Title: Moore Money, Moore Problems
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters presented in this story nor the show from which they originate. Unfortunately.
Summary: When Audrey Hardy dies, she leaves her very messy affairs for her granddaughter to take care of, eventually providing an ungrateful Elizabeth with a way to majorly clean up... and clean out the pockets of Port Charles' most well-lined citizens.
A/N: Remember how, months ago, I promised a series of FNF one shots and eventually a vote where you, as readers, would be able to choose which story was continued into a full-length fic? Well, that promise still stands, and this story is another of those eligible one shots. After this one, there will be one more (which I promise to post before the week is out), and then I'll set the poll up at my site. The reason for the rush? I want to know which story is going to be continued so I can start working on it before starting back to school in a couple of weeks. Also, while working on that fic, I'm also going to continue working on another FNF full-length fic of my choosing. Plus, Heartbeats will be back soon, too. As you'll recall that story is already finished, so it's one that I can post whenever I want, school time restraints not affecting it. In the meantime, though, let's get this FNF show on the road. Finally! Thanks for your patience, and enjoy the following one shot. Er... maybe one shot. ;-)
Moore Money, Moore Problems
FNF#45: "I like intelligent women. When you go out, it shouldn't be a staring contest. ~ Frank Sinatra
The ancient, judgmental bat had finally done it.
She'd kicked the bucket.
Bought the farm.
Ding dong, the witch was dead, and all Elizabeth Webber had to say was good riddance.
Conscientiously, she knew such thoughts were very wicked, but, after so many years of dealing with Audrey Hardy's lectures and watching her grandmother look down upon her, she just couldn't bring herself to care. If it wasn't disappointment about Elizabeth's lifestyle choices, then it was ridicule and criticism about the men she dated, or how she wore her hair, or even what she ate. Nothing she did had made the woman happy.
As she sat amongst the old harpy's things, she attempted – and failed miserably – at scrounging up even a teeny-tiny morsel of grief. The most thoughtful feeling she could manage, though, was indifference. Putting her own issues with the Hardy matriarch aside, Elizabeth knew that Audrey had been sick for quite some time, so surely it had been a relief for the retired nurse to pass away. The doctors had even said that it had been peaceful, which, in her opinion, was more than the hypocritical witch deserved, especially when she glanced around the mess that was her inheritance from the woman.
No, she silently corrected herself, narrowing her gaze. Not her inheritance; it was also Steven and Sarah's as well. After all, if nothing else, Audrey Hardy liked to think of herself as fair. She couldn't leave her legacy to just one of her grandchildren, never mind the fact that, for the past few years, it had only been Elizabeth who was there to take care of her, cart her around town to run errands, and put up with all her unbelievably annoying crap. Oh, no! Such consideration when deciding how to leave her last will and testament made too much common sense for Elizabeth's grandmother to employ.
So, as she dug through 55 years of paperwork, 55 years of family photos and knickknacks, 55 years of junk only a lonely old lady would ever want, Elizabeth had to ask herself where her dear siblings were. Just like they had been since she was still a teenager, Sarah and Steven were off saving the helpless, and the poor, and the needy of some third world country with a name so complicated, she'd be lucky if she could pronounce it, let alone actually spell it. Not that she was stupid or uneducated, but her family tended to be as difficult as they possibly could.
Why it never occurred to another soul in the Hardy/Webber family that just maybe they should worry about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who didn't get enough food to eat and who didn't have medical insurance first before they tried to save the rest of the world was beyond her. Obviously, her parents and siblings didn't understand the concept of taking care of one's own before worrying about others. It would be like a parent of twelve allowing their brats to go outside with unwashed, uncombed hair only to wander about town brushing out the tangled locks of other people's children. Not only would such a parent probably get their ass kicked, but they'd be considered a fool, too.
But not Steven and Sarah.
No, Audrey had considered them just shy of saintly, real chips off the old Steve Hardy block, whereas she, Elizabeth, was a disgrace to the family name simply because she didn't want to enter the medical field or sacrifice her youth to go traipsing off around the world to rescue others who wouldn't give a damn about her in return. While it was perfectly alright for her brother and sister to forget Audrey's birthday, never come home to visit, and practically forget that they even had a grandmother, if she begged off from driving the old crank to just one of her hospital committee meetings, she was an ungrateful, selfish child. So, really, if anything, Elizabeth should have been shocked that her grandmother had left her anything at all in her will, but it still chaffed that, while whatever money could be made by selling off Audrey's things had to be split equally three ways, she was the only one wading through the mothball smelling junk.
