A Killer Backswing
A One Shot
FNF#39A: "There is nothing like a spot of competition to bring out the worst in a man -- or the best in a woman." The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
This was going to be his year.
AJ could feel it from the tips of his quietly humming fingers all the way down to his leather spike encased toes. He was sober, something that was quickly becoming the normal rather than the unexpected thanks to the changes he was making in his life, and, for some reason, it felt as though his luck had finally shifted, probably because of her.
Elizabeth Imogene Webber, six months before, had reentered his life and completely sent it spinning upside down. No longer gangly and awkward, she had grown into her own body, and it was one that the Quartermaine black sheep was learning quite intimately. After returning to Port Charles from Italy with her degree in Interior Design a full semester earlier than her family had been anticipating her, they had become practically inseparable. She was light, and fun, and innocent, and a breath of fresh air compared to the other members of their combined, stodgy families.
At first, they had just been friends. Lunches here and there, tennis dates, but, eventually, AJ sweet talked her into going out with him, and one dinner turned into two, and, now, months later, here they were, seriously dating. He had cut back on the booze for her, determined to make Elizabeth proud of him, a pretty good sign in the dark haired man's eyes that he was falling in love, and, now, as their two families came together for the Annual Hardy-Webber/Quartermaine Fourth of July celebration, he was determined to show everyone just how much he had changed and why he had been willing to do so.
To celebrate the holiday, their families randomly paired off into groups of two. Over the long weekend, there would be three days worth of a monstrously challenging golf tournament. The Quartermaines rented out the entire Port Charles Country Club, and the Hardy-Webber's took responsibility for providing the winning pair with that year's prize, and AJ was positive that he and his new girlfriend would be declared the victors that year. For months he had been practicing on his game, and, what he lacked in putting and chipping skills, Elizabeth more than made up for with her gentle, artistic touch.
There was just one fly in the ointment. Along with the youngest Webber being home from college, so was his baby brother, a fresh graduate of the Harvard School of Medicine just that past May. Returning home just the same way that he had left, the Quartermaine Golden Boy had immediately gone to work at the hospital where their father and mother were Chief of Staff and Head of Cardiology, respectively, making everyone, including their curmudgeon of a grandfather, entirely too proud for AJ's tastes. And Jason was good at golf, too. Of course, he was, for Jason was good at anything he put his hand to… and even some things, the older brother guessed, that he had never once before tried.
However, the rest of their two families were just mediocre players, and that's where the true sense of competition came into play, because it was up to each individual to work with their assigned partners and figure out a way to compliment each other's games. Except, this year, AJ wouldn't have to sit and wait, wondering who he would be paired up with, for he already knew. Taking matters into his own hands, he had fixed the names that were carelessly tossed into a simple baseball cap, affixing Elizabeth's card so that it was folded into his. The duplicity wouldn't be revealed until his name was drawn, and, by then, it would be both too late to switch partners and too difficult to tell if such an arrangement was predetermined.
After speaking with his girlfriend, he had gotten her to agree, somewhat hesitantly, that they would not come forth with their relationship until after the events of the weekend came to a close with fireworks the last night of the tournament. By then, they would already be crowned the winners, and their announcement would be the culmination of his victory. Not only would he have finally beaten his entire family – and hers – at something, but he would also walk away with the best prize of all: someone who believed in him unconditionally. If things continued progressing the way they currently were, AJ was positive that, in six more months' time, he would be able to convince Elizabeth to marry him, and then he and Jason would see who was the top rail on the fence then, for he had always secretly suspected his brother of having feelings for the youngest Webber child.
Jason and Elizabeth were closer in age than she and AJ were, so it had been natural for them to play more together as children while they were growing up. When AJ would be stuck sitting with the adults, listening to their ridiculously exaggerated tales and dreams of self-grandeur, his baby brother and Elizabeth would be outside making mud pies or racing their bikes down the steep hill that led directly into the Quartermaine pond. He had always envied their familiarity, for neither of the Webber children closer to his own age actually liked him, but AJ had also been aware of how important it was to make connections with the old guard, to trick them into believing he was interested in their pasts and dedicated to their futures.
When the Quartermaine Golden Boy had gone off to college, Elizabeth didn't stick around Port Charles long. Instead, she asked her parents to be enrolled in a private, European boarding school, and it wasn't until she graduated from college six and a half years later that she returned. Because of the timing, a distant, often ignored part of AJ wondered if she had timed her glorious return to coincide with his baby brother's, but the realistic part of AJ knew that Elizabeth and Jason had not remained in contact while they were both away at school and that he was just being paranoid.
Besides, Jason was dating Keisha Ward, and, as far as he knew, the two of them were quite serious. In fact, the gossip about town was that the lovely Miss Keisha had deflowered his virginal, baby brother, and the Quartermaine black sheep grinned smugly to himself at the thought, relishing just how naïve and inexperienced his rival was in, at least, one aspect of life. Though he and Elizabeth had yet to officially consummate their relationship, he had been intimate enough with her to know that she wasn't nearly as saintly as Jason was, and he liked that she was not pristine, lily white. Her experience, though obviously not great, appealed to him, just as he knew it would probably repel his virtuous baby brother.
