A/N: I'll admit it, I have never been a huge Carly fan. While I admire the actresses, she's the character I love to hate and want to see fall flat on her butt. But I was struck by her interaction with Elizabeth several times, and I figured if anyone would understand Elizabeth's reaction after learning she was pregnant by a man she didn't want around her, it was Carly. So, this is my chance to explore an unlikely friendship.

Part I - Coming Together

She sat there on the exam table, glad that she was now at least dressed and no longer in one of those little paper gowns. She stared at the doctor in disbelief, but knew no matter how many times the woman said it it would still be the same. She was pregnant. How could this happen?

She didn't need the sex-ed basics; she was just unable to comprehend it. She was on the pill. Had been since Lucky came back; she'd never gone off. And ever since her rape she'd always been very aware of STD's and AIDS, so the one thing she had insisted on every time with Ric was he wear a condom. How the heck could she get pregnant being on the pill and using a condom? It just seemed to defy the odds.

"Miss Webber, are you all right?" the doctor asked.

"I-I'm fine. Just surprised."

"I take it this wasn't a planned pregnancy?"

She shook her head no. Like she would willingly decide to get pregnant with the baby of a rapist.

"Do you know who the father is?"

Elizabeth whipped her head up. Of course she knew. Stupid and terrible judge of men, yes. Tramp, no. She knew the father. The problem was, she didn't want to know him. And making an instant decision, she didn't want him to know anything about this baby.

"Yes, but we're not together, and never should have been."

"I'm sorry," the doctor murmured. "Would you like to speak to one of our counselors?"

Yes she did, but she had no time. Her mind was already racing a million miles a minute. Plans were being drawn up and quickly discarded. She just had no time to talk to a counselor. Not today, not tomorrow, not a week from now. Maybe in a couple of weeks, but by then Elizabeth Webber and Port Charles were going to be distant memories.

"No, not right now," she said. "I need to go."

"Alright," the doctor said, not looking entirely convinced. "Let me write a prescription for your prenatal vitamins, and I'll get some literature for you to read. You should pick an obstetrician; we have several here at the clinic, and set up an appointment. Prenatal care is essential for your health and the baby's."

"I know," she nodded as she hopped down off the paper-covered table. She would get prenatal care. She wouldn't do anything to jeopardize her health or the baby's. She just wasn't going to be in Port Charles when she did it.

Gathering all the papers the nurse handed her and paying the clinic, she headed out onto the street. Leaning against the dirty brick wall, she took several deep breaths. She needed a plan, but what she needed most of all was money. And darn, she was fresh out of that today.

Starting to walk, she quickly went through her options. Luke and Lucky, her best bets for no questions asked and unconditional support, were out of town. Emily was in rehab, and Elizabeth was not dropping this in her lap. Hey Em, how you been? Sorry I haven't been by sooner but I was too busy getting myself knocked up by a rapist. Hope your detox goes well, wish I could be here for you, but could you spare a little money so I could disappear without a trace? Nikolas might, might help her out, but telling him would be like telling Jasper Jacks. Embarrassing and mortifying beyond belief. She and Nikolas had drifted too far apart, and she was keeping him a last ditch resort.

There were two people she normally would have thought to go to, but right now, besides Ric, they were the last people she wanted to know she was pregnant. She'd go ask A.J. Quartermaine for money before she went to Sonny or Jason.

Turning the corner onto Elm she collided with a person and went down sideways. Looking up through her hair she saw a person looking down at her with absolute contempt. Oh no.

"Why don't you watch where you're going, Elizabeth?"

Her guard stepped forward to help the woman on the ground up, but she shook off the help and scrambled around trying to pick up the papers that had fallen on the ground. Leaping to her feet she pushed her hair out of her face and took in a shaky breath. "I'm sorry, Carly. Are you okay? I wasn't watching where I was going. You sure you're okay, I didn't hurt the baby did I?"

Elizabeth's hand went to her own stomach and Carly just shook her head. "No. But are you sure you're okay?"

The younger woman nodded then started to inch away. "I'm sorry again. I've got to go."

Then she was gone and Carly looked down the street, a puzzled expression on her face. Okay, that was officially weird. Shrugging she turned to Johnny. "Let's go."

The guard looked up at her and then at the blue and purple pamphlets he held. "She missed these."

Carly rolled her eyes. Great. She should probably do the nice thing and drop them off at Kelly's for the klutz. Who knew what they were, but she didn't have a lot of time to waste playing Good Samaritan and she was sure that Elizabeth would get them at Kelly's. Grabbing them from Johnny they continued on their way.

When she walked into the dinner intending to leave the papers for Elizabeth with Penny, she was surprised to see Courtney behind the counter. Taking a seat she smiled at her sister-in-law. "Hey, what are you doing here? You just got out of the hospital last week."

Courtney rolled her eyes. "Elizabeth called Tammy this morning and gave some sob story about being sick and needing some time off."

Carly creased her brows in confusion. She had just seen Elizabeth and the younger woman didn't look sick. Maybe a little shaken and harried, but to make Courtney cover her shifts probably because she was having some love crisis with Ric? Her mother should just fire the twit.

When Courtney set down a glass of juice she touched the papers in Carly's hand and then glanced up at her questioningly. "How come you're carrying around your old pregnancy pamphlets?"

"Huh?" Carly asked and looked down at the papers, reading them for the first time. They were from the clinic over on Brown. Johnny had handed them to her saying Elizabeth had missed them when she'd picked up all the things that had fallen. She was about to tell Courtney that they were Elizabeth's, but for some reason she stopped. Courtney gave a little laugh, but still apparently expected an answer. "I, uh, they must have been in my purse. I spilled it in the car."

"Oh, okay," her friend said, then sighed when the bell chimed as someone new walked in.

Carly looked down again at the papers. Elizabeth Webber was pregnant. Peering closely at the white paper peeking out of one of the tri-folded pamphlets Carly realized she was also missing her prescription for prenatal vitamins. She hadn't wanted Johnny to help her, had quickly grabbed for the papers as if trying to prevent them from seeing what they were, and then left so quickly she hadn't realized Johnny was standing on some of them. When she saw Courtney coming back she quickly shoved the pamphlets into her purse.

"You know what?" she smiled. "I gotta go pick up some papers at school for a summer program Michael's interested in. I just wanted a cool drink."

"Okay," Courtney sighed. "I'll see you later. I have to close tonight."

"Yeah, call me," she said as she dropped some money on the counter and turned for the door. "Maybe we can have lunch tomorrow."

Once she was outside she started back towards Elm, figuring that Elizabeth would soon discover she was missing her prescription and come back for it. And for some reason she really wanted to talk to the girl.

"Oh please, oh please, oh please," Elizabeth chanted under her breath as she hurried down the street. When she'd taken a break from packing up her clothes and the few other things she wanted to take with her, she went to her artist's table to make sure she got all the pregnancy pamphlets she'd dropped there when she got home.

So far her plan, considering she was just going to have to make due with her savings unless she sucked it up and went to Nikolas, was to take off while Tammy still thought she was sick. That was before she realized her prescription was missing. She didn't care if there were pamphlets, but a prescription with her name on it wouldn't be left behind if she could help it.

If she was lucky, it was still there on the ground, or in the gutter. Because she did not want Carly Corinthos to know she was pregnant. Courtney, Sonny and Jason would know in record time and with that many people it would only be a matter of hours until it got back to Ric.

When she turned the corner onto Elm she saw the limo parked by the curb. It looked as out of place in the neighborhood as she would at high tea at the country club. The driver's door open as she slowed, and Johnny walked around the car towards her. He scanned the street and then opened the door, motioning for her to climb inside. How very Godfatheresque of Carly, she thought as she rolled her eyes.


"Carly," she replied as she sat down across from the blonde. "I take it you know."

"That you're pregnant? Yeah. Here's your prescription," she said as she reached in her purse and pulled out the papers she had left behind.

Elizabeth took them and clutched them tightly in her lap. Of course Carly would find them. After all, she was pregnant against the odds, why wouldn't her nemesis find out? She could only imagine how Carly was going to gloat over this.

"You really are freaked out, aren't you?" the woman across from her said, her voice softer than Elizabeth had expected. "Relax, I'm not going to roll down the window and shout it to the world."

"Okay. Are you expecting me to eat crow? You were right and I was wrong about Ric?" she chuckled humorously. "Bet you've been waiting forever to hear that."

Carly sighed. "Yeah, I have. But not like this. It's obvious you're..."

"What? Freaked, petrified, terrified out of my mind? Not about being pregnant, that hasn't even hit me yet. I just don't want Ric to know. I have to get out of town before he somehow divines this."

Carly looked down at her lap. "You're not going to tell him?"

Elizabeth shifted on her seat, heat rising into her cheeks as anger and disbelief coursed through her. "Don't you dare. Don't you sit there and try and convince me-"

Carly held up her hands, cutting her off. "No, no. I wouldn't. I did everything I could to keep A.J. from find out about Michael. You've made your decision. I would never - I could never be your Robin."

"Thank you," Elizabeth said as she sagged against the seat. Relief swam through her instantly. "Thank you."

The older woman shifted uncomfortably. "It's okay. But...don't read too much into this, like I care or something, but what are you going to do about leaving town?"

Elizabeth scooted across the seat towards the door. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't believe you care. So don't worry about it. I'll figure it out. Think of it this way, it's plausible deniability in case anyone asks. But since they won't, you don't have to worry about lying to anyone that we ever had this conversation."

Then she was out the door and headed for home, the limo and its occupants already a discarded thought.

Carly sat in the limo, unable to stop thinking about Elizabeth Webber and her baby. She remembered when she was pregnant with Michael how she had worried about funds and taking care of her baby. She had been living with Tony then, but going to Jason sure had eased her mind. She knew she wouldn't have to worry about A.J. or about money ever again.

Elizabeth obviously wasn't going to tell Ric, and she fully understood that. They had all been sucked in by the man, Elizabeth most of all. She had actually slept with him, and Carly could still remember the night she came to the penthouse desperately needing to believe Ric wasn't a rapist. Carly could only imagine how disgusted Elizabeth felt, being pregnant by a man who had used another woman like he had.

She tried to think what she would do if she were in Elizabeth's place. She had been somewhat, and she had run straight to Jason. Carly doubted the younger woman would do the same. She would probably do everything in her power to never go begging Jason for help.

Dang. Carly really hated having these feelings she was having towards Elizabeth. She was supposed to hate the other woman, and not get involved in her petty little problems. But this wasn't petty, and her concern wouldn't go away. She returned the prescription form, Elizabeth told her not to worry about it, she should just wash her hands and be done with it. But she couldn't. She'd been in trouble like Elizabeth was now, and she couldn't just turn her back on the other woman. Dang these pregnancy hormones.

Lowering the divider between her and Johnny she met his expectant gaze. "Alright, it's obviously the pregnancy, and I really don't like feeling this way, but I want to help Elizabeth. So what have you come up with?"

Johnny locked the doors and turned to face her. "I have twenty-five thousand dollars ready cash that I was going to give her. I know a guy who can get her fake passports, IDs and Social Security numbers. Depending on how long we can talk Elizabeth into staying, he'll be able to come up with three minimum. I'd feel more comfortable if she had five or six. I want her to be able to disappear completely in case Ric's watching."

Carly raised her eyebrows in astonishment. "Wow, you've been thinking about this, haven't you?"

"I have. Now, I'd like her to have more than twenty-five grand, but I doubt she'll stick around long enough for me to get more. And a wire transfer would be too risky." He paused and thought for a minute. "Maybe I could pawn a couple of things."

"You'd do all that?" Carly asked, somewhat surprised by how well Johnny had thought this through and his willingness to give her money.

"I know you don't like her, Carly, but yes I would."

The retort she was sure Johnny was expecting never even formed. Because she was already thinking of what money she could get. "You won't need to pawn anything," she said. "I need you to head to the bank. And call your guy. Tell him I'll pay him a bonus to get at least five, more if possible, as soon as he can."

He blinked, but merely nodded his head and turned to start the car. She looked out the window, already figuring out how much money she could take out of the club's account and her personal one without Sonny raising an eyebrow. And since she figured the amount she planned on getting out to give to Elizabeth wasn't going to escape his notice, she was even now figuring out excuses to give him.

Definitely must be the pregnancy hormones getting out of control. She was planning what lies to tell Sonny so she could keep Elizabeth Webber's secret. She was going to need a vacation soon; she didn't like this abnormal behavior.

When the knock sounded on her door, Elizabeth jumped and spun around. Ever since she realized Carly, and probably Johnny, knew she was pregnant she was paranoid that someone else was going to find out. The chances were low, but that didn't stop her heart from racing as she reached for the baseball bat in the corner.

"Elizabeth? It's me."

Carly. Figures. She unlocked the door and pulled it open. "What are you doing here?"

"Nice bat," Carly said as she came in followed by Johnny. "I have one myself."

She was not doing bonding with Carly and she had a surefire way of shutting her up. "Yeah, Jason bought it for me after I was kidnapped. In fact it was the night he ran off to you and left me alone. It really was the beginning of the end for us, so maybe I should give it to you as a momento or something."

Carly bit her lip and appeared to be visibly holding herself back. Johnny made a noise in his throat and with his voice full of warning said, "Elizabeth."

Sighing, she looked up at the ceiling. "I'm sorry. But why are you here?"

Carly looked at Johnny and motioned at him with her hand. He cleared his throat and told her, "We came to help you."

"Help me?" she repeated, her eyebrows raised in question. Turning to Carly she asked, "Why? Why would you want to help me? Oh, wait, I get it. I leave town and I get away from you, Sonny, Courtney, and Jason. I get it."

"Okay, look you little-"

"Carly," Johnny cut her off.

"Sorry. Look, Elizabeth, you may not believe me, but I've been where you are. Don't want some slimeball to know he's the father of your baby because you hate him, you're afraid of what he might do, fill in the blank however you want." She stopped and swallowed. "But you're different from me in one way. I ran straight to Jason to save me and I'm betting that he's the last person next to Ric that you want to see."

"Yeah," Elizabeth said as she crossed her arms over her stomach.

"I've given you a lot of grief, and maybe I was wrong," the other woman shrugged.

"I gave as good as I got," Elizabeth admitted. "It doesn't matter though. I'm leaving and thank you, but I'll make my own way."

"Elizabeth," Johnny spoke up. "If it was just you, I'm sure you could."

She closed her eyes in defeat. Johnny played the baby card. "That's low, Johnny. Don't you think I know it's not just me anymore? I'm not going to put myself in danger."

"Good. Then you'll let us help you," he said. "We got you some money and I need a picture and you'll have five new ID's."


"Elizabeth, we just want to help you," Carly said as she took a step towards her. "This isn't about getting you away from Jason. It's about Ric. I respect your decision not to tell him, and...I don't know, but I just want to help. You need money, you know you do."

Her eyes filled with tears and Elizabeth turned her head and blinked. If it was just her she would tell Carly she could shove her help and false concern, but it wasn't her anymore. She was petrified and wondered what she was going to do. Ric didn't seem like he was going to give up on trying to get back together with her, and she knew if he found out about the baby there was no way he would let up. Part of her was worried that if Ric discovered she was gone he might look, and she couldn't take the chance that he might ever find out about the baby she was carrying.

Bowing her head she tried to hold back her tears, but they fell anyway. Carly came forward and gently steered her to the couch. Elizabeth was too tired to put up a fight and collapsed onto the cushions, putting her head on the arm of the sofa and looking down at the floor.

"Where are your photos?" she asked.

She didn't understand and when she looked up at her, Carly explained it was for the ID's. She pointed to the albums she had out earlier on her artist's table. The other woman went through them, pulled out several and handed them to Johnny. When he protested about leaving her alone she pointed at the door and said, "Look at that thing. Nothing is going to get through that. Stop wasting time and go give your guy the pictures and get back here. I need to talk to Elizabeth and you probably don't want to be around for that. You know, pregnant women things; tender breasts, morning sickness, how to get your underwear on when you're eight months along..."

He held up his hands and backed for the door. "I'm going. Don't open the door for anyone." Pausing at the door, he inspected it appreciatively. "Good solid build, he picked out a winner didn't he?"

Then he was gone and Elizabeth got up to flip the locks. She rested her hand on it lightly, realizing that when she left she would be losing her last big connection to Jason. She turned around and saw Carly looking at her curiously.

Giving a shrug she said, "Jason had it installed after I was kidnapped. It reminded me of the crypt at first, but it did help me feel safe."

She sat down and curled her legs up underneath her. "Alright, why did you really want Johnny gone? Somehow I doubt it's because you want to be my crash course pregnancy guru."

When Carly opened the door to the penthouse, her mind was still back in Elizabeth's studio. The younger woman was holding herself together pretty well, but Carly knew it was just a matter of time before it all crashed down on her. She knew Elizabeth didn't believe her at first, but she really had wanted to talk to her about being pregnant and see if Elizabeth had any questions. It was obvious that she hadn't thought much about it, being so focused on getting out of town.

Carly just went over a few basic things, but she sensed she was only adding stress the other woman didn't need right now. So she recommended a couple of books for her to get. And in what still had to be a side effect of her hormones, she wrote down her cell phone number and told Elizabeth that if she wanted she could call her. If she was scared, if she was in trouble, if she was in danger, or simply just wanted to talk, Carly promised she would listen.

When she dropped her purse into the chair by the desk, she looked up and saw Sonny and Jason sitting on the couch looking at her. She swallowed and tried not to look like she was guilty of anything. She really didn't want Jason here. If Sonny asked where she'd been, or if he'd found out about the money, she could probably get his mind off the question. Talk about Michael, or the baby or the nursery. Jason made her nervous because he wasn't as inclined to let her get away with it like Sonny was.

She didn't doubt Jason loved Courtney, and she didn't think he would leave her just because of Elizabeth. But Jason had three years of helping the woman ingrained into him, plus he had done everything he could to help Carly when she was pregnant. Despite all the anger and yelling between he and Elizabeth, he would probably fall back into his protective pattern if he thought she or her baby was in danger. And the one thing she had promised Elizabeth, one of the only things the other woman had asked for, was that she not tell Sonny or Jason she was pregnant. She didn't want Sonny mad at Carly, so she said if Sonny started asking questions she could tell them she'd left town, once she was already gone. But she never wanted them to know she was pregnant.

Sonny stood and came over to give her a kiss. "Where's Johnny? He usually walks you to the door."

"He usually walks me to the elevator," she corrected. "Which he did. Then he left to take care of some things. Hey, Jason."

"Hi," he said with a slight smile.

Sonny apparently was still onto something, because he followed after her. "Doing something for you?"

She poured a glass of water and kept her back to both him and Jason. "As a matter of fact, yes."

"Delivering the seventy-five thousand dollars you took out this afternoon?"

She turned and met his gaze. "Yes."

"Why did you take seventy-five thousand out of your accounts?" he pressed. "Is this like when you tried to get Alexis out of town?"

She realized later that her mistake was when she looked at Jason. "No, I'm not trying to run anyone out of town. I'm helping someone."

"Who?" Jason asked.

"I will tell you in two days, but I made a promise."

"You promised me no more lies, Carly," Sonny said, frustration entering his voice.

She turned abruptly to face him. "I am not lying to you. I promised this person I wouldn't say anything for a couple of days, and I won't. So don't you dare act like I'm being disloyal or something like that. When you keep a promise to someone, or keep a secret, it's honorable and noble, but me, well Heaven forbid I should keep my word to someone who asked for my help. I'm going upstairs. You two are such hypocrites it sickens me sometimes."

Then she headed upstairs and locked the bedroom door behind her. She grabbed the phone and quickly dialed Johnny's number. "Come on, come on, pick up."


"Johnny, have you heard from the guy yet?"

"Not yet. We're just waiting for his call."

"Well, is she packed?"


She could year the question in his voice, wondering why she was calling. "Then wait somewhere else. If Jason calls, tell him I said you can't tell him where you are. He and Sonny know I took the money out and you're helping me help someone. Tell Elizabeth I'm sorry, but I didn't tell them anything. Jason just had that look."

"Okay. We're gone."

She hung up the phone and leaned back onto the chaise lounge. She really hoped Elizabeth got out of town without any problems.

Part II - Revelations

When the elevator opened at the penthouse level, Carly stepped out cautiously. Two days ago Elizabeth Webber left town. She'd only learned that for certain today when Johnny finally managed to call her. Sonny, her oh so double-standard husband, had sent Johnny out on some piddly little assignment because he dared to help Carly and kept a promise to a friend. He told her he took Elizabeth took the bus depot where she boarded a bus for New Jersey. He was sure she had disappeared into a new persona by now and was far away from New Jersey and New York.

"Mrs. Corinthos?" Max asked, looking around the corner where she was still standing by the closed elevator doors. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Max."

"Should I get Mr. Corinthos?"

"No," she shook her head. "I'm going in. Is he home?"

"He and Jason are both inside," Max confirmed.

Yeah, she figured as much. They kept trying to figure out who she had helped. They suspected it was Elizabeth. Since the brunette wasn't at Kelly's, but Tammy still insisted she was out sick, they weren't sure what to think. Just because she wasn't answering her door and Ric hadn't seen her didn't mean anything. As she pointed out to Jason, Elizabeth seemed to have wised up and dropped him when he confirmed to her what he'd done to Carly. So now, two days later, she could only imagine they were waiting to pounce and ask questions. She really hoped Johnny told Elizabeth how to evade their tracking efforts.

She didn't understand it. For months they didn't care about Elizabeth, and now suddenly they were demanding to know where she was. Did they really think she ran Elizabeth out of town? Why were they suddenly so concerned about the former waitress's whereabouts?

Well, there was no sense in putting it off any longer. She nodded at Max and he opened the door for her. Walking in she put her purse down and leaned her hip against Sonny's desk and looked at him and Jason.

"Welcome home, Carly," Sonny smiled.

"Look," she said, not in the mood for Sonny's attempts to butter her up. "Why don't you just ask what you want to know. It's been two days, I'll tell you what I can."

"The seventy-five thousand was Elizabeth Webber wasn't it?"

She looked at her husband and nodded. "Yes."

"Why?" Jason asked.

"That's her business and she didn't want anyone to know."

"Carly," Sonny said, warning lacing his voice.

"What?" she snapped. "She wanted to leave town. She had her reasons. Why does it matter to you? What exactly makes you think you deserve to know or I'm going to tell you?"

"Why'd you help her?" Jason asked. "I can't believe - Elizabeth wouldn't ask you for help."

"I helped her because she wanted to leave, and I knew that she couldn't have much money from working at the diner. She didn't ask, I offered to help her."

"Why?" Sonny questioned. "You hate her. You wouldn't help her unless you benefited from it, and yet you claim you weren't trying to run her out of town like you did to Alexis."

"My reasons for helping Elizabeth are mine and mine alone," she told Sonny. "Yeah, I've never been her biggest fan, but she needed help and I chose to help her?"

"Why?" he persisted.

"Why did you help Brenda? Why did you help Elizabeth years ago? I felt I could do something. And that's the last time I'm telling you," she said. She was tired of the questions, of the disbelief, of the feeling that she must tell them everything when they constantly invoked business. "I will not let you do this to me, Sonny."

"Do what?" he asked, and she could tell his temper was rising.

"I know that I've lied to you in the past and I've schemed. But there comes a time when you have to believe me, kinda like you tell me to trust you. Just because you didn't get every answer you think you're entitled to, which you aren't by the way, you are so quick to throw my past in my face. Sometimes I wonder why I ever fought to stay married to a man who in some ways still treats me like the whore he thought I was when we slept together."

Sonny flinched and Jason jumped in like he always did. "Carly, I don't think-"

"Really, Jase?" she cut him off. "What happened to you?"

"What?" he asked.

"He has questioned your loyalty time and time again since you've been back. When Elizabeth was kidnapped, when you fell in love with Courtney. Sonny has the gall to believe that the choices you make in your personal life are his business and he's free to criticize you. Did you ever ask for Elizabeth to know he was faking his death or because he never brought it up you just accepted his decision like a blind and dumb little lap dog?"

"Carly, that has nothing to do with this," Jason said softly.

"It has everything to do with this. I made Elizabeth a promise and I'm going to keep it. Screw you and screw Sonny if your code only allows you to keep your word to each other."

"Carly, that's not what's going on here," Sonny said.

"Isn't it?" she asked. "It looks that way to me. Elizabeth sat in Jason's penthouse worried to death for him, made me brownies, cleaned up our home after the funeral, went out of her way to make sure I was okay, and he never called her because he was too busy following your orders. He broke up with Courtney because you told him too, and then you fired him when he realized he loved her too much to stay away from her. You demand fidelity and loyalty from everyone and yet you never give it in return."

"What's going on?" Courtney asked from the doorway, her surprise over Carly yelling at Sonny clear.

"Nothing at all," Carly said. "Just me wondering why I bother putting up with my selfish bastard of a husband and your spineless pushover of a boyfriend."

Then she turned around, walked to the desk and grabbed her purse. She stormed out of the penthouse and never gave a second thought to Sonny calling after her.

