See You Later
Elizabeth stood in the middle of Wyndamere's ballroom and slowed turned in a circle. Was it really that long ago that she and Emily had laughingly planned their happily-ever-afters while sitting here?
She sighed as Nik approached. This was hard, not the hardest thing she had ever done, but hard enough.
"Nikolas, I was going to find you but … "
The young prince stopped several feet from her. "But you wanted to relive the nightmare? I wish I could burn this room to the ground. Hell, maybe I should burn the whole damn place."
She shook her head. "No, you shouldn't. I wasn't thinking about her death. I was thinking about her life and her dreams." Elizabeth walked over and took his hand. "We sat here one day while you and Lucky were hooking up a new tv and dvd player. We imagined marrying the two of you in a beautiful double ceremony and then having the reception right here. We talked about colors and bouquets, and table arrangements and what songs we would dance to."
Nik couldn't resist the smile. "Lucky and I never stood a chance."
Elizabeth laughed. "No, you really didn't." She took another look around the room and this time she focused on the place where Emily's body had lain. "Of course, neither did our dreams."
He wanted to hold her but something in her eyes held him back. "I miss Emily. I always will but I have new dreams now."
"I thought I did too."
Nik felt it then. She wasn't here because of the life he wanted. She was here to say goodbye.
"So many of my old dreams were taken from me. Life with Lucky. Growing old with my best friend. Watching Jake grow up." She paused and took several deep breaths. "But there were dreams that I just let go of. Things I wanted but didn't fight for. And you know what? That's not me. That's not the lesson I want to teach Cam and Aiden."
He stood there waiting.
She let go of his hand. "I'm leaving."
Elizabeth swiped at the tears falling down her cheeks. "I am so sorry. I hate hurting you."
Nikolas shoved his hands in his pockets, afraid he would reach for her and beg her to stay. "I want you to be happy."
"And I want that for you. But we, we just have so much history and we're not each other's great love. We're settling for what's left. You deserve better, Nikolas."
He stared at his feet, unwilling to watch her cry and not hold her. "I don't think of being with you as settling. I love you. A part of me always has."
She leaned slightly toward him. "I'm sorry." She placed a gentle kiss on his cheek and walked out of the beautiful ballroom for the final time.
Nikolas didn't think it was possible but he now hated the room even more.
Lila's rose garden wasn't yet fully in bloom but that didn't stop Elizabeth from imagining the glory to come. She remembered long walks with Emily as they discussed everything from Sarah's melodramas to the latest round of Quartmaine craziness. So lost in the memories, she didn't hear the footsteps behind her.
A.J. cleared his throat and she jumped. "I would apologize but I'm not trespassing."
Elizabeth chuckled. "Guilty. Please don't call Mac."
He laughed. "Why don't you let me decide the punishment?"
Her smile vanished. "A.J., we need to talk."
"That translates to I'm dumping your sorry ass."
She rolled her eyes. "We're not dating."
Elizabeth nodded. "And that's why I'm here. I mean, I have tried to see you as someone who made horrible choices and has paid for that. I can forgive you. Because I've done so many horrible things myself. But being with you? Really being with you? I can't do that."
A.J. tilted his head. "This is about Jason."
"He would see it as a betrayal. I've hurt him so many times and I can't…"
She looked away and ran a finger along one of the rose leaves. "Dead or alive, I am going to honor what we had. I have to. For him and for Jake."
"I always come in second where my brother is concerned. I don't know why I thought this would be any different."
Elizabeth shook her head. "Stop competing with a ghost and live for yourself. You are a good man and somewhere out there is a woman who will love you the way you need to be loved. It's just not me."
The Quartmaine heir watched her slip between the plants and out of his life, thinking of what might have been.
It was barely noon and Luke Spencer was on his third drink. He couldn't face the day sober. Tracy was as lost to him as Laura. Lucky was following in his footsteps. Lulu was a mess. Ethan was planning something that Luke didn't even want to know about. He had a funny feeling he would get dragged in and who knew where that lead.
"How on earth is your liver still functioning?"
Luke grinned at his lovely former daughter-in-law. "It's all in the gene pool, sweetheart."
Elizabeth winced. "That's what scares me the most about Aiden's future."
The old scoundrel winked at her. "Don't worry. A good dose of Webber will balance him out."
She walked over and poured herself a small sample of whatever it was he was consuming. "You need to take better care of yourself. Lulu worries."
"I know. But she has Dante and that kid Maxie is basting for her. She'll be okay."
Elizabeth took a drink and shuddered as the fiery liquid flowed down her throat. "Wow, that's good stuff." She set the glass down. "Luke, I'm leaving."
He paused with his glass half-raised. "Really? Chasing after Cowboy?"
"No!" She shuddered again at just the thought. "No, I'm chasing after me."
Luke's grin returned. "Good for you, doll. Damn good for you."
Standing outside the penthouse door, Elizabeth felt her first concerns about the plan. She hated Sam McCall Morgan. She hated that the woman got Elizabeth's guy and then had his son. She hated that Sam had been forgiven and she had been cast aside. Could she really go in there and make nice?
Before she could make up her mind, the door opened and there stood Sam with Daniel in her arms.
"Elizabeth? What are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to let you know I'm leaving Port Charles. I know you don't really care but I have a favor to ask."
Sam's eyebrows shot up. "You want a favor from me?"
Elizabeth sighed. "Yes. Daniel is Jake's brother. I hate it and I know you do too but it's a fact. And they look so much alike. I was hoping you wouldn't mind giving me a picture of him. I mean, I know you'd mind but I'm still hoping you will. I just want as many pieces of Jake as I can have."
"You mean you want as many pieces of Jason as you can get?" Sam fired back.