Casting a forlorn glance around the room her grandmother had used as an office (why a retired nurse who didn't even do her own taxes and spent the majority of her time planting flowers or gossiping with her old biddy friends would need an office, she'd never know), Elizabeth admitted to herself that, after the funeral costs were paid for, she, Sarah, and Steven wouldn't get much. At one point, their grandmother's home would have been worth something, but it was no longer located in a fashionable neighborhood, and, unless she wanted to shovel money into it that she didn't have, there's no way the dated place would fetch anything decent in such an abysmal market. As for the house's furnishings, everything was floral, stiff, and covered in plastic, and the only people with taste like that were either living on a fixed income or they already had their own tacky, old lady belongings.
Audrey had some jewelry, but half of it had been buried with her body, and the other half were family heirlooms pieces which the will had stated could not be sold. Her car, a brown boat of a Buick, was practically as old as Audrey had been, and Elizabeth figured she'd be able to get more from the piece of junk if she scrapped it for metal rather than trying to sell it. Not even a pimply faced teen would be desperate enough to buy the old bat's rusty rat-trap of a car. So, basically, that left her with jack shit and a whole lot of work to do.
Even in death, Audrey Hardy could still make her life a living hell.
Slamming the drawer shut that she had just been leafing through, Elizabeth was about to give up, call it a day, and hope that some passerby casually lobbed a lit cigarette at her grandmother's house, caught it on fire, and stood there while it burnt to the ground so she could collect the insurance money when she spotted something that caught her attention.
Unlike every other single piece of paperwork that she had already gone through (and, surely, there had been thousands already), that particular envelope, now in her hands, stood out like a society maven at a monster truck rally, and it wasn't penned in Audrey's tight, snooty handwriting. Rather, it was addressed to her grandmother and faded with time, and Elizabeth found herself hoping she had just stumbled upon some old, improper love letters between the old battle-ax and an inappropriate lover. Eagerly, she tore the envelope open. By the time she had read the first sentence in its entirety, she was already breathless with anticipation, for what she had found was better than finally getting something to hold over the nasty crank's head, even in death.
Scanning the missive quickly, she was pretty sure she read the entire letter without blinking once. Finished, she simply started over, needing to see the words scattered across the paper again, and again, and again. By the time she finally put the note down, Elizabeth wasn't sure how many times she had read it – at least enough to memorize practically the entire thing word for word, verbatim. The sun had set, the chill of dusk had permeated the drafty house, and she was fairly trembling with exhilaration.
She had just hit the mother-load of all mother-loads. She could practically hear her bank account expanding with every second that ticked by.
Elizabeth liked Jake's. It was the place she went when she needed to unwind, the place she went when she didn't want her grandmother to find her, because, even if Audrey Hardy knew that her granddaughter was at the dockside bar, she was too prim and proper to ever call and ask for Elizabeth there, let alone actually set foot in the establishment. For a while, she had even worked there on the busy nights, helping out the regular bartender and stocking away her tip money to pay for school books or art supplies. Despite the fact that she was still in school, though, she had moved on from working at Jake's. Now, she just drank there.
As Elizabeth sauntered into the smoky, dim tavern that early afternoon, she smiled confidently to herself when she saw the man behind the bar. He was the owner, had been now for quite a few years despite the fact that he had yet to change the name of the bar. She highly doubted the place would ever be called anything but Jake's, and she liked that about her former boss. In fact, it was one of many things she appreciated about Jason Moore.
He was good looking, that was undeniable, but their relationship had never even gotten close to that personal. While she had worked at the bar, they had been on friendly terms, but Jake's had a strict no mixing business with pleasure kind of atmosphere, despite its seedy clientèle, and, frankly, back when she was still bartending some on the weekends, she hadn't been interested in dating. Now that she was, Jason was just... well, Jason – that one nice guy that every girl knew that she could talk to, that one nice guy that seemed to want sex from every other woman he met except for the one girl who confided in him. And that was okay with her.
Jason was also a fair man, honest, hard working, and he was loyal. He had helped her land her current job, went over her checkbook with her a few times when she couldn't get the damn thing balanced, and, hell, he'd even gone to her grandmother's funeral, though, if she had been aware of his presence there, Audrey probably would have been rolling over in her grave... which was just another reason Elizabeth appreciated Jason Moore. However, at the same time, she wouldn't consider them friends either. They were... acquaintances, two people who could go for six months without seeing or talking to one another but still feel comfortable the very next time they ran into each other at Kelly's or in the frozen foods aisle at the grocery store.