Tearing his glance away from Jason who stood to the side of the large, gathered Hardy-Webber/Quartermaine crowd, his stance loose and confident, his hands tucked easily into the front pockets of his khaki golf pants, a small grin impishly curling his soft, pink lips, AJ, once again, faced his grandfather who was rattling off the names of the partners for the impending weekend's festivities.
Ned and Sarah.
Dillon and Carolyn Webber.
Mrs. Hardy and his father.
His Aunt Tracy who was unfortunately visiting that month and his mother.
Everyone laughed out loud at that pairing, perfectly aware that the two middle aged women would be lucky if they didn't kill one another. Standing in the winners' circle at the end of the long weekend would be an impossibility.
On and on, the list went, name after name being called out and partnered up until, eventually, only four names remained: his own, Elizabeth's, Jason's, and their cousin Chloe's, no doubt the worst golfer between the two families. Even Grandfather with his bad heart and less than athletic build could beat the fashion designer with one hand tied behind his back. At the realization of how the last four remaining names would be paired up, AJ smirked confidently. He had been right; his luck had definitely shifted.
But then, in a blink of an eye or the popping of a flask's top, everything went belly up. He got paired with Chloe, and Elizabeth got placed with Jason, practically ensuring that he would lose and, once again, that his baby brother would win. Immediately, the dark haired man's gaze found that of his winking, blonde counterpart's, and he knew that Jason had been wise to his deception and that he had intervened accordingly.
"Sorry," Elizabeth whispered as she moved away from his side, squeezing his hand softly as she passed by him. While the touch wasn't overt, it was still intimate, and it put things back into prospective for the black sheep of the Quartermaine family. Despite the fact that the Golden Boy would win again, at least as far as the golf tournament was concerned, at the end of the weekend, he would be the true victor, because he would be the only one with Elizabeth at his side, loving him, supporting him, kissing him. Jason would have to go back home with Keisha, while AJ would finally make it public to both of their families that Elizabeth was his – not Jason's but his, and that was the best prize of all.
The older members of the group elected that their party should head out onto the range first, and neither himself, Jason, Elizabeth, nor Chloe put up a fuss. The prearranged couples split up into their determined pairs, and, while he and his cousin took the golf cart to the first tee, his younger brother and his girlfriend walked behind them, Jason carrying both of their golf bags. The two talked softly, about what he couldn't tell, but, by the time the foursome were rejoined together a few minutes later, Elizabeth and Jason were both concentrating on their play, their conversation temporarily sidelined.
Because he was stronger, it was elected that Jason would tee off, and Elizabeth would then handle the iron shot into the green. Of course, his brother's drive was perfect, landing directly in the fairway and rolling to just a mere one hundred yards from the putting surface. They were in prime shape to birdie the first hole.
However, he and Chloe were not so lucky. His tee shot went erratic, landing in the rough, and she could do nothing more than boot it out for him with the chunky side of her own driver. From there, he ironed the golf ball into a sand trap, but, eventually, after four shots and already meeting par without even attempting to putt yet, they made it onto the green thanks to a surprisingly agile shot from his cousin. It would prove to be her only decent one of the day.
Jason and Elizabeth already had a three shot lead by the time the foursome left for the second hole, and AJ realized that it was going to be a long day. As he drove along to the next tee, he reasoned with himself that he was just tense, that he needed a little something to take the edge off, so, with that thought in mind, when Chloe wasn't looking, he emptied the emergency flask of vodka he always kept in his golf bag into his bottle of Gatorade, taking a long pull of the refreshingly now bracing liquid. The alcohol burned its way down his throat, a familiar friend in a day that was quickly turning into a nightmare, and settled hollowly in his otherwise empty stomach. Luckily, though, the not-quite-so-recovered alcoholic had long been used to such a sensation.
As the afternoon wore on, he continued to watch his baby brother and his girlfriend interacting. By the third hole, they were both laughing practically nonstop, and, when either he or Chloe asked what was so funny, Jason and Elizabeth would just start to laugh again, claiming you either 'had to be there' or it was 'just nothing, really.' While his cousin didn't mind the private humor, he sure as hell did, and AJ found himself feeling parched once more.
By the time the foursome turned onto the back nine, Jason and Elizabeth's intimacy with each other had progressed to the point of shared, secret looks and private, supposedly platonic touches that looked a little too friendly for his taste. In fact, his only sibling went so far as to hold onto the pretty brunette as he showed her how she could adjust her golf swing to hit a better fade. Jason's hands on Elizabeth's hips, his torso pressed up against her back made AJ see red, and he downed another blazing gulp from his Gatorade bottle.