Bobbie looked up when the door of the brownstone opened, and then smiled when her daughter walked into the living room. "Hello, Carly."

"Hi, Mama," she replied and sat down on the couch. She closed her eyes and let her head sink back against the fabric.

"Uh-oh, I know that look," Bobbie sighed. "What happened?"

"What usually happens. I had a fight with Sonny."

"Why, sweetie?"

Her daughter hedged for a minute and then spoke. "I gave Elizabeth Webber seventy-five thousand dollars because she wanted to leave town." She held up her hand. "I didn't run her out of town, this isn't about Jason and Courtney. She wanted to leave town, and I helped her."

"Okay," Bobbie said. She didn't understand it, but she held her tongue.

"Sonny and Jason knew I took the money out and they suspected it was her I helped. But I wouldn't tell them; I made a promise to her. Today when I confirmed it they wouldn't believe I didn't force her to leave because I wouldn't tell them why she left. I made a promise to Elizabeth, and yet Sonny pulls out the big betrayal card and 'You promised me no more lies, Carly.' Why can't he understand?"

She sighed and wrapped her arm around her daughter's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Carly. But you have to admit it does seem strange. You have always disliked Elizabeth, and you've been giddy with joy since Courtney entered Jason's life."

"So you don't believe me either," her daughter said bitterly. "Thanks."

"Carly, it's not that," Bobby sighed. "I'm just saying that it's understandable Sonny would be suspicious."

"I know. But why can't he understand I made her a promise? Elizabeth wanted to leave town and she didn't want to tell anyone her reasons. I respect her decision. Why can't he respect that?"

"I don't know, Carly," she said. She really didn't know what to say to her daughter, so she was just going to listen to Carly vent and then give her a hug when she went back to Sonny. She also wondered what happened to Elizabeth to make her leave so abruptly. As far as she knew the young woman had just been out sick.

"I wonder sometimes what I see in him," Carly said, her eyes still closed. "Is it the money and the power that I'd always wanted? Yeah, the money's great, but I'm tired of being treated like a second class citizen around him."

She furrowed her brow. "What are you saying, Carly?"

"I don't know," she said, forcing air out through her pursed lips while she rubbed her expanding stomach. "There are times when quite honestly I just want to punch my husband right in the mouth."

She was so tired. That was all she could think about as she made her way into the hotel room, hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the handle, then closed and locked the door. She dropped her suitcases on the bed and stumbled towards the bathroom. She had to take a shower and wash the week's grime off. The little showers she'd taken were nothing to what she really wanted.

She'd made it down to Baltimore, changing buses and names several times before boarding a train and heading to Chicago. She'd already forgotten what name she'd checked in with, that's how numb she was. Johnny had told her to rotate through two or three names for the first week and to change buses and directions frequently. Then get to a big city, use a name she hadn't before and hole up for a while. He told her about numbered accounts and ways to deal with her money to avoid arousing suspicion.

She'd deal with the money tomorrow, or the next day, she thought as she stepped under the hot stream of water. She washed, rinsed and repeated until she felt human again and her skin was red and no longer registered the heat. Then she turned off the water and padded back to the room in the bathrobe the hotel provided.

She dressed and picked up the room service menu, starving and dying for something to eat. She needed to take her prenatal vitamins and she knew from three nights ago that if she didn't take it with food she felt queasy. So far she hadn't been hit too hard, just fatigue and an aversion to greasy foods, but maybe that was because she'd been on the go non-stop and had nothing but a steady diet of fast food.

She dropped her hands down to her still flat stomach and rubbed it slowly. She was pregnant. The nausea was making it a little more real, not just some abstract thought anymore. Right now, there was a brand new life growing inside her. A baby that was part her and part…Ric.

One hand flew to her mouth as a sob rose. A man who had lied to her, preyed on her fears and doubts and used her as just a part of his never-ending vendetta against Sonny. He made Carly think they'd slept together, tormented the other woman about the paternity of her baby, and all the while Elizabeth had been blissfully and ignorantly sleeping with him. She thought he was a decent and honorable man, when in reality he was a rapist. And when she confronted him about it, he didn't see anything wrong with what he'd done.

She collapsed onto the bed and dissolved into tears. She was pregnant with a rapist's baby.

Carly walked into the penthouse behind Sonny and barely registered that Jason and Courtney followed. Dinner had been strained, but she didn't care. Ever since her blow up at Sonny nearly two weeks ago the tension had been thick in the penthouse. She did feel guilty that Michael was caught wondering why his parents weren't really speaking. But she wasn't backing down on this. She made a promise to Elizabeth and she couldn't help it if her husband failed to see it had nothing to do with him.

Courtney and Sonny were chatting animatedly, and Carly was beginning to regret ever mentioning marriage to Jason and Courtney in the hospital. Courtney, despite her initial protests, had gotten caught up in the idea and she and Sonny were unofficially planning everything, despite the little detail Jason hadn't given her a ring. Carly cast a glance over at Jason and realized her spineless comment had been dead on the money. He wasn't truly happy, but he didn't dare speak up and go against Sonny.

With a roll of her eyes she stood and headed for the kitchen. She wanted some ice cream.

"What are you doing, Carly?" Sonny asked, breaking his conversation with his sister.

"I'm getting some ice cream," she informed him and didn't bother stopping.

He followed after her and when he tried to reach for the Blue Bunny Exquisite Mint container she smacked his knuckles with the metal scoop and didn't care about his yelp of surprise or pain. She dished up her desert, put the container back in the freezer and went back out to the living room. She could hear Sonny following behind her, huffing under his breath, but she just ignored him.

Courtney looked at Carly and Sonny and uneasily tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Maybe we should just go."

"No, stay," Carly waved her spoon. "You and Sonny can go right on planning your idyllic life to Jason and Jason can keep on wondering where exactly his balls are."

Jason scowled at her and Sonny shook his head. "Carly, maybe you shouldn't eat all that. You did have quite a large dinner."

She looked up at Sonny and frostily said, "Maybe you'd like to become the first pregnant man. As long as this is my body, I'm going to eat what I want. Doctor Meadows says I'm healthy, the baby is fine, and one dish of ice cream is not going to change that. So get off my freaking case and stop treating me like an imbecile. I somehow managed my pregnancy with Michael without you playing the Nutrition Nazi."

She was mercifully spared his retort by the ringing of her cell phone. She put the bowl on the couch knowing Sonny would flip a lid that it could possibly spill, and hurried over to grab the purse and pull out her phone. "Hello?"

"Carly, I can't do this."

Her heart immediately constricted from the panic and terror in Elizabeth's voice. Her eyes widened and she turned away from the others in the room. "What's wrong?"

"I can't do this. Ho-how did I think I could do this?"

Had someone found Elizabeth? Was she in danger? What was happening? She could feel everyone staring at her and she knew she had to get out of the room. Turning for the stairs she said, "Okay, it's okay. Let me get to another room and we can talk."

Sonny grabbed her arm and stopped her. "Is that Elizabeth? What's wrong, Carly?"

She shook off his arm and scowled at him, trying to make it to the stairs.

"Carly?" Elizabeth's voice was tiny now, "was that Sonny? Sonny's there?"

"It was him," she confirmed. "Just let me get upstairs then I can talk."

"Oh, oh no. No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have called. J-just never mind."

"No, wait, wait," Carly said as she paused on the landing. "Don't hang up."

The click echoed in her ear and she stared at the floor. Elizabeth was panicked, she was reaching out for help and she hung up because Sonny couldn't keep his mouth shut.

"Carly?" Jason asked, coming up the steps to her. He swallowed visibly. "Was, was it Elizabeth?"

She nodded and moved to sit down on the stairs. He placed his hand on her elbow and helped her sit, then knelt in front of her. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know," she whispered shakily. "She hung up as soon as she heard Sonny's voice. Jason, you should have heard her. She, she was so frightened."

He looked down and then back at her. "You don't know where she's at?"

"No," she said as her voice cracked with tears. "She could be anywhere."

Courtney watched Jason and Carly on the stairs and wondered why her sister-in-law was so upset. Elizabeth had quit suddenly a couple of weeks ago and apparently left town. Ric had looked for her, and Zander Smith asked about her, but Courtney didn't pay much attention. She was annoyed she had to pick up extra shifts before Bobbie hired and trained a new waitress.

She didn't understand why Carly would help Elizabeth leave town, or why she was saying all these things about Jason and Sonny. Elizabeth had yelled at her brother and Jason several times, calling them selfish and monsters. Carly had never liked her, so why would she risk Sonny being mad at her to protect a mean, jealous little creature like Elizabeth?

It must be the pregnancy, she decided. Ever since that afternoon in the diner right before Elizabeth disappeared Carly had been acting different. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she thought back over that day. That was when Carly had the old pregnancy pamphlets that fell out of her purse. But that couldn't be true, because she'd been with her sister-in-law bought the purse, and it was definitely after she found out she was pregnant.

Courtney crossed her arms lightly over her stomach. Carly had run out of the diner right after she'd mentioned the papers. She left, seemed a little distracted - or was it surprised? - and then helped Elizabeth leave town.

"Oh my word. She's pregnant."

Everybody turned to look at her, but she stared straight at Carly who was taking deep breaths. "Elizabeth is pregnant, isn't she? Those pregnancy pamphlets weren't yours, they were hers. She skipped town because she's pregnant with Ric's baby."

"Carly?" Jason asked, and Courtney furrowed her brow wondering why he looked so bothered.

Carly looked away from Jason, but then slowly stood up. Courtney took her friend's silence as confirmation. "You didn't deny it. She's pregnant. That's why you gave her the money."

"Carly, is that true?" Sonny asked quietly.

"As I have said before, Elizabeth's reasons for leaving are hers and hers alone. I will not confirm or deny your assumptions."

"Oh please," Courtney pressed. "That's confirmation right there. You're hedging, trying not to lie. She's pregnant. What I don't get is why you would even care? Why would you keep her secret? I mean, if she's pregnant then Ric deserves to know."

"Why?" Carly said with such anger and force that Courtney was a little taken aback. The other blonde came down the stairs so quickly she was momentarily frightened she was going to be attacked.

"What?" she asked. "Of course he deserves to know. He's the father."

"So you're saying all fathers have a right to know their children? I was wrong to keep Michael away from A.J. and not want him to be a pawn for the Quartermaines to fight over? Sonny and I are wrong to not want him to have anything to do with our son now?"

"What? No, that's not what I said."

"Yes, it is," Carly hissed. "You said Ric deserves to know because he's the father. So then that means A.J. deserves to know Michael."

"No," she shook her head and looked over at Sonny and Jason, but their faces were blank.

"Why?" her sister-in-law pressed. "Because it's Sonny and I and you want to make sure you keep sucking up to us? But if Elizabeth is pregnant and she decided she didn't want Ric to know then it's different. Is that it? Because you hate her and you think she deserves to be with a man who made me think he raped me?"

Why did Carly keep twisting her words? She was beginning to think the hormones were going to Carly's head. "I don't hate Elizabeth."

"Coulda fooled me," Carly scoffed.

"Oh, like you're her new best friend?" Courtney shot back. "Why are you acting like this?"

"Because I'm only going to say this once. If, and I mean if Elizabeth is pregnant it is her business and no one else's. Not even Ric's. So don't take your petty little hatred and your half-baked assumptions and run off thinking you're going to do Ric a favor by telling him."

The pure venom in Carly's voice stunned her, and she was relieved when Sonny finally stepped forward. "Carly, you need to calm down. Courtney isn't going to run off and tell Ric anything."

"She better not, if she knows what's good for her. Someone," she said, turning to face Courtney directly, "once thought she knew what was best, better than me or Jason. And she ran off and told A.J. about Michael. You do that and you will be no better than her. And Sonny's sister or not, I will never speak to you or even forgive you."

Courtney swallowed hard and looked to Sonny or Jason for support. She smiled when Jason stepped forward, he would support her. "Why don't you go over to the penthouse? You're not helping things."

Shocked, she looked up at him. "Y-you want me to leave?"

"If he doesn't, I do," Carly declared forcefully.

Jason watched as Courtney closed the door behind her. The surprise and hurt on her face bothered him, but he knew that her presence was only gong to make Carly more angry. His friend was trying hard not to give anything away, but he knew. Elizabeth was pregnant, and that's why Carly helped her.

Her behavior now made sense. She hadn't run Elizabeth out of town like she said. Elizabeth had wanted to leave, and Carly must have remembered being pregnant with Michael and decided to help. He actually admired her for putting aside the hate so easily to help.

"Carly, what was that all about?" Sonny demanded, gesturing at the closed door. "You had no right to say those things to my sister."

"Why? Because it's Elizabeth? Don't be such a hypocrite. If she says Ric had a right to know, then clearly A.J. has a right to know Michael. Or is it because Ric is your brother that you can disregard Elizabeth's feelings?"

"He is not my brother," Sonny hissed.

"Then Elizabeth's decisions don't matter to you. Don't you get that?" Carly cried. "She called, she was frightened, but because she heard you yelling in the background demanding to know who it was she hung up. She was reaching out for help. Don't you get that?!"

Sonny looked down, then back up. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah? Well so am I. I will tell you this, if something has happened to her I will hold you personally responsible."

Jason knew he better step in to diffuse the situation between his two friends and get back to the subject at hand. "Carly, what did she say?"

"It's not what she said," she told him as her eyes welled with tears, "it's how she said it. She was frightened, panicked. She's been gone for weeks and she reached out to me."

"What did she say?" he pressed, hoping for a clue in her words.

"She said she couldn't do it. That was it."

He pressed his lips together and forced air out of his nose. That wasn't any help. "When you gave her the money, did you give her anything else?"

She took a deep breath and nodded. "Johnny gave her some money too, and got a guy he knows to get her new IDs and passports."

Jason rubbed his temple with his thumb. He should have thought about that sooner when he knew Johnny was helping Carly. There were several forgers they knew and used; Johnny could have used any one of them. He was going to have to ask the guard which one and what names Elizabeth now had. Somehow though, he didn't think Johnny was going to be too helpful.

"You don't know the names do you?" he asked, though he already suspected the answer was no.

She shook her head slowly. "I never met the guy. Johnny took care of that."

"Okay," he said, as he steered her towards the couch and knelt down in front of her. "I'll talk to Johnny. I'll try and find her."

"No," she shook her head. "She didn't want anyone looking for her. You take off and Ric's going to notice. He's already looking for her."

"Carly, you said she sounded scared. If she's in trouble I - we can't leave her alone."

"Maybe she'll call back," Carly said half-heartedly.

"You don't believe that anymore than I do," he said. "And what if she can't call?"

That made the tears fall and Carly nodded her head. "Yo-you're right."

"I'll find her, Carly," Jason told her. Then he stood and turned to meet the dark, cold eyes of Sonny.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to find Elizabeth," he said as he moved towards the door.

"She doesn't want to be found. She left without telling anyone, and made Carly promise not to tell you she was gone until she already had a head start."

He knew all this, and that Sonny was just trying to discourage him. He could have searched for Elizabeth the second he suspected it was her Carly was helping, but he hadn't. He told himself it was because he didn't care what she did anymore, but it was really him trying to respect her decision. Just like he respected her decision in October to walk away when everything inside him screamed to go after her.

But when Carly paled and said Elizabeth had been frightened he knew then that he would be going to find her. She was in trouble and reaching out. Courtney's suspicion that Elizabeth was pregnant stunned him, but firmed his conviction that he had to find her.

"It doesn't matter," he told Sonny. "She needs help and I'm going."

"I need you here," Sonny declared.

Jason took a deep breath and forced himself to relax his jaw that had suddenly clenched. "You have other men in the organization. You've relied on them before when I've been gone."

"That was when you left town for good."

"I know. I'm not leaving, but I'm going to look for Elizabeth."

"Even if I tell you not to?" Sonny challenged.

Jason narrowed his eyes and his hands clenched automatically. "Yes. I'm supposed to be your partner, not some runner you ride because he's just learning the ropes."

"You'll never find her," Sonny declared, almost taunting him. "She's been gone for two weeks, she could be anywhere in the world by now. Is it really worth it to waste all that time?"

Jason took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "I have to try."

Then he walked out the door and leaned against the wall in the hallway. The strangest feeling gripped him, twisting his stomach and clenching it. I have to try. That echoed in his head and bothered him, reminding him of another time he'd said nearly those same words. Why would he think of that now? And why did he really feel it was so important to find Elizabeth?

Part III - Realizations

He knew something was wrong when he opened his apartment door and stepped into the darkened room. He hadn't seen any tells out of place on his door so it meant the person inside with him was good, very good. He silently slipped his gun out of his holster, knowing the other man would hear the sound of metal against leather, then flipped on the light.

"Jason?" he asked, wondering why his boss was sitting in his apartment. Then the thought struck him. Sonny viewed his helping Carly as an act of betrayal and had sent Jason here to eliminate him. Lowering his gun, he swallowed hard. He was going to meet this with dignity. No blubbering histrionics.

"I think you know why I'm here."

"Yes," he said. "Are we doing it here or are you taking me someplace else?"

Jason peered at him. "Here."

Oh boy, Sonny was going for dramatic. "Fine. Let's just get it over with."

"Fine," Jason echoed. "Which forger did you use and what names does she have?"

Johnny blinked and felt his left knee shake before he got it under control. "What?"

The other man's jaw flexed. "What names does Elizabeth have? Which forger did you go to?"

He wanted to laugh. Jason wasn't here to kill him; he wanted information about Elizabeth. The relief soon gave way to anger. "What makes you think I'll tell you? The whole point was to disappear."

Jason looked away and shifted uncomfortably. "She called Carly tonight. She was scared and panicked, but hung up before Carly could really talk to her."

"Why?" Was there a fight? Maybe he could get a clue and be able to find her.

"She heard Sonny in the background and hung up."

Right. Sonny, who sent him out on warehouse patrol as punishment. Sonny who hadn't cared about anyone lately but his wife and sister suddenly pretended to care about Elizabeth after more than eight months. "I'm afraid I can't help you."

"Can't or won't?"

"Take your pick," he said. "I made a promise, I'm keeping it. I'll look for Elizabeth, but I will not betray her by telling you anything."

"I'm ordering you to tell me," Jason said.

Unable to help himself, Johnny laughed. "You're ordering me? Do you think you're Sonny? Well, you're a selfish bastard like he is, but that's not going to make me tell you. Do you remember when you turned the territory over to Moreno? I stayed on to help with the transition because I respected you, because I felt that I owed it to you somehow. But if you were to do that today? I'd take my money and run; never look back at Port Charles."

Jason stared at him and Johnny wondered if he really was going to die tonight. "I will follow your orders in business, I will never question you or Sonny in front of anyone, and I will do my job. But wanting to know where Elizabeth Webber went doesn't have anything to do with business and you know it. So beat me up, shoot me, put me on the lowest detail imaginable, but I will never betray my friend."

"She could be in trouble," Jason said. "She could be hurt, Ric could be after her."

"Ric Lansing hasn't left town, and he has no idea what names she has or who helped her. So he's making a big noise, but he's searching blindly."

"I know she's p-pregnant," Jason said, his voice changing timbre.

"Even if she was," Johnny said, "my answer is the same."

"Johnny, what do you want from me?" his boss shouted, throwing his arms up in frustration.

"What do you want from Elizabeth?" he shot back. "Why is it so important, now, after all these months for you to find her? Why does it matter? What do you care if she's here or someplace else?"

"Because," Jason exploded. "She's alone, she's pregnant and she's in trouble. She called Carly and she's frightened. I-we're worried about her."

"Too little, too late. She was alone for months, she was hurt, but you had Courtney so what did it matter? If you didn't think she might be pregnant would you be doing all this?"

"There's no point in thinking about that," he said, stalking away. "She is pregnant and I have to help her."

"White Knight Hero Complex? Go practice it on Carly or Courtney," Johnny told him. "Elizabeth doesn't need or want you swooping in to save her."

Jason strode forward and grabbed Johnny by the lapels, shoving him against the wall. "Where is she?!"

"Get over yourself," he wheezed out. "Go home to Courtney. Buy the pretty ring she picks out and get married on the date Sonny tells you to. But don't for one second think I'm going to tell you jack."

"I am not marrying Courtney," Jason ground out.

"Does Sonny know that?" he choked out, as Jason pressed his arm even tighter against his throat.

"Sonny doesn't have a say. In fact Sonny ordered me not to look for Elizabeth, but here I am!"

Well, whadya know? Jason Morgan seemed to be finding his balls. Johnny admired him for that, but that didn't mean he was going to give him any information.

"Why?" Johnny got out, then gulped for air when the other man relaxed his hold. "Why would you go against Sonny now for Elizabeth?"

Jason released him completely and stepped back. "I don't know."

"Not good enough. Why?"

"I have to help her," he said.

"Why?" Johnny pressed.

"Because she needs me."

"Wrong answer. She doesn't need you, and you know it. So why?"

"She needs help," Jason said, apparently trying a new variation of the same ol' song.

"So why does it have to be you?"

"I need to help her."

"Why?" the guard pressed. He was close to the answer, he could feel it. He just needed to keep picking at the string, and eventually it would unravel.

"She helped me in the past. She saved my life."

"Debt and obligation. Not good enough. Why?"

"I want to help her," Jason said, his voice softening slightly.

"Why? Remember debt and obligation won't work."

Jason looked down and swallowed. Johnny watched him, wondering if Jason would have the courage to be honest with him, to be honest with himself. When he looked back up, his eyes were pleading. "Because I'll go crazy. I won't be able to work, I won't be able to think of anything else until I know she's okay. Until I know we're okay."

Johnny leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. He wondered if Jason was even aware of what he'd just said. "Okay. I'll tell you the names and what I told her."

Jason's shoulders slumped in relief. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Johnny warned. "You better think long and hard about what you just said, and you better figure out what you're going to do about it if you ever find Elizabeth. Because I promise you, Jason, if you find her and rip her heart out again then run back home to Courtney, I will hurt you. And I will make you pay for the rest of your life."

As Jason rode down the street, the bar sign caught his eye. He hadn't planned on stopping anywhere, but the thought of a drink sounded very appealing right about now. His mind was still reeling from his meeting with Johnny. The guard kept pushing and wouldn't accept any of his answers. He couldn't think of any reason why he should go after Elizabeth until he heard himself saying he would go crazy not knowing where she was.

Logically it made no sense. Johnny was right, why should he care? Elizabeth made it clear they were over, that they were too different and never would work. He'd found someone who could handle his life, and Elizabeth had moved on. To Ric. A man who had harassed Carly and made her think she'd been raped. He stopped his bike in the parking lot and leaned forward breathing heavily. The image of her face when he told her she was protecting a rapist flashed into his mind. Now he really needed a drink.

Walking up to the building he stepped back when the door swung open and Luke threw Ric outside. "For the last time you preppy lawyer scum, I haven't seen Elizabeth. I didn't spirit her off somewhere. You are no longer welcome at my bar."

Then the door closed and the heavy bass was once again muffled. Jason stepped forward and Ric turned at the sound. He stepped in front of Jason, causing him to narrow his eyes.

"Get out of my way," Jason growled, not in the mood to deal with the other man.

"Where is she?"

Jason arched his brow. "I won't say it again. Move."

"Did you help Elizabeth leave town? Couldn't stand seeing her happy? Or did you run her out of town, make her disappear?"

Jason shook his head and roughly pushed past the lawyer. Did he even hear himself? The one thing he was glad about was Ric didn't have any idea where Elizabeth was. The bad news was, the man appeared to be getting desperate. Pulling open the door he crossed to the bar and sat down in front of Luke.

"Morgan," he said. "Don't normally see you 'round here."

Jason just shrugged and asked for a beer. Luke opened the bottle and set it down in front of him then picked up a glass and wiped it clean.

"So, am I being used as an alibi?" Luke asked with his characteristic frankness.

"No," he shook his head. "Needed a drink and Jake's was too far away."

He took a sip, then decided to just bite the bullet. "Lansing been in here a lot?"

"You mean the desperate lawyer who thinks I'm hiding Liz away?"

"Yeah," he nodded.

"Why do you care? The lawyer hasn't been invented that I can't handle. I don't need you or your boss to step in."

"I'm not worried about you," he said, trying to reign in his frustration. "I'm worried about him going after Elizabeth."

The bar owner held up his hand and stepped out from behind the wooden counter. "Come on."

Jason frowned, but grabbed his beer bottle and followed Luke to the back office. He sat down in the chair across from the desk and took another drink while Luke poured himself some scotch and leaned back in his swivel chair. "So my sister was right? Carly really helped Elizabeth leave town."

Jason slowly nodded. Luke took another drink and held it his mouth before swallowing. "Now why would my psycho niece, who doesn't do anything unless she can benefit from it, help Elizabeth?"

Jason frowned again, then said, "she had her reasons."

"And you don't find it suspicious?" Luke asked skeptically. "Then again, your brain seems to have gone south for the winter, or maybe just south on your anatomy."

