An Alternate History story that germinated from irritation over the writer's ridiculous tract of keeping Jason and Elizabeth apart, wonderful insight by ladies in the Spoiler Free thread at Road To Nowhere that made me think and tickled my muse, and meshed with an idea I had rolling around in my brain for the month of October. Takes place some months in the future after Jason tells Elizabeth he doesn't deserve her or to be happy because of the choices he's made. Warning: some angst, possibly high angst.
Jason looked up wearily at Cody as he opened the office door and looked inside. "Yeah?"
"Detective Spencer is here to see you."
"What about?" he asked. "Tell him to contact Diane or make sure he has a warrant."
"He...he says it's not business," the guard hedged uneasily. "He says it's personal."
The only personal business the mobster and the cop had was Elizabeth and Jake and Jason's heart clenched for several reasons. He wanted to tell the other man to go away, but couldn't. Something had made the detective come here and he was unable to find the strength to deny himself the ability to glean even the smallest piece of news, no matter how painful it would be, about his son and the woman he loved.
"Let him come in."
Leaning back in the black leather chair, Jason watched as Lucky walked into the office at the back of the coffee shop. The other man looked haggard; not his usual swaggering self whenever he was around Jason. Without bidding, the cop sat down heavily in the seat in front of the desk and leaned his elbows on his knees. Cody peered at Jason from the doorway, but the mob boss waved his hand to tell the other man he could leave.
Once the door clicked shut, Lucky raised his head. "I...I wanted to tell you before you heard from someone else."
"Tell me what?" he asked. "You and Sam are getting married and you're going to allow the woman who watched your son get kidnapped be around him more often?"
He couldn't understand how Elizabeth had allowed that. How she had let Sam be part of her children's lives after all the other woman had done. She was dangerous, she'd gotten mixed up in the drug ring, tangled with Andre Karpov and Jerry Jacks, been shot at, had people threaten her and follow her and left the boys open to retaliation, but Elizabeth hadn't done anything to stop it. Of course, Elizabeth wasn't always in town to do anything. She was busy elsewhere.
"No," Lucky shook his head, clenching his jaw at the barb. "But it is...it is about Elizabeth. And Jake." The man's voice turned to rust and he swallowed roughly. "And Cameron."
Tilting his head to the side in uneasy suspicion, Jason asked, "What happened?"
"There was a plane crash in California."
Jason had caught that on the news this morning. Mechanical failure was the initial belief. It could take months for the investigation to sort it all out. All that was known was that the plane had crashed almost immediately after take off. It hadn't reached cruising altitude, the pilot hadn't been able to return the plane to the ground safely; it had crashed heavily, and then burst into flames due to the full fuel tanks. There were no survivors expected.
"It was Elizabeth's flight," Lucky continued on. "Her and the boys."
The other man's voice broke; he lowered his head and rested it in his hand. "She was on her way out of San Diego...they were heading to Colorado."
Jason leaned forward, his jaw slack and his hands resting heavily on the desktop. "Lucky? She...she was in California? She..."
"She was on the flight, Jason," he said raggedly. "There were no survivors."
"They don't know that yet," the mob boss insisted.
Lucky stood up in agitation. "Come on, Jason, think about it. There was a full plane of fuel. Something happened, it tumbled into the ground, it burst into flames just after landing and it took nearly an hour to put the fire completely out. There was no way for anyone to survive. Elizabeth and the boys are dead."
He couldn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it. While he couldn't have Elizabeth in her life and it had killed him when she finally accepted it and said that maybe someday she'd find someone else but she was done trying to fight for a life with him when she knew it was a losing battle, he was at least comforted by the fact that she would be alive and unharmed by his life. He couldn't believe that she'd died anyway, in such a tragic, violent way. She was supposed to be safe and protected without him in her life.
"There will be a memorial service," Lucky said softly. "Audrey and I...we're putting it together. We'll let you know when it will be. If you...if you want anything from Elizabeth's house, just call me and I...I'll meet you over there. But there's one thing..."
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. "Elizabeth gave this to me and told me to give it to you...when she died."
Jason jerked his head up. When she died? They were expecting this? She was planning this?
Standing and ignoring the letter in Lucky's outstretched hand he demanded, "Is this all some ruse? Some lie? Is she hiding out somewhere?"
"No," the younger man shook his head. "This is...this is real. The letter...the letter was for something else. I...I'll let you read it."
Then he placed it on Jason's desk and turned for the door. Lucky walking out without another word or a backward glance left Jason feeling even more bereft and confused, unsure of how to act without the detective's usual anger and animosity. Cody appeared at the doorway, glancing in with concern.
"Jason?" the ex-soldier asked. "Is something wrong? Do we need to call Ms. Miller?"
"No," Jason shook his head. "Call Spinelli, though, and tell him...tell him I need to see him. Without Maxie. And then nobody comes through that door, Cody; I-I don't care who they are."
