A/N: This story is an extended version of my Flash Fic story Freedom. That short is basically the prologue to this story, picking up immediately after that one ends. No real changes to the prologue. The time frame of this story would be July 2002. But Jason never returned to Port Charles, and Elizabeth is presumed dead by everyone there except for a few select people. She never returned after the poison incident.
This was not supposed to be happening. She had left Port Charles behind. Once a month she got a package from Johnny filled with letters and news from a very select group of people, and sometimes her grandmother sent food or other items, and in return she sent letters back through him. That was supposed to be it. At least to the place she left behind. She sent paintings to Johnny to sell at a little gallery in San Francisco. He handled the paperwork, sent her the money and she had the means to live on until she sent the next painting.
Through Sonny, Emily, Nikolas and her grandmother she had all the access to the outside world she needed, or wanted. She talked with the locals, got enough snippets of world news so she didn't feel completely dumb, but she was happy with her life. She painted, she read, and she worked on putting herself back together.
Nikolas had found the key to unscrambling Lucky's brain and reversed Helena's damage. Her ex-boyfriend was getting better and she was glad for that. But she was trying to recover from the whole ordeal herself. She had given up so much, let people dictate what she did, where she went, who she saw, all for the sake of helping Lucky. For so long she let herself believe that her happiness was expendable as long as it helped him. It had been so indoctrinated in her that sometimes she felt that she had been brainwashed.
It had taken a while, and a little talk with a friend of Sonny's, but she'd finally gotten her head back on straight. She finally let go of the guilt and realized she couldn't save the whole world, and she wasn't responsible for Lucky Spencer. She really wasn't being selfish if she focused on her own needs and emotional health. And Nikolas helped out by talking of things that didn't have to do with Lucky or the Spencer-Cassadine feud. He showed her that his friendship went beyond what she could do for his brother, and that helped a great deal.
There were times Elizabeth worried that Helena might catch wind she was alive and come looking for her. Sonny assured her that would never happen, but there were times she felt a shiver go down her spin and she'd find herself looking over her shoulder. Luke didn't call the Cassadine matriarch the Wicked Witch for nothing, but she didn't tell Sonny about her fears because she didn't want him to worry or send someone out to watch over her. Besides, she didn't really believe it would happen, she just worried sometimes.
But the one thing that absolutely wasn't supposed to happen in her life was Jason walking back into it. She didn't deserve him in it, and she'd consigned herself to the fact that she'd lost him for good. She had lost her friend and, she realized a couple of months after she was on the island and couldn't stop thinking about Jason, the man she loved. It seemed a fitting punishment for her given the way she'd screwed up his life and Lucky's.
So why had he come back into her world now? She was sorry he was hurt, but honestly she hadn't thought he'd be this affected hearing of her supposed death. Maybe if she just apologized he'd accept it and be on his way. She couldn't deal with having him come in and upsetting her house of cards.
"Elizabeth?" Jason asked softly, breaking the long stretch of silence and staring contest they'd entered into since he'd told her he came to see her.
"It's Kristi," she corrected him, looking around the bar. "My name is Kristi now. And you shouldn't be here."
Then she stood and walked out of the bar. The day's heat hadn't reached its zenith yet, but by the time she was twenty-five feet away from the bar she was already sweating. Or maybe it was just a physical reaction after seeing Jason for the first time in over a year.
"Kristi!" Jason's voice carried after her, and she ignored him as she kept walking. "Kristi!"
He grabbed her elbow and spun her around. "Would you wait? What's going on? What do you mean I shouldn't be here?"
"I mean you should go home. Get back to your life. I'm clearly alive. I'm sorry you were hurt when you thought I was dead, that was never my intention. But I'm alive, I'm fine, but there's..." She paused. "There's no reason for you to be here. And honestly, you could be placing me in danger."
"Nobody knows I'm here except Sonny and Johnny," he shook his head. "Nobody from my business followed me."
"I'm not talking about your enemies," it was her turn to shake her head. "I'm talking about mine. Nobody visits me here because we don't want Helena Cassadine to find out where I am and try to kill me."
It was a lie, but sometimes a little lie was needed. Johnny had visited her once. Sonny had talked about coming to see her until he suddenly learned he had a sister and he needed to help her out. But she wanted to Jason to pull the noble White Knight routine and leave her alone for her safety. And for his heart.
He furrowed his brow at her, even as he stepped closer. "Why would Helena Cassadine be after you?"
She arched a brow. "Nobody told you? I figured Sonny would have."
"He said to ask you. So I am."
Thanks a heap, Sonny.
"She didn't like my interference," Elizabeth said, determined just to leave it at that and get Jason back to his life. He didn't need to get pulled into another one of her dramas.
"Elizabeth," Jason said, clearly unhappy at the implications of what she was saying.
"Don't," she held up her hand as they reached her house. "I'm fine. Sonny and Johnny took every precaution. You can't see it, but the house is wired up the wazoo and it's a veritable fortress. You don't have to worry about me, and you don't need to get sucked back into taking care of me. You deserve your freedom from the madness of my life. It was good to see you again, but you should probably just go home."
Then she turned and walked up the path to her house. He was silent the entire time it took her to unlock the door and step inside. She then stood there and held her breath, wondering what Jason would do. After standing there for five minutes, she finally worked up the courage to look outside. He was gone. She turned around and sank to the floor, at the same time relieved and disappointed. And she decided it was for the best this way. Jason could live a better life now.
Jason slammed into the room he was renting, the door cracking against the wall and then neatly swinging shut behind him as he stalked into the room and growled in pure frustration. Elizabeth had told him to pack up and go home. He'd dropped everything and flown 18 hours to see her because his heart had stopped when Carly told him Elizabeth was dead. Despite Sonny wrenching the phone from her to dispel that thought, and Emily hurriedly trying to explain when she got back from her physical therapy session, he still insisted on seeing Elizabeth for himself.
Clearly she was no longer under Lucky Spencer's permanent lock considering he thought she was dead and dating someone else back in Port Charles. Jason didn't know what he'd expected her to do when he arrived, but he hadn't figured on her turning her back on him. Maybe her brush off in the park 15 months ago had really because she didn't want to be with him and not because of her guilt and loyalty to Lucky like he'd assumed, or actually hoped. Well, he didn't need to go through this again.
He wasn't going to run after her with his heart in his hand. He'd asked her to leave with him, she turned him down. He came to see her, she told him to go home. Message received loud and clear. He'd wanted to wrap his arms around her and breathe in her scent; thankfully he hadn't embarrassed himself completely. He could leave with a shred of dignity in tact.
It was obvious he felt something for Elizabeth. He flew across an ocean for his friend; anyone would suspect he felt more for her. But she had been stiff, uncomfortable, and unaffected. He kicked a chair across the room and felt a small twinge of satisfaction when it cracked.
Pulling out his cell phone he punched in Sonny's number and clenched his hand into a fist.
"It's me," he said. "Send the plane back."
"What?" Sonny asked in surprise. "You just got there. What happened?"
"She told me to go home. Said she didn't want to tip Helena Cassadine off to where she's at." The frustration over being rebuffed was fading and he was now concerned about what happened to Elizabeth. "Sonny, why would Helena want her dead?"
"Because Elizabeth got in the way of her plan to mess with Luke Spencer. Helena controlled Lucky, she had the upper hand on Luke. Elizabeth and Nikolas conceived a plan to trick Helena, but she wanted Nikolas to prove his loyalty to her when she felt it was off that Elizabeth had suddenly gone from trying to help Lucky remember to rebuffing him and dating Nikolas."
"What?" he growled, confused by what Sonny was saying.
"Helena thought it was a ruse. So she told Nikolas to kill Elizabeth to prove his loyalty to his grandmother, since Cassadine was claiming to want to be her apt pupil. They got a poison that made it look like Elizabeth would be dead; Nikolas slipped it into her drink when they were having dinner with dear ol' granny. Elizabeth died right in front of Helena."
He sat down in the lumpy chair and closed his eyes, stunned. "She took poison? How did you get involved? How did you let this happen to her?"
"Nikolas asked me to hide her while they dealt with Helena. So I sent her to the island to hide out."
"Why did you let her do that, Sonny?" Jason demanded.
"I didn't let her do anything," Sonny shot back. "I tried to talk her out of it. Offered to find another way. She said it was the only way. So I did everything I could to make sure she was protected. I had my doctor on the yacht, she was never in any danger."
"Except she still worries about Helena." Or was it all a lie to get him to go? He wasn't sure which thought was better. He didn't want her hurt by Helena, or anyone, but he was also bothered by the thought that she would deliberately lie to him.
"Jason, we're monitoring where Helena Cassadine is at all times," his friend tried to assure him. "Hang on a second."
He scowled into the phone, just displeased all around. He didn't like that Elizabeth had been poisoned and Sonny had done nothing to stop it, or let him know what had happened. Finding out, nine months later, left his nerves on edge. Combined with Elizabeth's rebuff, which he was now questioning, and he wanted to at least get answers from his friend. Not be put on hold while Sonny dealt with something else.
"Jason? Are you still there?"
"Listen," Sonny said, his voice deepened with sudden worry. "Johnny just brought in the latest report. Our contacts watching Helena haven't checked in for several days."
"You lost her?" he demanded sharply.
"Now, we're not saying that," Sonny tried to smooth things over. "Sometimes they can't check in right on time without blowing their cover."
"Or you could have lost her," he growled.
"It's a possibility," the older man conceded wearily. "Look, we'll double the search for her. And we'll increase our surveillance of Elizabeth. She'll be fine."
"Yes, she will," Jason declared. "Because I'm not leaving. Cancel the jet."
"Sure, Jason," Sonny said, trying to keep the smile out of his voice. "I'm sure it's really not that serious. Besides, I can always send Johnny out there."
"I'm already here," Jason rebuffed him.
"Alright," he agreed. "Let me call Elizabeth. I'll let her know. That way she won't bite your head off when you move in."
There was a pause on the line. "Move in?"
"A bodyguard doesn't do any good across the island. I would have had Johnny stay there anyways," he threw out offhandedly. "She's got a big place. Or is there a problem with you staying there?"
"No, no problem," Jason said, his voice a little tight. "Let her know, and I'll pack my stuff."
Sonny hung up the phone and grinned. He hoped Elizabeth didn't get too worried by his ruse, but these two needed a nudge. Or more likely a full-fledged push off the cliff. Jason had been hurt by Elizabeth, and she knew it so she was determined not to do it again. Jason certainly wasn't going to tell her how he felt, and she was going to do everything to sacrifice her happiness and wants and send him on his way so they didn't get sucked back into where they'd been last April. They seriously made his head spin and he was determined to make them be honest and face the situation.
Besides, he figured if Jason stayed out of Port Charles, then Carly might get it out of her head to try and fix him up with Courtney. His sister was never going to get involved with anyone in the organization. And so long as Elizabeth was really alive, Jason would just be settling for anyone else.
He sighed and picked up the phone, and hoped when this was all over that Elizabeth forgave him for his lie.
Elizabeth loved Sonny. He was like an older brother; who actually cared about her in stead of just sending her a card and gift certificate in December. For both her birthday and Christmas. Sonny cared about her; he looked out for her, he made her laugh, and he annoyed her. Like any good brother. Right now was one of those times he annoyed her.
He was only looking out for her, she knew that. But she was seriously not thrilled with the situation. Helena had slipped through Sonny's net, so he was having someone watch over her. And of course it just made sense that since Jason was already down here that he be the person to guard her. She knew it made logistical sense, but she hated that of all the people in Sonny's organization who could guard her, that Jason was the person she got.
She had apparently been a mass murderer in a former life. Because nobody could have this much bad luck. Not only was Jason going to be her guard, he was going to stay in her house. Sonny said it was safer that way; Jason would have 24-hour access to her surveillance system, and her. He couldn't guard her as effectively from another house.
For three days Jason had been staying with her, and she was ready to pull her hair out. It was nothing like when he had stayed with her when he was shot or searching for the mole in Sonny's organization. Then they had talked, laughed together and enjoyed being around one another. Even the last time when they began to have feelings for each other and were fighting it, it had never been this uncomfortable.
This time around, they avoided each other. She painted in her studio, cooked and spent time in her room. Jason spent time on the phone with Sonny, checking the surveillance and reading in his room. They were in two separate wings and they hardly crossed paths. If she closed her eyes she could almost imagine he wasn't there. Almost.
His smell pervaded her home. Leather, coffee, and something unmistakably Jason. Coffee showed up in her kitchen, an extra mug taking a place on the counter. She could hear his footsteps patrolling the house, silently watching over everything. But more than anything, she could feel him surrounding her. He invaded her waking moments, distracting her when she tried to paint. And worst of all, he had invaded her dreams. Graphically. Even worse than before.