What was it with everyone lately? As Luke started laughing, Jason scowled even more. The older man sobered slightly, then asked, "why are you concerned about the lawyer finding Elizabeth? Maybe the girl just needed a break, or was looking to start over. After the way you and Lucky treated her I can't say that I blame her."

Jason finished off his beer and stood. He should have known it was pointless to talk to Luke. He'd heard from Sonny that Luke was becoming obsessed with finding Laura, and wasn't holding onto reality very well. "Thanks for the beer."

"Do you know where she is?" Luke's voice stopped him by the door. He turned and saw all the animosity was gone.

"No," Jason said as he came back and sat down, leaning forward and placing his elbows on his thighs. "Carly and a guard gave her some money and new ID's."

"She's been gone for nearly three weeks," Luke said. "You didn't think about looking for her before now? That's an awfully cold trail to pick up."

"I was trying to respect her wishes," Jason shrugged. It sounded just as lame to his ears as he was sure it did to Luke's.

The older man just raised his eyebrows and waved it away. "Okay, so what do you know? I mean if you're worried about the lawyer finding her then something must have happened."

He didn't want to tell Luke she was pregnant. That had to be her whole reason for leaving town, and he didn't feel like he should advertise it. "She called Carly, and was frightened. Carly's worried, I said I'd find Elizabeth."

"You're going to track down Elizabeth because my niece is worried?"

Jason just shrugged again, not wanting to get into his real reasons with Luke. Once already tonight was enough for him. Luke apparently knew not to push, because he leaned back and swirled the alcohol in his glass.

"There's just one problem."

"What?" he asked.

"If you go searching for Elizabeth, ol' slick Ric is gonna follow you. And then you'll have to live with having lead him right to Elizabeth."

Jason closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Luke was right. If he took off suddenly, Ric would follow. And then he'd end up wasting time having to throw Ric off his trail instead of finding Elizabeth. The same would be true of any guard in the organization, not to mention Sonny wasn't going to let anyone go off looking for her.

"Seems to me," Luke said filling his glass again, "we could help each other out."

Jason eyed him skeptically. "How?"

"My son and the Cassadine Prince have moved Laura to an undisclosed location and I can't find anything out. I asked my ex-partner for help, but Sonny shot me down. Claimed he owed Laura to not further my pain on her sons," Luke scoffed.

"Of course that's awfully hypocritical of him considering when Laura asked him to loan her the money to buy Deception he did, but foisted Carly on her as partner. Then when Carly tried to bully her ideas over on Laura instead of working with her like Sonny promised she would, he told Laura it was obviously too much for her and he'd gladly buy my wife out and give her idea and dream to Carly."

Jason knew he didn't want to get into a fight with Luke over Sonny, mostly because he wasn't sure he could give a defense. "So how can we help each other?"

"Simple," Luke smiled. "You look for Laura, and when Ric follows you, I look for Elizabeth."

He thought the proposal over, and realized the other man was right. Sonny wouldn't like it, but that was too bad. It wasn't like he went to Jax for help. He fixed a pointed look at Luke, "I agree. But you have to tell me when you find Elizabeth, and I want to be there before you talk to her. I have to talk to her before she gets spooked and runs again."

Luke regarded him, then nodded. "It's a deal. But you better figure out what you're going to do when you see her. I will not lead you to her only so you can rip out her heart, spit on her love, and run back to Blondie. Now tell me the names your goon got for Elizabeth. I have to work to do and so do you."

He scribbled on a piece of paper and passed it over to Jason. "Last clinic I know they had her at, along with the Chief Quack's name. Now, give me the names."

"Uh," Jason scratched his temple. "Wendy, Lisa, Diana, Ann - no 'e' at the end, Vicki and Sharon. Last names, Ford, Morris, Goodman, Jackman, Graffam, and Ryan."

"That's it?" Luke asked. "Just names? No full names?"

Jason shook his head. "Johnny just picked names and left it up to the guy to come up with the combinations."

Luke's eyes lit up. "A puzzle, a mystery. Haven't had one of these in a while. That's thirty-six possibilities I gotta go through, not to mention if she died or cut her hair. Your boy did good, but I'm better. "Go," he said with a wave of his hand. "I need to work."

Jason was almost to the door when Luke called him back. The older man was seriously beginning to get on his nerves. "Just remember what I said. You better figure out why you're really going after Elizabeth and what you'll do when we find her. Because I took on Frank Smith, and I won't think twice about hurting you."

Elizabeth opened her eyes and felt panic course through her veins immediately. Where was she? She couldn't remember much, but what she could remember was feeling very ill when she stepped off the Greyhound Bus and the woman next to her being very worried. Slowly her surroundings came into focus and she realized she was in a hospital. Her hands automatically fell on her stomach. Was the baby okay?

The door to her room opened and she instinctively turned her head. A short, Hispanic woman in burgundy scrubs walked in.

"Oh, you're awake," she smiled, as she picked up the chart at the end of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Tired," Elizabeth said. "Where am I?"

"You're in Saint Mary's Hospital in Tucson, Arizona. You were brought in because you collapsed at the bus station." She explained all this while taking Elizabeth's blood pressure and pulse.

"My baby?" she asked, just before the thermometer was shoved in her mouth.

"Your baby is fine," the nurse assured her. "You were dehydrated and anemic and that caused you to pass out."

The thermometer beeped and the nurse turned to make the notation. Sitting up slightly, Elizabeth pushed the hair out of her face. "How long have I been here?"

"They brought you in yesterday afternoon." She smiled again and said, "the IV seems to be helping. The doctor will be in to see you in a moment."

The nurse opened the door and stepped into the hallway. She left the door open behind her, and Elizabeth was grateful for the distant sound of doctor's pages and visitors walking down the hallway to distract her. A month on the run and she was stuck in a hospital in Arizona.

Morning sickness - and there was a misnomer, considering that the only time she wasn't sick was for three or four hours in the morning - had slowed her down and made travel difficult. She thought about leaving the country, but couldn't imagine what travel on an airplane would be like considering how miserable a bus made her feel. One thing she definitely decided, life on the run sucked. It wasn't the fun and adventures Luke and Lucky had talked about.

She was unprepared for the wave of homesickness that suddenly hit her. Even though she hadn't seen very much of her friends before she left, she missed them. She wanted to drink a chocolate soda with Emily, listen to Lucky and Nikolas bicker like brothers, and have Zander catch her up on his life over a burger. Ewww...don't think about greasy burgers.

Footsteps in the doorway caught her attention. A tall, blonde doctor came walking in, the nurse from before following behind. "Hi, I'm Doctor Cross. How are you feeling, Diana?"

Diana. She was Diana Morris. "I'm feeling okay. Kinda tired."

"Pregnancy will do that to you. Combined with nausea and traveling, it's bound to wear you down. You're a long way from Atlanta, aren't you?"

Closing her eyes, she nodded. She could hear a stool being wheeled over by the bed and looked up as the doctor sat down. "Are you in some kind of trouble, Miss Morris?"

"Why would you ask that?" she asked, hoping she didn't sound panicked.

"The bus driver said you didn't want to come to the hospital. You said you had to keep going, you couldn't stop." She crossed her arms over the chart on her lap and added, "I'm not sure what's going on, but if you fear you're in danger I need to alert the police."

"No, I'm not in danger," Elizabeth told her. It had been a month; Ric wouldn't be able to find her now would he?

"Then I would suggest you slow down." The tone sounded very much like her grandmother when she went into full nurse mode. "You're anemic, you were dehydrated, your body is worn down from pregnancy, stress, travel and sickness. Your baby will take whatever nutrition it needs from you, but it won't be able to if you're not taking care of yourself and let things get as bad as they did this time."

"I understand," Elizabeth said, and she did. It was time to stop running. If she hadn't covered her tracks and thrown anyone off her trail by now, then she probably never would. She had to take care of herself for the sake of the baby.

When it hit her that she was really pregnant she had been so disgusted. A baby that would forever tie her to Ric, a man she just wanted to forget about. She'd forced the thoughts down and went about following Johnny's instructions for dealing with her money. Then she continued on traveling, backtracking, and having no particular destination.

It wasn't until she was holed up in an Atlanta motel room puking her guts out that she began to wonder if she was ready to handle having a baby. Particularly Ric's. She had flipped open the phone book and let her fingers do the walking until they found a family planning clinic. She'd dialed all but the last two numbers when she hung up and dialed Carly's number instead. She didn't know why, but she just wanted to talk to someone familiar, and Carly fit the bill.

Instead, she heard Sonny in the background and she wondered what crossed her mind in deciding to call his wife. That started her trek west, which had been slow and tortuous because she felt so awful. Somewhere along the way though, she stopped thinking about Ric and focused on the baby. She couldn't end her pregnancy. Because no matter how much she despised the father, her baby was a small and precious life that deserved so much.

It was time to put down roots, to take care of herself, and to start thinking ahead for her baby. And Tucson was as good as place as any, she figured. Now, she just needed her purse, because she had a phone call she needed to make.

Carly bit back a sigh the closer the limo got to The Port Charles Grille. The last thing she wanted to do was sit through another dinner with Courtney and Sonny. For the last two weeks she had listened to the Corinthos siblings whine and badmouth Jason. Apparently Courtney loved him and wanted him to live his own life; as long as it meant he was making her happy and kissing her butt.

How had Carly ever put up with the other woman? Lately all she wanted to do was snatch Courtney's hair from her head and shove it down her throat. And every day she had to remind herself not to punch Sonny. She couldn't believe the things that were coming out of his mouth about Jason. Such hate and disparaging remarks towards the man who had given so much for her husband.

Her cell phone rang and she pulled it out of her purse. Probably Sonny wondering why she was all of two minutes late. When did he turn her wedding ring into a choker chain?

"Yeah," she snapped. There was only silence and it just set her on edge more. "Listen, I can hear you breathing, so you better start talking. What do you want?"

"Carly? Is-is this a bad time?"

"Elizabeth?" she asked in surprise. "Are you okay? When you hung up I was so worried. Tell me you're okay."

"I'm sorry. I just...I heard Sonny-"

"It's okay," she said. "Are you sure you're alright? Can I ask where you are?"

"I'm not ready to say where I am yet. But I'm okay, now. I've been a little sick. Morning sickness is a lie."

Carly gave a slight smile. "Yeah, it can be a little bad. Elizabeth, listen...Jason...well..."

"Carly, I have to go."

"Wait, please, I'm sorry. I won't talk about Jason." She couldn't let Elizabeth hang up yet.

"It's not that," Elizabeth said softly. "I'm sorry, I just have to go. I'll...would it be okay if I called you later some time?"

Carly sank against the gray leather seat. "Of course. Anytime you want. I-I'm glad you're okay."

"Later, Carly."

Then the line went dead, and Carly closed her eyes. Elizabeth called. The younger woman was safe, she was alright, and she called. Carly snapped her eyes open. She needed to let Jason know. He had been gone for a week and a half, out searching, and she knew he would be relieved to know there had been some contact.

She never got the chance to call though, because the limo stopped and the door immediately opened. Sonny climbed in the back and said, "Johnny, can you raise the divider and give us a minute?"

"Sure thing, boss."

The air was thick with tension as the divider was raised. She looked at her husband, and wondered what this was all about. Well, she could wait him out. She was so sick of Sonny and his BS that she was beginning to wonder if her old house had ever sold. It might just be time for a change of residence.

"This stops now, Carly."

"What? You and Courtney badmouthing Jason every chance you get? Well good, I'm glad to hear that."

"No," he said. "You are going to stop treating my sister like she's Robin. You are going to treat her with respect. She is your friend, after all."

"Jason is my friend," she snapped. "And maybe if Courtney stopped acting like a two-year old and telling you to order her boyfriend home I'd stop telling her to shut up. Does she ever stop whining to you? Do you even hear her? Do you hear yourself?"

"This isn't up for negotiation," Sonny hissed. "I will not tolerate you disrespecting my sister."

"Am I the enemy now?" she asked incredulously. "You throw around words like tolerate, negotiation, respect. Where's your respect for me? Where's your respect for Jason?"

"Jason is disrespecting my sister and me," Sonny shouted. "I owe him nothing!"

Carly sat back against the seat stunned. "Well, then I guess I got my answer. I'm hungry. My baby is demanding food and I'm going inside to eat. You and Courtney are not welcome to join me. Eating with you two gives me heartburn."

"This isn't over, Carly," he said as he followed her out of the limo.

She reached the door and spun around when he touched her arm. "Yes, it is, Sonny. I am your wife, not a grunt in your organization. So don't you dare think you can order me around. I love you, but I don't have to stay here and let you walk all over me like you have been."

She knew they were attracting a crowd of onlookers, knew she should just walk away and not fight with him, but somehow she couldn't make her feet move. Sonny took a step forward and smirked. "You'd really walk out on me because I'm not thrilled Jason's out looking for Elizabeth Webber? If she was dumb enough to get pregnant, then she can deal with it on her own and not drag Jason down into her mess like you did."

Carly stepped back like she'd been slapped. She turned to go inside before she broke down in tears and came face to face with Ric. His face was twisted into surprise and disbelief. He looked at her and then Sonny.

"Is it true? Elizabeth is pregnant? You knew and you were keeping it from me?"

Sonny walked up and nodded his head just once. Carly looked over at him in disbelief. He knew Ric had been behind her, and he deliberately mentioned Elizabeth being pregnant. What kind of man was she married to?

Part IV - Unraveling

Carly never thought she'd admit it, but there were advantages to Taggert renting a room from her mother. The chief one had to be the near instantaneous response time when she called to report Sonny was violating the restraining order again. In the ten days since she walked out on Sonny after he purposefully told Ric Elizabeth was pregnant, he had stopped by Bobbie's house over thirty times. Seventeen times were after the restraining order was served a week ago.

He wasn't giving up, and neither was she. He was mad at Jason for taking off to find Elizabeth, and only calling Courtney once. After the absolute fit she'd pitched when he was packing and the way she acted when he called, Carly couldn't say she blamed her friend. Courtney whined about their wedding and when Jason said they weren't getting married, she dissolved into tears. When the tears didn't work she tried to slap him and accused him of leading her on.

That was one thing Carly knew wasn't true. Jason did love Courtney. But she knew things were different now. The urge to find Elizabeth had caught him off-guard. He didn't want to think about why, classic Jason technique of don't over-analyze the reasons behind the action. But Courtney's jealous tirades had pretty much signed the death certificate on the relationship. She just wondered if Jason was aware of that, and if he knew the depth of his feelings for Elizabeth.

Leaning back against the couch, she rubbed her hand over her growing stomach. She didn't know what she was going to do herself. Did she still love Sonny? She knew a part of her still did, and probably always would. She was having his baby and would forever be tied to him because of the child she was carrying and Michael. Yet there was a growing part of her that loathed the man, thought his arrogance was disgusting, and found his pompous manner a real turn-off, much like she did before they slept together. She couldn't decide if she wanted to claw his eyes out, or just slap him into next week.

The doorbell rang, pulling her out of her thoughts. She looked at Leticia and the nanny stood and told Michael to come upstairs with her. The little boy did not need to see his mother and father fighting. Then Carly checked to make sure Johnny was out of sight before she went to the front door. Violation number 18, coming right up.

Instead when she opened the door it was Courtney. She hadn't seen her former friend since before Sonny blabbed the news to Ric. Leaning against the doorframe, she crossed her arms over her stomach. "Courtney, what are you doing here?"

"Can I come in?" she smiled.

"Don't think so. What do you want?"

"Drop the charges against Sonny."

"No. I'm tired of being harassed," she said wearily.

"He's your husband," Courtney protested.

"A.J. was yours and he stalked you. What's your point?"

"Are you comparing Sonny to A.J.?" she asked in shock.

Closing her eyes tiredly she said, "I'm not doing this with you Courtney. What do you want?"

"You have to get Sonny out of jail. You know he can't stay there."

Carly swallowed, but wouldn't allow herself to look away from Courtney. She knew Sonny was claustrophobic, and it did bother her that he was locked up in a small cell. But she couldn't just give in and drop the charges. Scott Baldwin finally figured out she wasn't going to give in and now he was eager to lock Sonny up. She did hate being the reason, but she refused to shoulder the blame entirely. "Sonny caused the situation, Courtney. I'm sorry, but I'm not dropping the charges."

The young woman's face instantly hardened from its syrupy sweet pleading look. "You truly are heartless. He's your husband and you're keeping him in jail."

"He violated a restraining order numerous times."

"Fine, be that way," Courtney sneered. "Ric will get Sonny out of jail. And then Sonny is going to help him find Elizabeth. Then he's going to divorce your worthless, traitorous butt and take both your children away."

She knew Courtney was spouting venom, but there was a part of her that feared he would try and take her babies like A.J. tried. "You tell Sonny to give it his best shot. You both know Jason will never allow it."

"If Jason ever steps foot back in Port Charles he'll have a price on his head, just like Johnny."

"If you think any man would kill Jason on Sonny's orders then you're a bigger fool than I thought. Go home, little girl. You're bothering me now."

"This is your last chance, Carly," Courtney said, apparently attempting to sound threatening.

"Go away. Don't come back. And tell Sonny the two of you are pathetic."

She stepped back, slammed the door and locked it. Then she made her way into the living room where she sank onto the sofa. Johnny stepped into the room, concern all over his face.

"Sonny's losing it," he said hesitantly.

"I know," she sighed, as she covered her eyes briefly. "Maybe you should head out of town, Johnny."

"Not without you," he replied. "I'm not leaving you and Michael alone with Sonny making threats."

"Thank you," she said, relief washing over her and tears forming in her eyes.

"Have you heard from Jason?" he asked as he sat down at the other end of the couch.

"No. I've left messages on his phone, but nothing."

"He'll call as soon as he can," Johnny tried to reassure her, even as her tears crested and fell. He sighed and stood. "I'm just going to go...go."

Carly watched him go up the stairs and she wiped at her eyes. She reached for her purse and pulled out her cell phone, while sending up a prayer. Taking a deep breath, she dialed Jason's number. "Please, please, please be there."

The phone rang once, twice, three times and her heart fell. Voice mail again.


"Jason?" she said in surprise.

"Carly? What's wrong?"

"Everything, Jason. Everything."

Jason looked out the window as the plane descended towards Port Charles Airport. As soon as he got Carly's call he left Bonn and headed home. He'd found Laura Spencer and had called Luke. There wasn't anything else he could do except wait for Luke to call about Elizabeth.

But when Carly called he caught the first flight home. Sonny had told Ric Elizabeth was pregnant, the lawyer was working for Sonny, and was getting Sonny's resources to look for Elizabeth. Johnny was considered a traitor for helping Carly and Elizabeth and Sonny wanted him eliminated. The guard was hiding in Bobbie's brownstone watching over Carly, Michael and Leticia, and Johnny'd told the forger he'd used to disappear. Jason knew they'd never find the man.

When the plane landed, he grabbed his bag and headed for Harborview Towers. Carly told him what Courtney and Sonny were saying, and he wanted to go there first. He figured Sonny had informants at the airport; there would be no hiding he was back.

The cab pulled up at the Towers and he paid the driver and stepped out, heading into the lobby. The guard at the desk looked at him with trepidation, but said nothing as Jason got on the elevator. When he reached the penthouse level, he made sure his gun was within easy reach, uncertain of what he'd find. Max was standing by his door, but there was nobody on Sonny's.

"Jason," Max said softly. "Sonny is still in jail. Courtney's in your place. It's been crazy since you left."

Jason nodded. "Ric hasn't gotten Sonny out?"

"Baldwin's playing hardball."

He expected nothing less. He wasn't sure how to feel right now. Sonny had deliberately done things to hurt Elizabeth and Carly. War raged inside him as loyalty battled against the overwhelming urge to walk away and never look back.

"Jason," Max said. "I don't agree with what Sonny's done. He's sent people, who haven't been around very long and are eager to move up, after Johnny and Courtney's walking around giving everyone orders. I stayed on so I could try and balance it out, and tell you what was happening."

"Thanks," he said. "I'm going to talk to Courtney. Then I'll go see Sonny."

"Good luck," the guard said with a shrug of his shoulders.

Jason sighed and rubbed his forehead. Then he opened the door and stepped inside his penthouse. Courtney was sitting on the sofa reading his travel book on Spain.

"Jason," she squealed when she saw him and stood up. "You're back. Aren't you?"

"For a little while," he said.

"Aren't you happy to see me?" she pouted, and he wondered what game she was playing. Carly told him how she'd acted, and he remembered the fight they had before he left.

"Courtney," he said slowly, and with not a lot of patience, "I've spoken to Carly."

"Of course," she sneered. "Call your whore before calling your girlfriend."

"Courtney," he warned, his voice dropping to a deadly note.

"Oh come off it. Carly's left Sonny. You're looking for Elizabeth. However will you choose? The princess or your former sex buddy? They're both pregnant, you'd get an instant family either way. Maybe you could have both and live as one big happy family. You could even sleep with them both, and get your revenge on Sonny and Ric."

"Stop," he ground out. "Don't speak of Carly or Elizabeth again. I came to get the rest of my stuff. I'm sure you've already figured out it's over between us."

"Why? It doesn't have to end. Just stop looking for Elizabeth and everything will be fine," she pleaded, her mood shifting again. What was going on?

"Everything will be fine as long as I do what you say?" he asked. "I won't live that way, for anybody. Keep the penthouse if you want, have Sonny buy it for you. I'm getting my stuff and I'm going."

And once again the anger was back. "Right, run away. Run off to the damsel in distress. Which one, though? Carly or Elizabeth? You know, you disgust me. You always want what you can't have. We could be happy together, but you're throwing it all away because you can never let anything go."

"You're wrong," Jason told her sadly. "I'm letting you go."

Then he turned and went up the stairs, gathering the rest of his belongings. He could hear Courtney ranting downstairs and objects breaking, but he tuned it all out. When he had everything he needed and wanted he went downstairs and paused on the bottom. She was standing by the balcony doors staring out at the view.

"Do you have everything?" she asked, her voice flat and hard.

"Yeah," he replied as he grabbed his lockbox from the closet shelf. "Look, I'm sorry. This isn't how-"

"Sure," she said dismissively. "It was fun while it lasted."

"It doesn't have to be this way."

She turned and glared at him. "Yeah, it does. You want to do what you want, and you don't care about anything I want. So it does have to be this way. Good-bye, Jason."

He picked up his bag and stepped out into the hallway. Closing the door, he turned to Max who gave him a sympathetic look and shrugged. Jason pushed the button for the elevator, then turned. "They're going to be suspicious of you. Don't question, don't try to subvert. Just observe and report in when you can."

"I understand."

The ride to the street level was too quick, as Jason was caught in his thoughts. He knew that there was an irreparable break between him and Sonny. His life was defined as working for Sonny, and that had ended now. When Sonny fired him for continuing to date Courtney he really felt that Sonny would realize he had a right to his own life and who he loved wouldn't affect his job. Eventually Sonny had come to accept that and gave his blessing to Jason and Courtney.

This time, however, was final. Sonny had lost too much face. Carly walked out, he left against Sonny's orders and men in the organization were showing more loyalty to Jason than Sonny. Even without the breakup with Courtney, Jason was done. It may very well be true that Sonny had put a hit out on Johnny and him, or it could be Courtney spouting off. Either way, it was definitely reason to be extremely cautious.

As he stepped into the lobby he was surprised to see Sonny standing there. Ric must have pulled some fancy maneuver, or Sonny paid a judge the right price to get out of jail. Even though he was surprised, he knew he kept his face a blank mask. Sonny stepped forward, with Ric slightly behind him, a stance Jason used to occupy.

"Jason," Sonny said, his voice flat and unfeeling. "Leaving so soon?"

"I was heading to the jail to see you."

"I see you've got more of your things. I take it you dumped my sister so you go be with your precious Elizabeth. Or maybe you think you'll hook up again with Carly and raise my baby as payback."

Courtney and Sonny must have speculated a lot about this and fed on each other's insecurities. Jason kept his face and body still, even though he wanted to scream in frustration.

"No," Ric sneered. "He'll go to Elizabeth. He hasn't bedded her, and she'll be more clingy and desperate. He seems to have a thing for those types. Well, you can try, Morgan, but I will never let you raise my child."

"He'll never live long enough," Sonny vowed. He narrowed his eyes and stepped towards Jason. "You have gone against me for the last time. Maybe you regret giving me back the territory, think you can run things better than me, or maybe you think you're so special and irreplaceable. Well, you're nothing. And no one will mourn your death for long. It begins now. And you'll never see it coming."

He walked past Jason, then paused and turned. "Tell Carly I'll never let her go, and soon she won't have you to protect her."

Jason watched Sonny and Ric climb on the elevator, then turned and walked outside. Sonny was sinking again. He was going into that dark place that made him paranoid and convinced everyone was against him. Ric and Courtney would only feed that, use him to get what they wanted, and only when things got really bad and Sonny did something towards them would they try to help him. By then it could be too late.

He knew in addition to finding Elizabeth and protecting her that he had to get Carly and Michael out of town. Sonny would become obsessed and someone would end up hurt. It was going to crush Carly and Michael, but he had to ensure their safety.