Sidling up to the bar where Jason was polishing glasses unnecessarily – after all, no one came to Jake's for the sparkling stemware, Elizabeth took a seat without invitation, folded her arms across the bar top, and waited for the bartender to speak. He did so, seconds later, without even glancing up. "Bar's closed."
"I know," she drawled out, infusing a hint of humor in the tone of her voice. "I read the sign out front. Plus, seeing as how I worked here for a while, I'm kind of already aware of your hours of operation. However, I didn't come here for a drink."
"Overdraw your account again, Webber," he teased, glancing up to meet her gaze at the same time as the corners of his mouth quirked up into a knowing smirk.
"Very funny. Actually, I'm here to make you a business offer."
Without pausing, he responded, "I don't need any new artwork for the bar, Elizabeth. Even if I wanted to spruce this place up..."
"Spruce," she repeated, chuckling softly. "Since when do you say spruce?"
"I don't; you do... or, at least, you did the last time you tried to talk me into a mural on the back wall by the jukebox."
"And I stand by that offer, but that's not why I'm here." Biting her lip in an effort to curb her own enthusiasm, she leaned forward, smiling when Jason abandoned his glass polishing and did the same thing. "What would you say if I told you I stumbled across the biggest piece of scandalous information this town has ever seen?"
"Bigger than Lucy Coe in her underwear at the Nurses' Ball?"
"Oh, please," she dismissed, waving off his suggestion. "That's just a tradition at this point, a treasured one, in fact, especially by the old perverts who frown and then secretly get off hours later back at home when they think about it again after they take a Viagra."
"You have a dirty mouth, Webber."
"Which you've always enjoyed, Moore."
He tipped his head in concession. "Alright, bigger than the police commissioner's daughter's sex tape scandal?"
Rolling her eyes, she said, "that performance could hardly be considered sex... at least not good sex." If she didn't know any better, Elizabeth would have thought she saw Jason rake his gaze up and down her body quickly, but she dismissed the moment as a flight of her own imagination and pressed on. "No, what I'm talking about involves Port Charles' very own first family."
"You got dirt on the Q's?"
Slapping a hand on the bar, she exclaimed, "hey, don't say it like that. I happen to be a very good scandal monger."
"Only if you're at the center of the scandal."
Ignoring him, she continued, "what if I were to tell you that Alan Quartermaine had an affair... oh say about twenty-eight years ago."
"I'd say that it better have been with a man or his own sister if you really think this news is going to make waves. The Quartermaines are known for their affairs. Hell, Monica Quartermaine had one with her own nephew."
"This affair produced a child."
Despite his best efforts, Elizabeth could see the shock ricochet through Jason's strikingly clear blue eyes. "AJ?"
"No, that lout is 100% legitimate... which is probably why he drinks like a fish and has the personality of a surly rhinoceros."
Grinning broadly, she answered, "you." As Jason rocked backwards, she explained, "apparently, your mother – Susan Moore – left the secret of your parentage with my grandmother when she died after giving birth to you. If something were to happen where you would need your biological family, something like a medical emergency, because, obviously, Audrey didn't think life in an orphanage and foster care were dire enough to spill the beans, then she was to go to the Q's and tell them the truth."
"I... but... why are you telling me this, Elizabeth?"
"Because we're going to announce your status as a Quartermaine heir to the world."
"We," he inquired, the sudden rising of his brows telling her he was surprised by her response.
"And why the hell would I do that?"
"Because old Eddie Q is desperate for a suitable heir."
"He has AJ or even Ned Ashton," Jason pointed out, taking yet another step away from her.
"True, but, if he gave the company to AJ, ELQ would come to stand for Empty Liquor Quarts, and, despite the fact that Ned Ashton is a competent businessman, he has one thing against him." Answering his question before it could even be asked, she finished, "he's the eldest son of an eldest daughter. Men like Edward Quartermaine want to pass their legacies down to someone who will carry on their family line, who has their last name."
"There's just one problem with your plan here, Webber," he argued, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't want to be a part of that family, and I certainly don't want any of their money."
"But you do want to help people, the more the better, in fact, and there's no way you'll ever be able to help all the homeless kids of Port Charles, all the hungry and hopeless teens of this godforsaken town unless you suddenly and quite conveniently come into a large sum of moola."
Reclaiming his steps towards her and once more leaning against the bar, Jason asked her, "and where do you fit into this whole scheme, Webber?"
"My letter, my plan, my money, too, Moore. First you're going to marry me, then we're going to spill the beans, and finally we're going to reap the rewards – all, approximately, 780 million of them." Leaning across the bar top, she shocked him when she pushed off her arms and planted her lips against his own for a quick, promising kiss. "So, what do you say? Want to get hitched?"