Today was going to do nothing to help her situation. Today she wasn't going to be able to avoid him; no today she was walking into the lion's den. She was not going to be kept a prisoner in her own house. She had things she needed to do, things she wanted to do, and she hoped she could at least convince Jason to let her do the necessary ones.
After she finished her breakfast and put her bowl in the sink next to Jason's coffee mug, she gripped the edge of the sink and gave herself a mental pep talk. She could do this. She could face Jason and not flame with embarrassment or stammer like a fool. Straightening, she tugged her tank top back into place and turned for the rooms where Jason spent his days.
When she reached the end of the hall she knocked on the door before poking her head into the room. Where her tongue promptly fused to the top of her mouth. Jason was in a tank top that showed off the perfect and well-formed muscles of his arms. She always knew Jason was strong, but good grief. He certainly hadn't been this well-defined when he stayed in her studio that December. How was she supposed to think, let alone keep her distance from him, when he looked this handsome? This was going to be difficult.
She swallowed and tried to get her mouth to work, but instead it felt like she'd swallowed the Sahara.
"Elizabeth?" Jason asked again, a little sharper and it finally freed her tongue. "Are you alright?"
"I," she paused and cleared her throat. "I'm fine. Sorry, I was...I was caught up in thinking about a painting.
"Oh," he replied blandly. "Did you need something?"
"Yes," she nodded. "I have to go shopping. We need food and I need some art supplies. So we need to go into town."
"I'd like to go today," she nodded firmly, refusing to back down. "So whatever precautions you need to make, I understand. But we won't have much for dinner if we don't go. I wasn't exactly stocked up for guests."
"Alright," he said somewhat reluctantly. "Give me a few minutes and then we can go."
She turned to go, then paused and turned back. "Thank you, Jason."
Life hated him. Pure, plain and simple he was paying for every single one of his crimes right here and now. Karma had walked right up to him and shown him the finger. How else could he explain that he was on an island, no one around to him interrupt him, with the woman he loved, and she hated him?
Elizabeth was beautiful, and he couldn't avoid her as he had at the house. There, he could get up early and get his coffee so he didn't have to see her in her tank top and shorts she slept in. He could stare at the surveillance equipment until his eyes watered or read until they burned. He didn't have to be faced with her beautiful form, which was only partially covered.
Now, he walked behind her as they walked through the streets of the market purchasing food. Her shirt didn't meet the top of her shorts, and the little strip of skin that showed fascinated him. Her shorts showed off yards of her legs; smooth, toned and enticing. Her hair, that had grown out from its short bob that she'd had the last time he saw her, would dance and twist in the breeze. Tendrils escaped her ponytail and floated before him, taunting him with the knowledge that he'd never get to play with the silky strands.
When Elizabeth said they needed to go shopping, his first impulse was to say no. He didn't want to let her outside where she would be exposed, but he knew it wasn't possible. Or fair. She never could stand to be trapped indoors, and his job was to guard her in her activities, not lock her in a dark room. But he figured shopping meant they'd go, get what they needed and go back home. No such luck.
They were wandering through the market of the little town, casually looking and occasionally buying. For two hours now. He was becoming tense and anxious for her to get back inside and not be exposed, but she seemed oblivious to it. She smelled and squeezed the fruits and vegetables, bartered over the prices and talked with everyone. He'd somehow forgotten just how much she could talk. With each vendor, each person, she would stop and exchange words.
If she was bothered by his presence she didn't show it. She'd introduce him with no further explanation than 'This is Jason' and then proceed to ignore him while she talked. Meanwhile, he would scan the crowds, searching for any possible threat, and try not to get separated from her with the press of people. It often meant he would have to touch her elbow or her back to keep from having people squeeze between them. The physical contact was beginning to get to him, especially when he had to stand so close to her he could smell the cucumber in her lotion.
"Are you done yet?" he asked as they left a small stand laden with bake goods. He wanted to get her attention before they were waylaid by another person.
She paused and looked down at the bags they held, her lips moving silently as she went through a mental inventory. "I suppose this will do," she shrugged. "Do you want to stop and get a drink?"
"No," he said. "We're going home."
"Geeze, what's wrong with you?" she asked, responding to his annoyance with some of her own.
"Two hours for shopping, Elizabeth. There's only the two of us. You're not feeding an army. So, no, I don't want to stop anywhere else. I'll have a drink when we get home." He was definitely going to need it after this excursion.
She stopped, forcing him to as well. "Do you see any beer in the bags? If you want a drink we have to go to Don's."
"Forget it," he growled. "We are not going to a bar. We are going home. Anything we don't have we'll just make do without. We are going now."
"Well forgive me for trying to be considerate," she huffed as she turned on her heel and stalked off.
Jason took a deep breath and prayed for patience as he followed after her. He was not going to take it out on her because he was frustrated and upset. He couldn't make her feel something she didn't, and there was no need to make the situation they were in any worse than it already was by adding his unrequited feelings into the mix. He would do his job, guard her until Helena Cassadine was found, and then he'd be gone.
With any luck, after this excursion they could go back to their separate existences. With all the art supplies she'd purchased she would spend most of her time in her studio painting. And then he wouldn't have to see her all the time and give new fuel to the thoughts that tormented him constantly. The thoughts of wanting her with every breath he took.
Don Pitt was a man who loved the islands. After retiring there from Chicago he vowed he'd never go back to the cold and snow again. He liked sunshine and warm nights, followed by even warmer days. He didn't have family back in the States except for a baby sister who didn't want to have anything to do with him. He was, after all, a criminal who didn't fit in with the life she made for herself.
She'd married an investment banker, lived in a house in the suburbs, and sent her two kids off to the best colleges. She'd lived the perfect American life, and felt perfectly comfortable looking down her nose at her mobster brother. Forget that the organization had provided them the money and connections for him to keep her out of foster care when their parents died. She was above it all now.
So she really hadn't cared when he announced he was moving. And moving to a small island chain in the Pacific had convinced the others in the organization he was really out. Except that a person can never really be out of the business. So several months ago he received a phone call from Sonny Corinthos saying a young woman was moving there who was very special to him and Jason Morgan. Don knew the reputation of both men and had immediately perked up, wondering why Mr. Corinthos would be calling him.
All Sonny Corinthos asked was for Don to keep an eye on the lady. Others would be watching out for her as well, and nobody would be asking him to take a bullet for her; simply Mr. Corinthos would feel better if someone was close and could be the group's eyes and ears on the ground. It had been an easy job, there were no problems and Kristi was a kind enough kid so it was certainly no hardship talking to her. He felt guilty for the money he was being paid to simply watch out for her.
He hadn't seen her in a couple of days, but that wasn't unusual. What was unusual was the mob king of the Eastern Seaboard calling and asking for his help. Seems the don had a soft spot and was interested in what was going on with Kristi and his right hand man, Jason Morgan. By the looks of the fight he just witnessed, combined with the way she lit out of his bar when she first encountered the enforcer several days ago, not a whole lot - at least anything good - was happening.
"Mr. Corinthos," he said when the other man picked up the phone. "It's Don Pitt."
"Yes, Mr. Pitt? What's happening down there?"
"Nothing. Except them fighting."
There was a sigh on the other end. "I was afraid of that. Mr. Pitt, I need your further assistance."
"Of course, Mr. Corinthos," he immediately said. "How can I help?"
"I think it's time we shook them both up. Nothing major, just a little something that forces them to interact more. Can you help with that?"
"Yes," came the answer, even though he had no clue what he was going to do to accomplish it. But one didn't admit such things to mobsters. He'd figure something out.
"Thank you," the kingpin smiled. "I look forward to hearing from you."
Don hung up the phone and sighed as he scrubbed his hand over his face. He had no idea how he was going to get Kristi interacting with Jason Morgan, but he had better figure something out, because Sonny Corinthos was not known for his patience. And Don had a feeling the man would want results sooner rather than later.
Jason was surprised when he walked out of his bedroom and found the door to the backyard patio open. Elizabeth rarely got up early, so he wasn't expecting to see her up already. She'd been regularly avoiding him in the four days since their trip to the market, and he was chafing because of that annoying fact. But he was also bothered that there was no news on Helena Cassadine.
A week since Sonny told him that the men watching her hadn't checked in, the men still hadn't reported. He was worried that she'd slipped through the net Sonny had cast, and that with each passing day it would only become harder to find her. He could be stuck guarding Elizabeth indefinitely, or until he called Sonny and told the other man to assign her a more permanent guard. Because while he once would have given anything for this assignment, he'd now rather take an acid bath than have to keep guarding Elizabeth.
It wasn't helping his mood that he couldn't seem to get a hold of Sonny. Or Johnny. Or Francis. Or Max. He knew that with the time differences it was sometimes difficult to get in touch with them, but it was bothersome and a bit worrisome, that he hadn't been able to get a hold of anybody for two days.
With a sigh he stepped out on the porch after a brief detour to the kitchen. The backyard of Elizabeth's house was heavily covered with thick trees and vegetation; the porch was practically hidden from everything else so there was really no chance of her being seen. But he still felt it was his duty to sit with her when she was outside. He wasn't going to take any chances with her safety.
"Good morning," he said as he sat down on a chair across the patio.
She barely looked up from her sketch book. "Hey."
He took a sip of his coffee and looked up at the vines covering the porch. It was going to be a long day if he could only get one word answers out of her.
"Didn't expect to see you up this early," he commented, for some unknown reason trying to engage her this morning.
Elizabeth's pencil continued to scritch over the paper and he figured she was going to ignore him. But then the sound stopped and he looked up to find her watching him. "I like it out here after it rains," she said. "It'll be hot again later, but it's nice the morning after a storm."
He felt bolstered that she didn't bite his head off so he continued. "So, what made you choose to come here?"
She peered at him for a minute, then shrugged. "It was small, out of the way. Seemed like the perfect place to start over."
Start over. Before he could prevent himself from asking he asked, "Why did you want to start over? I thought you would be anxious to get back to Lucky once the danger was past."
Her face fell and twisted into a scowl. "Yeah, I can see why you'd think that. You were right about Lucky," she said on a sigh as she looked away. "He wasn't the boy I loved from before the fire. I helped him, just like he once helped me. But when I was down on Sonny's island last year, I realized that I just couldn't do it anymore. I didn't want to do it anymore."
She sighed and looked away, drawing her feet up and hugging her knees. "I had so much drama in my life back in Port Charles...I just couldn't do it anymore. This was my chance to start over with a clean slate. I was out of the Spencer-Cassadine feud; I didn't have to pretend to be in love with Lucky anymore. I no longer had to be the pathetic waitress pretending to be an artist, and I no longer had to be the black sheep of my family. I could do whatever I wanted; keep the friends I really cared about and wanted in my life."
"And why would you think I wouldn't want to be one of them?" He sounded petulant and he didn't like it, but she was talking instead of shutting him out and he wanted to know.
"Because I knew from Emily and Sonny that you never asked about me," she said bluntly. "That's why I told them that if you asked about me, they could tell you. But I wasn't going to go seek you out and force myself back into your life."
She stood and paced to the edge of the sandstone tile, suddenly looking agitated. "Look, I apologized, Jason. I honestly didn't think you'd hear from Carly about my death. What more do you want me to say or do?"
"Nothing," he said as he stood. "I'm not trying to make you upset. I just-"
He stopped, wondering why he had even brought this up. Why did it matter that she didn't tell him? After all, she was right. He hadn't asked bout her, because honestly he hadn't wanted to hear how happy she was with Lucky. But she didn't know that, and he didn't think now was the time to tell her. She clearly had no interest in being a part of his life anymore.
They stood there for a second, then she shook her head. "Good. I think that-"
He held up his hand abruptly as he stepped towards her. Elizabeth's eyes widened and her words died, which was just as well. Because he thought he heard something on the other side of the garden wall.
"What?" she whispered, her eyes darting about wildly.
"Shhh!" he hissed. He definitely heard something outside the garden, and it was definitely man-made. He wished he had his gun on him, and his immediate thought was to get Elizabeth inside to safety.
Then came the sound he feared. A loud pop, which in the quiet early morning sounded like a cannon blast, rang out through the air. He grabbed her and flung them down to safety. Twisting so that he landed on his back, taking the brunt of the fall, he quickly flipped them over so his body covered hers. He shielded her head, even as he raised his own and listened. But the only thing he could hear was the sound of their breathing, frantic and mixing together.
They lay there listening; Elizabeth's hands fisted in his shirt, until Jason finally determined that whatever had made the sound was gone. He began to analyze, doubted that it wasn't a gunshot they'd heard. If it was Helena or her people after Elizabeth, he doubted they would have shot once and then done nothing else. They would have stormed the garden and overtaken them.