His phone rang as the cab was almost to Bobbie's. He was tempted to ignore it, figuring it was Carly and he would see her soon enough. But he looked at the caller ID and realized with a twinge of excitement it was Luke.


"You found her?" were the first words Luke spoke. "You really found Laura?"

"I tracked her down to a facility in Bonn," Jason said. "I got inside and saw her. It's Laura."

"How does she look?" he anxiously asked.

"She was looking out a window, just sitting there," Jason said, not really wanting to tell Luke that she hadn't moved once in the five minutes he observed her.

Luke sighed heavily. "Thank you for finding her."

"You're welcome." The cab stopped and Jason paid the driver and got out. His eyes swept the area and he spotted the two men of Sonny's who were watching the house. He was about to ring the doorbell when Luke continued.

"I guess this is going to be a happy Fourth of July for both of us, because I found Elizabeth."

Jason's hand dropped to his side and he stood on the stoop frozen. Luke had found her. "Hang on one second."

He rang the doorbell and when Carly answered he held up his hand to silence her before giving her a brief but fierce hug. He stepped into the living room and saw Johnny walk out of the dining room. They both deserved to hear this.

"Luke, you really found her?" he asked, and Carly gasped and covered her mouth.

"Yep," he chuckled. "She covered her tracks good. But I finally hit some name combinations and pieced it together. She's not running now, actually renting a place. She ended up in the hospital, and that's when she stopped."

"The hospital?" Johnny and Carly pierced him with concerned looks, but kept their questions silent.

"Morgan, she's pregnant," Luke said gently, his tone no longer a man enjoying the thrill of the game. It was almost regretful.

"We knew," Jason admitted. "But she's...she and the baby are okay?"

"It appears that way. I just found her yesterday, I'm watching her, and wanted to tell you. I did promise you, after all."

"I'll be there in a couple of days," Jason said. "Sonny told Ric Elizabeth is pregnant, and the two of them are looking for her. I-"

"You better cover your tracks well," Luke ordered sternly.

"I will," he promised. "Tell me where you are, and I'll take off tonight."

"She's in Tucson, Arizona."

After giving Jason the address of Elizabeth's apartment, Luke hung up the phone and sighed. Jason had fulfilled his end by finding Laura, and he had found Elizabeth. The only problem was, he wasn't certain he'd done the right thing now by finding her.

She was pregnant, and she'd probably disappeared right after she found out. If he had been in town, would she have come to him? If she had, he would have helped no questions asked. And he never would have told anyone where she was and why she left. Instead he'd been off chasing a dead end, and his niece had ended up helping Elizabeth. Maybe there was some Spencer in Caroline after all.

Maybe Jason would be just the thing to help Elizabeth now. Hopefully during the time the younger man was gone he was able to realize what Elizabeth meant to him. Luke had seen the determination to find her, and the underlying connections that both Jason and Elizabeth had been trying to hide. The dance those two had been doing for years had continued on even when they were with other people.

Would they be able to get it right this time, or would they continue to mis-hit? Elizabeth being pregnant was going to change everything. Could they get past the hurt, and trust each other again? He hoped they could. Elizabeth certainly deserved it, and Luke realized that what seemed to make her happiest was Jason. Who was he to make judgements about who she wanted to be with?

His very own angel loved him when everyone said he was no good. Despite everything that happened in their lives, other people, time apart and more, their love couldn't be denied. They always returned to each other. It was why he couldn't be apart from Laura, despite what Nikolas and Lucky thought. Maybe she would never recover, but he wasn't giving up. And he would be by her side, to love her, support her, and because he needed her in his life.

Maybe it was the same for Jason and Elizabeth. He hoped it was. He wanted Elizabeth to have that love, that passion and life. He just hoped she wouldn't be mad at him for finding her and bringing Jason. If she was, maybe he would have to take her aside and give her some fatherly advice before he took off to go to Laura.

In the meantime, he would continue to keep an eye on her. Make sure she was safe and taking care of herself and her baby. He would also make sure Ric Lansing and Sonny Corinthos never got near her.

Elizabeth took a drink of her water and then picked up her sketchpad again. This sunset was going to be amazing, she could just sense it, and she wanted to finish the sketch of the landscape before using her camera to capture the rich myriad of colors. She always loved sunsets, but she'd seen some simply spectacular ones here. According to her neighbor Mr. Butler who had lived here since he retired from the Air Force in the 1970's, it had to do the dust in the atmosphere that made them such a combination of oranges and reds. With the forest fire on the mountain across town and the lack of rain and wind, the air was really hazy. It was irritating to her lungs and eyes, but it was causing amazing sunsets.

She looked up as a couple hiked down the path and headed to their car in the parking lot. Mr. Butler was right. Gates Pass was a great place for sketching. She was so glad that her nausea finally was starting to let up. She was hopeful that within the next month it would cease and she could start eating again. She loved fruit, but only being able to eat fruit and strawberry Eggo waffles was beginning to get to her. She longed for something else, but knew that would have to wait until she could think of food and not have to make a mad dash for the bathroom.

Finishing with the basic sketch, she picked up her camera and snapped some pictures. The light pink and purple was deepening, turning into a magenta that mingled with a rich orange. In a few minutes the magenta would give way to red. As she waited, she turned to get pictures of the surrounding mountain area. The boulders, saguaro cactus and shrub were such a different look than Colorado or Port Charles, but she was captivated by them. She could already envision the paintings of the forest of cactus and rugged, jagged rocks that surrounded her.

She paused as she was turning to take a panoramic series of pictures, and instantly stilled. The same car she had seen four times in the last week was in the parking lot. The hair on the back of her neck stood up as she slowly continued to turn, this time her eyes not on the landscape but on the people. Just as every time before, she didn't recognize anyone, but that didn't mean anything. It couldn't be a coincidence that the exact same car showed up at four varied and geographically spread out locations. She always kept an eye out for it when she was driving, but she wasn't familiar enough with where she was going yet to keep checking the rearview mirror.

She turned and took another picture of the sunset, but she never saw the colors. She put her supplies in her bag and picked up her water bottle. Taking another drink, she looked around once again, but she didn't see anything. Clutching her keys, she headed to her to car and climbed inside.

The entire ride home, her stomach was churning, her palms were clammy on the steering wheel, and despite the AC on high sweat was beading on her forehead. She had to stop twice on the way to her apartment and throw up. The second time she saw the car and sensed something wasn't right four days ago, she knew she should have taken off. She should have just left town, but she thought she was being paranoid. How could anyone have found her?

Well, apparently someone had. It had to be. And she didn't care what the doctors told her; it was time to move on. Why did she think she would ever be safe? Is this how Laura felt all those years Lucky was growing up? As she pulled into her apartment parking lot, she turned off the car and leaned her arms against the wheel sobbing. She would give anything to be able to talk to Laura or Luke, ask them how they did it, how they were strong enough. Because she didn't feel strong anymore.

She climbed out of the car and started down the sidewalk, looking around and trying to sense if anyone was following her. She was afraid. That's all she could feel. Fear someone had found her, or would find her, that she and her baby were in danger. And the overwhelming fear that this is how it would be for the rest of her life, and that she wouldn't be strong enough for her child.

The wave of nausea hit her as if she'd slammed into a brick wall and she knew she would never make it to her apartment. She veered off the path and braced her hand on the stucco building, as once again she was sick. The sweat ran down her back and a drop fell from her temple. She could feel her knees weaken and she prayed she could make it inside the safe confines of her apartment before she collapsed.

Finally the nausea passed and she straightened and wiped the hair back that was clinging to her face. Slowly, she walked back to the path and up to her door. As she approached the entryway, a sound to her left caught her attention and she turned. Her keys slipped out of her hand and she backed up abruptly into the door.


Part V - False Starts

Standing near the window, he watched as the sky darkened from deep purple to black. He could hear the soft sounds of the other man pacing on the carpet behind him and above that he could hear the sounds of Elizabeth being sick in the bathroom. Finally with a sigh he turned, "You wanna give it a rest, Morgan?"

Jason shot him a stony glare, and then a worried look at the bathroom as sounds drifted out again. With a smile he hoped was calming, Luke stepped forward and gestured toward the sofa. "She'll be alright. It's morning sickness, and she was frightened by us showing up."

The younger man looked at him skeptically. "Morning sickness at night?"

"For some women, yes," Luke said, trying to ease the worry. "Relax, it passes with time. She'll be out soon and the last thing she'll need is you hovering over her like a worry-wart."

Jason sank into the cushions beside him, scrubbing his hands over his face. "I am worried. She looked so pale, and I…I just-"

"You care about her," Luke cut in. "It's good to see. If you weren't worried about her, I'd be thinking of ways to knock some much needed sense - and pain - into you. Take it easy with her, though."

The other man sighed heavily. "I will, I just-"

He stopped and stood up as the bathroom door opened and Elizabeth stepped slowly out. Luke stood as well, and felt the same worry that had been radiating off Jason seep into his bones. Her steps were shaky, placed gingerly but determined, and she looked as if it was by sheer willpower she wasn't throwing up. He had seen Laura look like that on her particularly bad days.

Jason took a step towards her, but Luke put out his hand and shook his head. Right now Elizabeth needed some comfort, and she would automatically fight it from Jason. Luke was a father figure of sorts, and she might let her guard down with him. Besides, it would be better if Elizabeth was angry and mad at him, rather than at Jason. He could remind her of the time she broke him out of jail, and he'd fought her at the time but was grateful now for her help.

"Liz, darlin'," he said as he gently wrapped an arm around her. "Can we get you anything? Laura used to swear by saltine crackers."

She groaned as she sat down on the couch and then lay down on her side. "Please don't mention saltines. There are some Triscuits in the kitchen, and some ginger ale. That helps."

"I'll get them," Jason said, and turned for the kitchen.

He was back a few minutes later, with a glass and straw and the box of crackers. He sat down and waited, for once seemingly content to let Luke take care of her. The older man brushed the hair off Elizabeth's face and sighed. "Sweetheart, I'm sorry. We didn't mean to frighten you."

"What are you doing here?"

"Morgan was worried about you."

She looked past him and squinted unbelievingly at Jason, "Why?"

"Carly was worried about you. I promised her I'd look for you."

Luke closed his eyes. Morgan had already blown it. He could see how Elizabeth had stiffened immediately. Then Jason continued, "And I was worried as well. I know that things have been bad between us, but I was concerned when you suddenly took off. I believed Carly's instincts when she was worried about you, and I helped for her...and for me as well."

The man had just saved his bacon, but Luke knew it was time to step in. These two could deal with fixing their relationship later. "Liz, we've got some bad news. Ric knows about the baby and Sonny's helping him try to find you."

"What?" she asked, sitting up abruptly. "How did he find out?"

"Sonny," Jason said regretfully. "Courtney figured out you were pregnant and Sonny was mad at me because I was looking for you."

"Why does he hate me?" she cried, covering her mouth, then standing and running for the bathroom.

Luke exchanged a glance with Jason, then followed her. The door wasn't fully closed and he pushed his way in to the small room, then sat down on the edge of the tub beside her. "Liz, darlin' it's alright. I promise you, Sonny and Ric won't get close to you and they won't hurt your baby."

She sat on the floor and looked at him, wiping her mouth with the towel he handed her. Her face was pale and stained with tears, her eyes glassy and pleading. "How can you promise me that? You found me."

"I knew the names you had, Sonny doesn't. And the forger O'Brien used has long since disappeared. Darlin', I will protect you, and the man out in your living room will too. He won't tell you this, but he disobeyed a direct order from Sonny and Sonny's put a hit out on him. Carly and Johnny are on the run too, and he's here to make sure you're safe."

Luke looked down at his clasped hands, "I know that you and Morgan had some problems in the past, and I'm not saying you can't be mad at him. But he went against his oldest friend, because he wanted to help you. I'm not saying you need to knock him down and kiss him senseless, but since you're going to be with him for a while you might want to ease up on him."

Helping Elizabeth stand up, he pulled her into a hug, "Just listen to him, sweetheart. It might not be as bad as you think."

She nodded slightly and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Thank you, Luke. I'm actually glad you're here. And...and I'll stop fighting with Jason. Keeping my baby safe and away from Ric is more important than anything in the past."

Spoken like a true mother, Luke thought. He helped her out into the living room where Jason was staring out the window into the dark sky. He turned when he heard them and watched as Luke helped Elizabeth sit down.

Luke looked at Jason and said, "You know you've got to go."

"I know," Jason nodded. "We'll go tomorrow. She can't travel tonight."

"Good luck," he said, knowing it wasn't just keeping away from Sonny he was talking about. Turning to Elizabeth who looked ready to fall asleep, he said, "Liz, I'm sorry to say this, but I've got to take off. Jason found Laura and if Lucky or Prince Nik-"

"I know, Luke. I wish you could stay. I-I don't know if I can do this, on the run for the rest of my life, but I can't be selfish. You need to be with Laura, and she needs you."

Luke kissed her on her head and smiled. "You are so much like my angel, and you can do this. Plus you aren't alone anymore. I'll always help you, and so will Jason."

Jason sat at the kitchen table, drinking a mug of hot chocolate while desperately wishing it was coffee. He wasn't surprised that Elizabeth didn't have any, she'd never really liked it and he knew it wasn't good for the baby. He just wished he would have thought about it last night when Luke was still here. With Luke gone, he didn't dare risk going in search of a corner convenience store.

The chances were slim that Sonny and Ric could have found Elizabeth yet. Luke had the names Johnny gave the forger, they didn't. And he knew there was no way they could have followed him here. He knew more ways than Sonny did on how to disappear, and he had aliases his former boss never knew of. But he wouldn't rest easy until he and Elizabeth put Tucson far behind them.

The bedroom door opened and he looked up, smiling tentatively as Elizabeth stepped into the main room. She returned his smile stiffly, then headed to the bathroom. He'd hoped she'd be feeling better today, but he guessed that wasn't the case. He didn't want to travel while she was sick, but they had to leave today. Quicker than he expected, the door opened and she walked over to the table.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey, how are you feeling?"

A wistful smile quirked her mouth, "Better. It's odd, but I actually feel good in the morning. It's when the afternoon comes that I just want to crawl under a rock and die. I've actually been feeling good this week, but last night the fear got to me. I haven't been that sick in a while."

"I'm sorry," he said as he took a drink. "Luke found you nearly a week ago, he was keeping an eye on you until I could get here. I told him not to talk to you until I was here."

"Hmm, it must have been his car I saw," she said. "I-I saw it in the parking lot, and I'd seen it before and I got scared someone had found me. My only thought was to get out of there and take off again."

"Your instincts were good. I don't want to scare you, but Ric isn't going to give up, and I can't promise that there won't be times we have to take off again like that. But he doesn't know your aliases, plus we're getting new ones. It won't be easy for them to find us."

"So this is how my life is going to be forever?" she asked on a sigh. "Never putting down roots, not owning anything of value so I won't care if gets left behind. Always looking over my shoulder, a getaway bag and plan of escape at the ready? How can I live like that? How can I raise a child like that?"

Jason sighed heavily and looked up at her. He didn't know how to answer that. He'd lived on the run before, but it hadn't been like this. He knew he wouldn't have wanted to live that way with Michael.

"I don't know what to say, Elizabeth," he said regretfully. "This isn't how I want things to be. I want to get you someplace, and then…then I can make sure Ric never bothers you. If that's what you want."

"You mean kill him," Elizabeth whispered, and her hand drifted down to rest on her stomach.

"Yes," he said unapologetically. "I know he's the father, so if you don't want me to..."

"Father." The word came out choked with disdain. "He will never be a father to this baby. After what he did to Carly, after the lies, I don't want him anywhere near us. He didn't see anything wrong with what he did to her. It was worth it to hurt Sonny. You...you were right all along."

She stopped and looked down, clutching her hands tightly together. He felt like someone had reached into his chest and was squeezing his heart in a tight fist. They hadn't spoken civilly in so long, and he hated that this was what caused it. Her fear, her anger, her loathing.

"I-I mean you tried to tell me," she went on. "Everyone tried to tell me Ric was no good, that he was only going to hurt me. I was so desperate to prove everyone wrong, to not to be alone again that I ignored all the warning signs. Then, that night in my studio you…you said it. I was protecting a rapist."

He swallowed hard at that memory. "I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry."

"Why? It was the truth. He may not have raped her physically, but he did emotionally. And he didn't care. He-he blew me off when I mentioned my rape. I...I realized then that he was sick, that he wasn't someone I could be with. I," her voice broke and he felt the fist squeeze tighter. "I gave myself to him. I slept with him. I slept with a rapist, what does that say about me?"

"Hey, hey," he said getting up and kneeling down beside her. "Don't, don't. It's not your fault. You wanted to believe the best in him, it's what you do and it's a good trait. It doesn't make you wrong, Elizabeth."

"No," she said with a shake of her head. "It just makes me stupid beyond belief. I'm going to take a shower."

When he finally heard the shower turn off more than half an hour later, Jason sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He hated seeing Elizabeth blame herself for this, when he could have tried harder to warn her. But it was easier to ignore what she was doing by claiming she wasn't the person he thought she was, than to think about why she was making her decisions and wouldn't believe him. There was so much that he was looking back on now and regretting, and he knew he needed to talk to Elizabeth about it. He wouldn't push it though; she had enough to deal with at the moment.

He heard the door open, and automatically his head came up. Steam followed her out of the small room and he saw the mirrors were completely fogged over. Her damp hair rested on her shoulders staining the fabric darker, her skin was bright pink from the heat, and her eyes were red and swollen from obvious crying. She walked into the kitchen and reached for the cupboard doors.

"I'm starving. Have you eaten?"

"I don't really eat breakfast."

"Suit yourself," she said casually. "Breakfast is the one meal I can eat. And since we're going to be on the road eating grease out of a sack I figure I better eat something before my stomach revolts."

"I'm sorry, Elizabeth," he said, deciding to go along with her for the moment and ignore what happened before the shower. "I know this can't be easy on you. I wish we didn't have to travel while you were sick."

"It's okay," she said placing a bowl on the counter and then taking a container out of the refrigerator. She spooned pieces of cantaloupe into the bowl as she continued, "The nausea's not as bad as it was at first. Traveling by car probably will be better than by bus, since buses stop for no one. I know we have to go."

She put the spoon on the counter and looked down, her shoulders sagging slightly, before looking at up him. "I know that we aren't friends anymore, and I know I've said some very cruel and hurtful things to you, but I appreciate everything you're doing for me and my baby. I trust you to protect us and get us to a safe place."

"I will," he promised quietly, the words carrying in the small apartment. "I will make sure you're safe and protected from Ric."

He wanted to say more, to say that the friendship wasn't gone, but he knew that much had changed between them. It was going to take a while to get back what they had. She trusted him to protect her unborn baby, and he wouldn't let her down. Everything else would have to wait for now.

Elizabeth looked out the window into the dark night and inwardly sighed. Despite the nap she had earlier in the day, she was exhausted. Packing up her belongings, watching Jason plan, take things to the car without arousing suspicion, looking around her home and realizing that the place she was planning to build a new life for herself was over. She wondered how long it would take before her neighbor got suspicious, before her landlord checked on the apartment, before the police were notified that she was missing. And it wouldn't matter, because Diana Morris would drop off the map as quickly as she'd appeared and everyone would be searching for a ghost.

Leaning her head back, she closed her eyes, but realized quickly that wasn't going to work. The motion of the car combined with not having a focal point was making her stomach churn. She took several deep open-mouth breaths trying to force back the bile. It wasn't working.

"We need to stop," she said frantically.

"What?" Jason asked, glancing over at her.

"Please stop," she pleaded and he immediately pulled over to the side of the road. She got out, ignoring the light rain that had begun. She clutched her stomach and looked around frantically. Jason came up beside and steadied her by her shoulders as she bent over and emptied her stomach.

"Are you okay?" he asked as she tried to straighten and push her hair back.

"Peachy," she snarled. "I hoped traveling would be better this time."

"There's a town not far from here," Jason said. "We'll stop there."

Shaking her head, Elizabeth said, "No, we can keep going. I know you want to put as much distance between us and Tucson and we haven't even reached Yuma yet."

"Elizabeth," he said, trying to keep calm, "there's no point in traveling if you're sick. It's not worth you being miserable. Or me."

He said the last part quietly, but she heard it loud and clear and she latched on to it. "I'm sorry this is such an inconvenience for you. I didn't ask you to come find me," she snapped, shaking his hand off her arm. "I was doing just fine, Ric wasn't going to find me. There was no need to go all White Knight and charge to my rescue."

"I'm so sorry I was concerned about you," he growled at her. "Forgive me for wanting to help a friend."

"Friend?" she said in disbelief. "We are not friends and we haven't been for a long time. Because if we were friends you never would have asked me to keep your dirty little affair a secret."

"Like you told me I was a stranger to you? Or that I should have been shot that night in Carly's club? You mean the kind of friend you were, Elizabeth?"

"Exactly," she sneered. "And you sure returned the favor when you threw my rape in my face. I would expect it of Sonny or Courtney, but you?"

"I told you several times that Ric was bad news and he was only going to get you hurt. You wanted to be stubborn and prove me wrong-"

"And why would I believe anything you said?" she shouted at him. "You lied to me for months and I'm supposed to suddenly believe you when you tell me that the man who cared about me was bad news? Everyone used to tell me the same thing about you. I saw a different side of him. I...I..."

She turned, not caring about the rain that was falling harder, and walked away from Jason. She had seen a different side of Ric, but it was only an illusion. The whole time he had been with her had been nothing but lies and manipulations. From their first meetings he had never shown her his true nature, and he'd worked hard to make her think he was a decent guy who wasn't like Jason or Sonny. He told her he'd dropped his vendetta against his brother, but never did and used her to present the belief he had.

She had been so stupid, and Jason had been right. Ric didn't care about her, and if she ended up being another casualty it was a small price to pay. She was angry at herself for believing the load of tripe Ric fed her. She was mad at Ric for manipulating her good will and trust, and she was mad at Jason for being just another man she wasn't good enough for and only caring when he thought she was helpless. Maybe she was wrong to give him the brunt of her anger, but frankly at this moment she didn't care.

It wasn't going to work. Despite what she had told Luke of letting Jason help her, despite what she'd thought that morning about trusting Jason to keep her safe, there was no way. She was still too angry, too hurt, too embarrassed about needing him to pick up the pieces of her life after she once again believed the wrong person and got herself into a mess. She wondered what Carly would say if she realized that despite what she said in her studio that night, Elizabeth was more like Carly than she wanted to admit.

She had Luke's phone number; he could get her out of the country. She'd go with Jason until Luke could help her. She wasn't going to let herself rely on Jason. He would only let her down again, and she wasn't going to fall back into the pattern of needing him to put her life back together. She'd got herself into this mess, and she could very well get herself out of it. The only person she trusted, beside herself, was Luke.

"Let's get out of the rain," Jason finally ground out, shaking her from her thoughts.

"Fine," she replied, not looking at him as she stalked back to the car. The sooner they got to the town, the sooner she could call Luke.

Thirty minutes later she walked out of the bathroom and laid her wet clothes over the backs of the chairs in the room she was sharing with Jason. It was less suspicious for a married couple traveling together, he said. Her suggestion that they were brother and sister and thus could get separate rooms was shot down. That was the only time they'd spoken since they'd yelled at each other on the side of the road.

Jason wordlessly went into the bathroom to take his shower and she rolled her eyes. They truly were doomed to never get along. They had become too used to the anger, and yelling at each other to ever remember that they once seemed to communicate without words. It hurt too much to constantly be reminded of what they had lost. They were always on edge and it was making her nausea worse. She wouldn't subject herself to it, she didn't have to. There were other ways to protect her life and her child's life without having to subject herself to this torture day after day.

She ran a hand through her damp hair and blew out a breath. It also wasn't fair to Jason. She and Ric may have ended, but Jason still had Courtney in his life. Sonny had fired Jason once before and they stayed together. Maybe if Jason stopped taking care of her, stopped trying to look out for her he could make things right again with Sonny. And if what Luke said really was true and Jason had a hit out on his life, then he needed to take care of himself, not ignoring the danger to play babysitter to her. And, she took a deep breath, he deserved to be with Courtney and not be off with his ex-almost-girlfriend.

The bathroom opened and Jason emerged dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He sat down on the bed and reached for his boots. "Do you want to go out and get some food, or do you want me to bring something back?"

She tried not to grimace at the thought of what food they'd find at this time of the night - or was it early morning? - and shook her head. "I'll just have some Wheat Things and fruit. Get whatever you want." She paused, then forged ahead, "Could you leave your cell phone?"

"Why?" he asked curiously.

"I want to call Luke," she replied, not looking at him. "I think he should help me out from now on and you should...you should have your own life...with Courtney.

Jason paused in the act of tying his boots and stared up at Elizabeth. She wanted Luke to help her and send him back to Courtney? He thought Luke explained the situation in Port Charles to her. Had pregnancy affected her that much, or did she really hate him that much?

