatisfaction in my wife's gaze whenever she looks at me or even think about me. It doesn't work, and, although the idea of a two week long vacation sounds great, what sounds even better in that moment is a drink. Just one, though, so sooth my churning stomach.

Too bad I'm in the hospital, and, besides, I made a promise.

I promised to my wife and children, I'd never touch another drink as long as I live
But even then it sounds so soothing
This will blow over in time
This will all blow over in time

Elizabeth doesn't really paint much anymore. Between taking care of the kids and the house, she doesn't have much free time, but she still loves art. Whenever she gets an afternoon to herself, she'll spend it at the local galleries, gazing for hours at the pieces there on display. When we were first married, I'd go with her, and we'd laugh over my interpretations of the paintings before she would tell them to me. We haven't done that together in years, though.

But, once a year, she goes to an annual benefit for the arts. The charity dinner raises money for promising local talent and provides them with scholarships to art school. It's my wife's favorite charity, and, once a year, I write a check out to them. I used to go with her to the events, but, now, she just goes by herself.

We got back from our vacation just this morning. It was nice. We went to the ocean for two weeks and did nothing but relax on the beach all day. The kids loved it, Elizabeth laughed genuinely for the first time in months, but, during the whole time we were gone, I felt as though I was crawling out of my own skin. It was all just a ruse; we were pretending to be happy while away, knowing the whole time that things would go back to normal once my two weeks of vacation were up.

I go back to work tomorrow.

And Elizabeth's at her charity event, Jake's at a friend's house, and Cameron's at home with Beth. I told them I was just going out for a walk, to order some pizza, and, by the time it arrived, I'd be back. But that was two hours ago, and I'm nowhere near ready to go home. Instead, I'm in the bar that's located down the street from our house. I'm sitting in my usual booth in the darkest corner of the dive, and I'm slowly nursing my third beer.

But it's just beer; it's not gin like before. And I'm not drunk. So, does that mean that I really broke my promise?

I don't think so.

I'm just an honest man
Provide for me and mine
I give a check to tax deductible charity organizations
Two weeks paid vacation, won't heal the damage done
I need another one

"Eliza… Lizbeth, you look pretty."

My wife was still a very attractive woman, even after all these years, and when she is all dressed up... Licking my lips appreciatively, I smiled in her direction, hoping my compliment would earn me a kiss.

But she ignored me. "On three, okay, Cam," she directed her son.

I turned my head to find that her oldest child was standing on my other side. He looked tired and sad, and he had a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt on. Was he going to bed soon or something? "Hey, Cammy," I greeted the teenager to my right. No one called him that anymore, though, and he just scowled in my direction.

"One, two, three," Elizabeth counted, and, when she was finished, I felt myself being lifted from… Well, I'm not sure where exactly I was. Maybe the recliner at home in the living room? But it didn't look like our house, and it certainly didn't smell like it.

"Four, five, six, seven…" I continued to recite for them, but neither my wife nor her son joined in with me. Giving up, my head lulled to the left, and I felt it knock into something else.

"Ow! God damn it, Jason! You promised me that you wouldn't drink anymore, that you were done!"

"I'm sorry, Lizbeth," I slur, turning my face so that it was pressed into her sweet, soft neck. When I try to kiss her, though, right in that spot she loves just underneath her ear lobe, she twists away from me, and I groan in frustration. It's been so fucking long since I've felt close to my wife. Months. A year. Maybe more. I don't know anymore at this point. "It's just… you don' understan'."

Sadly, she just whispered, "no, Jason. It's you who doesn't understand."

And I didn't, but I was too tired to ask her what she meant. I could tell that she was unhappy with me, though, but she'd never leave. No, at this point, I was just another one of her responsibilities. She felt guilty for me, so she'd never divorce me, but not guilty enough to love me anymore. But it could be worse, right? I mean, I left, so, at least, my family's safe.

Safe from everything and everyone but me.

Still, things could be much worse
Natural disasters on the evening news
Still things could be much worse
We've still got our health
My paycheck in the mail

I went to work this morning, and they went away – just the four of them – to a baseball game. Elizabeth packed up the car, took a cooler full of food and drinks, and my entire family escaped this hell that we live in day after day after day without any thought about me. And, when I got back from work, they still weren't home. The house was quiet, there was nothing to eat for dinner, and I couldn't even find the game they were at on the TV.

So, I poured a drink… just one. The gin went down my throat so quickly, I could barely feel it, and I rationalized that it had been so long since I had one that I must not have poured enough. So, I poured another, and another, and another, not enough to get drunk but just enough to take the edge off. I know that I promised them that I wouldn't drink anymore, but does this really count? They're not here, so they'll never know. By the time they get home tonight… if they ever do, I'll have the bottle hidden again and a smile on my face, no traces of the booze still on me.

The hours tick by, the bottle slowly empties, but, still, I don't feel a god damned thing.

I promised to my wife and children I'd never touch another drink as long as I live
But even then it sounds so soothing to mix a gin and sink into oblivion

I hate being here.

It feels wrong. I don't have a problem; I'm not like these other people, but, after the accident, this was the one condition Elizabeth wouldn't relent upon. So, I come to these stupid meetings, but I don't like them. They strip away my identity, and they try to make me believe that I'm just a number, just a statistic. They tell me that it's common for children of addicts to become ones themselves, but Alan wasn't really my father, and I'm not an alcoholic. I just drink to unwind, to forget about the past, and the present, and the never-ending stretch of boring days ahead of me.

Before I got here, I stopped off at the bar and had a couple drinks – bracers to get me through the next couple of hours, and the alcohol gives me the audacity to stand up and tell these intrusive people exactly what they want to hear. It's the only way to get them off my back, it's the only way to shut Elizabeth up, and it's the quickest way that I can say that I don't need to come here anymore.

So, I stand up, and I face the crowd. In a meek and repentant manner, I state, "hi, my name is Jason. I'm a husband, a father, a son, and I'm an alcoholic."

They greet me in return, they smile in my direction, and they congratulate me on this monumental step that I've just taken, but I just look at the clock, silently counting down in my mind until the moment I get to leave and head back to the bar.

I kept my promise to my wife – I went to the damned meeting, and I'll continue to go, but I don't have a drinking problem, and I'm not the one who needs to change.

She does.

I've given up everything for her, and I continue to every single fucking day that I ignore my father's advice.

Then leave.

If only I could…

I promised to my wife and children
That accident left everyone a little shook up
But at the meetings I felt so empty
This will blow over in time
This will all blow over in time

A/N: This was written for The Road to Nowhere's Father's Day Challenge. The song used in this story is "We Used to Vacation" by Cold War Kids.