"Jason?" His name was a breathy whisper and he looked down to reassure her.
But the reassurance died on his lips. When he saw her large, deep blue eyes the whole moment shifted. He was suddenly aware of the fact that he was crushed against her body, one of his legs wedged between hers. And his body instantly reacted to the fact. He knew the exact moment she became aware of it and their position because a breathy gasp escape her parted lips, puffing across his chin, and her pupils flared. Her hands released his shirt, before clenching it once again.
Their eyes locked, and he felt like the breath had been knocked out of him. He felt like he couldn't do anything but move towards her. Elizabeth sucked in a breath and that was his undoing. His head lowered, his lips brushing across hers. He only got a brief taste before she twisted her head to the side and pushed her hands against him.
"Jason, stop. Let me up."
He rolled to the side and she shot up like she was on fire. Groaning, he hit his fist against the ground, knowing it was too good to be true.
Jason looked up at her as she skittered across the patio and growled. "What is wrong with you?"
She stilled and he hauled himself to his feet. He knew he should just turn and walk away, but he didn't. And for one of the few times in his life, he didn't censor himself in front of Elizabeth. "You really are just a tease, aren't you?"
Elizabeth was never really a person who drank, and she certainly didn't drink to excess with the intention of getting drunk. Sure she had a couple of drinks once in a while, but she was usually in control. So it was rather out of character for her to be sitting at Don's bar getting smashed out of her gourd. Of course the reason she was in her current state wasn't an everyday occurrence, so she felt she was entitled.
Jason hated her. He thought she was a tease, and why wouldn't he? After all, one second she clung to him and let him kiss her and the next she was pushing him away. It was just like last year when she'd come running to him because she was confused and needed his comforting assurance, and then she'd turn around and tell him that she loved Lucky and couldn't see Jason anymore. Back and forth. She drug him along, nearly kissing him several times, and then always, always ran away.
Elizabeth was definitely a tease. And even though it hurt, he was definitely right to call her on it. It didn't mean she was in any hurry to face him again. Which was why she was hiding out in Don's bar. She'd run straight here from her house and begged the bar owner to hide her. She knew Jason would come looking for her, just because he was disgusted with her didn't mean he'd shirk his duties. But she knew she was safe with Don. He owned a gun and reminded her of Luke, and she really had no guilt asking him to lie to Jason.
Maybe Jason knew she was there and didn't want to face her either. Maybe he was still looking for her. Either way, she didn't really care. She was going to sit here at the bar and get plastered. She'd had enough of sitting in the back room; it was time for some serious drinking.
"Gimme another one, Don," she said when the bar owner stopped in front of her.
"Are you sure that's wise, Kristi?" he asked through a frown.
"I don't care about wise right now. Or right. Or wrong. Right now, I want to be numb. Or should I go find another bar?"
"No," he immediately shook his head. "I'm just concerned about you, kid. I've never seen you like this before."
"That's because Jason hasn't been around here before," she said ruefully. "This is pretty much my constant state around him."
"Drunk?" he questioned.
"No. Confused. Messed up. A screw-up. Trust me, nobody needs this mess. Especially not Jason."
"Ah, don't be so hard on yourself, kid."
"Don," she peered up at him through her bangs. "You're sweet, but I know what you're doing. You think you'll talk to me and I won't ask for a drink. So stop babying me and giving me watered down booze and give me a real drink."
With a sigh, he moved away and returned a minute later with a fresh drink. It was strong and burned her throat and she knew it would be a few more rounds before Don started diluting them again. Hopefully soon she'd be able to get good and properly buzzed.
She had no idea how she was going to face Jason after this. And she was in no hurry to force the occasion. She really hoped Helena was found soon so that Jason could leave and she could get back to her life. It may be bland, but after this tortuous week, she'd gladly take bland.
The door to the bar opened and Elizabeth felt goosebumps break out on her skin. She knew, absolutely knew without turning, that Jason had just walked into the bar. And she decided she wasn't nearly drunk enough to face him. But she wasn't going to get away with any more liquor than what she'd consumed so far. She only hoped it was enough to help.
Don made his way down by her as Jason crossed the room to the bar. She wanted to tell both men to go away.
"E-Kristi," Jason said, his voice tight. "Where have you been?"
"Right here," she said as she tossed off her drink.
"I stopped by here earlier. You weren't here."
"I told Don to lie," she shrugged, turning to look him defiantly in the eye. "After all, I am a liar. I told you that."
He scowled and looked over at the bar keep, sending him scurrying away. "Look-"
"Stuff it," she said. "I mean, save it. I don't want to hear you apologize for something we both know is the truth. I'm a tease, and you were right to call me on it. And that's why I didn't tell you I was faking my death, because you deserve better than a screw-up like me in your life."
She slid off her barstool, and wobbled slightly on her feet before steadying herself. Jason stood there staring at her oddly and she took advantage of the situation to skirt around the bar and grab the closest bottle. Then she headed towards the door. Jason finally to get over his shock and headed after her. He grabbed her arm just as she pushed the door open.
"What are you doing?" he growled.
"Who knows, who cares," she shrugged. "Maybe I'll go find Helena and ask her to do the world a favor."
"I don't think so," he shook his head. He reached for her and the world titled, and then suddenly bounced. Then she felt like she was flying as she saw the stars float by. It almost reminded her of being on Jason's bike, until her stomach lurched.
"Put me down," she pleaded.
"No way," he rebuffed her as he continued to carry her rapidly towards her house.
"Please," she pleaded again. "I'm going to be sick."
Elizabeth Webber was a bad drunk. As Jason sat in her darkened room watching over her as she lay sprawled on her bed snoring, he couldn't help wincing at the hangover she was going to have in the morning. And the embarrassment they both were going to have.
She had indeed become ill as he was carrying her home. Numerous times. And, he grimaced, it got everywhere. Which had led to Elizabeth insisting she not only needed to change, but needed a shower. The only problem with that was she could hardly stand on her own. He felt like a first class heel now and hoped he could look at her without ogling her or becoming flustered.
It wasn't just the inadvertent peep show he'd gotten as he'd tried to help her into bed so she could sleep it off that had him feeling out of sorts, it was the honesty he'd finally heard from her. Things suddenly made a lot more sense. Her distance and cold shoulder wasn't because she didn't like him anymore, it was because she felt it was better if she pushed him away. She felt it was better for him.
He hadn't meant to call her a tease; it had just popped out in a moment of frustration. He knew she wasn't deliberately trying to hurt him, she never had; she'd always just been scared and had run. Elizabeth wasn't like Carly who had blatantly and deliberately used her sexuality to manipulate him or hurt him. Yes, it had been frustrating, but he'd also known she had been hurting herself as much as him.
It bothered Jason that his slip had set her on a course of self-destruction. He had fed into her insecurities and self-loathing, voicing recriminations she had already told herself. But the alcohol she'd used to punish herself had led her to speaking truths she had tried to hide since his arrival. She didn't hate him; she was in love with him. She just didn't think she deserved to tell him that or be in his life because of the way she'd treated him in Port Charles. Always her own harshest critic, Elizabeth had decided that he wouldn't want anything to do with her because of her behavior in the past. She figured he would be disgusted with her and so she had convinced herself this was the best way.
Yes, Jason had been hurt, but he didn't hate her. He loved her. That had been made perfectly clear to himself when he thought she was dead. His heart had skipped a beat, constricting over the thought that he wouldn't even have the knowledge that she was somewhere out there in the world. And when he found out she was alive and no longer in Port Charles, all he could think about was he had to go see her. That's when he could no longer pretend he merely cared about Elizabeth as a good friend. He was in love with her.
Now that he knew she felt the same way, he knew he couldn't give up on her. He had to show her that he didn't hate her, but that he cared for her. That was the only way he knew she would believe him. He didn't think she'd believe his words; she'd fight him and argue. Actions would have to come first. He just hoped he could convince her.
Elizabeth continued to sleep, and he knew she wouldn't be waking up anytime soon. He stood and walked over to her, adjusting the blanket around her. He made sure the bucket was close by in case she got sick again, and that there was a bottle of water on the table beside her. Then he gave into the temptation and brushed her hair off her forehead, lingering on the softness of both her skin and hair. Withdrawing his hand, he sighed and walked out of her room.
Picking up his phone he collapsed onto the sofa and dialed Sonny. He really hoped he was able to get a hold of his friend this time.
"Sonny, it's Jason."
"Jason," Sonny's grin carried through the phone. "How are you?"
"Alright," he said. "I've been trying to get in touch with you. What's going on?"
"Nothing," his friend replied immediately. "We had a nuisance raid at the warehouse because Taggert was bored. Jordan took care of it, but we weren't able to take your calls."
Jason sighed into the empty room. It seemed Taggert was never going to give up, but the man was so incompetent he was normally harmless. Everything was handled, and there wasn't anything he could do about it halfway around the world, so he asked about what he could work on. "Have you found anything about Helena yet?"
"We think we have a lead," Sonny said after a brief pause. "But we're not certain yet."
"Hey, Sonny," Jason said softly. "Do me a favor. Keep lying for a little longer."
Sonny sat in his office; the sounds of the warehouse shut out behind the solid, heavy door, and blinked. "Lie? How...how did you know?"
"I wasn't certain until now," Jason said. "I wondered though after I found something outside the garden that led back to the bartender, Don. I know you wouldn't let Elizabeth live here if he was a possible threat."
"He's not," Sonny quickly assured him. "He's retired from the business out of Chicago. He's been keeping an eye on her since she's been down there."
"And helping you?"
Sonny felt slightly chagrinned. "Jason, I know you hate people interfering in your life. But you're my friend, and so is Elizabeth, and I'm tired of watching you two do this thing. This dance; this game you two have been doing. I just wanted you to confront it and deal with it once and for all."
When Jason remained silent, Sonny took courage in the fact that Jason was thousands of miles away. "And I won't apologize for caring enough about you to do this."
"Sonny," Jason said softly and slowly, "don't do it again. But thank you. I would have left if you hadn't done this."
He chuckled softly. "Do it right this rime around and I won't have to do it again. How is it going?"
"Don't call for a few days," his friend instructed. "I don't want to lie to her, but I don't want her to know that I can leave. I need...I need to have a few days to talk to her, deal with this."
"Alright," Sonny agreed. "I won't call. But I could talk to her, be the one to say that we haven't found Helena. That way you aren't lying to her."
Jason sighed and Sonny could picture him, worrying over what to do. Jason didn't know how to intentionally mislead people, despite agreeing to Carly's plan to name him as Michael's father. But Jason didn't come up with the plan and Sonny knew his friend didn't want to damage Elizabeth's trust in him, especially as he was working to repair their relationship.
"I don't know," Jason said after a moment. "I...I'll think about it. See if she starts asking questions."
"Alright. Anything else I can do?" Sonny asked.
"Hope for the best. I'll talk to you later."
Then he hung up and leaned back in his chair. Whatever Jason had planned, Sonny really hoped it worked. If it didn't, maybe he'd intentionally lose Helena and send Jason and Elizabeth on the run.
The single ray of light that slipped through the crack in the drapes felt like a knife being stabbed into her brain. Even behind her closed lids, it was still too bright and she turned to escape the torment. Immediately she regretted the movement when the pain was joined by a symphony of torture from the top of her head down to the bottom of her stomach. She instantly stilled and sucked in large quantities of air through her mouth, hoping to quell the nausea that bubbled up.
She knew she deserved every painful moment she was experiencing for going out and getting drunk. But she couldn't help wishing she'd been smarter about the whole thing. Then again, she'd never been very smart around Jason. If she had been, she would have taken his hand that day in the park and hopped on the back of his bike.
Why did it seem like Jason was always around for the biggest mistakes of her life? Of course he would have to be the person who came to pick up the pieces after she got blitzed. She burrowed her head into the pillow and groaned at both the pain of the movement and in self-deprecation. She was such an idiot.
She heard the door to her room open, and the unmistakable sound of Jason's footsteps entering the room. He was trying to be quiet, but it still felt like elephants dancing on her head. She followed the sound as she crossed the room, and then sat down in the chair by her bed.
"Are you awake?" he asked on a soft whisper.
Elizabeth groaned as she raised her head just enough to reply. "Unfortunately."
"Good," he said. "You should probably take some aspirin and drink something. It'll help with your hangover. Then you can go back to sleep if you want."
His voice was tender, and anything but annoyed or patronizing as she'd expected. Slowly, carefully, she rolled over until she was faced with the view of the ceiling when she opened her eyes. Amazing how that one simple act could make her feel like she'd been run over by a truck.
"Are you okay?"
"Peachy," she replied, her eyes screwed tight.