"Courtney and I broke up. Luke told you that," he said, his voice harder than he intended.

Her eyes widened and she shook her head. "No. He said Sonny told you not to come after me, but he didn't say you broke up with her."

"So if you knew Sonny didn't want me looking for you, why would you want me to leave? I disobeyed an order, again, to help you."

"I didn't know you broke up, okay?" she said in exasperation. "I knew Sonny wanted you to stay in Port Charles, but you went against him. Luke…Luke told me Sonny put a hit out on you."

"Right, so why would you want me to go back? Want me to get shot this time and have the job completed?"

Her face paled and she shook her head frantically. "I just...I just thought that if you went back you could be with Courtney instead of stuck out here with me. Maybe you could work things out with Sonny, like you've always managed to do. If you showed him you'd given up on me, you could have your life, Jason. I know that Sonny is important to you."

Some of his anger deflated out of him as he started to realize what she'd meant, what she'd wanted for him, even in the middle of a threat on her life. Slowly, sadly he shook his head. "We won't this time, Elizabeth. He...Carly left him and he's angry. He's working with Ric to find you as a way to punish her and me. She helped you, and he feels she lied to him, and I...I betrayed Courtney by looking for you."

She sat down on the floor, her knees bent, elbows braced against them. "I am so sorry. When Carly offered to help me, I figured Sonny would probably question her about the money. But once he found out it was for me and I'd left town I thought he wouldn't care and wouldn't bother her anymore about it. The money she gave me would be a drop in the bucket and it wouldn't matter since I was gone. I never would have accepted it if I thought it would cause this much trouble."

She shook her head in self-blame. "I should have just sucked it up and asked Nikolas."

The room fell silent and he didn't know what to say. He hated fighting with her, but there was truth in what they'd said earlier that night. Their friendship had been strained and cracked, broken beyond repair it appeared. No matter what he'd admitted to others and himself about needing to help her, to know she was alright, to have her in his life again, it seemed too late.

They'd missed their chance. Whatever hope they'd had last year was gone. Buried by their past actions and hateful words. If he stayed with her to help her would they be able to get past it, or would they just have a constant, painful reminder of their failures?

Maybe Elizabeth had the right idea. Luke could help her. He could make her disappear so well that probably even Jason wouldn't be able to find her. And if he couldn't find her, then Rick and Sonny never would either. He could go help Carly and Michael, make sure they disappeared just as well and were never in any danger. It was what he should do, and Carly, Elizabeth, and probably even Luke would never fault him for his decision.

There was just one problem. It was the coward's way out and he refused to be a coward anymore.

Part VI - Friendly and Malignant Advice

"Liz, darlin'," Luke smiled into the phone when he heard her voice. "How are you doing, sweetheart?"

"Not good, Luke," she said mournfully. "You-can you help me?"

Instantly he was on alert, wondering what had happened to her and Jason. If she was in trouble, if Jason wasn't going to help her - or wasn't able - of course he would step in and do all he could. "Liz, what happened? Did Corinthos or Lansing get close to you?"

"No, she said. "It's not Sonny or Ric, it's Jason and me. I can't do this. I don't want to do this."

Luke settled against the high back booth in the hotel bar. "Can't do what?"

"Be here with him," she sighed. "I can't spend every day with him, riding in a silent car, spending the night in the same hotel room, until he decides it's safe to put down some semblance of roots. Luke...I thought I could do it. That I could put it all behind me for my baby. But this is impossible."

Luke wasn't sure if he should be thankful to Elizabeth for giving him a chance at this father-daughter advice before Lulu needed it, or if he should run in fear and make a deal with the devil that his little girl never grew up. Giving advice to Lucky had been different than this. In fact, most of the time if he did tell Lucky what he thought, his son would turn around and do the exact opposite. Fatherly advice, he realized sadly, wasn't his strong suit. What he, and especially Elizabeth, needed was Laura to share her wisdom.

Sadly, he was all Elizabeth had, and he sent up a prayer that he was able to do the job well. He didn't think this was the case, but he had to ask, just so it wasn't nagging at him. "Has Morgan done something, yelled at you or scared you?"

"No," she said in a small voice. "I yelled first and he just responded."

"Why'd you yell at him, darlin'?" He'd pushed Morgan, and seen that the younger man was coming to realize his true feelings towards Elizabeth. Maybe it was time to push Elizabeth to face the truth as well.

"I yelled because..." she trailed off and Luke could picture her, nervous, chewing her lip, and looking embarrassed. "I just...the anger kinda surprised me."

"Liz," Luke softly chided, "if you're not going to be honest with me, then I don't think I can help you."

There was a moment of silence, and finally in a soft voice she said, "I'm scared. Jason loves to play hero. That's how we started out, he rescued me from a bad situation...it seems like he's always rescuing me. He and Courtney started out because he was protecting her."

"And now he's there protecting you," Luke said, his tone understanding.

"Yeah, I mean who needs protecting more than a pregnant woman running from the psycho father? He ignored me for months and suddenly swoops back in." She stopped and let out a sigh. "He told me it's over with Courtney, that he broke up with her because he refused to give up looking for me. But...but what does that mean for us?"

"What do you want it to mean?" Luke asked her.

"What I want doesn't matter," she sighed. "Because it's too late for Jason and I to work through this. We're too used to the pain, and being angry and yelling at each other. So why should I make us both miserable? If you helped me, got me out the country, put me up someplace, Jason would be done. We wouldn't have to see each other all the time."

"And it would also be a cop out," Luke told her bluntly. "And I won't let you do that. Liz, darlin', I think it's time you honestly faced things with you and Jason. And if you do that, honestly do that, and still hate Morgan, then I'll help you."

"So you won't help me now?" she asked sadly.

He could envision the tears forming in her deep soulful eyes, and it killed him, but he held his conviction. "No, I won't. Not until you give it a true chance. Where's Jason now?"

"He's outside talking to Carly on the phone."

"Tell him I want to speak to him," Luke said. He wanted to make sure Morgan wasn't thinking about walking away because of this little bump in the road.

She was sitting on the front porch, watching as the white cotton-candy clouds collected in the sky. She needed just a little bit of time to collect herself, clear her head and then she could figure out what to say to Michael. He didn't understand why they'd suddenly moved from the penthouse to Bobbie's, then left town in the middle of the night and he certainly didn't understand his mother's insistence that they couldn't tell Sonny.

How exactly was she supposed to say that the man he called Daddy had snapped, had turned into someone mean? How was she supposed to say that he was mad at her and Uncle Jason, mad enough that she was scared of him? Selfishly she wished Jason were here with her, because he could always explain things to Michael in a way that made sense but never scared him. But right now Jason had someone else that needed him more.

The screen door squeaked as it opened, causing her to look away from the scene before her. Johnny walked out with a smile on his face, "Yeah, she's right here."

He handed the phone to her as she quirked an eyebrow at him. "It's Jason."

Grinning she accepted the phone. "Hey, Jase. I wasn't expecting a call from you. How are things going?"

"They're okay," he said."

"And you're a terrible liar," Carly said with a laugh. "What happened?"

"Carly," he hedged.

"What? Jason, what...Sonny and Ric didn't find you guys did they?"

"No, Carly. It's not that. Elizabeth and I...we're just as far apart as we were, and she wants Luke to help her."

"You guys got into a fight, didn't you?" she asked. Jason had told her about his fight and breakup with Courtney, and she had surprised him by just listening to him. After all her encounters with Courtney while Jason was gone, her callous attitude towards Elizabeth and her pregnancy, and the glee she displayed after Sonny told Ric about the baby had thoroughly disabused her of her praise for the younger woman and the belief she was the only one for Jason.

She just sat there, asked an occasional question, and for once really listened to Jason. He said just enough that she realized the true depth of his feelings for Elizabeth. She knew at the time, as he talked about his relationship with Courtney that it had been a rebound, and she had helped push him into it.

She hadn't stayed out of his relationships before, despite his repeated requests for her to do so. So she'd vowed to herself that she wasn't going to push him, to chide him, or inflict her views on him. She would just support him, but she just couldn't stand back and let him shut down and hide.

"You guys had a fight?" she repeated.

"Yeah," Jason sighed. "She doesn't think we're friends anymore and she wants Luke to get her out of the country."

"I'm sorry," Carly told him. "But she's got a point."

"What?" Jason asked in disbelief. "You think I should just walk away? Give up on Elizabeth and come help you?"

"No," she said, wondering if Jason was aware of all he'd just conveyed as he spoke. "I meant she's got a point about being friends. You two barely spoke, when you did it was full of anger and now that she's pregnant and in danger you come charging to the rescue. But no, I'm not telling you to just give up and walk away."

"You're not?"

"No, I'm not," she told him sincerely. "If you left and let Luke help her how would you feel? Would you just forget about her?"

"No. I'd always worry about her."

"Of course you would. So, don't let her push you away. Talk to her, clear up the past. Don't just sit back and let her walk all over you, but listen to her. Make her listen to you. If you leave...you'll hate yourself for it. Don't repeat the mistakes you made before. Now, let me talk to Elizabeth."

"Carly." His voice held warning, with just the slightest bit of trepidation.

"Relax," she smiled into the phone. "I'm not going to yell at her, or extol your virtues. I want to see how she's feeling. Believe it or not I've been worried about her since I heard she was in the hospital. So stop freaking out and go get her."

"She's on the phone with Luke," Jason tried to put her off again.

"Stop being a wuss and just open the door from wherever you're hiding and tell her her baby guru is on the phone." Through his grumbles, she could hear him moving around the background and she couldn't help but chuckle.

Max sat in his apartment, headset on. Thanks to his good friend Stan, a thoroughly talented electronics man, he had bugged Sonny's penthouse. Sonny never swept the penthouse because he thought himself invincible in his personal domain. The hallway, the elevator, the phones and the limos were all swept regularly, but he thought security too tight for someone to ever get inside his house.

Sonny's arrogance was good for Max, Sonny's brother and sister having free range of the house wasn't. He had to endure mindless hours of Courtney whining about Jason leaving her, and Ric raging against Elizabeth and speculating she'd probably welcomed Jason into her bed by now - which would cause Courtney to either cry in pain or scream in anger. Sonny didn't say anything of value, except on rare occasions.

Max listened carefully to everything Sonny said about Carly, Jason and Elizabeth and the search for them. Jason had told him not to contact the enforcer, and he had no idea when he might be contacted, but he planned to be prepared. One thing Max could tell for certain, Sonny was losing it again.

Over the headphones he heard a door open and Max sent up a hopeful prayer that Sonny's arrival would save him from the torture that was listening to Courtney and Ric.

"Alright, I'm here. What was so urgent?"

"I spoke with Sammy Tagliotti today," Ric explained. "He wants a meeting with you and the families tonight."

"Why?" Courtney asked.

"Because his wife left him, his enforcer left him high and dry and one of his best guards took off."

"Okay, enough," Sonny cut in. "What, he wants reassurance?"

"Yeah," Ric said. "It would also help them to know that you're fully behind me working with you."

Courtney snorted out a laugh. "Yeah, because they somehow seem to remember him working with Faith and what he did to Carly. So they're kinda wondering why he's still breathing, and why you've welcome him so warmly into the family fold."

"What I do is none of their business. Yeah go ahead, set up the meeting. I'm getting tired of them summoning me all the time. I think I need to let them know that. This is ridiculous," his voice rose to a shout. "I don't answer to them and they need to be reminded of that again."

"And they will, Sonny," Courtney said, her voice holding a hint of fear even as she tried to calm him. "Ric's calling to set up the meeting. Let me get you a drink."

They fell silent for a minute and Max rubbed his forehead tiredly. Ric was stepping into the business and chances were he'd only end up making a mess of things. He wasn't sure if Sonny was aware of it, but Ric had started interrogating everyone in the organization, questioning their loyalty, and was subtly making recommendations to Sonny.

"Okay," Ric said. "The meeting is set up for eleven tonight."

"I'm calling Max to put him on the door for you tonight," Sonny said.

"I don't want Max," Courtney protested. "He...he looks at me like I'm beneath him or something. Even if he's just outside the door I don't want to have to deal with him. Can't you put Marco, or that new guard Charlie there?"

"Fine, fine," Sonny told her. "I'll call Charlie, since Marco's working now. Ric, call Max. I want him with us tonight, he presents a good front."

"Okay," Ric replied, even though his tone conveyed he didn't like it.

Max quickly took off the headsets and made sure the tape was recording. Ric was going to call, oh joy.

Jason stood in the hotel room and watched as Elizabeth closed the bathroom door behind her. Just as he was about to come inside and tell her Carly wanted to talk to her, she opened the door and told him Luke wanted to speak to him. He had come inside, not wanting to be outside in the heat anymore since there was no shade by the door, and also because somebody had pulled up and was taking bags into the room next to them. He ran a hand over his face and through his hair before raising the cell phone to his ear. "Yeah."

"Morgan, what's going on out there? You and Elizabeth fighting already?"

"It got a little tense last night," Jason admitted. "But I'm not letting her leave."

"Good," Luke said, "because I told her I wouldn't help her until she worked out a few things with you."

"You shouldn't force her," Jason said automatically.

Luke let out a chuckle. "Morgan, you weren't going to walk away and you weren't going to let her go either. So don't get your shorts in a bunch because I gave her a well-needed nudge."

The headache that had begun while talking to Carly, began to throb more as Luke went on. It must be a particular family gene that seemed to some days just work his last nerve. It wasn't helping matters that his fight with Elizabeth last night had left him tense, edgy, and unable to sleep well.

"Luke," he sighed. "Don't get involved in this. She's going to be unhappy as it is, don't start telling her she needs to do certain things. She fights when people do that...and I'm tired of fighting with her."

"Okay," Luke said, backing off. "What are your plans?"

"I want to cross the border either at Yuma or San Diego. Bigger border towns, less chance hopefully we'll get held up. I've got a contact in Baja Sonny doesn't know about, I'll meet up with him."

"And then what?" Luke pressed.

"Disappear to a big city, Sydney maybe. Europe's going to be out," for a while at least, he didn't say. It may be foolhardy to think about, but he still wanted Elizabeth to see Italy. "I also want to get Carly and Michael out of Washington. It'd be a bigger group, but with Johnny to help I think we'll be alright."

He hoped they'd be all right. He trusted Johnny with his life, and he knew the guard would do everything in his power to make sure Carly, Michael, and Leticia would be safe. But there was the part of the of him that didn't trust anyone but him, and he wouldn't feel comfortable until they were closer to him.

"If you need help, let me know," Luke offered. "My main concern is Elizabeth, but I guess I owe it to Bobbie to make sure Carly's alright."

"I'll keep it in mind," he said.

"Okay then," Luke chuckled. "Tell Elizabeth she can call anytime she wants, so I'll talk to her later."

"Okay, bye," he said, then hung up the phone.

Glancing at the closed bathroom door wondered what Elizabeth and Carly were talking about. He knew Carly promised not to yell, but there was still a part of him that worried. Despite Carly being genuinely concerned about Elizabeth, she had a habit of over-protecting Jason and going off on Elizabeth for her treatment of him.

He really hoped Carly didn't do anything like that. He meant it when he told Luke he was tired of fighting with Elizabeth. Last night they'd fallen into an old pattern, yell and lash out, trying to inflict those stinging barbs. When had he gotten that way with anyone, let alone Elizabeth? Things were so uncertain, all over the place emotionally, but he knew for certain he'd had enough of fighting with her. He'd also had enough of watching her walk away from him. He let her walk out his penthouse door without trying to talk to her, get her to understand, and he wasn't about to let her go now without trying to change her mind.

Elizabeth closed the bathroom door behind her and sat down on the edge of the tub. Taking a deep breath, she hesitated slightly as she raised the phone to her ear. She could only imagine what Carly wanted to talk to her about after talking to Jason.

"Hey, Carly," she said softly, mentally preparing for the match to come.

"Hey," the other woman replied, just as softly. "Are you okay? When I heard you'd been in the hospital, man I was so scared for you."

"The morning sickness was pretty bad and I got dehydrated. I passed out and woke up in the hospital, but I'm doing better now, I guess."

"But the baby's okay, right? Did they do an ultrasound?"

"The doctor said the baby was fine. I don't know if they did an ultrasound before I woke up, but they didn't do one when I was awake. The doctor just told me to slow down, take are of myself." Elizabeth paused and lightly laughed. "She kinda reminded me of my gram or Bobbie."

Carly joined in the laughter. "Momma can get pretty intense when she goes into her nurse mode. So, Elizabeth-"

Elizabeth cut Carly off with a groan. Here it came. Now listen you little twit, Jason has done so much for you. The least you could do is be grateful and stop yelling at my best friend. "Carly, please don't."

"Don't what?" she asked in confusion. "Are you okay? Are you sick, do you need to go?"

"No," Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm not sick. Today's actually been okay. I...I just wanted to stop you before you yelled at me for getting in a fight with Jason last night and wanting Luke to help instead of him."

Carly's laughter surprised her. "No," Carly said, "Jason thought so too, but honestly, Elizabeth, I just wanted to see how you were. I really think when you get someplace you can spend a couple of days you should have a doctor do an ultrasound."

"Why?" she asked, a little nervous about Carly pushing so hard for it.

"Because you were on the run, you were sick a lot, you didn't see a doctor regularly. I just think you should ask for one."

"Alright," Elizabeth said a little befuddled. "This is a whole new side of you."

"Call it hormones, or maybe I guess I realized that after everything Sonny did to hurt you, me and Jason I should just worry about my own life instead of trying to run Jason's." Carly paused and then said, "Anyways, take care of yourself and that baby, tell Jase bye, and don't be a stranger, okay? Just because Jason's with you doesn't mean my offer to call anytime is off the table."

"Thank you, Carly. I'll call, I promise. Bye."

Then the line clicked off and Elizabeth leaned forward. Never in her wildest dreams would she have expected Carly to be nice to her and not get on her case about her treatment of Jason. Nor would she have thought Luke would pull a little Tough Love tactic on her. It was like waking up one morning on Bizarro World.

She was also stalling, hiding in the bathroom. Yet she wondered what she going to say to Jason, now that Luke had turned her down. She had been unfair to him last night. Mere hours after telling him she trusted him and appreciated all he was doing for her and her baby she turned into a royal shrew and picked a fight whim about the past. She knew they had to talk about it at some point, but maybe it could just wait a little bit. Wait until they'd gotten used to being around each other again.

Standing up, she ran her fingers through her hair and squared her shoulders. Opening up the door, she walked into the room where Jason was sitting at the table looking over the map. Cautiously he watched her as she put his phone down on the dresser and sat on the edge of the bed. She softly cleared her throat and met the gaze she had felt on her since she walked out of the bathroom. "I owe you an apology. I turned on you when all you were doing was trying to help me..."

Sonny stepped out of the back of the limo and smoothed a hand over his silk shirt. Vaguely he was aware of Max standing beside him talking, but all he heard was Ric's voice telling him he didn't think they should trust the guard. Courtney's voice joined into the mix, adding her distrust because Max had been on duty when Jason came back that day and did nothing.

"Mr. Corinthos."

Max's sharp voice shook the cobwebs out, and Sonny looked up at him annoyed. "What do you want?"

"I don't think you should go inside."

When did Max start acting like the boss? "When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it."

Max blinked, but grabbed his arm. "Something isn't right. Where are the other guards who wait outside? The other cars? This screams set up."

"You're saying my brother set me up? He's inside and I'm going in."

He wrenched his arm free from the presumptuous, and wrong, guard and took a step forward. A roar ripped through the still night air and an invisible hand, fiery hot, pushed him backward into the car. As he slid to the ground, blackness clouding his eyes, he could see flaming debris raining down around him.

Part VII - Aftermath

He opened his eyes, and he could see the orange flames licking at the black sky. Blinking rapidly to clear the blood from his eye, he planted one hand on the ground and pushed himself up. His left arm hung helplessly at his side, but he couldn't think about that now; he had to find Sonny and get out of here. Blood continued to flow, getting into his eye, stinging as he looked.

A smoldering piece of the building rested against the side of the car and Sonny's legs were visible underneath. Rushing forward he yelled, "Sonny!"

He grabbed the wood and pulled it back, ignoring the way his skin pulled and immediately blistered. "Sonny!"

A quick appraisal determined his boss was bruised and cut, but wasn't badly burned. He tried to open the door to the limo, but it had become jammed by the impact of wood, so he checked the other side. Thankfully, that door opened, and with a good deal of difficulty, he manhandled his unconscious boss around the car and then inside. After climbing in, he started the car and headed across town toward the Towers. As he sat inside what he knew had to be the quiet of the car, he hoped that the deafening roar in his ears would soon go away and allow him to hear something else.

As the car neared the penthouse, he paused, then pulled off the street into an empty lot. The police and fire department had the building surrounded, the top of which was engulfed in flame and smoke. He couldn't worry about what might have caused it, or who might have been there; he had to get Sonny to safety.

Max drove to the safe house farthest away from Port Charles, and by the time he'd driven in enough circles it was nearly two hours since he'd seen the penthouse in flames. Getting Sonny into the house proved far more difficult than putting him in the car had been. The ringing in his ears hadn't stopped and he couldn't hear anything else above it. His left arm still hung useless at his side, and by the time he had Sonny inside and unceremoniously deposited on a bed, he'd nearly passed out from the pain.

He wouldn't - couldn't - give into it though, because he had to figure out what was going on. The penthouse had been on fire. Was Courtney alive or dead? The warehouse had blown up. Was Ric in it when it exploded and was he dead? Was it an internal coup or were the Five Families trying a take over?

There were so many unanswered questions, and he had no way of finding anything out. He couldn't hear the radio above the roar in his ears, and there was no TV in the place. He didn't know who he could trust to call in the organization. He should call Johnny or Jason, but what could they do? He was the only person in Port Charles he knew he could trust, and he wasn't much at the moment.

Despite everything he knew he needed to do, he just couldn't. His body was shutting down, and he found himself powerless to stop it.

Slowly he opened his eyes, and was rewarded instantly with a sharp stab of pain in the back of his head. His muscles groaned in protest and he hadn't even moved yet. The last thing he remembered was the building blowing up and being thrown back against the car like a ragdoll. Then bits and pieces came back, much like the pieces of building that had rained down around him.

Max warned him, but he ignored it. Those seconds fighting with the guard had probably saved his life, but where was he now? Was the explosion an inside job, or a hostile takeover? Was his brother alive, or dead like he himself apparently was supposed to be? And was Courtney protected, or had she been grabbed? Or worse, killed?

Slowly he pushed himself to a seated position holding his bruised ribs to ease the pain. The room looked like one of their safe houses, so maybe that meant Max - or someone else - had gotten him to safety?

With a great deal of difficulty, he slid off the bed and crossed the room to the door. He walked down the hall, leaning heavily against the wall until he reached the living room. He swayed on his feet as he stopped suddenly at the sight before him. Max was face down on the floor next to the sofa, covered with ash, soot and blood.

"Max," he called, as he pushed off the wall and in a barely controlled crash made it to the sofa and collapsed on it. "Max."

The guard didn't stir. Sonny grabbed his ribs with his left arm and leaned forward to press his finger against Max's neck in search of a pulse. There was a faint one, and he gave a sigh of relief. Then he straightened slightly and gave the unconscious man a rough shake. "Max!"

A soft groan emanated from the guard and he turned his head slowly. Sonny's eyes widened when he saw the large gash over the man's left eye that was still seeping blood, and the black and purple swollen flesh that opened just a slit. Max planted his right hand against the floor and shakily pushed himself up. Sonny put a hand on Max's left shoulder to steady him, but immediately pulled it back when the large man let out a primal scream.

"Max? Max?"

He looked up, leaning on his right elbow while breathing heavily. "Sh-shoulder."

Sonny realized the guard's shoulder was probably dislocated, most likely by whatever had made his face look like it was worked over by a meat tenderizer. Sonny sat back, giving Max space as he laboriously got himself upright, then leaned back against the ottoman. "H-how are you?"

"Some bruises, my ribs," he replied dismissively. "What about you, besides your shoulder?"

"Ears are ringing, but it's better than last night. I couldn't hear the radio."

"What happened last night?" If it even was last night, who knew how long they'd both been passed out unconscious.

"Building exploded. I blacked out for a few, came to, found you and got out of there. I drove toward the Towers...but police and fire were there. Top...top was on fire.""

"Courtney," he breathed out heavily. "Any word from Ric?"

Max merely shook his head, and even Sonny realized the futility of the question after it was asked. "I drove around for a while, came out here, got you inside, then I guess I passed out."

Sonny sat back in disbelief. His sister and his brother were most likely dead. Unless it was a set up and they were in on it. He never saw Ric inside, in fact there weren't any cars outside. Max had spotted the discrepancy, but he'd blown him off because Ric and Courtney's words of doubt were echoing in his mind.

"You knew. You knew something was off and...and I ignored you." The severity of the situation was hitting him, and hard. "I should be dead. Someone wanted me dead and if you hadn't stopped me..."

