What Really Matters

A/N: Response to Father's Day Challenge, June 2010 at Road To Nowhere. There is no Jason/Sam reunion, there is no Elizabeth/Nikolas affair beyond a kiss. All else should be self-explanatory.

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." ~ David O. McKay

"You are such a whore."

Jason paused, not coming around the corner into the Kelly's courtyard as he heard Lucky Spencer's anger-filled voice. He didn't know who the detective was talking to, but he didn't want to get into the middle a situation that he might only exacerbate by his presence.

"My own brother, Elizabeth," the cop continued on, his voice rising. "My own brother."


"I guess I shouldn't be surprised, you never can seem to be faithful. You're a slut," the man spat the word and Jason's eyes narrowed. "You turn to Nikolas because you can't go running to Jason?"

"It wasn't like that, Lucky," she said. "It was a kiss. I didn't sleep with him."

"He's my brother," Lucky hissed out angrily.

"And Sarah is my sister," Elizabeth shot back. "You remember her, don't you? How you were sleeping with her and lying to my face about it? How I caught you together, several times, and you gave me some lame excuse about how you just couldn't help yourself?"

"That's not the same," the cop denied.

"And let's not talk about faithfulness," she continued. "You were sleeping with Maxie...in our home, in exchange for drugs. And you slept with Sam and couldn't wait to come home and throw it in my face. You acted like I deserved it."

"You'd slept with Jason," he ground out. "And lied to me about it."

"It was the night I'd caught you again with Maxie. I thought our marriage was over. I didn't go running over to his penthouse and then waltz back into our home and throw it in your face."

Jason closed his eyes, knowing that Sam had deliberately set out to seduce Lucky as payback against Elizabeth and him for Elizabeth sleeping with Jason and becoming pregnant with Jake. He knew that Elizabeth's marriage ended and Sam and Lucky began, but he didn't know that Lucky had been so cruel about it.

"You deserved all of that and more," Lucky said in contempt. "For lying to me about Jake. I'm keeping your secret, and you repay me by coming onto my brother?"

"It was a kiss, Lucky," Elizabeth repeated. "The first time we were drunk and I told him it would never happen again. And it didn't. For months I avoided him, I didn't put myself in a situation where we were alone, or where anything might happen. I was trying to sort through things and I wanted time alone and space. He respected that until last night. He came over to talk, said he'd been thinking; he sensed I didn't want to get married to you but I was agreeing for the sake of the boys. He encouraged me to be honest with myself, with you...with everyone. I told him if I was being honest, I...I didn't want to be with anyone."

"You mean anyone who isn't Jason," the detective bit out scornfully. "You are pathetic, Elizabeth. The man threw you away. He got tired of you, and he left. He doesn't care about you or Jake, and you're still pining for him. You still love the man who clearly doesn't love you. He was just using you, Elizabeth; he wanted to act like he was a good man. He wanted to pretend like he could have the good girl and a family, but in the end, you just weren't enough for him."

There was the sound of shuffling feet and when Lucky spoke again, his voice was closer. The contempt rolled off his tongue as he lashed out at Elizabeth. "I guess maybe he was right about you, after all. You're nothing. You're a slut. You were leading me on all so you could have a daddy for your fatherless bastards. I loved you, Elizabeth. I asked you to marry me."

"I told you I needed space, Lucky," she shot back. "And you just kept pushing. There was nothing that stopped you from being a father to Cameron and Jake. We could have been parents together without being married, but you suddenly went from panting after Emily's sister to declaring you loved me and wanted to marry me. It was sudden and out of the blue and I didn't believe it. I don't love you that way, and I don't believe you love me that way. It's familiar and hey, why not get married and be a family? We can be a family without being married. That's what I wanted, but you didn't want to hear that. I was telling you that before you saw Nikolas kiss me last night, but you didn't listen. Now I'm suddenly a tramp and a slut and I'm unfaithful because I cheated on you. I'm not even wearing your ring, Lucky; when I told you I wasn't sure, you said to just think on it and then walked around telling everyone we were engaged even though I hadn't said yes."

"So you kissed Nikolas to do the one thing to make sure I stay away?" Lucky asked. "To break up our family? I thought you wanted a father for your children, Elizabeth?"

"You are the only father they've known," she said. "And that doesn't have to change just because we aren't together. There are plenty of divorced families. How does us not being together stop you from being a father to Cam and Jake?"

"Because I can't stand the sight of you," he answered back hatefully. "I look at you and I see the whore who slept with Jason and lied to me. I look at you and I see the slut who kissed my brother. I look at you and I see you calculating how you can get Jason back even though you're too stupid and pathetic to see he doesn't want you. I look at your boys and all I see are lies and men I hate and I can't stand the sight of any of you."