She heard him stand and then felt him lean over her. His scent washed over her face as she felt his hands brush her sides. "Here. Let me help you sit up. Grab hold of my arms."
Too stunned to do anything but obey, she brought her hands up and clasped the bare skin of his arms. The world rolled as he helped lift her, but she could sense tenderness in his movements. He didn't lift her very much, just settled her enough so that she was slightly elevated. Then he released her and stepped back.
She opened her eyes and groaned. Not because the light was bright, it wasn't, but because Jason was once again in a sleeveless shirt. One that was worn soft and sheer. It was inherently unfair of him to wear something like that alone with sweatpants that was showing a small hole in the knee.
He picked up a glass of water and a lemon, squeezing the half into the liquid. He stirred it and handed it to her. "Here, drink this. Don't gulp it, but you need to drink it all."
She eyed the glass and grimaced. "All?"
"It's not so bad," he smiled. "Besides, we haven't even gotten to the soup yet."
Her stomach rolled as she reached for the glass. "Please don't mention any food right now."
"Alright," he nodded. He shook out a couple of tablets and handed them over to her. "Here, take these."
She dutifully took them, and scowled slightly at him. "You are enjoying this, too much, aren't you?"
"No," he shook his head, his face completely sincere. "I'm just trying to help you. I've had hangovers before; they're not fun to deal with."
"How do you know I'm not used to mornings like this?" she shot at him childishly.
"Well, aside from your current condition, I clued in last night when you threw up everywhere," he said, his voice calm and without judgment.
She slid down on the bed. "I puked on you? Didn't I?"
He looked away briefly. "It's okay, Elizabeth. Look, I'm not mad, I'm not making fun of you, I'm just helping. It's what friends do for each other. Get some rest, okay?"
He reached out and took the empty glass from her, setting it back on the bedside table. He filled it again, adding more lemon. She watched him, and crossed her arms. "Jason?"
"I don't want your pity."
"It's not pity," he interrupted her. "Look, get some sleep. You're still foggy and this is no time for one of your big scary speeches or discussions."
Then he stood and headed towards the door, pulling it almost completely closed. She looked over at it long after he was gone and just stared in confusion. He hadn't acted like she had expected, and she wasn't sure what to make of it.
Elizabeth remembered bits of her conversation with Jason the night before, and she was embarrassed to admit she was pretty certain she told him she loved him. He hadn't run; he'd stayed. Jason didn't lie to her; if he said it wasn't pity, then she believed him. If it wasn't pity, though, what was it?
As she yawned and still stared at the door, she was almost afraid to think what it really could be.
No, no, no, this was not supposed to be happening.
Why couldn't Jason just cooperate and be out of her life and stop tormenting her? It was too hard to keep her guard up and stay firm in her resolve that she would do everything in her power to not draw him into her life when he was doing things that shattered her strength. Ever since that morning she woke up after getting drunk, Jason had become so entrenched in her life she was afraid she'd never get him out.
After recovering from her hangover, during which he was quietly there without being overbearing, she had unfortunately come down with a summer cold. She had foolishly hoped that Jason wouldn't find out about her affliction, but when she didn't get out of bed one morning, Jason had come to her room to find out what was going on. When he realized she was sick, he immediately began taking care of her.
She now understood why he had become sick of soup when she took care of him after he was shot. She'd only been eating it for four days, but she already wanted something else. She could only imagine how he must have felt after eating it for a month. He brought soup, juice, vitamins and anything else he could to help make her feel better. If Jason had done only that Elizabeth might have been able to deal with the situation without having her pulse race all the time. Unfortunately, Jason was not content to just bring her food and then leave.
Oh, no. Jason had become a near permanent fixture in her room. He insisted that the best way for her to get better was by rest. And since she was as much a reluctant patient as he'd been, she hadn't taken the idea very well. In fact, she'd tried to get up and leave her room. Jason would have none of it. So in order to make sure she rested, he'd taken it upon himself to never let her out of his sight.
He brought her a sketchpad and pencils, some magazines and books, and then sat in one of the plush, overstuffed chairs she had in her room. He didn't intrude on her much beyond that, instead he'd sit there reading a travel book and leave her in peace. Or as much peace as she could have under the situation. If she was forced to admit it, though, it wasn't all that bad. She could almost forget her tumble of emotions and feel that instead they were back in her studio the winter he'd been shot. The comfortable, quiet co-existence they had reminded her of that month.
But when Elizabeth became bored, that's when she was made glaringly aware of the fact that it wasn't December, 1999. When her hand hurt from sketching, her inspiration temporarily depleted and her eyes crossed from reading, she'd begin to fidget on her bed. That would cause Jason to ask if she needed anything, and suddenly she could no longer forget - or ignore - he was there. He'd get her food, drinks, more magazines, and he'd even brought in her TV one day and some movies. But invariably, during those moments when she was bored senseless, he'd start to talk to her.
He'd tease her about her impatience and after the second day she forgot her resolve not to become too relaxed around him and she reminded him of his own behavior, namely falling into the sink when he decided to clean up, after he was shot. It seemed that little by little he drew her into memories of their past. When she realized what he was doing, she deliberately baited him on the next day. She brought up something from his last visit to Port Charles. She couldn't go so far as to bring up something with Lucky, but she alluded to it to get past the memories of the time when they thought Lucky was dead. After all, Jason had called her a tease; maybe she should remind him of that time instead of when she took care of him and stood up to the town on his behalf.
But he wouldn't rise to the challenge. He merely shrugged, said it had to have been a hard and confusing time, and then changed the subject back to something not as emotionally charged. She couldn't understand why he was doing this. Why he seemed so intent on staying by her side, talking about times that she held dear and wished she could go back to? He couldn't be wishing the same thing. Right?
She was pulled from this silent - yet maddening - internal debate by the very cause of all her problems. Jason knocked, then pushed opened the door. She was sitting up slightly in her bed, and the look he gave her made her glad she was wearing a long-sleeve dark purple nightshirt. She was tempted to pull the sheets up to cover her herself, but then stopped because she didn't want to seem ridiculous. What was that look all about?
"Good morning," he smiled. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she said. "And tired of sitting in bed."
He set a tray down on the table beside her bed and picked up a thermometer. "Let's see how you're doing."
Elizabeth felt indignant as Jason stuck the thermometer in her mouth like she was a little child. He seemed to be enjoying this whole humiliating ordeal a little too much; as if taking care of her now as somehow a payback for her taking care of him when he was shot. But she never shoved a thermometer in his mouth every time he opened it. No, I just pressed my cheek to his forehead and he told me I smelled like snow.
When the device beeped, he reached for it before she could even more. Arching a brow she looked up at him. "Well?"
"Fever appears to be gone," he grinned down at her.
"I could have told you that last night, but you insisted on waiting until this morning to be sure. So," she pressed. "Does this mean I'm better? Can I get out of bed?"
"Yeah. But," he drawled as he held up his hand, "you're still going to take it easy. Don't think I missed your little excursion to the kitchen last night, or the fact that you seemed dizzy and were leaning against the wall as you walked back to your room."
Did the man ever sleep? She looked at him, unwilling to give anything away, but she knew it was pointless. She had felt weak when she'd gotten up last night, and it wasn't like she wanted to go outside or run a marathon, or even a mile. What she hated was the utter dictatorial way Jason had acted. He may have thought it was sweet and caring, but she hated the smug manner he'd adopted when he told her what she was, and wasn't allowed to do. All in the name of her health. Surely she'd never been that bad with him.
While he was no where near as bad as Lucky had been when he'd told her where to go, who she could see and what she was supposed to do, it still chafed her that he'd taken such glee, and such high-handed insistence that she listen to him. Or maybe she was just bothered by the onslaught of memories he'd awakened in her. His calm manner had only seemed to unnerve her with each day that passed.
"Alright," she asked, trying to remain calm. "What am I allowed to do?"
He smiled broadly. "I thought you'd never ask."
"My studio?" Elizabeth asked as they arrived at the room.
Jason hadn't spent any real time in her studio since he'd arrived at Elizabeth's house. He'd passed by it, knew that she'd spent the majority of her time in it, but he'd never been inside it except once. He'd felt it was better to not torture himself by hanging out like a lovesick puppy. And he had thought that she would loathe his presence, so he hadn't been real anxious to subject himself to her chilly attitude. But that was all changed now; now that he knew how Elizabeth felt.
The studio was different than he'd first thought it would be. Her studio in Port Charles had been homey, but the walls were drab and she only had that one studio for natural light. Here on the island her studio was in a corner of the house. Windows covered most of the two outside walls and the room was awash in streaming light. Somehow, it seemed more appropriate, more like what she should really have, but he couldn't help feeling a touch of nostalgia and longing for her old place.
Mostly it was because of the memories he had of spending time there with her. So he was determined to make her remember those times, as well as making new memories.
"What?" he asked. "You don't want to come to your studio?"
"No, it's not that," she shook her head, looking a bit uncertain. "I just...I figured you'd only let me go out to the couch or maybe the patio."
"You want to watch more TV?" he teased, a small grin curling the corner of his mouth. "You could have done that in your room. Would you rather go back?"
"No," she immediately said, holding up her hand to stop him from turning them around. "I like my studio."
"Good," he smiled. "However, there are a few conditions.
Elizabeth's face fell and she crossed her arms. "I should have known."
Shaking his head, Jason walked towards her. "No don't look at me like that. There are only two and they're really quite simple. First," he stepped to the side and grabbed a stool. "You sit. I don't want you pushing yourself too hard and falling down, so please sit while you work. Okay?"
She regarded him for a minute, and he could see that her first instinct was to obstinately refuse. However, the desire was quickly overridden by the stronger desire to be in her studio and do more than just sketch. "Okay," she said slowly. "What's the other condition?"
Jason walked over to a couch placed near the corner. Sitting down, he picked up a book he'd placed there earlier in the morning. "I stay here."
She rested against the stool and arched a brow. "Why?"
"Will it bother you if I'm here?" he challenged, arching a brow as well. Maybe it was wrong, but he knew that if he goaded her, that she would let him stay just to prove that she wasn't bothered by his presence. Even if she was.
"No," she shook her head, trying to look casual. "But I'll admit it makes me feel like a little kid you don't trust.
He shook his head as well, and tried to look perfectly neutral as he answered. "I trust you, Elizabeth. But I know that sometimes you lose track of time and everything else when you paint. So this is for my benefit; my peace of mind."
"Your peace of mind?"
Nodding, he opened his book. "Otherwise I'll worry the whole time and I'll keep coming by here and I'll only end up distracting you. Here I can reassure myself, and not intrude too much on your time."
Elizabeth regarded him, stared at him as if trying to discover his true motive behind the excursion to her room. Hoping not to give himself away, he leaned back on the couch and opened his book. He didn't look at her, merely flipped his book on Italy to the section on the Palio and pretended to read. But out of the corner of his eye, he could see she hadn't moved and he wondered how long she'd sit there, or if she'd say anything.
Finally after a few minutes, he looked up and tipped his head to the side slightly. "Elizabeth? Are you okay?"
She shook her head absently. "What?"
"Are you okay?" he repeated with a slight frown.
Prodded into action she immediately nodded. "Yeah. No, I'm fine. Sorry, I was... I'm fine."
"So are you going to paint?" he asked casually. Taking a look around; "Do you have enough canvases?"
She swallowed audibly. "Yeah, I think so."
"You sure?" he pressed. "I'd be happy to help if you need any stretched."
He didn't say anything further, but he hoped by the slight change of look on her face that she was remembering that winter he stayed at her studio. He wanted her to remember that moment when she got a splinter in her finger and he removed it for her, gently holding her hand. He wondered if she had struggled to breathe like he had. Hoping that the blush that was now creeping up her cheeks and the nervous way she twisted her fingers together was a good sign, he smiled on the inside while remaining perfectly neutral in his expression. All those encounters with Taggert had at least helped him perfect a straight face no matter what he was feeling.
"I-I think I'll be fine," Elizabeth stammered, looking everywhere but at him. "But th-thank you."
"Sure," he smiled, and picked his book back up and prepared to leave her with her painting. And hopefully, her thoughts. He didn't want to overwhelm her, but he definitely wanted her to remember those moments in their past where he had begun falling in love with her and he thought she might be feeling the same.
As Elizabeth placed a canvas on her easel and looked over her paints, he could sense a certain unease and jerkiness to her movements. He could only hope that this was forward progress. Because otherwise he was probably in great danger of wearing her paint palette very soon.
Jason was up to something. As Elizabeth narrowed her eyes while pouring a bowl of cereal, she was certain that the man was up to some scheme. And considering how straightforward and unable to lie he had always been, this was an unsettling new side of him. Which of course made her doubt if he really was up to something, or if she was just imagining it. Because this was so unlike him, she couldn't be sure of what she was seeing.