Straightening and refusing to back down, Elizabeth still managed to keep her voice calm for Daniel's sake. "He's their father. Look, you won. You got the wedding ring. Please just give me this."
Sam couldn't help the little thrill that ran through her. She had won and she decided she could afford to be generous. "Okay." She walked back to the desk and pulled out a wallet size picture from the studio session two weeks ago. "Have a crumb, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth grabbed the small photo and pivoted away from her nemesis. Sam smirked and kissed her son's forehead.
Carly Jacks loved her office at the MetroCourt. It was stylish and yet welcoming. Apparently a little too welcoming because Elizabeth Webber looked like she was perched on that chair for the long run. "What do you want exactly? I've got a lot on my to-do list."
Elizabeth forced herself not to smile. How many years had they circled each other, fighting for Jason's attention? "I want your help."
Carly's mouth dropped open. "You're kidding, right?" At the other woman's silence, she laughed. "With what?"
The nurse handed her an envelope. "Keeping Jason's last secret."
Carly took the letter and read it through twice. Astonished, she met her new partner's gaze. "Tell me what you need."
Audrey stood in Elizabeth's living room staring at the boxes. As much as she hated saying goodbye, she was incredibly proud of her granddaughter's strength. Following her heart and going to study art in Italy had been her goal for so long and now it was happening.
"Gram, have you seen Aiden's jacket? I swear I thought it was in his room."
Audrey smiled. "I have it. Send him down here."
She watched as both boys stomped down the stairs.
"Gram, you're gonna miss me more than Aiden cause you've known me longer, right?" Cameron queried.
She laughed as she gently ruffled his curly hair. "Oh, darling, I am going to miss you both so very much. I promise that I will come visit you just as often as I can." She wrapped an arm around each of them and hugged them tightly. "Now, grab your backpacks and let's get going before you miss your flight."
Aiden's eyes sparkled much like his mother's. "I like planes!"
Elizabeth came down the steps and ordered her sons to make one last bathroom break before the long ride to the airport. As they left the room, she couldn't hold back the memory of Jake running across the same floor. Leaving the home they had shared felt like she was abandoning her second child. Biting back tears, she looked up to her grandmother. "Part of me can't imagine living somewhere Jake never did. Then there's this little part of me that wants to be able to walk into a room and not get overwhelmed by the memories. And that makes me feel like a terrible mother."
Audrey hugged her tightly. "No, my dear, that makes you human. You are a wonderful mother. You loved Jake so much and you will always grieve. But this move is a good thing." Before Elizabeth could protest, Audrey pulled back and touched a finger to her lips. "I haven't always supported you as I should. I have tried to force into the choices that I thought were best. Lucky did the same thing. Even Jason made decisions for you. It's your turn to do what will make you happy and that will make you an even better mother than you already are."
"Gram, what am I going to do without you around?" Elizabeth hugged her again. "I love you and I am so thankful for you. I'm going to miss you."
As the women fought tears, the boys reentered the room with all the stealth of a marching band. Audrey smiled broadly. "Okay, let's get you to the airport. Your future is waiting!"
The plane was circling da Vinci International and Elizabeth was holding her breath. She had spent the long flight storing up her memories of Port Charles while the boys played on their iPad minis. Now it was time to put the past behind her and she was ready. She believed that, if Jake could see her, he would be happy. She was finally exactly where she wanted to be.
It wasn't a long drive to their newly purchased villa near Tarquinia yet both boys were sound asleep long before it was over. She knew between the excitement of the plane ride and the jetlag that they would be out for hours. That suited her plans perfectly.
The villa was not overly large. It's chief attraction lay in the incredible view of the Meditterranean from the windows on its back side. She couldn't wait to set up her easel on the large balcony and paint for hours. In fact that was the second thing she planned on doing.
Upon arriving, she was able to move Cameron and Aiden from the rental car to their new beds without waking them. As she made her way to the master bedroom, her heart rate skyrocketed. This was it. This was what she had been eagerly anticipating for the last three weeks as she wrapped up her life in Port Charles. Placing her hand on the door knob, she took a deep breath. Then another. Happy tears fought to be released but she refused to let them. Before she could turn the knob, the door swung open.
His blue eyes met hers just before his hands grabbed her waist and pulled her close. His lips were on hers before she could even whisper his name. "Jas…"
Carly lasted nine months. Nine months of knowing that her best friend was alive and not hopping on a plane to Italy to drag his ass back home. Nine months of knowing that he was with the one woman she never wanted him with. Nine months of watching over Daniel exactly as he had asked her to do in his letter. Like he had to ask. That sort of thing was implied in the whole best friendship rule book. Not that he ever bothered with rules.
She looked over the villa he now called home. She could hear laughter coming from somewhere behind the house and followed it. Down on the beach, a man and two boys were happily splashing each other in the surf.
"You just couldn't stay away, could you?"
Crossing her arms and turning to face Elizabeth, Carly raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. "Look who's talking, muffin."
Elizabeth shook her head and smiled. "I was invited, remember?"
"Yeah, about that. I mean, I get it. No more mob, no more danger, so no more reasons to be apart. But what about Sam?"
The artist winced. "I asked. He said she was happy. Sam likes the whole danger thing. And you are watching over Daniel so if Jason is ever really needed…you call, he comes."
Carly nodded and refocused on the trio on the sand. "He loves you more than he loved her. I knew it. God, I think even Sam knew it." She smiled. "In the end, I am thankful he's alive and happy. If that includes you, well, then I guess it's time for me to accept it. I'm not saying let's be bff's and do each other's hair but …"
Elizabeth snorted. "Don't you just hate it when you have to put on your big girl panties and play nice?"
Carly couldn't help it. Between the joy on Jason's face and the misery on Elizabeth's, she laughed harder than she had in years.