The other man's eyebrows rose slightly at the strong command, but he merely nodded and said he understood before closing the door. Once he was alone, Jason sat back down in his chair and reached out an unsteady hand to draw the envelope closer. He swallowed hard and then broke the seal, pulling out the sheets of paper. He dreaded reading them, but knew that if Elizabeth had deemed it important enough to write, then he would honor her by reading it. Even if it hurt.
If you're reading this, then I'm dead. I always found such beginnings of letters ridiculous and trite, but in this instance, it's true. Forgive me for using such a technique.
You're probably in shock and hurt, wondering why I didn't tell you about this. It wasn't to punish you; please do not think that. I almost told you so many times; I'm not sure I can explain how I wrestled with this decision. In the end, though, I had to come back to the choice I made that day in my studio when you showed up after Sonny was arrested. I finally understood and accepted that we would never have a life together because you would not allow us to. I was ready to keep fighting, to use my diagnosis as a reason for us to cling to each other instead of pushing each other away.
But when you finally showed up, hours after I'd called you and you immediately began talking about Sonny going after Karpov and suspecting that the Zacharras were behind Kate's shooting and using this to cause problems between you and Sonny and you couldn't stay long, I decided not to tell you. How could I tell you I'd just been diagnosed with breast cancer that day and then have you once again walk away from me? I know I once told you that I accepted the business coming before me, and I would walk away if our decisions became too painful. I had to keep my word about walking away because I could no longer give you my acceptance and understanding. I simply didn't have the energy any longer. Not after finding out I was sick.
I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I knew if I did, that you would try to shoulder the burden of it, to find some way to be there for me, but I found I didn't want whatever time you were able to give me. Not this time. Not when I was sick and possibly would be fighting for my life. I couldn't accept you running off to deal with everybody else, to listen to everybody else, to take care of everybody else. I couldn't allow myself to be the one you ignored or relegated to whatever few moments a week you could bother to spare me. I couldn't allow us to spend moments together knowing you would be thinking about what you had to do when you left me. Not this time.
It wasn't spite, it wasn't anger, and it wasn't to punish you. It was to preserve myself. I decided I had to be selfish for me. I had to focus on myself, my health, my battle on the road to recovery and I had to do that for my sons. In order to be there for them in the future, I had to put all of my energy into me. Unfortunately, I couldn't spare any on a battle I finally understood I was always going to lose; which meant I had to let you go.
I'm sorry if I hurt you by letting you believe I was going to move on with my life. I didn't go to New York City to date anyone; I went for treatments. I didn't want word to spread about General Hospital about my condition. I'm not going to give up on this fight, and hopefully Lucky will never have to give you this letter. In the event that he does, please don't be angry with him, or yourself. This was my decision and I'll fully accept your anger for not telling you.
I have two things to ask of you and I hope you can give them to me. Please don't fight with Lucky over Jake. I know he isn't perfect and it sickens me to know that Sam will be around the boys and you never will, but if you decide to come forward about Jake, make sure it's the best thing for you and for him. Please don't do it just because you don't want Lucky to win.
Second, I have left instructions to be cremated. One day, I hope you'll go to that spot in Italy we were going to visit. If you do, would you spread some of my ashes there? That way, I'll have gotten my wish to finally go to Italy with you, and a part of me will always be there.
I love you, Jason. And I know that whenever I die, I will die loving you because there will never be another person for me.
All my love,
Jason dropped the letter onto the desk and raised his hand to cover his eyes. Elizabeth may have died this morning, but she'd begun the process months ago.
He could remember that day in her studio. A week after their last conversation, when he told her that he didn't deserve happiness because of the choices he'd made and he could never give her the life she deserved, she'd called him again. Her voice had been unsteady over the phone when she asked him to come to her studio. He'd tried to say it wasn't a good idea, knowing that if he actually saw her in person it would be harder to walk away. While he didn't like disappointing her, he honestly believed it was better to do it over the phone than to do it in person. She was firm though and said that she really needed to see him; it was important they meet and soon. He'd given in and was on his way out the door when Max walked in with the news about Sonny.
Erratic and demanding vengeance, Sonny had gone after Karpov with Anthony Zacharra's help. The Russian was in the hospital barely clinging to life, Sonny was arrested, and there was no link tying Anthony to the incident. As Jason strongly believed had been the plan all along. Jason had gone to the police station to talk to Sonny, he'd gone to see Anthony to issue a warning and state he was not weak like Sonny and if Anthony thought this was the time to move on Jason's territory, then he'd be mistaken and would be dealt with appropriately. He'd gone to see Karpov's attorney to state that Sonny's actions hadn't been sanctioned by Jason and he didn't agree with them; retaliation against Jason would be met with swift retribution. He'd dealt with the police, with Carly, with Diane and Maximus Giambetti along with Spinelli and Maxie. It was only when he was walking back to the warehouse and saw a light on in Elizabeth's studio that he'd remembered her phone call.