Yet, the signs were there. And if it was any other guy but Jason she would be certain he was flirting with her and she would definitely be flirting back. But Jason didn't flirt. Right? Sighing, she put down the cereal box and went to get the milk. Maybe Jason didn't flirt like other men, but there was a lighthearted quality to him that most people never saw because he rarely showed it.
Thinking back to all their times together, she knew he had always treated her differently than anyone else. She had seen him laugh, she'd seen him when he was hurt - emotionally and physically, and she'd seen him vulnerable - again, emotionally and physically. He'd look at her sometimes with such intensity of emotions that she could hardly breathe. There had been looks of amusement, teasing, fierce protection, tenderness, lust and maybe even a little love. She saw those same looks now, just maybe not as intense.
Why was that? she wondered as she set down the milk on the counter and went to get a spoon. Did he not care for her like she was certain he wouldn't, or was it something more? Maybe he was holding himself back...because he was afraid. She had turned him down last year in the park, when he had held out his heart and asked her to come with him. And what had she done? Spit in his face, told him she'd rather be with a little boy instead of him, and turned her back on him. Only a fool would wear his heart on his sleeve again after an incident like that. And she never considered Jason a fool.
Standing at the sink as she looked outside, Elizabeth absently tapped her spoon against her palm. And yet, even after all that had happened between them, Jason was here. He was talking to her, he was teasing her, and he seemed to be taking every chance he had to bring up a memory from the past. If it wasn't for the memory of him calling her a tease she would almost believe that he was trying to show her he wanted to be with her.
But the memory of that morning on her patio kept nagging at her. What if all this was nothing more than Jason trying to get back at her? Take her back to memories of the time she had begun falling in love with him, bring those feelings to the present and make her show him just how much she wanted him. What if when she was nothing more than virtual putty in his hands, he then walked away from her?
"No," she murmured under her breath and placed her spoon in the sink. "Jason's not like that."
He wasn't deliberately cruel or vindictive. He wouldn't do something like she was thinking, That was more like something Lucky would do; design a way to punish her and make her bend to his will. It wasn't in Jason's nature to act that way.
So if it wasn't revenge, then what was it? She jerked to a stop in the doorway of her studio. Could it really be that he was trying, in his own way, to show her he cared about her? That he might be in love with her?
A whole new fear gripped Elizabeth at that thought. All this time she had pushed Jason away because she was certain, absolutely certain, that he would never love her. He might care for her, he might pity her, he might feel responsible for her, but he would never love her. And now that her thoughts on that were being shaken, she wasn't sure of anything, let alone what to think or do.
Crossing the room, she sat down on the stool in front of her easel and stared unseeingly at it. She had so many thoughts, so many of them conflicting, that she knew she wouldn't be making sense of them any time soon. But she had to try, because she felt that ultimately she had a great deal - if not her entire future - riding on this whole matter. Was she certain enough of Jason's feelings to risk telling him hers?
And if she wasn't, did she have enough courage to do what he had done? Would she be able to put her heart out there even if she wasn't sure it would be accepted?
Jason walked out of the surveillance room, his face grim after listening to the news. He needed to talk to Elizabeth and ask her about some precautions that needed to be made to the house. He entered the kitchen, the most likely place he would find her at this time of the morning certain he would find her. Instead, he encountered a mess.
An overflowing cereal bowl sat on the counter, flakes and berries cascading over the bowl, onto the counter and down on the floor. Milk followed after it, lazily trailing down the front of the cabinets to puddle on the floor. He frowned at he looked at the mess, and then looked around as if he would find some kind of explanation. But none appeared, so he decided to clean it up before the milk curdled in the heat. Once he found Elizabeth they'd probably get sidetracked, and he didn't want to come back to a mess later on.
Once the spill was taken care of, Jason resumed his search for Elizabeth. If she wasn't in the kitchen, then chances were good he'd find her in her studio. As he reached the room, he paused slightly, hoping for a chance to observe her before she knew he was there. She was absently going through the paintings she had been working on the past four days since he let her get up after being sick. He knew she'd been troubled during that time because none of her paintings were coming out and her frustrated mumbles and stifled curses were coming more frequently.
She would reach a certain point, pause and chew her lip in deep concentration. Then she'd try something, not like the results, try again and then throw up her hands and grab a fresh canvas to try something else. He never asked her about them, not wanting to make her feel uncomfortable under his scrutiny. So instead he just watched her surreptitiously and hoped that she worked through whatever was bothering her.
Mostly, he hoped it was him that was the source of her art woes. He hoped that she was remembering their times spent together and was re-evaluating her ridiculous intent of pushing him away for his own good. He'd wanted her to remember those times when they'd been drawn to each other, unable to stay away despite saying they should, and coming so close to kissing he could feel their breaths mingle even though lips had never touched. He hoped she'd remember the dizzying power of those feelings, and forget about the pain.
Jason didn't know if he made a sound, or if she finally felt the weight of his stare, but she stiffened and slowly turned. "Jason?"
"Sorry to disturb you," he said regretfully. "But I heard on the radio that there's a typhoon that, if it stays on its projected path, may hit us. I wanted to find out if you had provisions."
She looked truly puzzled. "Provisions?"
"I know you've got a generator so we shouldn't lose power, but do you have bottled water, canned goods, boards?"
"I don't know if there are any boards," she frowned. "I know that Sonny had some stuff put in the big storage room to the side of the house. Do...do you think it'll be necessary?"
He shrugged and tried to grin a little to put her at ease. "I don't know. Maybe it will change courses, but I'd like to be prepared. I don't want to be one of those people fighting over the last board or roll of toilet paper."
Elizabeth laughed, as he hoped she would, and she nodded. "You would make a great Boy Scout, even if you don't know that that means."
When he shook his head, she explained, "Always be prepared."
He chuckled slightly as he nodded, glad that she felt comfortable enough to tease him now; something she definitely hadn't done when he'd first arrived. "Right. So, I'll go check and see what there is and if we need to get anything."
"Okay. Do you want...want me to show you where it is?" she asked, twisting her toe on the floor as she looked down.
"No," Jason shook his head. "I think I can find it."
He turned and started to walk to the door, but then he paused. Turning back around, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out the slightly worn paper he had been carrying there for a while. He ran his finger over the thick edge as Elizabeth looked at him curiously.
"I...I've noticed you...your painting..." He trailed off and frowned slightly. Why was it so hard to find the words he wanted to say? Finally he settled on, "I brought you something."
She looked a little surprised and asked, "Really?"
"Yeah," he nodded, still feeling awkward but not nearly as much as before. "I picked it up for you when I was in Italy."
Curiously she peered at him, but when he handed her the postcard he'd picked up one day while thinking of her, her eyes lit deep from within as they widened. "Oh, wow, Jason, this is beautiful."
"It reminded me of you," he said, then quickly added. "I mean, the way you paint."
Rolling her eyes she shook her head. "Oh, please, I wish. How come you never sent it?"
He scratched his cheek with his thumb. "Well, I just...you know, I needed to be able to see you," he admitted. He wasn't going to send a postcard to Mrs. Lucky Spencer. "Make sure you still want a postcard from me."
Her eyes widened slightly and before she quickly looked down he thought he saw her eyes moisten. But when she looked back up, he couldn't be sure. "Having a connection with you..." she paused to clear her husky throat. "I know it was selfish, but it's something I never stopped wanting."
"I'm glad," he told her, her words warming him even more than the night he heard her drunkenly admit she was in love with him and he tortured her every thought. But he wasn't going to push, so he turned and left the room before he tried to demand more than she was ready to give. When he looked back, she was gazing down with softened eyes at the postcard in her hand, running her finger lightly over the picture on the front. He hoped he hadn't just set them back with this move, but he needed her to know he had been thinking about her for months.
Sonny switched off the TV as his wife came into the room. Carly wouldn't understand why he was watching The Weather Channel for updates on a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean with an obsession to match the worst days of work. She would just sniff and declare he was the strangest guy, and then immediately start talking about something else.
He looked over at her when she sat down so close beside him she was practically in his lap. She only did that when she wanted something. Sex or something else, but she always draped herself all over him in an attempt to tempt him before asking what she wanted. He smiled slightly and arched his brows a fraction, toying with her but not letting onto the fact that he knew her game.
"Sonny," she purred and he almost sighed in relief when he realized it wasn't her Let's go upstairs voice, and then he frowned at the implication of all that thought and moment entailed.
"Have you heard from Jason?" she asked in what he was sure she thought was a completely innocent tone. But he knew better. Especially since she'd been spending a lot of time with Courtney.
"No," he shook his head, not even feeling bad at the lie that tripped off his tongue so easily. "Not since he called that day and you spoke to him. I...I tried to talk to him after that but he seemed too upset to talk. He hasn't called since then."
Carly frowned, as he knew she would at the implication as those thoughts sunk in. Turning to him she demanded. "You mean he hasn't called since then? Don't you know where he's at?"
"He's his own man, Carly," he told her, lifting her legs off his lap. "He goes where he wants; he's not on a leash. Besides...I think he's got a lot to deal with right now."
"You can't seriously be talking about Elizabeth Webber." Her voice showed her disbelief, and her outrage, perfectly. "She's been dead for months."
"But he just found out," he said with a heavy groan as he stood up. "The way he sounded...I wouldn't be surprised if he never came back to Port Charles."
"What?!" she blurted out, standing as well. "You don't-"
Sonny shook his head as if coming to a deep, almost painful, realization. "In fact...I wouldn't be very surprised if Jason just disappeared without a word to anybody at all."
At least, not a word to anyone he didn't consider that important. After Carly's maliciously gleeful announcement of Elizabeth's death, Sonny doubted whether Carly was very high on Jason's list anymore. She certainly wasn't higher than Elizabeth right now, and Sonny knew his friend was determined to make things right with the brunette.
By the time the typhoon reached their island chain, it had been downgraded to a mere tropical storm. Which still brought plenty of rain and wind. Which meant that Jason insisted they board over the windows and stay indoors. Elizabeth didn't really mind. She had no desire to go outside and get soaked to the skin. And she knew there was no way Jason would let her put one toe, let alone a foot, outside after she'd been sick just a few weeks ago.
A small smile crossed Elizabeth's face as she thought of Jason. Ever since he gave her the postcard, her life had seemed to change. She didn't feel as awkward or uncomfortable around Jason like she had before. Instead, a new awkwardness settled on her. It was a feeling she hadn't felt in a long time and it made her nervous and giddy to feel it again.
Her stomach seemed to flutter every time she saw him. She seemed to blush all the time. And if she had one more dream about him, she couldn't be held responsible for her actions. She felt like a silly little schoolgirl, or a nervous Nelly. In all the time that she'd fought her attraction and ignored her feelings for Jason last year, she had never felt quite like this. She thought she would simply burst if something didn't happen soon to change the stalemate that had settled over the two of them.
They once again had gone back to being virtual strangers in the same house. They hardly saw each other, but Elizabeth was acutely aware of him. She heard him as he moved through the house, or when he left to get more supplies. If she didn't know any better, she would swear that Jason was leaving to avoid spending time with her. But why would he avoid her, especially after giving her a postcard that he'd admitted he'd carried around for months because he wanted to see her first?
As Elizabeth sat in her studio and listened to the wind howl outside, she frowned as a thought came to her. For all the self-assuredness that Jason possessed, she knew he was still nervous sometimes. Especially around her. She had seen his hesitancy, and nervousness, when he held out a simple postcard to her. But she was humbled and touched by the words he said. He'd thought about her, about their time together, yet he'd feared his reception of a gift. So he'd held onto the simple treasure until he could see her, never knowing if or when that might happen.
Tipping her head to the side, she studied the canvas in front of her and felt a smile bloom on her face. She finally painted something that she felt was decent and didn't need to be thrown away. She painted an abstract rendition of Jason's postcard, and she found that the paint fairly flew off her paintbrush. But Jason hadn't been to her studio since the day he gave her the gift, so he hadn't seen it yet.
Maybe it was time she stopped waiting for him to come see her and she went to see him. After all, he made a big step by showing up here in the first place. Combined with his behavior towards her, even after she'd been brusque and stand-offish towards him, he still risked further rejection by giving her a gift. A gift which was simple, yet heartfelt and would be just as precious to her as the piece of red glass he'd given to her that Valentine's Day.
She put down her empty palette and clean paintbrush, and decided she wouldn't paint today. It would be hard, because it went against her natural self-preservation instincts, but she needed to take a chance too. She needed to show Jason that she cared about him, by risking rejection as he had. She needed to reach out to him, show him that she thought about him, that she…wanted him. And that meant she needed to step out of her cocoon.