He stood and slowly paced across the room to the counter separating them from the kitchen. Turning around he looked back at Max. "So, do we know anything?"

The guard weakly shook his head. "I got you here, it was all I could do. If it's someone inside the organization they could be watching us right now and we're sunk. I didn't know who we could trust to call, which is why I didn't call a doc."

"We should call-" he stopped himself when he realized he was about to say Jason. His first instinct was to call the man who had always cleaned up his messes for him. But he couldn't do that, because he'd declared Jason dead to him and put out a hit on the man. Even if he could somehow find his former enforcer, the younger man would never help.

Sonny had betrayed Jason by turning against Carly, Michael and Elizabeth. Three of the four people that had always been important to Jason, that he had asked Sonny to look out for. He knew, despite the near-boundless loyalty Jason had exhibited in the past, this was an act the other man would never forgive.

Sonny was alone, no information, possibly exposed, definitely vulnerable. The only person he had on his side was a bodyguard who had a head injury and a dislocated shoulder. If someone came after him now, there would be no way to defend himself. Maybe Karma was finally extracting her revenge.

Jason stopped and side-stepped a group of small children that ran out in front of him, passing a soccer ball back and forth. He watched them for a few minutes, smiling at their enthusiasm and laughter. They were about Michael's age and he let himself get lost for a moment in the thoughts of how the little boy was doing, especially now that he and Carly weren't with Sonny.

Sonny. With a sigh he looked down at the newspaper in his hand. Three days ago there had been an explosion along the docks, and Ric Lansing's body, along with several others from different families had been recovered from the building. At the same time, police suspected arson for the blaze that suddenly erupted on the top floors of the Haborview Towers which resulted in Courtney's death as well as the guard outside her door. He didn't doubt the positive test results confirming Ric and Courtney's deaths, but there was no news about Sonny, except that he was missing.

Nobody knew where he was. No known accounts had been accessed, but Jason knew there were numerous accounts hidden that only the two of them knew about. A number of questions flowed through Jason's mind. Who had driven Sonny to the meeting that night? Where was the car? Was it inside or outside forces? Did Sonny know about Courtney and Ric's deaths? What would he try to do, if he was even still alive?

With a groan and a shake of his head, Jason sat down on the curb and hung his arms between his knees. He couldn't do this. He had walked away from Sonny. In fact, Sonny had turned on him and ordered him dead. Why should he care what happened or if the man was alive or dead? He had made a promise to Elizabeth and her baby, he'd made a promise to Carly and Michael, and he needed to keep those, to look out for them, make sure they were safe. He believed Ric was dead, he wouldn't be coming after Elizabeth anymore. But what about Sonny? Would he still try and find her, would he keep looking for Carly and Michael, and what would he try to do to them?

His priority was to them now, just like it had been to Michael all those years ago. He couldn't let himself get sucked back into the world of Port Charles and territory fights. He had to keep everyone else safe. Sonny, or one of the families, could still try to come after them.

Scrubbing his hands over his face, he shook his head. Despite knowing that he had a priority to Elizabeth, Carly and their children now, it was hard to just turn his back on the only life he'd ever really known. He would adjust, though. He was sure of it. He once knew nothing about firing a gun or working for Sonny, but he'd learned. Just like he'd learned when Sonny turned the territory over to him, and he was then in charge instead of following orders. He'd learned how to do things that didn't have anything to do with the business - taking care of Michael and running the bike shop. He would do it again now.

Standing with a sigh, he headed back to the house. The sprawling adobe structure was there before he knew it, and he softly opened the door. Elizabeth didn't really feel very sick anymore, but she was tired a lot and took several naps a day.

Things had been slightly better between them after they talked in the hotel in Arizona. She apologized for yelling at him and wanting to leave, and they both admitted that given everything that happened between them, they just needed to have some patience with each other. They hadn't fought since that day, but things were still tense. It was odd, felt wrong, to be talking to her like someone he barely knew. It was like talking to Ned or Monica, tense, awkward and always guarded. He'd come to the realization that he missed the time they used to be friends, and he was determined to get that back.

Closing the door, he started towards the kitchen for a drink, but paused when he heard faint voices. Juan had left in the morning to get everything ready for their departure that night and they wouldn't see him until later at the airfield. Elizabeth had been asleep when he left, and the voices weren't ones he'd heard before. Placing his footsteps softly on the tile floor, he headed towards the noise.

The TV. Jason shook his head softly, chiding himself for getting so nervous. If Elizabeth wasn't asleep, she was usually in the living room with the TV on the background as she sketched, or more often just gazed out the window at nothing in particular. But this time, she was staring intently at the screen, her face looking pale and shocked.


She looked up startled, her face taking on an odd look. Gesturing at the TV, she filled him in. "CNN has news from Port Charles."

"Yeah," he said lifting his hand that held the paper. "It was in the papers too."

"Ric and Courtney are dead...at least according to reports." She turned and looked at him pleadingly. "Do you think it's true? Do...do you really think he's dead?"

He sat down on the sofa with an uneasy sigh. That morning in her apartment she had hedged the question on how she'd feel if Ric died. She said she didn't consider him a father to her child. Now, however, he didn't know what to make of her question. "Yeah, I think he's dead. I...I know it doesn't make sense, but I don't think this is fake."

He tiredly rubbed his forehead; "I think the families-"

"Got tired of Sonny and decided to kill him and those around him?" she finished for him flatly.

"Yeah," Jason sighed, thinking he really shouldn't be having this conversation, but knowing that there was truly no harm in it. Especially with her. "Sonny...he was getting out of control, and he...I don't know, but I don't think Ric or Sonny faked this. Ric was finally getting the power he wanted by working with Sonny...but he wouldn't be able to hold onto that if he killed Sonny. He needed him alive."

"Yeah," Elizabeth agreed, "Ric was always after power. And in order to get that he would easily flip from seeking revenge against him, to kissing Sonny's butt. He'd finally got what he always wanted...he got to be you."

"What?" he asked confused.

"I think," she said as she stood and began to pace, "that he envied you because Sonny trusted you and not him. He was Sonny's brother, he wanted to assume his rightful place in the family. It was only after he couldn't gain Sonny's immediate trust that he started trying to hurt him by any means possible. But, Sonny fires you - or whatever - and who's waiting in the wings to take over? Ric.

"He probably bonded with Sonny over how they were both wronged. The women in their lives, carrying their children, were turning to you for help while shutting them out." She stopped and shook her head. "Ric wanted power, and Sonny was the key to his power...as he was also the key to getting me and this baby back by his side."

He followed the placement of her hands and blinked as an unexpected feeling hit him. Elizabeth was entering her fourth month, and while she was gaining back some of the weight she'd lost while on the run, the weight loss had made the growing swell of her stomach more prominent. She was wearing stretch pants today and the clinging material highlighted by her hands framing the swell, made it clear that she was pregnant. It was no longer an abstract thought only evident by nausea and sickness.

Elizabeth was pregnant, but with another man's baby. It was the bitterness of the last thought that caught him off guard. He had been with Courtney until very recently and she had been with Ric. He knew it was Lansing's baby she was carrying. So why was he so bothered by that? Was it something so cliché as he wanted the baby to be his?

He shook off those thoughts by changing the topic slightly. "He's dead now though, and you don't have to worry about him trying to claim your baby. Are...are you okay with that?"

She crossed her arms over her stomach and tipped her head to the side. "You mean, am I okay with him being dead? Actually, I am."

He watched her carefully as she paused and let her hand drift down again to rest on her growing abdomen. "It may be cruel of me, and some day I'll probably have to explain to my child what happened between me and Ric. But right now? Right now I am just so relieved that he's dead."

She turned away and crossed her arms again. He frowned at her back, wondering why she would turn away. She couldn't believe he would think badly of her; it had been no secret he despised Ric Lansing. He was so busy wondering why, that the nearly missed the shake of her shoulders and the stifled sound of her sobs.

"Elizabeth?" he asked in concern as he stood. She shook her head as if that would keep him away. Stopping behind her, he hesitantly put his hand on her shoulder. "Elizabeth, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," she said on a sob. "I'm relieved. I'm so relieved my baby's father is dead. What...what kind of person does that make me?"

"Human," he said as he turned her around and folded her into a hug. "Human."

Elizabeth sat in the living room, her bag beside her chair and its contents strewn around her. Dinner was over, and there was nothing to do but wait until the time they were supposed to go to the airfield. She closed the pregnancy magazine she'd picked up in Yuma and slumped down in the soft chair. She just couldn't focus on anything.

She was going to miss staying here. Actually, she was going to miss the food. The day they left the hotel, her stomach had felt much better, and she'd had her first real craving. She simply couldn't get enough Mexican food. The housekeeper who also cooked for them had written down many of the recipes that Elizabeth enjoyed, as well as some of her favorites that she hadn't had the chance to make yet.

Opening her eyes, she looked at Jason as he stood staring out the window. He had been quiet after her crying session and during dinner, and she wasn't sure what to say to him. She had to remember it wasn't just Ric who'd been found dead that night in Port Charles. Courtney had died as well, and while Elizabeth felt no great loss at that, she knew it had to affect Jason on some level.

Quietly she slipped her magazine in her bag and gathered up her sketching supplies. She stood and stretched her back, then rubbed her hands over her stomach. It was odd to suddenly have her body change in a manner that was as old as time, yet so new to her. There was a tiny life growing inside her.

Carly's strong suggestions to see a doctor once they got here had stuck with her the entire way down. So, the day after they arrived she talked to Jason about it and he immediately talked to Juan who set an appointment up. The doctor examined her, told her to get a little more iron in her diet, and then did an ultrasound. The baby was too small to determine the gender, but the doctor said it appeared to be healthy. It was a little small, but it could just because she herself was short he said, not necessarily because of poor care. Either way, it had simply been amazing to see her baby on the monitor, and she vowed that she was going to take better care of herself from here on out.

The only thing that tempered the moment was remembering who the father was. She locked herself in the bathroom on her way out and cried that her first child had been fathered by a man she didn't love. She knew Jason would always support her, but how much would be involved in her child's life, and would it be fair to either of them? He hadn't come with her to the doctor's appointment and by the time she got home, she'd pulled herself back together. She wasn't going to suck him into her and the baby's life like Carly had with Michael, but she knew if he asked or offered to be involved she wouldn't be able to turn him down.

"Jason?" Her soft voice carried in the room and he turned away from the window. His gaze drifted down to where her hands still rested on her stomach and his face twisted with something unrecognizable. Then as quickly as it came, it was gone and he raised his eyes to focus on hers.


She dropped her hands, uncomfortable under his previous gaze, and the thoughts she was having. There was no point wishing Ric wasn't the father of her baby, and there was even less of a point in wishing Jason was. Giving a small shake of her head to get rid of the thoughts, she raised her eyes back to his and said, "I'm sorry about before."

His brows wrinkled in confusion. "Before?"

"Ric wasn't the only one who died. I-I'm sorry about Courtney."

He turned and looked away from her, his shoulders tensing. "It doesn't matter."

Rolling her eyes at the expected reply, she took a step forward. "Yes, it does so stop trying to pretend it doesn't. I know she gave you an ultimatum, didn't want you looking for me, and you refused it and walked away. You...you may act like you can go from caring about someone to feeling nothing, but you cared about her a lot. You loved her and she's dead."

She was glad he had his back to her, because despite all their months apart and her time with Ric, it still hurt to think of Jason caring more for Courtney than her. He had moved on so easily from her to Courtney, and she once believed he cared for her deeply. So, if he hooked up so easily with Courtney after they ended, he must have truly loved the other woman. The pain she felt at that thought burned white hot like it did when she first found out about Jason and Courtney in January, but she wasn't going to shy away from being a friend to him.

"I know that you probably feel you have to compartmentalize what you're feeling. She hurt you, Sonny betrayed you, so you think you shouldn't care what happened to them; don't focus on it. You need to help me, help Carly and Michael, so you shut off the pain, right?"

He turned slowly and his voice was lethal. "I don't want to talk about it. And stop trying to tell me how I feel or what I'm doing. You don't know anything about what I'm going through."

She blinked back tears that sprang up from his rejection and also from her own stupidity. She should have known better than to try and push him. She just foolishly wanted to tell him she was sorry, show him the kind of friendship he had shown her so many times. Yes, they had begun talking again, but she should have known better than to push him on his feelings. He always avoided telling her how he felt about her, did she really expect him to open up about Courtney?

"I-I'm sorry," she said, and hated that her voice shook and was husky with the tears she was fighting back. She turned for the hallway and spoke towards the wall, not able to look at him. "I'm tired and I'm going to go lay down. Come get me when it's time to go."

"Elizabeth," Jason called after her.

She turned her head just a fraction to look at him out of the corner of her eye. His face had softened and he looked uneasy. "Don't worry about waking me up if I fall asleep."

She made it two steps down the hall before he called her name again and said, "I'm...I'm sorry I snapped."

Not turning around she just shook her head. "No, I should have known better. You've never wanted to share your feelings with me, and probably don't want to say anything about Courtney...especially to me. So...just forget I mentioned it all."

Then she all but fled down the hall to her empty room. How seriously stupid could she be? She should have just stuck to trying to rebuild a friendship with Jason - as good as it could be considering he was once again saving her life and had problems with Sonny. But considering she was pregnant with Ric's baby, that said a lot about her mental processing abilities lately.

She sat down the floor, leaning her back against the door. Why was she foolish enough to think that she could get it all back with Jason just because they were spending time together again? It wasn't like they'd really chosen the whole situation, and just because he was no longer with Courtney didn't mean he would have wanted to be with her. That ship had long since sailed from the harbor and sunk in the ocean. She just had to accept that. No matter how much it hurt or she wished it otherwise.

Part VIII - Truth

"Mommy, why are we leaving again?"

Carly hugged her son close to her and kissed the top of his head as she tiredly closed her eyes. "We're going to Australia to live with Uncle Jason. You remember how we looked it up on the globe?"

"Yeah," he grinned briefly. "Do you think Uncle Jason will buy me a new globe to replace the one we left at Daddy's house?"

Michael had always loved the globe Jason bought him for Christmas and she was sure if her son mentioned it Jason would buy him a new one. "Yeah, he probably will, Little Man. He loved reading to you about places to visit, sometimes that was the only way we could get you to calm down when you were a baby."

"Mommy, is Aunt Courtney going to be there with Uncle Jason?"

Once again, she closed her eyes and shook her head. "Sweetheart, don't you remember Mommy told you there was a fire back in Port Charles and Aunt Courtney got hurt?"

"You mean she died, right?"

"Yeah, baby, she did." There were warring emotions inside Carly over that fact. She had seen Courtney's true selfish nature and she'd wanted nothing further to do with the woman she once called her friend, but she couldn't believe she was dead. Michael had grown very attached to the younger woman, and if Sonny was still alive her death was going to be very hard on him.

"Why didn't you like Aunt Courtney before we left?"

"Because she didn't want Uncle Jason helping out a friend of his and Mommy's."

"Why?" he asked puzzled. "Aunt Courtney always helped me."

"Oh baby, this is complicated. Do you remember Elizabeth?"

Her son smiled brightly and nodded. "Sure. She played with me at Grandma's when everyone was sad because you were gone. And I saw her with Uncle Jason last summer, but then she left and he was with Aunt Courtney."

"Right," Carly nodded. "Well, Elizabeth needed help and she's an old friend of Uncle Jason's so he was helping her. Aunt Courtney didn't like that."


"Because Aunt Courtney was jealous of the special friendship he and Elizabeth had and she said some mean things about Elizabeth and told Uncle Jason to stop helping her."

"Aunt Courtney shouldn't have done that," Michael declared with a firm set of his jaw that she knew was a perfect imitation of Jason. "That wasn't nice."

"No," Carly agreed. "So that's one of the reasons I was mad at her. And it's why Uncle Jason stopped dating her."

Her son fell silent and Carly let out a soft sigh. Maybe Michael had grown tired of questions and answers and would play with his toys for a while. She had told him a little about how she and Sonny fought, and that even though he loved them and they loved him they just couldn't live together anymore. They were fighting too much to stay together.

She knew it was confusing to him. He asked several times a week if they were going home to Daddy and would always be disappointed when she said no. His latest questions were just breaking her heart, though. He asked if Sonny didn't love him anymore, now that she was having another baby. And the one that sent her into the bathroom to cry in the shower was when he asked if Daddy wanted to hurt them and was that why they were hiding and leaving the country?

She was really looking forward to being with Jason again. In the time she'd spent with Johnny he'd become a friend and a support to her, but she really needed her best friend. She needed someone who understood her crazy mind and wild ramblings even when he claimed he didn't.


"Yeah?" she asked, smoothing her hand over his head.

"Why is Elizabeth in trouble?"

"She's having a baby, and the father of her baby..." she paused and rubbed her forehead in thought. How did she get stuck trying to explain these things? "Do you remember Ric Lansing?"

"Yeah," he said, his face darkening just like Sonny and Jason's. "Daddy and Uncle Jason don't like him."

"No, no they don't. He...he lied to Elizabeth and when she...she didn't want to be with him anymore. But she was afraid he would try and take her baby away."

"Like you were afraid A.J. would do to me, so you asked Uncle Jason to be my dad?"

"Something like that," she said, not wanting to dwell too heavily on A.J. or Ric and the reason Elizabeth had turned her back on the man who led Carly to believe he'd raped her.

"So is Uncle Jason going to be Elizabeth's baby's daddy? Like he was for me?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. "Uncle Jason and Elizabeth...they were friends for a very long time but they kinda forgot that lately. They've been arguing and they're not getting along like they used to."

Michael looked at her confused and then shook his head and grabbed his dinosaurs, running over to where Leticia was sitting. Carly let her shoulders relax as it appeared he was done asking her 'why' and looked up at Johnny as he stood from his seat and walked over to the couch.

Sitting down in the spot Michael had vacated, he asked, "How are Jason and Elizabeth doing?"

She shook her head.

"That bad?"

"I've talked to both of them a couple of times since they got down there last week. Anytime I mention the other to one of them the tension bleeds through the phone. They won't talk about whatever happened, but something clearly did."

"I am going to hurt him," Johnny seethed. "I told him not to screw this up and hurt her again."

"Johnny, I know that he made mistakes, but so did Elizabeth. I'm not taking sides," she told him when he gave her a look, "I'm just saying."

"Oh, I know," he told her. "Which is why I'm also going to have a nice long talk with her."

"Good," Carly smirked. "Because I don't want to be the only giving them a piece of my mind over how they're acting."

Jason sat in the SUV, waiting for the plane to arrive at the private airstrip. He sat there alone, pretty much as he had been since he and Elizabeth arrived over a week ago. They barely spoke to each other since that night in Mexico, and it was painful to endure. They had been doing better, talking again, even if it was slightly strained, and now, now they studiously avoided each other.

He would watch her though, study her from a distance when she thought she was alone. The weight that had started to fill out her cheeks was fading away. Her eyes were sunken and hallow, despite all the times she was in her room sleeping, the skin underneath was smudged with dark shadows. More than once he had passed by her room and heard muffled sobs drifting out.

Several times he'd determined he'd had enough and set out to talk to her. To get everything out in the open and get the friendship back on track. Each time though, he stopped halfway there and let himself be overrun by doubts and fears. One slip of a woman was shattering his resolve to never look back and never second-guess his decisions.

It was just that he meant it when he said he didn't want to talk about Courtney. He knew they were over even before he returned to town to find Sonny had put a hit out on him and she said it was her or helping Elizabeth. The urgency he had at having to find Elizabeth, he knew he wouldn't have felt it if he still didn't have deep feelings for her. So it was easy to walk away from Courtney because it was as if his heart finally got through to him that he was only going through the motions with her and he wasn't really in love.

Yes, he was sorry Courtney was dead, but it didn't hurt him the way it would have if it had been Carly or Michael. He couldn't even begin to think how he would feel if it was Elizabeth who had died. Being around her was awakening feelings he had tried so long and so hard to forget, or at least bury deeply.

So hearing her say that he never shared his feelings with her, it felt like she had sliced him through the chest. He had always been sparse with his words about how he felt towards her. That night at Vista Point Elizabeth had called him on it, and had been right. He never told her he cared about her, and he certainly never gave her any indication he loved her, because he had been holding a part of himself in reserve. He had told Courtney he never loved Elizabeth, and it certainly wasn't the only lie he'd told.

He did love Elizabeth. He was ready to see that and accept it now. But had it come too late to do anything about it? So much had changed with Elizabeth and him that it may be impossible to overcome it. He wished he had another week before Carly and the others arrived, because he wanted to be in a better place with Elizabeth before they no longer alone. He needed to stop allowing her to hide, and he needed to stop hiding himself and acting like things were okay the way they were going.

But it wasn't going to happen. In the distance he could see and hear the approach of the airplane. It grew from a small dot, bigger and bigger until it was rolling across the tarmac to stop near the truck. He got out and walked across the concrete just as the door opened and the stairs came down.

"Uncle Jason!"

A little red blur streaked down the stairs and launched at him. Jason picked him up and hugged him tightly. He always missed Michael when he was away, and now that the little boy was older and remembered him, he liked the reunion.

"Hey, buddy," he smiled as he set him down.

"Hi, Mister Morgan," Leticia smiled as she walked down the stairs carrying Michael's backpack.

"Hello, Leticia," he told her, then watched as she took Michael's hand and led him to the SUV to get strapped inside.

Looking back at the plane he grinned as Johnny walked down the stairs, helping six-month pregnant Carly gingerly descend.

"Hey, Jase," she smiled as she hugged him and kissed his cheek. She looked around and frowned. "Where's Elizabeth?"

Jason tensed and pulled back, scratching nervously at the back of his neck. "She...she's at the house. She was tired...said she'd rest so she would be awake when you guys got there."

"Hmmm," Carly said. "Is she sick?"

"No," he shook his head as Johnny headed off to oversee the airport crew unloading their things from the airplane.

"She's sleeping a lot," Carly said absently, then shifted gears and smiled. "How are you doing?"

"I'm fine," he told her, taking her arm and walking to the truck.

She stopped and looked at him, shaking her head. "Alright, lie to me and yourself if you want. But remember I'm here now, not talking to you on the phone and I will get the truth out of you. You don't look fine, and I'll bet Elizabeth doesn't either."

He opened the door and helped her inside then closed the door without saying anything. Great. He knew that Carly would probably stick her nose into the situation, he just hadn't planned on her arriving ready for immediate battle.

Turning around to walk around the car to the driver's side, he came face to face with a stern Johnny. "It's good to see you, Jason. We need to talk."

Oh yeah, he was just thrilled to have everyone there.

Johnny walked down the stairs to the main floor and turned left for the kitchen. Flying always made him thirsty, no matter how much he drank. And on a long flight over the ocean he grew tired of water, soda and juice and began to wish for a beer. But he'd been on duty and he didn't think Jason would react well to him having alcohol on his breath upon arrival.

But now that they were here and Carly, Leticia and Michael were still upstairs getting settled in, quietly since Elizabeth was still asleep, he figured he was due a cold one. Besides, the kitchen was probably the best place to find Jason. Or as good a place as any to start looking.

"Hey," he said, as he saw Jason standing at the sink, a cup of coffee in his hands while he looked out the window. What was it with this guy and always staring outside? "Hope you don't mind, but I need a beer."

"Go ahead," Jason said with a wave to the refrigerator.

He twisted the top off one and drained half the bottle in a single gulp, paused for a breath and a sigh, then took another drink. Turning, he walked over to the marble topped island and placed the beer bottle down gently. Jason was now leaning with his back against the counter, his arms folded over his chest.

"Have you checked with any of your contacts?" he asked.

"I made a few casual inquiries. Proof positive ID's on Ric and Courtney," he said. Jason sighed and looked away. "I'm sorry, man."

"I...I'm sorry she got hurt," his friend said. "But after what she did...said about Elizabeth and Carly-"

"I know," Johnny told him. "You were over. Anyway, there were several members of the families, most of their top guys. They're pretty much decapitated, and Faith Roscoe's been looking like the cat who ate the canary."

Jason scowled and cursed under his breath. "We should have taken her out months ago."

"I know, man," he agreed. "Lorenzo Alcazar, Luis's younger brother, looks like he may be working with her, but nobody knows for sure. He could just be an opportunist capitalizing on the situation."

"What about Sonny?" the other man asked, the weight of the question evident in his voice.

Johnny finished the rest of his beer and shrugged. "Nothing. It looks like Max drove him to the meeting, but nobody's seen either of them or the limo since that night. I'm trying to get a hold of one of our bank contacts to see if any of the special accounts have been tapped."

"But it's hard, I know," Jason sighed and rubbed his forehead before turning and dumping the rest of his coffee down the drain. He braced his hands on the counter and dropped his head. "Gut feeling, though, do you think he's alive?"

"No body, no Max, no limo, and Faith still holding back like all her ducks aren't quite in a row...yeah, I think he's still alive. Where he is though, I have no idea."