Just as they were finishing up on the fifteenth hole, he practically wrecked the golf cart when he heard his girlfriend squeal in delight. Twisting around in his seat, the Quartermaine black sheep witnessed his brother toss Elizabeth into the shallow pond that rested beside the green they had just finished putting on, and, in return, Elizabeth pulled Jason into the water with her. The two of them splashed about, carrying on, and, in his opinion, flirted inappropriately for several minutes before removing themselves from the water hazard and continuing on their way, giggling and joking the entire time. Chloe thought the whole thing to be adorable; AJ just felt sick to his stomach.
Finally, they finished, Jason and Elizabeth having more than halved his and Chloe's combined score. As the foursome initialed off on the official tally sheets, he felt his girlfriend bump his hip with her own still slightly damp one. "That was fun, right," Elizabeth breathed out, sounding winded and eager. It was exactly how he had imagined her sounding after sex, and he was both jealous and envious that his baby brother had achieved that reaction from her, not only before he could but also just by playing in a stupid tournament.
Responding to the brunette's exclamation, AJ said, "yeah, a complete blast," his voice dull and lifeless.
But Elizabeth just laughed, obviously assuming that he was only joking around. Leaning in closer to him, she teased in a flirtatious tone, "aw, someone's a poor sport."
Chloe was the first to head into the club to change, Jason soon following her, but, as his younger brother left, AJ heard him yell, "last one to the dining room serves the others," and the challenge made his girlfriend laugh gleefully. Once they were alone, though, she pecked him on the cheek before hurrying out of the small tent, no doubt following like a faithful, obedient puppy in his brother's footsteps.
Instead of showering, however, AJ went immediately to the clubhouse where the entire family would eventually meet for cocktails and then dinner. Just inside the door that led to the hall where the dressing rooms and showers were, the dark haired man laid in wait. Eventually, all three of the rest of their foursome returned at the same time, already recollecting fondly back onto the day they had just spent out on the golf course.
"Hey, Jason, man," he genially greeted his only sibling. "I was hoping that, maybe before dinner, you'd help me out on the driving range for a little while."
"Oh, AJ," Elizabeth whined, obviously displeased with the idea. "Jason's exhausted. I'm sure he doesn't want to…"
"No," his brother interrupted. "That's fine. I'll help you, AJ, if you want me to."
And the announcement, the promise was sincere. The Quartermaine family's outcast could hear the earnestness in his brother's tone. "Thanks, man," AJ clapped Jason on the back as the two headed out of the clubhouse together. As they were leaving, he continued to talk. "While I realize it's a little late for Chloe and I to make a run for the prize, I'd, at least, like to make sure that I don't further embarrass myself." His brother just chuckled as the two of them stopped to pick up AJ's clubs.
The driving range was close to the clubhouse, so it only took the two men but a few minutes to reach it. Upon arriving at their destination, AJ immediately reached for his biggest, most powerful titanium driver. "Why don't I take a few, quick, practice shots, and you could observe my swing, see what you think."
"Sounds good," Jason agreed readily.
So, that's exactly what the alcoholic did, the liquor from earlier in the day still coursing its way through his suddenly jittery system. Except, before launching into his backswing, he stepped back a few paces, knowing that his brother was turned in the direction of where they had just come from, no doubt looking for Elizabeth – his, AJ's,girlfriend. Lifting his strong, powerful arms, AJ swung as fast as he could, calling his sibling's name out at the exact perfect time so that the back of his club made contact with Jason's left temple right before he launched his driver forward, completing what was his longest, straightest, most perfect shot of the day, a shot that would, by far, best anything his baby brother had shown out on the fairways.
Whistling and smirking to himself, AJ turned around to see his rival unconscious and completely still on the lush, trimmed grass of the practice range. Jason was hauntingly immobile. Bending, he touched the younger man's neck, looking for a pulse, but he didn't find one, and panic immediately set in.
He hadn't intended on killing his brother. All he wanted was to keep him away from his girlfriend, and AJ had figured that a concussion would sideline Jason into bed for the rest of the weekend, insuring that Elizabethwould only flirt with him, would only smile for him, would only laugh with him. But things never did turn out the way AJ planned for them to.
Reaching into his golf bag, he pulled out his cell phone and immediately dialed 9-1-1. No longer was he pleasantly buzzed, no longer was he worried about winning the stupid Annual Hardy-Webber/Quartermaine Fourth of July Golf Tournament, and no longer was he worried about one-upping his little brother. All that mattered was keeping Elizabeth and making sure that she always remained his.
When the operator picked him, AJ calmly stated, "I need an ambulance at the Port Charles Country Club. Make that a medivac helicopter if you can. This is AJ Quartermaine, and I'm afraid my brother Jason just stepped into my backswing. He's… he's not responding… to anything."
Flipping his cell closed, the dark haired man mused to himself, so much for my luck shifting. Parched, he reached for his almost empty Gatorade bottle and drained the rest of the reinvigorating drink.