Elizabeth turned off the light as she left the room, and the area around her was plunged into a deep gloom. The thick storm clouds hid the sun, and the boarded windows kept out what little gray light there was. She wasn't bothered by the darkness, and she chose not to turn on any lights as she searched for Jason. She knew the layout of her house, and she didn't want to alert him that she was coming.
Yet, as she searched the house for him and couldn't find him, she was ready to alert him to the fact that she was looking for him. Perhaps it would draw him out. Her house wasn't that big, and it wasn't like she'd miss him on her search. The only conclusion she could reach was that Jason wasn't in the house. Panic welled up inside her as she wondered where he could have gone and how she hadn't heard him leave. Rushing back to the surveillance room she frantically looked for any clue that might indicate where he had gone. Had he left her, grown tired of her indecisiveness yet again and given up, or had he been taken? Had Helena found them?
"Jason?" she cried out, panic filling her voice. "Jason?!"
Almost blind with fear, she scanned the monitors for the outside cameras. Most were down because of the storm and she suddenly realized how vulnerable they were here with nature raging around them. There was only one outside camera still working, the one that showed her patio courtyard.
"Jason!" she breathed out as she leaned against the monitor. Then she turned and sprinted outside.
He turned around, startled at the sound of Elizabeth's voice and the terror that it held. She burst out of the French doors and ran straight at him, her skin pale and her eyes wide. She was in his arms before he could even speak, and he could feel the tremors coursing through her.
"Elizabeth, what's wrong?"
"I couldn't find you," she gasped out. "I was looking for you and I...you were gone."
Her arms tightened around him and he tightened his own in response. "I'm sorry," he said softly, feeling bad that he'd obviously scared her. "I just stepped out for a little air. I thought you were in your studio.
"I came looking for you," she shook her head.
"Why?" he asked, still thinking that something was wrong.
She shivered. "Why are you out here? It's raining."
While the patio structure and the house sheltered them from the majority of the wind, the vine covered roof didn't keep them completely dry. He hadn't meant to stay outside long; he just needed to get out of the house for a little bit. With everything boarded and secured, he'd felt stifled and trapped. After two days of hard rain, he had to get out for just a little while.
Normally two days wouldn't have even bothered him, but everything had changed when he gave Elizabeth the postcard. He felt that he'd revealed more than he should have. He was right back to having his heart on his sleeve again and giving Elizabeth the ultimate power to break it again. What made it hard was he hadn't really been able to gauge her reaction to his gift. She seemed to like it, she was spending a lot of time painting, but what did it all really mean?
Did she still think he was here out of pity or obligation? Would she still try to push him away thinking it was for the best? Or, had things changed? What did it mean that she had looked for him and became frightened when she couldn't find him? He was almost afraid to hope that it was good.
"The rain doesn't bother me," he told her. "But you should go in so you don't get sick again."
"I'm fine," she declared. "I'm not leaving you."
He was surprised at her declaration and the force behind them and he peered in question at her. "Elizabeth? What's wrong?"
"I couldn't find you. I...I thought you were gone."
"I'd never leave you, Elizabeth," he told her. He wanted to assure her, not just for this time that she thought he'd left, but also for the future.
"I know you wouldn't leave," she said and her face twisted slightly. "I was afraid Helena had found us and that she had taken you or that you were hurt. I couldn't bear the thought of that."
Guilt soured in his mouth. While he knew that there was no danger from Helena Cassadine, Elizabeth didn't. She thought that Sonny didn't know where Helena was and she was frightened the older woman was looking for her. Suddenly Jason felt horrible for taking advantage of the situation. He'd desperately hoped to have an opportunity to show Elizabeth he cared for her, so much so that he'd let her believe she was in danger. He deliberately let her believe a lie, and he couldn't do it any more. Not when he could see the terror on her face.
"Elizabeth," he said, his voice thick with dread. "Helena isn't coming after you. You're safe."
She paused for a moment. "Sonny called? He found her?"
He could let her think that, but he couldn't lie to her again. Shaking his head he said, "He never lost her."
Confusion, then disbelief crossed her face. "What? I don't... Sonny said."
"He lied. He...I was going to leave after that first day and he didn't want me to. He said she was missing so that I'd stay."
"So you didn't know?" she asked, almost desperately in her need for the truth.
"Not then," he admitted.
Her face fell further. "But..."
"I found out after that morning on the patio."
"And you didn't tell me," she whispered her accusation.
Jason shook his head. "No."
"Why? Why would you let me think that you were protecting me from Helena? I was worried about you!" she yelled at him. "You were missing and I was afraid she'd taken you or killed you and I was afraid I would never see you. I went looking for you ready to tell you I loved you and I thought I'd lost you forever to her just like I lost Lucky. And then I find out that I was never in danger and you knew it too. You lied to me. You let me be afraid. Why? Why would you do that to me?!"
"Elizabeth," he said, trying to calm her down so he could explain and plead his case.
"Go away!" she yelled at him. "Go away. I'm not in any danger. So there's no need for you to be here any longer."
Then she turned and ran inside the house. Where she closed, and locked, the door.
Don Pitt looked up in surprise when the door to his bar opened and a very wet, and very angry, Jason Morgan blew into the room. He immediately walked away from the old ex-patriot he'd been talking to and made his way over to the young enforcer. The young man's mood was black and Don wondered what could have happened. He hoped nothing was wrong with Kristi.
"Mr. Morgan?" he asked somewhat fearfully. Despite the hardened Chicago mobsters he'd faced in his life, he was a bit unnerved by Morgan's countenance and reputation.
"I need a phone, Pitt," he growled out as he slammed a fist on the bar. "I need to call New York."
Immediately Don understood Morgan needed to call Sonny Corinthos and he nodded and showed him into the back room. He pointed to the phone and started for the door. The angry man didn't seem to notice as he began punching numbers into the phone.
Once back out in the bar he wiped down the wooden bar with careless, distracted swipes. He was curious, but he knew it wasn't his place to ask what happened. Especially from a man like Morgan. His gaze drifted to the closed door and he wondered what had happened to that dear girl, Kristi.
He blinked when Morgan's voice suddenly sounded from in front of him. "Yes, Mr. Morgan. Did you need anything else?"
"I need you to keep an eye on...on Kristi. She'll act like she's fine, but-"
"She's an accomplished woman at burying her feelings," he stated. Knowing that much from the times he'd watched her as she sat in his bar nursing a drink all night.
The other man nodded solemnly. "Yeah, she is. Help her if you can. I...I would appreciate it."
"I take it you won't be here to help?"
Morgan shook his head. "I have something I need to take care of."
Don accepted the explanation, and promised he would look out for the young woman. But he couldn't help asking, "Do you think you'll make it back to these parts again?"
"I don't know," the other man sighed wearily. Then he turned and headed back outside into the storm.
Karma had found her revenge. And had paid it back on Elizabeth tenfold.
She was miserable, and it was entirely of her own doing. What was worse, she deserved every moment of misery and anguish she was feeling. After all, she had walked away from Jason when her asked her to come with him once, showing her, without saying the words, that he loved her. Now, Jason had walked away from her after she had told him she loved him.
Because she had been a fickle, heartless woman who had not only toyed with Jason, but she had turned on him. He was right. She was a tease. She had toyed with Jason. Softened towards him, been drawn towards him, maybe she'd even led him to believe that she'd be receptive to beginning a relationship with him. And there had been no denying that she'd flown into his arms, clung to him, had been thisclose to kissing him. Instead she'd yelled at him, locked him out of her house, and had never given him the opportunity to explain himself. She told him to leave, and he merely listened to what she said. So she deserved her current misery.
Jason Morgan, honest and upright, had resorted to a trick. For her. To get to spend time with her and show her he cared about her. He'd been tender and gentle towards her, showing her as best as he could, while probably still fearing rejection, that he had feelings for her. He didn't hate her for walking away from him that day in the park. Yes, he'd been hurt but he hadn't hated her. He'd shown it to her, and she had been too blind to see it.
Caught up in her own fears and insecurities it kept Elizabeth from seeing it, and from acting on it. And now that she could see it all so clearly for what it truly was, it was too late. Hindsight was never so glaringly clear, or painfully obvious. She loved Jason, she would for all her life, and she knew she would be miserable forever. Because she would never have Jason in her life.
While he might have cared about her when he arrived on the island, she had killed it. While Jason was a great man, even he had his limits and she had no doubt that she'd pushed him beyond his. He wouldn't come back after this time and she couldn't, and wouldn't blame him for it. He wouldn't be returning, and she was just going to have to deal with it.
She looked up from her warm drink and blinked to clear her eyes that had blurred from staring at nothing but recriminations. When the bartender finally came into focus, she smiled wanly. "Hey, Don."
"You alright, kid?"
She snorted and shook her head. "No. Once again, my life is perfectly screwed up."
He frowned and she looked up at the ceiling. "Do me a favor, Don. Get me a bottle of your finest, strongest liquor...I don't care what. Then come join me as we have a wake."
Elizabeth knew he was confused, but he walked back to the bar and in a moment returned with a bottle of golden liquid and two glasses. He unscrewed the top, breaking the seal, and she was pleased that he hadn't tried to water down the alcohol this time. Pouring her a drink, he handed it to her and then raised his own. "What are we drinking to?"
"Me," she replied simply as she tossed the drink back and coughed as fire blazed down her throat.
Don sputtered on his. "What?"
"We're drinking to the end of my life as it is on the island. Just as my life before this ended when I stepped foot off the plane here." She motioned for him to refill and waited for him to oblige. "Well, my life here will be over when I leave."
"You're leaving?" he questioned in shock.
"I am," she nodded slowly and resolutely.
"It's time," Elizabeth merely said. "It's time to move on."
"Does this have something to do with that young man who was with you for a while and then blew out of here with the storm?"
Don's frank question caused Elizabeth to blush like he'd caught her making out with Ronald Parkhurst back when she was babysitting. Looking down into her glass she cleared her throat. "Jason no longer matters. He won't care that I'm gone."
The old man refilled her glass and peered at her. "Where you gonna go?"
She shrugged carelessly. "I don't know. Doesn't really matter. The point is to leave."
"Kristi," he asked in concern. "Are you in some kinda trouble?"
"No," she shook her head. She didn't care that Helena Cassadine was out there and possibly looking for her. She was done with it all. It was time to take the money from her paintings and travel to see the world. Maybe if she ran far enough and fast enough then she could outrun her pain over losing Jason. It may not be possible, but hey, it was worth a shot.
If she ran into one of Helena's minions and she was killed, well, what did it matter? She was already dead as Elizabeth Webber. She was already dead emotionally. What did it matter if she finally, truly died? Death might just be a blessing.
She motioned for Don to refill her glass and closed her eyes. Tomorrow she was going to pack up her bags and disappear. Her only regret would be in not being able to tell Sonny goodbye.
"She's doing what?!" Sonny hissed into the receiver and clenched his hand tight into a fist.
"Kristi is leaving."
Just what in the world went on down there? Jason suddenly took off and wouldn't say where he was going or why exactly he was leaving. Sonny thought that maybe things would work out for Jason and Elizabeth, especially during the storm. He knew they both loved each other, which was why he'd tried to nudge them along. He'd thought that with Jason's admission that he knew what Sonny had done, and then going along with it, that the two of them would be able to finally get things right.
Instead, Jason suddenly took off and Sonny had no idea where he went. Benny was looking for the younger man, but the enforcer was very skilled at disappearing without a trace. Somehow, Sonny had a feeling that Jason wouldn't be found or heard until he decided to contact them. Judging by the fact that Jason had taken off abruptly, Sonny didn't think they'd be hearing from him any time soon.
Now Elizabeth was preparing to leave, and Sonny knew he had to prevent that. He couldn't let her take off with no one to watch out for her, and most of all, know where she was going. He had promised Nikolas and Elizabeth he'd protect her and keep her safe, and he'd promised himself that he would take care of her. He knew, despite whatever happened between her and Jason, that he owed it to the other man to keep Elizabeth safe.
He couldn't let her leave, and he knew he had to enlist Don's help since he was the only person available. "Mr. Pitt," he said, "I need you to help me out."
"Already on it, Mr. Corinthos," the retired mobster said. "She got smashed last night and she's sleeping it off at my house so I can keep an eye on her. She won't be waking up, let alone leaving, any time soon. I pulled out my special reserve for her last night."
"Good work, Mr. Pitt," Sonny grinned, despite not entirely liking the thought that Elizabeth was hung over after getting plastered. "I'm sending one of my men there. Try and keep her from leaving until he arrives."
"And if I can't? Kristi is a stubborn lady and once she gets a notion it's hard to change her mind."