Jason turned and once again rubbed his forehead in tiredness and frustration. "That's exactly what I got from the people I talked too. Everyone is dead, nobody knows about Sonny. I think he's alive, but what he's going to do, where he's at or what shape he's in? I might as well go ask a psychic"

"Think we should ask Roy?" Johnny asked. "He's looking out for the Miami territory, he may have heard something...it's a long shot, but Sonny may have contacted him."

"I don't know. Double-edged sword. If he hears from us, that's a way for someone to track us."

"Word out is the ground opened up and swallowed you whole," he told the other man. "Nobody's got a clue where you disappeared to."

Jason closed his eyes and nodded his head just a fraction, the only indication of his relief. He'd done what he'd planned to do, find Elizabeth and get her to safety. Johnny knew Jason had taken a chance by bringing them here too, but he really hadn't expected any different from the man.

"I guess I'll talk to Carly," Jason finally said. "I know you've been there for her and she's come to rely on you-"

"But I'm not you," he cut in without bitterness. "You're her best friend, she'll say things to you she won't to me. So we hold off on contacting Roy until the two of you have talked. No big deal."

"Thanks, Johnny."

"Sure," he said, betting that Jason wouldn't be thanking him in a minute. "Alright, so what's going on here? I told you to figure out what you wanted from Elizabeth and not to hurt her."

Jason shot him a hard look, but he wasn't going to back down from this and let Jason know he wasn't going to be put off. With a sigh, the other man looked over Johnny's shoulder and said, "I thought things were getting better. After the first bit when we yelled and fought, it was still strained but I thought we could fix it."

"Did you want to fix it?"

"Yes," he answered immediately. "She...she's starting to show and one day I...it just really hit me that she's having a baby. Everyday her baby will get bigger and...and she rubs her stomach a lot."

"Wish the baby was yours?" Johnny asked.

His friend turned his head and fell silent. "It seems cliché, even pointless. Carly used to wish Michael was really mine, but I loved him so much I didn't care...it didn't matter what biology or DNA said."

"Yeah, but you never loved Carly the way you loved Elizabeth. There was something deeper between the two of you, I noticed it even at the beginning and definitely when you came home last year. Even though you were with Courtney and she was with Ric, you want that baby to be yours so that there aren't any reminders of Lansing."

"Michael was A.J.'s, I never cared."

"I know," Johnny answered. "I saw you with him, he was his own person to you. So I know you'll treat Elizabeth's baby the same way. So what's going on? How come she's hiding in her room pretending to be asleep so she doesn't have to face you?"

"She told me she was sorry Courtney was dead," Jason replied quietly. "When I said it didn't matter...she said she should have known better because I never wanted to share my feelings with her. She's been avoiding me ever since."

Jason chuckled and shook his head at Jason's scowl. "You dolt. You always were so guarded around Elizabeth. You never told her how you felt about her, so she's probably thinking you never loved her like she loved you."

"She wasn't in love with me," Jason protested.

"Okay, you keep telling yourself that," he laughed. "But look at it from her side. You risked your life and freedom to sneak off and see Courtney in secret while you were on trial, but you pushed Elizabeth away even when she begged and offered to keep it secret between you because you were going on about the danger. You told Courtney you loved her, you were living together."

He could see that Jason was understanding, that he may have even realized some of this himself, but there was nothing like hearing it from someone else to really hammer the point home. "So she expresses sympathy that the woman you did all that for died and you say it doesn't matter. So now, she's probably thinking that she mattered...no, make that matters even less, because you've never told her otherwise."

She wasn't surprised when she heard the soft knock on her door. After dinner Leticia took Michael upstairs for his bath and to get ready for bed and Elizabeth excused herself saying she wanted to finish up a sketch she was working on. Mostly she wanted to give the three friends a chance to talk, and most of all she was avoiding spending anymore time than she had with Jason. So it wasn't a surprise that Carly would stop in to see her after tucking Michael into bed. She'd just hoped for a little more time alone.

"Hi, Carly," she smiled as she opened the door.

"Hey," the blonde replied. "Can I come in?"

"Sure," she said as she stepped back and turned for the bed. "The door sticks a little, so just give it a good shove. Michael already asleep?"

"No," Carly laughed. "He begged Jason to read him a story, so they're in there together. I thought I'd come talk to you."

"Yeah, I figured you would."

Carly pretended to ignore the remark and sat down on the bed facing Elizaeth. She reached out and picked up a sketch, looking at it for a moment. "Where's this?"

"Gate's Pass in Tucson," she answered and watched her cautiously.

"It's good," Carly told her, putting it back on the bed.

Elizabeth crossed her arms and looked at the other woman skeptically. "Carly, you've always put down my work. Please don't pretend to like it now that we've been talking."

"No, it's not that," she replied. "I always made fun of your work and said you had no talent because I hated that Jason looked at you the way I wanted him to look at me, and I held onto that petty jealously even when I was with Sonny. I like this. I do."

"Okay," Elizabeth said slowly, a little thrown off. It had been one thing to talk to Carly over the phone and have the conversations be helpful and even friendly; it was just odd to talk like that face to face.

"It's kinda weird," Carly grinned, as if reading her thoughts.

"Yeah," she laughed. "It is. But that's not why you came to talk to me, is it?"

"No," Carly admitted, "it's not. We'll get to that in a minute though. How are you feeling?"

"Better," Elizabeth said, playing along for now. Anything to postpone what she knew was the real reason Carly came to her room. "I've finally stopped throwing up, though every once in a while I get a little queasy. Finally I can eat, and...it's funny, I never really ate it before but I can't get enough Mexican food."

"So that explains dinner tonight," the blonde laughed. "In a couple of months though, you'll be toning down those spices, 'cause that's when the heartburn will hit. So, why are you hiding from Jason."

"Now this is the Carly I remember," she said, standing up and walking over to the window. "Knew you'd get down to business."

"I'm not picking a fight with you, Elizabeth, and I'm not siding with Jason. I want to try and understand what happened, see if I can help," Carly said, and Elizabeth actually believed the woman was sincere. "It seemed like you guys were talking, working through some things."

"We were just burying them," she said with a shake of her head. "We talked about going forward, he was worried about me, he went against Sonny, all of that. But there is so much that was lurking there from our past and we were just ignoring it. Pretending it didn't matter when it did."

Carly sighed and shifted on the bed, rubbing her back. "Sometimes we think there are things we should talk about, and things we shouldn't. Jason's never been a person to rehash the past and I would just go along with it. If he wasn't going to get mad at me for the things I did, then I wasn't going to dwell on it. But...maybe you're right, this is one time that Jason needs to talk about what happened. There's just a lot of anger there that he tried to bury."

"I know," Elizabeth said, slumping against the wall and rubbing her eyes. "Courtney is such a painful topic for me, but I...I wanted to be the friend to him that he always was with me. He put up with my back and forth with Lucky, understood and forgave me for Zander - when we finally talked about it - and he stood by me as I freaked out about being pregnant with Ric's baby. So, I told him I was sorry about Courtney."

"Oh," Carly said, then pursed her lips in thought. "He and Courtney were done, and Jason can-"

"I know that Jason can seemingly turn off his emotions, but that's not true or fair to him, Carly."

"I know," she said. "So you're hiding out because he didn't open up and cry about Courtney?"

"No," Elizabeth shook her head and looked back at her reflection in the window. It was dark outside and with the light behind her, the window had the sheen of a cheap mirror and she could see how tired and worn down she looked. "I'm hiding until I can get a handle on myself and not look at him like a lovesick dog. All this time with him and I'm right back to where I was before, foolishly in love with him."

"Why is that foolish?"

"Because," she exploded as if Carly should see the reasons. "Because it's too late. I ruined whatever chance we had when I walked out last year, and he proved just how much he was over me by how quickly and deeply he got involved with Courtney."

"Elizabeth, she was a rebound relationship," Carly tried to explain. "But Jason doesn't know you're only supposed to spend a couple of weeks, months at the most, on your rebound. She was Sonny's sister, I was pushing them together...he was in over his head before he knew it."

"Carly, that makes it sound like he had no choice, that he was a doll you wound up and pointed where you wanted him to go. He had an affair with Courtney, he bought her a loft, he never told her it was too dangerous," her voice rose until it broke on a strangled sob. "He made those choices, just like he chose not to see me in secret, chose to push me away, to constantly put me last in his life. He loved her. Do you know how it kills me to say that?"

"Yeah," Carly said as she stood and walked over to Elizabeth while the younger woman wiped the tears off her cheeks. "I do. I'm sorry."

"I love him. Maybe I never stopped, but he never loved me. He moved on with his life and in an attempt to do the same I wound up with Ric. I'm not sorry that he's dead. The only thing I'm sorry about is that I ever slept with him...and that I held back with Jason because I wanted it to be more."

Carly put her hand on Elizabeth's shoulder and smiled sadly. "You wish the baby was his."

"I wish it was anybody's but Ric's," she admitted. "But yeah, I wish it was Jason's. That he could love me the way I love him and that we could have had a baby from that love. But all he's ever going to see me as is the tease who broke his heart by always walking away from him, then gave it up for a slime like Ric Lansing."

"No, no that's not true, Elizabeth."

She gasped and stumbled back against the wall as she pushed away from Carly. With wide, panicked eyes she looked at Carly in desperation, then all around the room before finally looking at the door. The door that Carly must not have fully closed. The door where Jason stood looking at her. The door, where she wondered how long he was standing before he spoke, and just how much he overheard.

Part IX - Consequences

Unlocking the door to his penthouse, anxious for a change of clothes after an all night meeting in a smoke and sweat filled room, Roy froze before he slowly reached out and turned on the light. He closed the door and stared at the ghost and his shadow sitting in his living room. "Sonny?"

"Roy," the man said as he stood. "Sorry for no advanced warning, but I couldn't take a chance."

"No, no, that's okay," he said as he came further inside and took off his suit coat. "It was just a bit of a surprise. Everyone figured the two of you were dead since it had been so long since the explosion."

"I want everyone to keep thinking that," Sonny said. His voice seemed flat and listless, and Roy realized the word out on the street was true. Sonny Corinthos was done. He'd lost his wife, Jason Morgan went against him, most of his men were siding with Faith Roscoe now; the man was nothing but a has-been.

"You're just going to hand your territory over to Faith Roscoe?" he asked in disbelief. "She's already pushing drugs through Port Charles. Her associates have already been down here trying to muscle through the same deal."

"What did you say to them?"

"That I won't let drugs be moved through." He said it with a firmness of conviction that had nothing to do with Sonny and his so-called morals. He had seen too much destruction throughout his life because of drugs and he wasn't going to be a part of it. Faith Roscoe understood.

"Good," Sonny said. "You could stand against her. Go back to Port Charles and take over. Those that are left would throw in beside you over a woman."

"You're not going back?" he asked, once again surprised.

"No," the former crime lord shook his head. "No. I-I don't have the burn anymore. Maybe people are right that I've gotten too soft. I just don't have it in me for a bloody street war."

"So what are you going to do? Stay here? There are too many people who won't believe you're not moving your base of operation down here."

"You're the only one who knows Max and I are here," he said. "We need your help getting to the island. That's all we need."

Sonny's voice was full of asking, almost pleading with him for help, and the decision was easy. "Of course," he smiled. "You two stay here, I'll go make some phone calls."

"Thank you, Roy," Sonny said with a grateful smile as he shook his hand. "We appreciate it."

"Sure," he said, flashing a quick smile as he grabbed his coat. "Get some rest. I'm gonna go talk to a few people. Be back in a little bit."

He headed back down to the waiting limo, grimacing about not being able to change, but stunned over his stroke of good luck. When he was inside his office, he shrugged off his coat before picking up the phone. A recently memorized number was punched in as he simultaneously slid a finger into the knot of his tie and pulled it loose. He was going to have to buy a new suit. Miami summers were brutal and there was no way he was going to spend another day sweating in the same clothes he'd been in for over twenty-four hours.


"Hello, Mrs. Roscoe," he smiled into the phone. "I have a gift for you."

"What?" she asked, slightly annoyed.

"Sonny Corinthos."

The line was silent for a moment and he could picture her, a perfectly manicured nail trailing along the phone's edge as she weighed the truth of the words. "Where might he be?"

"In my penthouse, waiting for me to get a plane ready to take him and his bodyguard Max to the island so he can lick his wounds." A low chuckle escaped him. "The bodyguard's worthless. From the looks of it, a dislocated shoulder that hasn't healed. Sonny has lost his desire for a street war, so he's not coming back to challenge you. Wants me to do that."

Her pleased laughed echoed over the line. "I'll make all the arrangements and call you with the details. Anyone else know he's in Miami?"

"According to him, no."

"Excellent," she purred, then hung up.

Roy placed the phone back in the cradle and leaned back in the chair. Business was business. Sonny should understand that. He'd once saved Sonny's life and gone against Luis Alcazar. For that he had earned the gratitude of Sonny and Jason. The same gratitude they forgot about, never asking him questions, ignoring him when he called, and not looking out for Felicia or her daughters like they'd promised.

Faith didn't like it, but she respected him enough when he told her he'd help her in any way except for the drugs. He refused, after seeing too many people ruin their lives. Maybe in setting limits he was a bit like Sonny used to be, but that was where the similarities ended. He'd never hidden the fact that he went for the powerful and money-rich backer. Sonny was no longer that person; Faith Roscoe was - especially with him helping her make Miami contacts - and he had no qualms turning his back on the man who used him for convenience sake then dropped him like garbage. By tonight, Sonny Corinthos would just be a bad memory the rest of the world would soon forget.

Carly checked in on Michael, smiling when she saw he was fast asleep, then headed downstairs. Her heart had broken for Elizabeth, scared, confused, in love and not believing that Jason's amazing ability to love and forget the past could ever be directed at her again. Why hadn't she double-checked the door when she went into the room? She thought Elizabeth was going to pass out when she realized Jason was in the doorway and had overheard part of their conversation.

Maybe this is what they needed, though. She could tell by the look on Jason's face he'd heard enough of what Elizabeth had said, and he was surprised but he was also determined to talk to her. There was no way Elizabeth could avoid him, though when Carly had left the room, the younger woman certainly looked like she was going to try. But there was no way she could deny the words she'd spoken.

"Elizabeth still hiding?"

She looked over at Johnny sitting on the couch and smiled as she walked towards him and sat down. She smirked and shook her head, "Oh, I'm sure she probably wishes she could. But that's not going to happen."

Puzzled, he looked at her. "Alright, what's going on? You look like you just found a designer label for ninety percent off."

"I was talking to Elizabeth and Jason overheard."

He held up a hand and got up, quickly crossing the room to grab his carry on bag he hadn't taken upstairs. Pulling out a bag of Mint Milano cookies, he tipped it towards her and let her pull one out. "This is going to be interesting, and Heaven help me but you've gotten me addicted to these things as much as you've gotten me hooked on that stupid reality TV."

Carly laughed and shook her head at him. These past couple of weeks had shown her a different, light-hearted side of the formerly quiet guard. He was someone, even more than Jason or Sonny, who might tease her about her reality TV fanaticism, but would sit down and watch it with her. He'd debate the contestants, the bone-headed moves, the obviously rigged or biased judging, all the while never chiding her for eating the cookies.

"Alright," he said after a bite. "What happened?"

"She admitted she was in love with him, but said that he'd never see her in the same light." She didn't think Johnny needed to hear about Jason and Elizabeth never sleeping together, or the self-loathing comments the younger woman made about herself. Those were things that if Elizabeth told him fine, but she wasn't going to repeat them.

Johnny shook his head while snorting. "And he thinks she's not in love with him. Clueless, I swear. But this is good though, right? We barely had to nudge them, we didn't have to alienate them, so now we'll get to play the come-bend-my-ear-and-I'll-try-to-help game with them."

Carly brought her hand up to cover her mouth so she wouldn't spit her cookie all over him as she laughed. "Are we going to play Beauty Parlor with Elizabeth later? What kind of guy are you?"

Mock glaring at her, and ignoring her increased laughter, he pointed a half-eaten cookie at her. "You've corrupted me. Next thing you know I'll be watching Oprah and Doctor Phil."

She snatched the cookie out of his hand, "I promise I'll have Jason shoot you before it comes to that."

"Thief," he muttered under his breath, while grabbing another cookie. "Do you thinking they're even talking up there?"

She cast a glance up at the ceiling and shrugged. "My bet is she is imitating a clam like nobody's business. You should have seen her face when she realized he'd heard what she said."

Johnny put the empty cookie bag on the coffee table and brushed the crumbs off his hands. "They love each other, that much is obvious to everyone around them. But those two could convince themselves that everyone else deserves something good, but not them. I don't understand why they fight so hard against what they feel and try to push the other one away."

"Because true love is frightening," Carly said, her hand draped over her stomach, the fingers splayed out protectively. "Jason believes he doesn't deserve someone to love him because of his life, and Elizabeth...I used to tell her over and over that she was all wrong for Jason, that she'd break his heart. And she hurt him, and he hurt her, so they're scared to try again, scared to open up. Their past makes it tough to take that chance again."

"Love is a messed up thing," he mused. "But I sure hope they figure it out."

"So do I," she said, putting her feet up on the coffee table. She smiled when Johnny picked them up and put a throw pillow underneath them. "I never thought I would ever believe Elizabeth was right for him, but I do now. After seeing her when she found out she was pregnant with Ric's baby and her doing everything I didn't do when I was in her situation because she didn't want to hurt Jason again or just use him, I saw her differently."

"I know," Johnny said. "I was there, remember? I saw you go against Sonny and I know what that cost you, but you were fiercely loyal to her because you believed what she, what you were doing was right."

"Thank you," she told him, a soft smile on her face. "It's nice to know that someone believes what I did wasn't disloyal or an affront to some mixed up code."

An awkward pause fell over them, until Johnny stood up and asked, "Want anything from the kitchen before we try and find something to mock on TV? 'Cause I am not going upstairs anytime soon so they can hide from this conversation."

She laughed lightly as she rubbed her forehead, grateful to him for sensing that she wasn't in the mood for another heavy session of where her life had gone wrong with Sonny. "You know I can't eat those cookies without milk, but not a large glass, okay?"

"Sure thing," he said as he handed her the remote. "Find something and I'll be right back."

Settling back into the couch, she hit the power button and began searching through the channels. She looked up when Johnny came in declaring good news. Elizabeth must have hit her ice cream craving phase, because he had a bowl of Fudge Ripple for her and a bowl of Butter Pecan for himself. As she took a bite she smiled. It was nice to know that even though they were with Jason now, she still had her TV and snack buddy, who was also becoming a really good friend.

He stood there quietly as Carly exited the room, pulling the door tight behind her. He pushed against it, making sure it was latched this time. He didn't want it popping open in the middle of their conversation. As he'd passed by Elizabeth's room, he knew he should have just kept walking. The carpenter was coming the next day to fix it, because despite being able to fix cars and motorcycles he couldn't seem to fix a simple door. Jason knew he shouldn't listen; she was having a conversation with Carly and it was private. But he'd heard his name as he passed by, and he found himself unable to walk away. They had been doing too much of that and it had to stop.

Slowly, he turned and raised his eyes to Elizabeth who stood on the opposite side of the room. Her eyes were wide, frantically darting around the room as she refused to look at him. Her face was pale, her arms wrapped around her middle which only served to pull the material of her shirt tighter, accentuating her growing abdomen. A part of him felt bad for pushing this when it was clear she didn't want him in the room, but he couldn't leave.

"Elizabeth?" His soft voice carried loudly in the quiet room and she shook slightly. "Elizabeth-"

"Jason, please," she whispered. "Please just go. Please."

Her pleading voice pulled at him, made him ache to give in, but instead he took a step towards her. "Elizabeth, it's time we stop hiding from this. I heard what you said."

She turned and buried her head in her hands as a strangled sob came out. "Don't. I-I know that you don't feel the same. I know I hurt you too much for you to ever forgive me. Please...please don't say something just because you don't want to hurt my feelings."

"I don't say things I don't mean," he told her, trying to get through her nervous and embarrassed babbling.

"Like I can try?" she asked, her tone biting as her back stiffened.

"I did mean that, I did," he told her sincerely. "I won't let you do this, Elizabeth."

"Do what?" she seethed as she spun around suddenly. "You didn't try. You ignored me. You never called, you never came home, you could be there for everybody, but you couldn't take five seconds to call me, to hug me. You couldn't even be the one to tell me Sonny wasn't dead. Then you tell me it had nothing to do with me. Well, sorry to inform you, Jason, but I was kidnapped by Roscoe and Hayes on Alcazar's orders. I overheard him and Roy talking, his men shot at Zander and me at the hospital. I was involved from the beginning. I hid you twice in my studio, Sonny helped me fake my own death, and I couldn't be trusted? I could be shoved aside?"

"I couldn't lie to you, Elizabeth," he told her, his heart torn between hurt for her, and anger that she'd walked away. "I couldn't accept your comfort knowing Sonny was alive."

"Why couldn't you have just said something was going on? You were supposed to be in charge, but Carly was doing more than you. I felt so foolish, so hurt that after all the times I was there for you and Sonny both of you showed me how truly little you thought of me."

"You know that's not true," Jason said, his voice sounding like gravel.

"You'd never know it from my end," she scoffed. "I didn't walk out because of your job. I always knew what it was, I knew what you did long before I fell in love with you. I walked away because I felt completely like an afterthought and I refused to come dead last in your life."

"Elizabeth." He swallowed hard and took a step towards her. "I-I'm sorry. I...I didn't handle things very well and I hurt you."

"Yes, you did," she admitted softly. "I thought I ranked somewhere in your life."

"You did," he insisted. "I just didn't handle it very well. I wasn't sure how to do the things Sonny needed me to do and still keep my promises to you. I thought you'd give me a chance to explain things."

"Explain? By telling me it had nothing to do with me? That wasn't an explanation, that was you being perfect and expecting me to just accept whatever came my way." She blew out a breath and blinked back tears. "I won't apologize for deciding not to accept that, but I am sorry for how mean I was towards you. I did know you, I did care, I was just so angry and hurt - especially when you got together with Courtney so quickly. But I am sorry that I went out of my way to hurt you like that. That wasn't fair to you, or the memory of what we'd had."

He claimed another step and reached out to lightly touch her arm. "I know. And I'm sorry I made you feel like you weren't important and were last in my life. You matter, Elizabeth. You always mattered to me."

She closed her eyes, tears still making their way out, and turned her head to the side. She looked tired, spent after all the anger. He felt the same, tired of the anger and the fighting. Some of it probably needed to come out, but if they didn't fight against it, they could get lost in the anger all over again. He wasn't going to give into it though, not when they'd started making progress.

He shifted another half-step closer and reached up to brush the tears away. "Carly was right. Courtney was a rebound. I tried to fill the space you left when you walked away. I tried so hard, and there were times I thought I'd done it and that I could be happy with her, that you were wrong. But it never would have lasted, because she wasn't you."

"Don't," she whispered.

"No. I won't let you push me away anymore," he told her gently but firmly. "You called me on it at Vista Point when you said I was protecting myself. I understand why you're hesitant, why you don't want to open up, but I'm asking you please...please give me another chance to prove to you how much I love you."

"Why?" she asked him, her eyes never-ending with tears.

"Because when Carly was worried about you I promised I'd find you, even before I knew what I was doing. I didn't care what I had to do, who I had to ask, the most important thing was finding you." He took a ragged breath, raising his hand to cup her cheek. She flinched slightly, but didn't pull away, in fact, she relaxed just a little. "When Sonny ordered me not to find you or he'd fire me, when Courtney demanded I stop looking for you or she'd leave, the decision was easy. It didn't hurt to walk away from them because I was finally open and honest with myself."

She shook her head slightly and closed her eyes. He didn't know if that mean she wanted him to stop, or if she still couldn't believe what he was telling her. "It was easy, Elizabeth, because it was for you. Something inside said I couldn't let you go, that I had to find you, I had to help you, I had be with you, I had to fight for you.

"Please," he said, his voice low and pleading, "please don't tell me it's too late. Please give us another chance."

Elizabeth stared up at Jason in stunned disbelief. She had never heard such impassioned words from him, and never did she think he would direct them at her. Even when he asked her to go away with him that day in the park he hadn't opened his heart or bared his soul to her like he had now. She wanted to deny it, claim it wasn't true, that it couldn't be true, but deep down she couldn't help but believe Jason.

How could he love her though? She had hurt him, walked out on him, let her pride refuse to let him explain and then she acted like a complete jealous shrew when he got involved with Courtney. She spewed such vicious, hateful words at him every time she saw him and ignored him when he tried to warn her about Ric.

Now here he was, cleaning up another mess she'd made and telling her that he loved her. How could he still feel that way? It just didn't seem possible. She loved him, had never really stopped, even when she went looking for someone completely different. Faith Roscoe was right when she said Ric was Jason Morgan in a suit, but he'd been a poor substitute and in the end she realized he was a monster and a rapist.

"E-Elizabeth?" Jason asked, his voice hesitant and trembling.

"I-I just can't believe you love me," she whispered. "After everything I've done to you, why would you?"