Jason wanted to charge around the corner and beat Lucky until he passed out. How dare the man say those things about Elizabeth? How dare he decide that Cameron and Jake weren't worth being a father to simply because he was mad at Elizabeth? She hadn't done anything wrong. She'd simply told Lucky she didn't want to get married and the man's bruised ego couldn't handle the rejection so he was punishing two little boys. But he knew that Elizabeth would be horrified if she saw him beating Lucky, and as mad as Jason was, he knew that ultimately he wouldn't kill the detective and then he would be charged with assault on a police officer and thrown in jail. He wanted to defend Elizabeth, but knew that his presence would only tip the already charged conversation into dangerous territory. Besides, she was handling her defense fairly well on her own.

"I see," she said, her voice soft and tight. "I see. So, you agreeing to be a father to Jake was only a way to stick it to Jason? To spare your ego so nobody found out your ex-wife had the local mobster's baby? And now that I won't agree to all your demands, that's it for them? They don't matter?"

Lucky didn't respond and Elizabeth continued. "Fine. Then let's just end it. There's no further reason for you to see the boys. If you can't be their father because you're mad at me, then there's no reason for you to be in their lives at all. I can't believe I ever thought you were the better choice."

"And I can't believe I ever thought you were a decent person," he said. "Maybe Jason had it wrong. Maybe you are the kind of person he needs in his life. A lying, conniving slut."

Jason had had enough and he came around the corner, his jaw tense and his eyes narrowed. "Hey. What's going on?"

Lucky scoffed and looked at Elizabeth. "Look who's here? Jason to the rescue. She's all yours; nothing more than a replica of my cheap tramp of a cousin."

Then he stalked away, flinging his fist out to the side and Elizabeth looked at the spot where Lucky had been standing. She wouldn't meet Jason's gaze, even when he stepped closer and asked, "Elizabeth, what's going on?"

She shook her head, met his gaze briefly and adjusted her purse on her shoulder. "It's nothing, Jason."

"It didn't sound like nothing," he pressed back. "What's going on?"

"It's nothing," she repeated, looking one last time at him. "It's nothing for you to worry about. Just Lucky and I settling a few things."

Then she walked in the opposite direction Lucky had gone and Jason was left standing with his hands on his hips and not liking the way the situation had gone.

Over the next week, the argument he'd overheard between Lucky and Elizabeth kept playing in his mind. Lucky's bitter words, unfounded and unjust, and Elizabeth's charges back. Lucky went around town, confronting Elizabeth and Nikolas until Elizabeth went to the police station and asked to fill out paperwork for a temporary restraining order. Carly was abuzz over the fact that Elizabeth had been caught in a compromising position with Nikolas and was bemoaning her poor cousin being cheated on by such a tramp like Elizabeth. When Jason informed her that it was a kiss and to stop talking about Elizabeth when Carly had done worse, it seemed to deflate her slightly.

Spinelli and Sam were constantly at the penthouse, working there because supposedly their office building had electrical and plumbing problems, but they seemed more interested in discussing Elizabeth's situation than their own cases. He told them that he wasn't going to listen to any further discussion on Elizabeth. She hadn't slept with her boyfriend's worst enemy and ended her mother's marriage, and she wasn't sleeping with someone who had exchanged sex for drugs. One kiss did not make someone a slut. It wasn't long after that their office building repairs were complete and they weren't around his penthouse all day.

Elizabeth was standing her ground, even when the hypocrites of the town seemed to want to burn her at the stake for a kiss. She held her head up high, she went to work, she went home with her boys, and she was determined to go on with her life. A life that apparently wouldn't include Lucky.

Jason was sad she'd been hurt in the process, but was proud of her for standing up for herself. For deciding that she wasn't going to let her boys be around someone who didn't love her or them. That in the end, it would only hurt them more to call someone Dad, who could so easily call their mother a slut. She was right; the boys didn't need someone like that in their lives. A father should love the mother of his children, or in the very least respect her enough to not disparage her in front of them. It was doubtful that Lucky would ever afford Elizabeth that courtesy again.

It was late when he knocked on the door and he didn't want to scare her, or wake her up, but he needed to see her. It had been several weeks since he'd heard Elizabeth fighting with Lucky, but the words he'd overheard wouldn't leave his brain. He hated that they'd been flung at Elizabeth. She was good; she certainly was not a slut, and Jason needed to make sure she was okay. Or at least that she was coping with what had happened and didn't believe anything Lucky had said.