Too true. Sonny sighed into the phone, "Alright. If you can't keep her from leaving before he arrives, you better find out where her plane's headed. Understand me, Mr. Pitt?"
"Yes," the man said as he swallowed around the lump in his throat.
"Good," Sonny said resolutely. "Keep me informed."
Hanging up the phone, he scrubbed his hands over his face. This was not a good situation. Jason was gone and Elizabeth was going to take off. He picked up the phone and dialed.
"Johnny," he barked out when the guard finally answered. So it was only the second ring, Sonny didn't care. "Where are you?"
"San Francisco. I was going over some of Kristi's sales and getting the money ready to wire to her. Then I was going to head to Seattle to-"
"Forget the Seattle trip," Sonny interrupted. "You need to get on a plane and stop Elizabeth from leaving."
"I don't know what happened," he shook his head futilely. "Jason took off to who knows where after the storm and now Don Pitt called to say she was talking about leaving."
"She didn't let you know?" Johnny asked. "No, clearly she planned to slip away without us knowing."
"I think that was her plan," Sonny agreed. "But Don's trying to keep her delayed until you can get there."
"What do I do when I arrive?" the guard asked curiously. "Do I keep her there?"
The older man sighed and looked over at the wall. "No," he replied. "Let her go. But keep an eye on her; keep her safe. I don't think I have to tell you what will happen to you if you lose her or if something happens."
Johnny croaked out a hoarse, "No."
"Good. Then get yourself on an airplane and the next time I hear from you I better hear you say you're with Elizabeth."
He hung up and leaned forward, dropping his head into his hands. Threatening Johnny more wouldn't help any; the planes could only fly so fast. But he knew he had impressed on the guard how important this was. Hopefully Don would be able to delay Elizabeth long enough if he couldn't keep her from leaving. Now came the truly difficult part. He needed to find Jason.
Benny hadn't been able to locate him yet, so Sonny was going to have to take a chance that Jason still had his cell phone and would actually check his messages.
"Jason," he said into the phone when the call went to voice mail and willing himself to stay calm and composed. "Listen, man, I know you're taking care of something, but I really need you to call me. Something big's come up."
Hopefully that would get his friend to call him back sooner rather than later.
Jason stood motionless as he watched her emerge from the house. He'd arrived two days ago and had been watching for the perfect time to approach. He was actually nervous, because so much was riding on this moment. Ever since the day he walked out of Don's bar, he knew it would all come down to this. He would have to come here and deal with her.
As she walked towards the waiting car, he realized this wasn't just a short excursion, she was planning to leave. Travel somewhere else. No matter, he would stop her and deal with this. After she was in the car, he moved forward and slipped into the front seat. She was unaware of the switch until he stopped on a road that was definitely not on the way to the airport.
"Andreas?" Her voice carried through the intercom but he made her wait, forcing her to call out several more times.
Finally, after she had tried the door to no avail, he turned on the seat and lowered the divider into the back of the limo as he stared at Helena Cassadine over the barrel of his gun. She was shocked and spluttered and once again tried futilely to get out of the car. Then she tried to intimidate him by acting imperially, but he ignored her. He wasn't Luke Spencer and he wasn't a man who played games. He wasn't going to toy with her and go through years of back and forth as Spencer had done. He simply wanted to kill her and rid the world of her black presence.
"Shut up," he finally said after she had raved for as long as he could tolerate. "I'm not Luke Spencer, and you mean nothing to me."
"No, I would imagine nothing matters much to you," Helena sneered. "I know who you are. You're Jason Morgan, that brain damaged mobster from Port Charles."
Jason didn't react to her words, because he didn't care about her or what she said. He was doing this for Elizabeth so that she could be free from the threat of this vile woman. She needed to have total freedom in her life, and it wouldn't happen as long as Helena was alive.
Calmly, and without speeches or any explanations at all, he simply steadied the gun and pulled back the hammer. Helena must have realized what was happening, because she stopped mid-sentence in her diatribe and stared at him as she paled slightly beneath her designer make-up. When he was sure he had her complete and undivided attention, he squeezed the trigger. The shot hit her forehead and Helena Cassadine slumped back on the seat. He squeezed again, and blood bloomed from her chest.
He climbed out of the car and opened the back door, reaching inside to check her pulse. There wasn't one, and Jason smiled even as he rolled her over and placed the gun at the base of her skull. Overkill? Maybe. But where Elizabeth's life and safety was concerned, he simply wasn't taking any chances on this evil coming back to life.
The world hated him.
Jason Morgan was not a man who believed that Fate or Karma punished people for bad things. He knew he wasn't a good man who did good things, but he never believed that things happened in his life as pay back for the choices he'd made or the things he'd done. But right now, he was beginning to wonder. Because he kept losing Elizabeth Webber. Maybe the world was trying to tell him something.
From the time she'd walked away from him in the park, he'd tried to forget her. And when he couldn't forget her, he had at least tried to deal with her memory so that he wasn't always plagued and haunted by her. He figured she'd be happily married to Lucky Spencer, raising children, and Jason would simply have to deal with it. Instead, she had faked her death, walked away from Spencer, and never went back to him. Even when she could. She had closed the door on that part of her life, and it still hadn't helped him.
Because just when he thought that the obstacle of Lucky Spencer had been removed, Jason was confronted by the reality that Elizabeth didn't want him. He'd raced to her side after finding out she was alive only to have her send him away. But he'd quickly seen through her false claims and realized she did want him, she loved him, she just didn't think she was what he needed or wanted. So he'd set out to show her he did, and it all blew up in his face.
He knew he shouldn't have lied to her about Helena. Sonny had started the lie, but Jason had certainly perpetuated it. Because he had never lied to her, because he had always prided himself on his honesty with others, she had never expected him to deceive her. He knew that she hated liars; she had ranted to him enough times about how Nikolas, Lucky and others had lied to her. He never should have done it. He never should have let her think they were in danger simply because he wanted a chance to prove to her that he did care about her. That he loved her.
It did seem rather fitting that it all came out at once. The truth of his lie coupled with her confession that she loved him and had been afraid of losing him all came to the front at the same time. And then she walked away from him. And he slunk off with his tail between his legs before finally deciding what he needed to do was kill Helena Cassadine. And then when he decided that he wasn't going to waste time again, that he was going to go back and tell her he was sorry and that he loved her and he wanted to work this out between them, he discovered Elizabeth was gone.
She'd packed up and left her little island in the South Pacific and didn't tell anyone where she was going. Don Pitt had tried to delay her long enough for Johnny to follow her. Neither was successful. Johnny had worked hard to track her down, but he hadn't reported to Sonny yet that he'd found her. Elizabeth had learned well, and had seemingly disappeared. Jason wasn't sure if they'd ever find her.
As he stood on a corner of a crowded street in Cairo, he sipped his coffee and watched the people. He'd tried to follow Johnny's trail, but had lost it somewhere in India. He'd searched and only uncovered false leads. After exhausting everything, and losing weeks, he finally realized he had to stop. He was only going to drive himself crazy and make himself more miserable than he already was. So he traveled, elsewhere; but he couldn't forget Elizabeth.
Egypt was a place that reminded him of Michael, and her. So it wasn't surprising that every petite brunette of European descent required a double take to make sure it wasn't Elizabeth. The women always weren't, and he was getting used to it. What surprised him today and caught his eye, was the man standing halfway down the block on the other side of the street. He was wearing clothes that blended in with the locals, in fact he wouldn't have stood out at all, except for one thing. There was no denying it was Johnny, and that he was obviously in guard mode.
Abandoning his position, Jason walked around the block and came up behind Johnny. Four feet away, the guard turned slightly and looked directly at him. "Hello, Jason."
"Johnny," he replied, his eyes searching the crowd for Elizabeth. Johnny obviously had found her, or else he wouldn't be so casual.
"She's not here," the guard told him. "I was watching you today. She's back at the room."
"You found Elizabeth?" he demanded. "When? Why didn't you tell Sonny?"
"Because she asked me not to," Johnny replied, as he turned and started walking down the street. Jason was confused, but he followed the other man.
"She asked you?"
"My orders were to guard her and keep her safe," Johnny explained. "I've done that. And if I wanted to keep following that part of Sonny's orders I figured I should ignore the part about telling him I found her and where she was. She threatened to knock me out and run off if I told him or you that I found her."
Jason stopped and glared at the guard. "You followed her orders over Sonny's?"
"I was keeping her safe," he said. "I figured it was the most important thing."
Johnny sat down with great control, yet great relief, at a table in an outdoor café. He didn't want Jason to see his knees buckle as they were threatening to do the longer he stood. Ever since the day he found Elizabeth and she turned the tables by saying she knew he was there and she would run and make it difficult for him to guard her if he called Sonny, he'd been afraid of what Sonny or Jason's responses would be. He had disobeyed an order from Sonny and followed Elizabeth's wishes, and he knew that was a very dangerous line he was treading.
His hope that they would forgive him because he was keeping her safe would fade at night when he had too much time on his hands. So the fact that Jason had found them and hadn't yet ripped Johnny's arm off to beat him with it had encouraged him slightly. Of course, they were on a public street so that all could change later. Which was why he'd stopped instead of heading straight back to the room. He planned on keeping Jason in public as long as possible while trying to calm his boss's temper.
"How did you find us?" he asked as he signaled the waiter for coffee.
"I didn't," Jason shook his head. "I lost you in India. I simply showed up here."
"India was over a month ago," Johnny said in surprise. He couldn't believe that he'd actually thrown Jason off their trail.
"I know," the enforcer said, dejection entering his voice. "I followed your trail there and then...I just decided to stop."
"You really love her, don't you?" he asked softly.
Jason gave him a hard look, then nodded as his gaze dropped to the wrought iron table top. "I do. But she clearly doesn't care. After all, she left. Again."
"She's terrified," Johnny said bluntly. He was taking a big risk, both with Jason and Elizabeth's wrath, but he'd had enough of these two.
"Look, you need to talk to her," he said. "The two of you are honestly ridiculous the way you torture yourselves, and those around you, by not going after what you really want. She thinks she's not worthy of you and so she ran rather than have to face her life."
"You're on fragile ground, Johnny," Jason growled.
Great, now he had Jason as well as Elizabeth mad at him, and likely to threaten him in a few minutes. Oh well. He was climbing on an airplane after this and leaving the two of them to work things out. What was a little anger towards him?
He just had one more thing to say. He stood and watched as Jason sat there regarding him. "She also knows that Helena Cassadine is dead. I wonder who could have accomplished that?"
Turning on his heel, Johnny started down the street. He paused and looked back over his shoulder where Jason still sat. "Are you coming or not? Elizabeth wanted to go out for dinner tonight."
Elizabeth was hungry, and she really hoped that Johnny came back soon from wherever he had gone. She wasn't sure what had taken him away from the room today, a move which had caused him to ask her to stay indoors, and she was curious about what it was. She knew it wasn't a threat from Helena; the witch was dead and Elizabeth was extremely pleased by the news. In fact, she and Johnny had gone out and toasted the occasion to celebrate. It might have been morbidly awful of her, but she didn't care.
Her travels to hide from Helena had been interesting, yet the old crone's threat had constantly hung over Elizabeth. She had Johnny with her, and as much as she'd been annoyed at the guard's - and therefore Sonny's - overbearing nature in having to find her, she had been glad for the safety of his presence. She still had all the clippings from all the newspapers she could find that told about Helena's death. She'd saved them, almost fearful to believe their claims because after dealing with her, Elizabeth wasn't sure evil could really die.
Yet as the days turned into weeks and the news didn't change, in fact she saw a picture of Nikolas at the funeral, she allowed herself to believe it was true. And then she allowed herself to relax. Helena was dead, and that chapter in her life truly seemed closed now. If only she could get rid of Johnny and close the door on her life with Jason. However, she honestly didn't believe that would ever really happen. Because even if she got rid of Johnny, Jason would always be a part of her life simply because she loved him.
She kept Johnny with her because he provided Elizabeth with companionship. He also provided her with a measure of insurance. For as long as Sonny thought Johnny was looking for her but hadn't found her, he wouldn't send anyone else to search. The thought of Jason searching for her was dismissed as ludicrous the moment it entered her head, because there was no way he'd ever look for her after she'd yelled at him and walked away from him. Again. The man had his pride and he wouldn't throw it away again to come after her.
Elizabeth had resigned herself to that fact. She had lost Jason for good. Having Johnny with her was comforting at times, and at times tortuous. She had a connection to Jason which sometimes helped ease the pain of her loss, while at other times it just made it more severe. Because she was reminded of all she had lost and could never have again due to her stupid actions. So there were days she was grateful for him, and other days that she hated the mere sight of him. Yet she found she didn't have the strength to send him away. Because as much as she didn't want the pain of the reminder, she feared losing her last tie to Jason even more.