She'd opened the door when he knocked and he could tell she'd been crying. He'd believed then it was because he was showing up six hours after she'd called him. Now, he realized it was so much more than that. She'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, had reached out to him, and he'd proven that he would put everyone else before her, not just the business.
Elizabeth had exuded strength when she spoke to him; no tears, no begging him for time together. She was strong, but she was also brittle. There was a fragileness that he'd attributed to heartache, for it seemed to echo the ache inside him as he had to state there was no chance for them. She said she finally accepted what he was saying. There was no life for them, not even one in secret. There was no future for them, because he couldn't give her what she wanted or needed. She would stop fighting him, she would stop calling him, she would stop going to the coffee shop and she was giving up the studio. She would go to the safe house to get her belongings, and then she would never go again. She would love him and their son forever, but she couldn't say what the future would bring. Maybe one day, she would find a corner of her heart she was willing to share with someone else and that man would accept the piece of her she was offering. Jason had felt punched in the gut, and had walked out of her studio a shattered man.
He struggled with himself for over a week, numbed and in disbelief that this seemed to really be the end. She wasn't going to wait for him, she wasn't going to seek him out, she wasn't to ask for more. He'd gotten everything he felt he deserved and thought he'd wanted, and felt absolutely sick because of it. He would always love Elizabeth and wouldn't want another person, but he couldn't give her the life she deserved. He couldn't provide a future for her children. He couldn't believe it was ending like that for them, and just when he'd decided that he didn't want it to end, he'd gone to the hospital to look for her.
Instead, he found Lucky and Sam with the boys, ready to take them out trick or treating. Lucky was talking to Cameron about the boys spending the weekend with the couple while Mommy was out of town. Sam had started to say something about a man Elizabeth was meeting, but quickly stopped when she saw him. Lucky had looked awkward, Cameron had said hi to him, but Jason had seethed while looking at Sam holding his son and then he'd abruptly turned on his heel and left. He told his men after that day to stop keeping tabs on Elizabeth. If she was going to meet with someone else and move on with her life, then he didn't want to know about it. He now realized she wasn't meeting a paramour, she was meeting a doctor.
The trips out of town all suddenly made sense. Lucky watching the boys; who else would watch them but their father? Elizabeth's avoidance of him, turning away when she saw him; he understood it so much better. Their ending had been just as painful for her as it was for him; probably even more because of her cancer. He could understand so many things now, except why she'd been on that plane. He didn't know why she was in California with the boys or on a flight to Colorado, but he knew who would.
"Why was she in San Diego?" he asked without preamble once Lucky answered his phone. "Why were they going to Colorado?"
There was a pause and Jason wondered if the other man would refuse to answer his questions, but finally Lucky said, "Her treatments weren't going well. The doctor wanted to admit Elizabeth to a hospital in New York City and start a more aggressive treatment. She was scared because she remembered what happened with Emily and how we almost lost her. She said if she died, then she was going to make sure her boys had some happy memories before then."
Jason swallowed raggedly. He remembered his sister nearly dying from her own cancer, remembered that night in the chapel when he and Elizabeth sat there, scared and praying for her and how they both had been relieved when they got their miracle the next morning. He couldn't even imagine how those memories had preyed on Elizabeth's mind as she faced the same prospect. Especially since she had two little boys she might be leaving behind.
"They went to the beach, Sea World, the zoo, Legoland, and then..." Lucky paused and his voice broke. "Then they were going to see where Elizabeth grew up before coming home."
"Thank you," he said softly, a lead weight settling on his chest. "I...I'm sorry, Lucky."
The younger man put his animosity of Jason aside and said, "So am I. I know you loved them."
Jason hung up the phone and wiped at his eyes, understanding coursing through him. Elizabeth had grabbed onto life and embraced it, determined to celebrate and enjoy whatever time she'd had left. That was all she'd asked from him, and he'd denied it for her. He'd robbed them of time when they could have been happy, instead of always in pain. She'd been trying to create happy memories for her sons and had died with them by her side.
All he had for recent memories were her tears and her disappointments as he constantly let her down. She had been frightened and he never knew it because she hid it from him, not allowing him the opportunity to help her and share her burden. She had always tried to support him; when he took over the mob, when he fought with Sonny, and he knew the unsigned condolence card that was found inside the coffee shop after Sonny's funeral came from her. When Sonny had been gunned down and Jason went looking for his killer, eliminating the Zacharra family and the Lansings and sending the remnants of Karpov's men out of town to regroup elsewhere after their boss' death, she had still thought of him. In the middle of her own battle, she had supported him in his, and he'd never taken the time to thank her.
He'd lost that chance, and would have to live with his regrets now for the rest of his life. He couldn't make this better for Elizabeth, he couldn't change what happened to her or her sons, and he could never tell her he was sorry for how he'd hurt her. The only thing he could do was honor her last request, and one day take her to Italy.
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