He heard footsteps across the hardwood floor of her entry, and then after a long moment, he finally heard the locks click back and she opened the door. Confusion was clear on her face as she asked, "Jason? What are you doing here?"

"Can I come in?" he asked and she nodded and let him in.

After she closed and locked the door, she turned to look at him questioningly and frowned, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he shook his head. "I came to see how you were."

Surprise, then something else flickered through her eyes before she shut it away and she crossed her arms over her chest and said, "I'm fine."

When he continued to just look at her she said, "It's nothing for you to worry about. Look, Lucky was just spouting off a bunch of junk because he was upset. It's not like I really believed him."

"That's good," he said. "Because you aren't a..."

He couldn't even bring himself to say the word, even if he was just repeating what Lucky had said. "You aren't any of those things he called you. Lucky was wrong; just like he was wrong to go around town talking about you to everybody."

Her eyes widened for a moment and she looked confused, but then once again, she shut her emotions away. He didn't understand it, but he was prevented from focusing on it when she said, "That's just how Lucky is, I've come to realize. I used to make excuses for him, but I guess..."

She shrugged and she said, "I finally realized that I do deserve to be loved and I don't have to settle just to create something I thought my boys needed. He could have been their father, but he let his pettiness prevent that. The boys will adjust and I will adjust and it will be just the three of us."

Letting out a breath she said, "I know I promised you that Jake would have a good life with Lucky as his father and…and it seems like I was wrong. But I'll still take good care of him."

"I know you will," Jason instantly told her. "You're a great mother. I-I can't imagine anyone else being Jake's mother."

She looked away, her arms crossed tightly over her chest and then finally said, "Thank you. I... So you came all this way just because of what Lucky said?"

"I didn't like him saying those things about you," he told her, his voice dropping slightly. "They're not right, and I know he was causing you some problems until you filed for the restraining order. I...I just wanted to make sure you were fine."

"Yeah," Elizabeth said flatly. "Like I said, Jason, it was just Lucky spouting a bunch of nonsense. He refuses to take responsibility for what he's done, or how he's acted and I decided I'm done excusing it. I'm tired of making excuses for the way people treat me. I know I deserve better."

"You do," he told her.

Her eyes looked pain until she dropped her gaze to the ground. Then firming her shoulders she said, "So I guess that answers your questions. I'm sure you have things you need to do, other people to see and I've got an early shift in the morning so I need to get some sleep."

"Of course," he nodded, knowing he should be going. "I...I'm glad you're okay, Elizabeth."

She looked up at him as she stopped by the door and said, "I never said that, Jason."

Then she swallowed and said in a soft voice, "Good-bye."

As he stood on the other side of the door he frowned into the darkness. Scanning the street to make sure nobody saw him, he quickly made his way off her porch and down the street to where he'd left his bike. It was only when he was on his bike that the pieces fell into place and he let go of the clutch so abruptly the engine stalled. He looked over his shoulder at Elizabeth's house, now completely dark, and swore. She didn't really think...that, did she?

Jason was out of town for a week handling business issues for Sonny, and was glad for it in many ways. He was busy, focused and he was forced to push thoughts of Port Charles out of his mind for a time. But there were times when he would think about home and what was happening there, and he came to realize that he was glad to be away because it stopped the constant presence of Sam at his penthouse and the constant chatter of Spinelli in the background. When he'd given the pair money to start their P.I. firm, he thought he'd be helping Spinelli move away from the danger involved in being the organization's researcher. Instead, it seemed to open wide the door to Sam to come into his life.

Her almost gleeful attitude in regards to Elizabeth was telling. She wanted the other woman to hurt and for Jason to think badly of her. Whether that was because she thought she would be back in Jason's life, or simply because she was afraid of Jason still caring for Elizabeth, he didn't really know. All Jason could do was recall all the times that she'd been at his penthouse, supposedly to see Spinelli, but had instead spent the time talking to Jason. Or her offers to help, that really were just ways for her to insinuate herself into his life.

Jason began to think about how it appeared to others. Comments now made by Carly, Maxie, Sonny and Spinelli made him realize they believed he and Sam were finding their way back to romance. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the appearance was there. As was the presence of other people in his life, mothers and children that he didn't push away by claiming it was too dangerous to be around them.

Lucky's words now played in his mind again, but it wasn't him calling Elizabeth a whore that he remembered. It was his claims that Jason hadn't cared about Elizabeth, that he didn't care now and that he'd thrown Elizabeth and Jake away. When he came to her house that night, she had acted…different. Surprised by his appearance, confused when he mentioned Lucky's comments, and then she became distant and pulled back. And her final words to him, "I never said that, Jason.", began to haunt him. She told him she wasn't fine. In fact, he saw hurt.