That was why she was truly pathetic. Or maybe she was just a masochist and got off on the pain. Either way, Elizabeth didn't see herself getting over her love for Jason.
The key turned in the lock and she eagerly laid aside her sketch pad that she'd been idling over, and looked up. "Finally. I'm starving. What took you so long?"
Johnny walked in, and she immediately knew something was up because her friend looked slightly guilty. When he didn't close the door and another person walked in behind him, Elizabeth broke into a cold sweat. Because she knew. She knew who was behind Johnny and she couldn't understand why. Why was he here? Why had Johnny brought him?
Johnny stepped to the side and she found herself staring straight at Jason. His hair was a little lighter than the last time she saw him, but it was shorter than before. He didn't blink, didn't move, and she felt her tongue weld to the top of her mouth as she lost the ability to speak. Her brain, though, was stuck on screaming Why?!
It was only when a door closed that the spell between them was broken. They both looked away and Elizabeth wondered where Johnny was, looking around frantically for him. Her feet took her across the room and she shoved open Johnny's door, causing him to look up.
"What are you doing?" she demanded as he emptied out his dresser drawers.
"I've got a plane to catch," he told her.
"You're leaving?!" She was incredulous. "You bring Jason here and then you're going to take off? Why did you do it, Johnny? I told you to stop hounding me about him and to butt out of my life!"
"I didn't bring him here," Johnny told her. "He showed up in Cairo because he was looking for you."
She stood there stunned in his doorway. Jason was looking for her? Impossible. She had left the island months ago. He couldn't have been searching all that time for her. He just couldn't. It wasn't the way she told herself it would be.
She was brought out of her thoughts by Johnny's hand on her shoulder, gently pushing her out of the way. "Move aside, Elizabeth. I need to go."
"You're really leaving?" Jason posed the question and Elizabeth heard the note of disbelief in his voice.
"Yes. It's time for me to get back to Port Charles. You can bring your stuff here, or you can move her into wherever you're staying. She's your charge now. Don't lose her," he smirked slightly, "or Sonny'll be pissed."
Then he stepped out into the hall and left Jason and Elizabeth alone. Together.
Twisting her fingers together, Elizabeth looked up at Jason and then quickly looked away from his piercing blue eyes. Johnny had left her alone with Jason; she couldn't believe it. Traitor. The next time she saw Johnny she was going to get him back.
She brought her gaze back to Jason and sighed. "Did you really look for me, or did Johnny call you?"
"Johnny didn't call me," he said, and even though she didn't want to, she believed him.
"You looked for me?"
He nodded silently.
"Why?" Her voice was ragged with confusion and overwhelming emotions.
"Because I love you, Elizabeth."
She blinked. He said it so simply, but there was such power and emotion lacing his words. It couldn't be. She opened her mouth several times, but the only thing that came out was, "Why?"
"Why?" he echoed. "Because I do. I remember everything about you, everything you've done, and I miss you when we're apart and want to be with you. I've loved you for a long time."
The words were beautiful, but Elizabeth simply couldn't believe he was saying them. "But I've hurt you," she protested. "How could you love me when-"
"It doesn't matter," he interrupted. "I've hurt you too. Do you hate me for that?"
She shook her head, and he took a small step towards her. "I don't hate you, Jason."
"Even though I lied to you?"
Taking a deep breath, she decided to stop running and hiding and be brave like Jason had been. "I don't because I...I love you."
"Then why did you run, Elizabeth?"
"Because you deserve someone better than me," she told him with all seriousness.
"I only want you," Jason told her. "I don't care about the past, or what's kept us apart. I think you're too good for me-"
"I'm not," Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm not perfect, and I'm not good."
"Neither am I," he pointed out.
She smiled at him as she said, "I don't care though."
"And neither do I. I only care about you." He paused and looked at her in earnestness. "But is that enough for you?"
Was it enough for her? He didn't hate her, he didn't seem to want her to be perfect, and he'd looked for her. Jason wanted her. Did anything else really matter beyond that?"
She sat down and looked up at Jason who was watching her, looking tensed for her presumed rejection. They may have things that still needed to be dealt with, but she knew that the most important thing was that Jason loved her and she loved Jason. She was tired of fighting that, and him, and running away. Maybe it was time to stop being a martyr.
Smiling at him, Elizabeth nodded and watched as Jason relaxed slightly. "Yeah," she told him. "It's enough for me. Is it enough for you?"
"You loving me?" he asked and then nodded when she did. "Yeah. As long as you stop running from me."
Nodding, she held out her hand and was pleased when he took it and sat beside her. "My running days are over. The only place I'm going is anywhere you go. I'm with you now."
"With me?" he asked with a small grin.
"Until you decide you've had enough of me and you want me to leave."
"I don't think that will happen any time soon."
She shrugged and grinned mischievously at him. "Then I guess you're stuck with me."
She turned slightly serious and said, "I know we still have things to talk about."
"I know. But later," he told her. "We can talk about them later. For now, are you hungry?"
"Starving," she admitted.
"Then let's eat. And we'll deal with the rest later."
Johnny O'Brian was no fool. He knew that if he was going to show up in Port Charles after months of little contact, and without Elizabeth, he should prepare his boss. Besides, confessing his deception would be easier over the phone rather than in person. If Sonny got really threatening, he could always delay his trip home and give his boss some time to cool off. Johnny knew he'd gotten off easy with Jason in regards to the whole situation. The man was so shocked and too in love to be anything but happy he'd found Elizabeth. Sonny wouldn't react the same.
So, sitting in the V.I.P. Lounge in the International Terminal of the Cairo Airport, he pulled out his cell phone and called Sonny. Maybe if Johnny was lucky, the older man would be at home with Carly around and therefore not be able to yell too much.
"Sonny, it's Johnny."
"Johnny?" Sonny was clearly surprised to hear from him. "Where are you?"
"I'm in Cairo," he said. "I'm coming home."
Obviously Carly wasn't with him. "No," he admitted, and braced for impact.
"You're giving up?" Sonny demanded angrily.
"No," he said. "I found her. She's staying here."
"You found her?" Sonny demanded. "When did you find her?"
This was when Sonny would blow up even more. "I...ah, I found her several months ago."
"What?" his boss asked. His voice was quiet and lethal. "You found her months ago. Explain. Now.
Johnny did without delay or pleading. "I found her and she was mad that I had. No, she was pissed and she didn't want you or Jason to know where she was going. She threatened me-"
Sonny scoffed. "Elizabeth is five foot two. You expect me to believe you were afraid of her?"
"We did teach her self-defensive moves," he pointed out. "I could have fought her, but did you want me to fight and possibly hurt her? I felt it was more important to keep her safe and travel with her while not telling you I'd found her."
He sighed and looked up at the ceiling of the lounge. "I made a judgment call in a split moment and afterwards I refused to break my promise to her. I kept trying to get her to change her mind, but she refused. So I stayed with her, figuring it was more important to keep her safe from Helena."
"You found her before Helena died?!"
"I did," he admitted. "Look, Sonny, I knew you wouldn't be happy, but I made a decision."
Sonny sighed, and Johnny hoped that meant he was softening. "Alright. I...I don't like what you did, but I understand why you did it. But I don't like you leaving her alone."
"She's not alone," Johnny smiled, knowing this would make Sonny happy. "Jason's with her."
"He showed up in Cairo. Stumbled on us after searching for her for months. Seems after he took care of some business he went back to the island to see her. When she wasn't there, he began looking for her."
"Business?" he boss questioned. "He admitted to dealing with Helena?"
"Not in those words. You know Jason. But he twitched when I told him Elizabeth knew the old crone was dead."
"So you just left them there?"
"I'm tired of their behavior," Johnny shook his head with mild frustration. "I've listened to her cry for months and berate herself when she thought I couldn't hear her. So I figured they needed a nudge, or more like a shove, to work things out. He won't leave her alone, and I miss a good cheese steak. So I'm coming home."
"Alright," Sonny chuckled. "I'll see you when you get home, Johnny."
Sonny hung up the phone and Johnny put his away while breathing a sigh of relief. He'd hoped that his boss' anger would abate when he heard Jason was with Elizabeth. Thankfully, Sonny did seem calmer now and Johnny felt he could come home and not have his kneecaps busted. Which was good, because he really was craving a good cheese steak.
It was too easy.
As Jason walked along the darkening street with Elizabeth, that thought tumbled over and over in his mind like a shoe in a dryer. He'd walked back into her life mere hours ago and the anger and hurt of the past had nearly melted away completely. She loved him as he loved her. When he walked away from her all those months ago on the island, he believed it was over completely. She would never forgive him, and therefore never love him, and he would have to spend the rest of his life dealing with that fact.
Instead, he'd stumbled upon Johnny and his whole world had been turned upside down. And because it had happened so quickly, because Elizabeth was no longer angry at him, he feared the truth of what happened. Feared that it wouldn't last, that tomorrow he'd wake up and it would have been a hallucination his mind had played on him because he wanted her back in his life so desperately.
Elizabeth slipped her hand into his and he startled slightly, broken out of his thoughts by her unanticipated and unexpected move, before looking over at her. She squeezed his hand and Jason dropped his gaze down to them, then back up to her face. "I can hear you from over here," she said with a teasing smile. "What's wrong?"
He shook his head. "I'm alright."
"Don't lie to me, Jason," she said and he winced. "I know you're worried. So am I. But that's only because I've spent the last several months, no nearly two years, convincing myself that I don't deserve happiness. And I certainly don't deserve it with you."
He squeezed her hand and shook his head. "You do, Elizabeth. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy."
Her smile was pure and beautiful in return. "That's all I ever wanted for you, too, which was why I was convinced I was wrong for you. I had hurt you, was a tease constantly going back and forth between Lucky and you."
"Elizabeth," he said as his eyes closed slightly. That day on her patio had haunted him because he had hurt her in his frustration. She hadn't deserved a cheap and petty shot like that. "I'm sorry-"
"Don't apologize," she cut him off.
"Why not?" he asked in stunned surprise.
"Because even if it hurt," she said with truthfulness that still made him hurt, "it was the truth. I hurt you. Don't say I didn't just because you want to spare my feelings. We're both nervous and sure we'll say something that will make the other person run away; we just have to make sure that doesn't happen."
"How do we do that?" he asked as they stopped outside the hotel.
"That's the hard part," she admitted as she bit her lip. "I don't know. We'll just have to figure it out together. We're both very independent, and stubborn."
He chuckled in agreement with her and she went on. "We both like to have things our own way, but I'm tired of living like that. I thought that freedom was being by myself, not having to worry about anyone else and how they felt, and going anywhere I wanted to. Do you know what I found?"
"I found out I was miserable. I stayed with Johnny because I wanted company. And because he worked with you and he was the last connection I had to you."
Her admission surprised him and it also helped calm his fears somewhat. She had missed him, and she wanted to be with him. Maybe that was enough for now. Fixing everything wouldn't happen in one night, and would only frustrate them to try. Elizabeth's words made sense, and even if it wouldn't be easy he was willing to try. Because he'd try anything if it meant having Elizabeth in his life.
He looked up at the hotel Elizabeth had been staying in and then back down at her. "So, what do we do now?"
"You mean where to stay in Cairo?" she asked with a smile.
When he nodded she merely shrugged. "Doesn't matter because won't be staying here very long."
He raised his brow and asked, "We won't?"
"No," Elizabeth shook her head. "Because I want to see the pyramids with you which means we need to go to Giza."
He laughed as he said, "I see."
She nodded. "Yes. And then I want to go to Uzbekistan to see if rains when you forget your umbrella."
His laugh deepened as her eyes twinkled with mirth. "And where else? Where else do you want to go?"
She tapped her chin and appeared deep in though, but he could see the twinkle brighten in her eye and knew she was plotting. "Hmm. Maybe...maybe it's time I go and see for myself if the light really is different in Italy."
The place Elizabeth had always wanted to go. The place Jason had offered to take her that day she'd refused him in the park. Now she wanted to go, with him. He leaned against the building and slowly smiled down at her. "I think that can be arranged."
"Then," she said, smiling enigmatically up at him, "I guess the only question left for tonight is your place, or mine?"
"Yours," he answered simply with a smile to lighten the mood from the dangerous ground they could step into if they thought too deeply about the implication of those words. "I travel lighter. I'd like to sleep sometime tonight and that won't happen if we wait for you to pack."
"I should be offended," she mock glared at him. "I've learned to travel light. Well...lighter. But if you want to spend the night the night in my room...that works for me."
He raised his eyebrow at the underlying tone that laced her words. Traveling...no, life with Elizabeth would definitely never be dull. And he was certainly up for the adventure.
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