"Probably for the same reason you love me after everything I've done that's hurt you...in spite of who I am. Love doesn't keep score, it just is."

She brought her hand up to rub her forehead, over-whelmed by everything that had happened that evening. Jason slid his hand to the back of her neck and rubbed lightly. "Are you okay?"

"I'm kinda tired, this...this has just been a lot for one night."

"I know," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder and steering her to the chair in her room. "I'm sorry I pushed."

She smiled at him and placed her hand over his. Just like Jason to apologize. "Carly said earlier that maybe we needed to confront this instead of ignoring it. If you had left when I asked you, I would have avoided you, never talked about it. And we can't keep hiding from each other. We need to be honest and deal with it."

"So Carly was right?" he chuckled.

She laughed with him, "If we tell her that we'll never hear the end of it. I prefer to think of it as following your advice."

"My advice?" he asked, looking up into her eyes.

"You once said there was something real between us and we had to figure out what to do with it. It may be a little late, but I think we finally decided." She reached out, touching his cheek hesitantly. After so many weeks of keeping her distance, putting barriers between them it seemed strange to no longer hold back from touching him.

He smiled and reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "Yeah, I guess we did," he said, leaning into her touch.

"I know there are still things to talk about-"

"They can wait," Jason said, placing a finger over her lips, causing her to shiver at his touch. "We don't have to do it all tonight."

She nodded her head in agreement, but didn't speak. She didn't want to do anything that would cause Jason to move his finger. She craved his touch, in any way she could get it. He leaned forward, rising up towards her and she felt her breath catch in her throat. His hand slid over her skin, grazing her jaw as his thumb lightly traced over her lips. His eyes were locked on hers and she knew she couldn't resist him even though her brain was screaming it was way too soon for them to kiss.

He apparently felt the same because at the last minute he shifted and brushed his lips across her forehead. This kiss was different from all the similar ones they had shared. His lips lingered on her skin, his hand moved to brush through her hair, and then he pulled back.

"I should probably go," he said, sounding a bit reluctant as he stood. When she held out her hand he helped her stand as well.

"Alright. Goodnight, Jason." Then she reached up and pulled him into a hug.

"Goodnight, Elizabeth," he murmured into her hair. "I love you."

She grinned into his chest and she knew. "I love you, too."

Part X - Refiner's Fire


The little boy turned from the window where he'd been ever since Jason and Elizabeth had left to go pick up Carly and the baby from the hospital. "What? Was that Uncle Jason?"

"No," Johnny shook his head, then smiled. "It was Elizabeth. She said they'd be here in just a few minutes. But she also said your mom is pretty tired, so-"

"So I'll take it easy," he promised. "I just want her and the baby home."

"I know, Sport," the guard replied as he joined him at the window. "You excited about being a big brother?"

Michael shrugged, still keeping his watch out the window. "I guess. I mean it'll be different. I've never been around babies. Mom says they just sleep a lot at first and you have to be quiet. So that doesn't sound like a lot of fun."

He was surprised when Johnny started to laugh, then nudged him in the shoulder. "Yeah, at first I suppose. But they get bigger and they're fun to play with."

"But she's a girl," he said plaintively. "How am I supposed to play with a girl?"

Johnny coughed and said that he wouldn't always think girls were gross, but Michael couldn't really believe that. The older man scratched his cheek, then suggested, "Well, maybe she'll like to play soccer when she gets older. But in the mean time your mom will have someone to keep her company while you play with Uncle Jason and me."

"She has Elizabeth around."

"Yeah," he shrugged. "But Elizabeth will have a baby of her own soon, and she and Jason spend a lot of time together."

"Yeah," the boy replied scrunching up his face. "They're always kissing. I thought Mom and Dad were bad."

"Michael?" Johnny said gently when he fell silent.

"Do you think Daddy is still mad at us?" he asked quietly. "Do you think we'll ever be able to be with him again? I mean, he was excited about the baby, don't you think we should tell him about Barbara?"

The guard sighed and pursed his lips. "I don't know, Michael. Your mom will probably have to decide that."

"I know," he said with a sigh of his own. "But she gets so sad whenever she thinks of Daddy. I don't want to make her sad."

He heard a car drive up and forgot all about what he and Johnny were talking about. Pressing his face against the window, Michael watched as Jason got out and opened the doors, helping his mom and Elizabeth out, then reached in and got the car seat. Pushing past Johnny he ran for the front door, bouncing with excitement as he waited for it to open.

"Mommy," he said happily when she stepped inside. "You're home."

"Hey, Mister Man," she smiled at him, gently giving him a hug. She looked around at the balloons and banner Leticia had helped him with and smiled again. "Did you do all this?"

"Yeah," he nodded, taking her hand and pulling her into the living room. "Come on, come see what we got you."

"You alright?" Elizabeth asked as she held Barbara while Carly gingerly got into bed.

"I'm just tired," she said through a yawn. "Who knew coming home from the hospital and sitting on the couch could be so exhausting?"

"This isn't very encouraging," Elizabeth laughed as she handed Barbara to her mom and then sat down on the bed facing Carly. "I mean I'm nervous enough now after being your birthing coach."

"Sorry," she laughed back. Then she said softly, "Thank you though for helping me. When I had Michael I was unconscious and it was an emergency C-section. Then he had surgery and I was afraid to hold him, plus I had post-partum. Jason held him more than I did those first days, and then I took off and missed so much. This...this is all new to me too, so don't be nervous. We'll figure it out together."

Elizabeth smiled warmly as she reached out to touch the soft hair on the little girl's head. "We'll figure it out," she echoed. "And Jason can give us pointers."

Carly joined in on the younger woman's smirk. "Yep. Jason Morgan, mommy trainer."

Elizabeth fell quiet and rubbed her hands over her stomach slowly. Reaching out, Carly placed her hand on her friend's. "You're going to do just fine, Elizabeth."

"Thanks," she whispered, her voice thick. "I know that I have all of you to help me out-"

"Just like you've all helped me," Carly nodded. "But there's something else, isn't there?"

"There are times I just..." Elizabeth started, then paused. "I know Jason loves this baby because he loves me, and we've talked about naming him as the father on the birth certificate. But..."

"But?" Carly prompted when Elizabeth once again trailed off.

"Never mind," she shook her head. "You're tired," she looked down and smiled, "little Barbara's asleep. I should let you get some rest."

Carly grabbed her hand and wouldn't let her pull it away when the younger woman tried to stand. "Hey, don't. Something's bothering you and I'd like to help."

"You don't need my problems."

She arched her eyebrow in protest. "I thought we stopped doing this. You listen to me, I listen to you, we don't judge, we help. So what's going on?"

She watched as Elizabeth twisted her face with worry, and Carly could feel her anxiety rising along with her friend's. There were times that they could tell each other things that they didn't want to, or felt they couldn't, or even felt silly sharing with Jason and Johnny, but it had been a while since she'd seen Elizabeth this reluctant to talk.

"What if...what if the baby doesn't understand? When he or she gets older and finds out the truth about Ric and all, what if...I don't know. I know this doesn't make sense."

"You don't want your child to hate you," Carly nodded softly. "Elizabeth, I understand. There were times, there still are times I worry Michael will hate me for keeping him away from A.J. There are times I worry Barbara won't understand either. Despite Johnny and Jason being wonderful men, will she resent not knowing her real father? Doubts are normal, I have them too, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth sucked her bottom lip, then blew it out on a sigh. "I...I saw the birth certificate you filled out. You said Barbara's father was dead. Did you say that to make it easier for the government?"

"Could you take her?" Carly asked, looking down at Barbara asleep in her arms. Elizabeth silently nodded and reached for the baby, placing her in the bassinet by the bed. Her vision blurred and she sniffled as she rubbed her nose.

"I'm sorry, Carly," Elizabeth said with a frown. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"No, no, it's...I do. I think Sonny's really dead."

"What?" she asked.

"I know that Jason and Johnny have been trying to find out what happened to him. There's...there's just this part of me that feels, knows that he's dead." She shrugged and rubbed her forehead gently, her voice thickening as she spoke, "I used to love him so much. And even though I know we couldn't live together anymore, and even though I was angry at everything he'd done...I still loved him.

"There were times before that I would fear he was dead and I thought my life would shatter. But now...now I just feel that he's gone. I may be wrong," she said softly as her lip trembled, "and he may show up one day. But I-I don't think so."

"Are...are you okay with that?" her friend cautiously asked, rubbing her leg through the covers.

"It makes me sad," she admitted, "but yeah, I'm okay. There's a part of Sonny that will always be in my heart, and he's the father of my children, but I just feel like that part of my life is closed. So yeah it makes it easier to say Barbara's father is dead, but I also believe it's true."

They fell silent and Carly closed her eyes, her emotions getting the best of her. For the longest time all she wanted was to be married to Sonny and have his baby. She wasn't sure why or when it had all fallen apart, but she had come to the silent acceptance that it had. And while it made her sad, it hadn't destroyed her. She had Barbara and Michael and she loved them so much. She couldn't' do much about Sonny, all she could do was love her children and be their mother.

She felt the bed shift and opened her eyes to see Elizabeth turning down the light. Looking back at her she said, "You need to sleep. Let us know if we can get you anything, okay?"

"Thank you, Elizabeth," Carly said through a watery smile. "It's really meant a lot to me...these past couple of months and all."

"You're welcome," she smiled back. "Get some sleep, okay?"

"Hello again boys," Luke drawled as Jason answered the private phone line. "O'Brien there?"

"Hey, Luke," the former guard chimed in.

"How's Laura doing?" Jason aksed.

Luke sighed and leaned back in the cheap plastic chair in the apartment he'd rented near the hospital. It had been very discouraging in the beginning, and he'd gotten into a few fights with the doctors, but he'd persisted. "She's doing better this week. The new medication is showing some promise of working."

"Hey, that's good," Johnny said.

"Elizabeth will be happy to hear that."

"Is she there?" he smiled into the phone.

"No, she's upstairs with Carly," Jason replied. "And, ah...the baby."

"The baby?" he asked as he feet came off the desk. "Carly had the baby?"

"Yeah, had her on Wednesday. They came home today."

"My sister is a grandma again," he chuckled. "You know she's going to be bugging me for pictures, but until we can get those, you better give me all the important information on the little one so Bobbie doesn't yell at me anymore than normal."

Bless his sister's heart, for all the things they had done together, everything they shared, she sure had become settled in her old age. He had kids and he didn't act quite like the stick-in-the-mud she did. But she was family, she put up with his crazy antics, so he supposed he should put up with her occasionally yelling at him and fussing.

He listened and wrote down the information as Jason and Johnny gave it to him. Bobbie was going to be thrilled she had a granddaughter, and yet also disappointed she wouldn't be able to spoil her properly in person. "Alright, boys, give me the little tyke's name."

"Barbara Elizabeth," Jason replied.

"Long name for such a little thing," he laughed. "I also can't believe that my niece named her daughter after Elizabeth."

"She hadn't thought about a middle name and when she had to fill out the birth certificate she went with Elizabeth," Johnny filled in.

It was weird for him to think of the two women as friends, but he'd once stopped the world from being frozen so anything was possible. Unfortunately it was time to get down to the real purpose of the call. Reaching out, he poured himself a drink, and sighed. "I'm glad everyone's had a bit of good news, because I certainly don't have any this week."

"What's going on?" Jason immediately asked, his voice tensing.

"I've got some information on Sonny. When Faith Roscoe stepped up her operations and started acting bolder a couple of months ago we suspected Sonny was actually dead."

"Yeah, or she was just tired of waiting and decided to go for it," Johnny countered. "We've been checking the accounts and he hasn't shown up on the island, but that doesn't mean anything. He could be anywhere."

It was a natural thought on their part. No body made them unwilling to just assume he was dead. Even with a body it wouldn't have meant anything; nobody ever seemed to stay dead. "Yeah, but-"

"What'd you find out, Luke?" Jason asked, cutting to the chase and through Luke's hesitancy.

"Sonny is dead. He went to Miami to ask Roy for help."

"Roy would help him...so what happened?"

"Normally that'd be true, Johnny," he sighed. "Except my ol' buddy threw his lot in with Faith Roscoe, and well, you can figure out the rest."

Both men swore darkly and he understood the emotion. He didn't understand the greed for power Roy had become obsessed with, and how the other man could so rapidly and easily change alliances.

"He joined forces with Faith?" Jason asked darkly.

Luke knew that tone and grew uneasy. "Morgan?"

"What?" he bit out.

"Take a moment and calm down," he said softly. "I know you're upset-"

"You're right I'm upset!"

"We both are," Johnny growled.

"Why?" he asked, just a little glad he was several continents away.

"Why wouldn't we be?" Jason ground out.

"Over four months ago you walked away from Sonny and Port Charles because you had to find Elizabeth. Three months ago when you suspected Faith Roscoe was behind the explosions you could have done something," he ticked off. "Why now that you know he's dead and Roy and Faith are behind it, are you ready to charge off back to New York?"

The line was silent and Luke hoped they were thinking about what he'd said. "Sonny was your friend, he was your boss, he took both of you into the organization and you made loyalty to him your life. He was once my friend too, better than either of you. Do I think he deserved what he got? I do and I don't," he said honestly. "But I'm not going to go charging back, and why should you?"

"Because he was betrayed."

"Yes, he was, Jason," he admitted. "But he also felt like you and Johnny betrayed him. All I'm saying is think about the reasons you stopped following Sonny's orders, and think about what will really be gained by going back to challenge Roy and Faith."

He finished off his drink and shook his head as the liquid burned a path down his throat. "Take it easy, fellas, and think about what I said. Tell Caly congratulations and give Elizabeth my love. I'll talk to you later."

"Yeah, later, Luke," Jonny said and then the line went dead.

Luke hung up the phone and leaned back in the chair. He sure hoped Morgan thought this through before he made a decision.

Johnny looked up from the phone and over at Jason standing by the window. His friend's shoulders were tense and Johnny could see the frustration rolling off him. The room was silent, each man thinking of what Luke said.

He wondered how Carly was going to take the news. Ever since their arrival in Australia she had settled, lost the tense energy she carried ever since they'd moved into the brownstone. She'd seemed less haunted about Sonny, though Johnny noticed she didn't talk much about him with Jason.

If Jason decided to go after Faith and Roy it would worry Carly, but it would destroy Elizabeth. He knew it would. She would fear for him of course, but she would also lose her trust in Jason. If it were any other man, Johnny would fight him, threaten to tie him up, but that would never work with Jason. He would always make his own decisions and follow them.

"I'm not going after them." He broke the silence, not looking at Jason. "A year ago, two, sure. But a year ago he never would have put a hit out on you, acted like he did towards Elizabeth and especially Carly. He wasn't the same man and I don't feel like I have to make Faith pay for killing him. I ended my ties to him. I have new ones now."

Finally he cast a glance at Jason, but the other man remained stone still. His jaw was set hard as he glared out the window. Johnny hoped Jason heard what he was trying to say to him, but also knew that his friend didn't like to be crowded or pushed. He stood there, waiting for Jason to give some indication of what he might do.

"I'm going for a ride," Jason announced.

"Okay," he replied evenly, tucking his hands into his pockets. He shouldn't have expected anything less.

Jason strode across the room and a few minutes later Johnny winced as the front door slammed and the motorcycle's sound filed the air. Casting a wary glance at the ceiling he hoped Carly, and especially Barbara, didn't wake up.


He looked over at Elizabeth and smiled at the picture she made standing in the doorway. Pregnancy, and especially being happy with Jason, suited her. Then he realized she was chewing her bottom lip and twisting her fingers together and his smile faded.

"Hey, Elizabeth."

She took a cautious step into the room and her eyes darted about. "Is everything alright? I saw Jason storm out of here looking upset. I don't even think he saw me."

"Luke called," he answered. "He found out some information about Sonny."

"Sonny?" she questioned, her forehead creasing with worry and her shoulders tensing.

"He's dead," he said as he sank into the leather sofa and rested his elbow on the arm. Rubbing his forehead he blew out a long breath. "Faith Roscoe and Roy DiLucca took him out."


"Yeah," he nodded. "Jason's pretty upset."

"I imagine," she replied softly as she sat down in the matching leather chair and curled up as best she could with her expanding stomach. Her fingers anxiously fiddled with the edge of her shirt as she looked away from him.

"I told him I wasn't going to go after them. I don't feel the same way towards defending him, I have new priorities now."

She looked at him, her eyes faintly damp. Clearing her throat several times Elizabeth finally managed, "I'm glad you'll be staying. I'm sure Carly will feel the same."

Looking out the doorway into the hall he nodded. "Was she asleep?"


"I need to tell her. She deserves to know. I-I won't keep this from her."

"You're not going to wait for Jason?"

He wanted to say Jason didn't have the monopoly as Carly's friend anymore, but he didn't. Because what he really felt, but wouldn't say to Elizabeth, was he wasn't sure when Jason would come back. Or what he was going to do. Instead he stood and shrugged his shoulders.

"You alright?" he asked in spite of himself as he lightly touched her shoulder.

She didn't speak, probably couldn't, and nodded her head. He didn't know what to do except accept the lie and let her have his space as he headed up to his room.

It was late when he returned to the house and he was certain that everyone, even Johnny, would be asleep. He had spent the time riding, raging, thinking and coming to terms with what happened. Sonny's death hit him unexpectedly hard and his first thought was he had to go back and make Faith and Roy pay for what they'd done. And it had angered him that Johnny said he wasn't going to do anything.

Several hours into his ride the anger had waned and he was finally able to think clearly about what Luke and Johnny were telling him. Luke was right, he could have gone back months ago when they suspected it was Faith behind taking Ric and the Five Families out. He hadn't because they were still on the run and he had to get Elizabeth and the others to safety. He also hadn't wanted to leave her while they were working on their relationship.

So why did he feel that he could leave now? Was it the anger of Roy turning on Sonny and causing his death? He hadn't sought to harm Sonny, but Jason had turned on him, disregarding the years of loyalty and friendship. He knew that if it had come to down protecting Elizabeth, Carly and their children he wouldn't have hesitated to kill Sonny or anyone with him.

He remembered that day in Mexico when he read about the fire and explosion. He had been saddened by the news and the thought that Sonny could be dead, but he was done. He'd walked away from the business and everything involved with it, taking on new priorities and responsibilities. Elizabeth was his priority now. At first it had been because he felt he had to protect her, now it was because he was so in love with her that he was never going to turn his back on her and leave.

Except he had, he walked right past her when he left earlier. She'd come down the stairs, called his name and he ignored her while storming out. Certainly Johnny would have told her what happened; they didn't walk around in the world of secrets anymore.

Shaking his head at himself for still standing outside he unlocked the door and walked in. He saw the light from the den as he hung up his jacket and he hoped Johnny hadn't waited up for him. He was tired and wanted a few hours of sleep before he faced everyone. With equal parts annoyance and hesitation he walked towards the room and stopped in the doorway.

Elizabeth lay on the couch asleep, and he leaned against the doorjamb as love flooded through him. Just like when she'd stayed at the penthouse a year ago, she'd tried to wait up for him. Tension bled away as he smiled at the thought of her trying to wait up because she wanted to be there when he got back. Even with the daily nap she'd come to take, she always dead on her feet by ten.

Crossing the room quietly, he knelt down beside the couch and his face softened as he drank her in. Her hair partially curtained her face, but he resisted the urge to brush it back. He'd woken her up too many times that way and he wanted to let her sleep. Slowly he reached out and placed his hand on her stomach, closing his eyes with a smile as the baby rolled and pressed back against his palm.

Elizabeth shifted on the couch and he knew he should get her up to bed. She couldn't be comfortable on the couch. He would tell her his decision in the morning, tonight...tonight he would let her sleep. Standing, he gathered her into his arms and headed to their room.

She woke, disoriented for a minute not feeling the couch beneath her. Then she felt the comfort of the mattress as she was settled on it, and a soft kiss was placed on her forehead.


"Shhh...I didn't mean to wake you. Go back to sleep."

"No," she said, her voice thick with sleep. She struggled to sit up and he reached out to help her, knowing it was pointless to protest. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm sorry if I worried you being late."

"I meant about Sonny," Elizabeth persisted. "When you left you were very angry. Then Johnny told me what happened and I waited up to see if you were alright."

He stood and kicked off his boots, then grabbed his sweats and headed into the bathroom to change. She frowned, wondering why he would suddenly go back to not changing in front of her. Well, she wasn't going to be deterred. If he was leaving, she wanted to know.

When he came out of the bathroom, she had the lamp on low and was under the covers sitting back against the headboard. He put his clothes in the hamper, and slid his boots against the dresser. She watched him for a minute, then finally broke the silence, "I won't let you do this, Jason."

"I'm not shutting you out, Elizabeth," he said as he got in bed beside her. Rolling over he looked her in the eye, "I'm tired and it's been a long day. I just hadn't planned on getting into this tonight."

"Okay," she said, and reached over to turn off the light. She repositioned her pillows and lay down on her left side facing him.

"Elizabeth?" he questioned, even as he shifted and lay down, pressing up against her and putting his arm across her side.

"You don't want to talk tonight," she said as she caressed his cheek in the dark. "I won't push."

"Thank you," he said softly, then rose up on his elbow to kiss her.

"Goodnight, Jason," she whispered.

She lay there in the dark beside him, listening as his breathing lengthened, feeling his body relax. Yet she didn't sleep. The thoughts that had troubled her since she talked to Johnny were replaying through her mind. Jason didn't seem as charged as when he left, but that didn't tell her anything. This was business, and he had always changed, compartmentalized, shut off emotions when dealing with business. He said it was the only way to do things. Had he done that now?

Knowing she should sleep, it still eluded her. If Jason had decided to go back to Port Charles she couldn't change that, she wouldn't. She wouldn't fight him, she would try not to bury him with her fears that he'd get pulled back in even father, and she would pray with everything in her that he would come back to her - that he would choose to come back to her.

She closed her eyes against the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. Bringing her hand up Elizabeth covered her mouth, then ended up turning her face into the pillow as a sob fought to escape. She didn't want to wake Jason and she rolled quickly, trying to get to the edge of the bed before she lost it completely. But she didn't move as nimbly as she did six months ago, and before she could reach the side of the bed he was stirring and reaching for her.


She shook her head in the dark and tried to pull away, hoping he would think this was just another trip to the bathroom. But he wouldn't let go and scrambled across the bed. She blinked as he switched the lamp on, but she couldn't hide the tears on her cheeks.

"What's wrong?" he asked, his voice rising in concern. "Are you in pain? Do we need to call the doctor?"

"N-no," she whispered as she shook her head. "I'm just...I don't want...please just..."

She couldn't finish and he nodded, crawling back into bed behind her and pulling her against his chest. He rubbed his hand gently on her arm, "Shh...It's okay. I'm not going back...I'm not leaving."

"I'm sorry," she sobbed through her hands. "I promised myself I wouldn't fight you if you chose to go back...I understood why you would need to. B-but I love you so much"

"I know...I love you too," he answered, his hand continuing to glide over her arm. He pressed a kiss to her neck before admitting, "I thought about going back. Despite everything that happened I felt the pull, the feeling that I owed Sonny to do this."

"I know," she told him, calming under his touch and his promise he wasn't leaving. She wiped her face and lowered her hands. "He was once so much to you."

"Yeah. But if I leave...I-I got out. I don't want to go back. I always thought I would never leave, but I don't miss the life. You've become my life, Elizabeth, this baby," his hand caressed her stomach and she brought hers to cover his. "Everything we worked to overcome, to build together...it would be gone. I won't do that."

She reached out, turning off the light, then turned to face him as he stretched out on his side. She didn't say anything, any words would pale beside his declaration - or belittle it. "I love you," she said, stretching to kiss him, to show him the only way she could what she felt for him.

He returned the kiss, slow, gentle, loving, then shifted, bringing her closer and splaying his hands across her stomach. "I love you too. Sleep, Elizabeth, it's alright."

She smiled in the darkness as she closed her eyes and settled into his embrace.

The End

A/N: First I have to thank Whitney and Caley who helped immensely as betas, and for Caley helping when I got stuck near the end. The fic is better because of them, all the mistakes are solely mine.

When I started this story, I entitled it Fragile Alliances because I wanted to explore Carly and Elizabeth, two women who'd been in similar circumstances - pregnant by men they didn't want to be with - and how they would react to each other given their histories collectively and individually. It was supposed to be a short piece, but Carly and Elizabeth kept yapping, and then Johnny jumped into the mix and I realized that having Carly help Elizabeth leave town and Jason finding out and reacting to that wasn't going to happen in just one or two parts. So the thing grew, as my stories have a tendency to do.

I'm really pleased with where this story went. The friendships that grew and developed and the resolutions that Carly and Elizabeth found in their lives. I liked the friendship that Johnny and Carly found, it's something I could see turning into more after Carly has had ample time to deal with everything that happened between her and Sonny. I liked pulling Luke back into Jason and Elizabeth's lives, and of course I liked getting Jason and Elizabeth past everything that happened between them and going forward and being stronger than before.

I hoped you enjoyed the ride as well.

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