Did she really believe Lucky's accusations, or had the doubts already been there even before the cop had spouted his hatred at her. Did she really wonder about his feelings for her? Did she believe he'd never cared and had tossed her away because he was tired of her?

It was one comment though that really got to him. She said she was done making excuses for the way people treated her. Not just Lucky, but people. Was she including him in that? He let out a heavy breath as he sat in his darkened hotel room and realized that maybe she did. And he could see why she might feel that way.

The problem was, he mused as he brought a bottle of beer to his lips, was what exactly could he do about it? Could he go to her and tell her that he really had loved her, that he still did? No, he didn't think about her every day; he had to find a way to go on in his life. But he did love her, he wasn't considering getting back together with Sam, or getting together with anybody. But what would happen if he showed up at her house and told her that Lucky was wrong? That he hadn't ended things with her because he was bored or because he didn't care. What would really happen between them? What did he want to happen?

That, he realized, was the question. The danger in his life hadn't disappeared. He never wanted anyt...ing to happen to Elizabeth and the boys. He just didn't know how he could justify being with them. But then…how had he justified being around everybody else? Had he just let it happen because he didn't want to think too hard? Was that really an excuse? Would she understand, or just pretend to so he would leave?

He let out a heavy sigh and stood, crossing the room to the bed. He didn't know what the answers were, but he was going to have to figure them out. Because he was going back to Port Charles in two days, and he knew that these thoughts weren't going to go away just because he would try to stay away from Elizabeth.

"Jason." Her voice once again held surprise as she opened the door to find him on her darkened porch late at night.

"Can I come in?" he asked and held his breath when she hesitated for a moment, then nodded and stepped back.

"What are you doing here?" she asked. "I told you before that I didn't believe Lucky's comments. He hasn't violated the restraining order and thankfully the town seems to have gotten bored with coming after me to attack me for my lapse of morality. So why are you here?"

"Because you may not have believed Lucky when he called you a sl-slut," he said in a thick voice, finding it hard to actually force the word out. "But I think you did believe him when he said I didn't love you and threw you away."

He saw her muscles in her neck tense and he heard her swallow. Then in a tight voice she said, "It doesn't matter, Jason."

"Yes," he countered immediately. "It does."

"No," Elizabeth shook her head forcefully, "it doesn't. What does it serve to have this conversation? You get to ease your guilt over leaving but not pushing anyone else away because of the danger? Make sure I know it wasn't all in my head and that you were just as invested as I was?"

Her eyes shimmered with moisture and she said, "The problem was, Jason, I don't think you were as invested as I was. Yes, I will believe you when you said you loved me. Maybe you still do. But what does it matter? You still can't be with me and the boys, can you? You can have Maxie in and out of your apartment. You can talk with Robin on the docks in broad daylight when her daughter is with her. You can still be around Sonny and Carly's children and Alexis' daughters as well, but you can't be with us."

Licking her lips and taking a breath she said, "I understand that you were scared by Jake's kidnapping, Jason. I do. I was, too. I was terrified, and I blamed myself and believed that if I hadn't been selfish our son wouldn't have been in danger. But that didn't seem to stop you from being around other people. I was once again left with all this love for you and nowhere to put it and I don't know that I have the strength to cope this time. I haven't put my life back together after you left last year, and if you come in here and tell me you love me, that Lucky was wrong, but we still can't be together...then what does it accomplish, Jason?"

"You know the truth," he told her. "You can hold onto it."

She looked at him so sadly that he actually hurt. "Hold onto it where?" she whispered. "In my heart? It's broken, Jason. I do my best for Jake and Cameron, but there is a piece of my heart that hasn't healed and I'm not sure it ever will. So what does it matter if you love me? Love hasn't gotten me anywhere except alone and frankly, I'm tired of it. But I can't move on, so I'm left in nowhere land. How is that living? How is it helping me, or the boys, or anyone for you to come here and tell me you love me, that you loved me and Jake while we were together, that you still do, but you're still going to walk out that door, go back to everyone else and my sons and I will be here in this house missing an essential part of our lives?"

Jason swallowed thickly and said, "I'm sorry, Elizabeth."

"So am I," she said. Not bitterly, not to hurt him, just simple honesty so sad it threatened to crush him. "I'm sorry, Jason, but please... Please don't come here and tell me you love me when you're only going to leave. My heart is already bleeding again; if I have to hear those words it's going to be even worse and take me even longer to recover. I know you meant well, you wanted to make sure that Lucky hadn't tainted what we had. And he didn't. He didn't. But nothing is going to be changed by those words, and I...I'm simply not strong enough to hear them knowing they won't make a difference with us. I'm sorry, but I can't."

"Okay," he nodded slowly. "I...I understand. And I'm sorry. Please...please take care of yourself. And if...if you need any help..."

"What I need you can't give me," she told him. "So, no...I won't...I won't call."

He looked at her, wanting to say so much more, but instead, just whispered good-bye and left her house. He felt worse than when he'd gone there, but knew that he couldn't go back again. Not unless things were really going to change.

For the next month, Jason tried to move on and focus on other things, but he couldn't. He couldn't forget Elizabeth's words, and he couldn't ignore the fact that every time he saw her, she didn't look happy. Oh, she'd do her best to hide it, to give her love and attention to her children, but even when they were at the playground, or walking into Kelly's and she was giving them everything she had, it wasn't all of her. Her eyes were flat and hollow, her smile stiff and brittle, and sometimes her attention would wander and a wistful, almost mournful look would cross her face, until she shook herself and tucked it all away and turned back to whatever Cameron or Jake was saying.

He couldn't stop himself from watching her, from trying to make sure that she was okay, and with each passing day, he knew with a certainty that she wasn't. She was skinnier, her eyes were dim and she went through her days because she had to. She had to put one foot in front of the other for her children and she did it without complaint or attempts to garner sympathy. When someone would mention that Lucky was no longer a part of the boys' lives, she simply firmed her shoulders and said that from now on she would be mom and dad and her boys would be just fine. And with Elizabeth as their mother, they probably would be healthy and happy children, and they would be amazing.

But even they could see their mother wasn't happy. Jason saw them down on the docks one day, looking at the sailboats going by, and Cameron asked her why she was so sad. The little boy was smart and he asked questions that pierced right to the heart of the matter.

"It's not because Daddy's gone, is it?"

Elizabeth put her arm around him and tucked him tight to her side and said, "No. But I'll be fine, Cam. You don't need to worry about me."

"But I do, Mommy," he said, laying his head on her shoulder.

Jason realized in that moment what he had been trying to ignore. He was hurting her sons because he was hurting Elizabeth. While they may not remember him, they felt his absence because they knew their mother was missing something in her life. Even though she was doing all she could to take care of them, to help them, to love them and to give them everything she could, there was something that she couldn't give them, because it wasn't in her power. She couldn't give them his love, because she didn't have it in her life. She didn't have his help and his strength because she didn't have him.

"What I need you can't give me," she told him.

It wasn't that he couldn't give it to her; he wouldn't give it to her. In telling her it was for her own good, that it was for her safety and that of her children, he had denied her something essential. He had denied her his love, and his support and his willingness to share life - all moments - with her. He had simply declared how it would be and not allowed her a choice, and in so doing he had wounded her. Injured her in such a way that it would impact the small family forever. Was that really doing what was best for his son? For his sons?

That realization changed everything for him, and he began to plan. He spoke at length with Diane, called Cody back because he knew the man would be loyal to him and not Sonny, and told Spinelli it was time for the younger man to move out and stand on his own two feet. Changes were made, contingency plans were put in place, and he was a resolved and determined man when he walked up onto Elizabeth's porch one evening and knocked firmly on the door.


When Elizabeth opened the door, her face morphed into a look of surprise and she clutched the cash in her hand tightly while Cameron came skidding to a halt beside her, his chant of 'pizza, pizza' dying on his lips. "Jason," she breathed out. "What-what are you doing here?"

"I need to talk to you," he told her. "Because I realized that in my efforts to keep you safe, I was actually hurting you and the boys. I love you, Elizabeth. I love Jake and I love Cameron. And my family has been hurt by my decision and I now realize that the best thing I can do for my sons is to let them know that I love and respect their mother and will do everything in my power to make her happy and to keep her safe and to let her know that she is the most important thing in the world."

Tears streamed down her face as she stared at him and Cameron hugged her leg tightly while Jake toddled up to them and stared up at Jason with eyes that pierced his soul. "Jason," she breathed out softly.

"I love you, Elizabeth," he repeated. "And I refuse to hide that...or anything else any longer."

The sound of a car door closing caused him to turn and he saw a young man start towards the door with an insulated pizza carrier in his hand. Elizabeth dashed at her face with the back of her hand, the money still clutched tightly in her grasp. The deliveryman slowed as he approached and Jason was reaching for his wallet when Elizabeth held out her hand, gesturing for the man to come. She looked up at Jason and said, "We were just about to sit down as a family and have dinner. Would...would you like to join us?"

"More than anything," he told her, reaching out to take the pizzas. "More than anything in the world."

The End

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