Family Ties Ch. 23

Öand Choices Made


When the Mouse had left. Jason waited a few more minutes before he emerged from the alley and crossed back over to Jakeís. He paused to linger outside for a moment, enjoying the crisp night air. Business over, he could relax and enjoy the rest of the night. And he was enjoying himself this evening. More than he had in a long while, he realized. He told himself it was because his friend was enjoying herself, being more like her old self.

"Jason?"

He turned to see Elizabeth Webber standing there. His good mood evaporated ever so slightly. Damn; a few minutes earlier, and she might have blown his meeting. "Hello Elizabeth. Is something wrong?"

"No, not really. I just wanted to see how you were." She said. That much was true. There was nothing wrong with stopping by to see a friend, she told herself. Jason always made time for her. Lucky, on the other hand, was always busy with the next dayís layout. Or the dayís photo proofs. When they were home, he wanted to experiment with lights and shadows. Finally, sheíd lied and told him she was going to her studio. And somehow found herself here, instead.

"Iím fine."

"Are you sure?" Elizabeth was confused. Something about Jason was different; he wasnít treating her the way he usually did. It was if he wanted to get away from her. That couldnít beÖ. could it?

"I thought we were friends, Jason. That I could come and talk to you anytime."

"You can." Jason said. "Whatís wrong?"

"I- I donít knowÖ" They looked at one another. Jason took a step towards her, then stopped himself. Heíd promised himself that he wasnít going to do this to himself, not again. To his mild surprise, now he found, he didnít want to.

"Iíve got to get back inside." he said, stepping around her instead. Jason reentered Jakeís and headed back over to the pool table. Elizabeth followed him. Eliana wasnít in sight. As they drew near, Jake laid her stick down on the table, nodded coolly to him and Elizabeth before returning to her own place behind the bar.

Elizabeth came and stood by Jasonís side, looking at him earnestly. "Can we go upstairs, Jason? You know, just to talk?"

"This is not a good time, Elizabeth."

"Jason, what is this? You told me that I could always come to you, that you would never turn me away."

"I meant it, but Iím not here alone."

"Are you here on business? I can wait until youíre finished. We can talk then."

"Tonightís not good, Elizabeth." Jason said.

Elizabeth played a hunch. "I know about the woman whoís staying with you. Eliana Salazar. Is she the reason that why you canít talk to me? You donít want her to see me with you?"

"I told you, tonight is not good." Jason repeated. He didnít like lying, but he found that he didnít want to talk about Eliana with Liz. "I meant what I said. If you are ever in trouble, you can come to me. Are you in trouble?"

Elizabeth shook her head. Tears glistened in her eyes. If he would just come with her, they could talk things out. They could be together for a little while. Why was he wasting this time? She reached out and touched his arm, trying to make him understand. "No, not real trouble. I just thought we could be togetherÖtalkÖ."

He reached up and removed her hand from his arm. She clung to his hand. "About Lucky again? This isnít a fairy tale. You want to be with Lucky. You told me you didnít want to be with me, you told me to stay away from you. I did. Iím not a toy, for you to take down to play with when you want and then put back on the shelf until youíre ready to play some more. So, what do you expect me to do?"

Elizabeth had no answer for that. She could only look up at him. Jason realized that for the first time, the sad, puzzled look in her eyes didnít touch him anymore. He saw her confusion, and maybe felt the littlest bit sorry for her. But pity was all he felt.

Coming out of the restroom area, Eliana saw them. Seeing them together stopped her in her steps. She remained just inside the doorway, where they couldnít see her, not knowing if she would be interrupting them or not. Her heart sank as she saw him holding her hand. Maybe Jason had planned on meeting her here too. All heíd offered was a couple of games of pool. Thatís all he owed her. She hadnít thought about that.

They looked to be having an intense conversation. Eliana bit her lower lip. What did that girl want with Jason? She started remembering what Carly had said about her. And Jake.

Jason wouldnít turn Elizabeth away because that was the kind of man he was, loyal, no matter how much it hurt him. Eliana found herself aching for him. In the wake of that pain came anger. Heíd been nothing short of wonderful to her since her attack. And now someone was hurting him. She was not going to stand there and watch it happen.

Before she could think about it further, Eliana walked out to stand beside him. His hand is resting on the back of the chair as he talked to the other woman. When she reached Jasonís side, Eliana casually placed her hand over his.

"Hello, Elizabeth." She said, with a self-assurance she was not feeling. She looked up at Jason and put a smile on her face. "Hey, I was just in the little girlsí room. Sorry to have taken so long. You ready for another game?" Something perverse got a hold of her. Eliana deliberately let her hand run up and down Jasonís arm as she added. "Or are you ready to head back home to the penthouse?" She ignored the little jolt of pleasure she felt from the brief contact as she laid her hand on his.

Her words and gesture was not lost on the other woman. ĎBack home to the penthouse?í Elizabeth looked down at their hands, then back up at them in dawning comprehension. "Jason, Iím sorry if I interrupted you. We can talk another time." She turned and left.

Elizabeth paused outside the door and looked back in through the window. The two of them were still standing close together. They looked like they belonged together. Elizabeth hated it. A couple. Since when? What had been going on in the penthouse? she wondered angrily. What trampy moves had she been making on Jason? He didnít understand; he wouldnít recognize what she was doing until it was too late. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Eliana through the plate glass. You may have won this battle, but not the war.

***

Jason turned and looked down at Eliana. "Letís go."

"Iím not ready to go home yet." His cool blue eyes were unreadable as they looked down at her, but in spite of that, she shivered briefly.

"Thatís not what you said to Elizabeth." He said "But fine. We wonít go home, but weíre leaving. Now." His tone didnít allow room for argument. She stared up at him, eyes defiant for a moment, then, still shooting sparks she turned away, snatching up her jacket from the nearby chair.

"Fine."

Usually when he rode his motorcycle, the wind and speed helped clear Jasonís head, but not tonight. He hadnít meant to hurt Elizabeth tonight. But it was as though he was seeing clearly for the first time. He hadnít planned on the words heíd used, but he had to admit to their truth. He wasnít a toy for her to play with whenever she chose. If she wanted to be with him, she would have been. Heíd given her every chance. Sheíd made her choice, over and over again, and it wasnít him. It hurt. Didnít she think it would hurt?

But why had Eliana stepped in? What did she want from him? He was going to find out.

For the next forty-five minutes, Jason took them roaring down mostly deserted roadways. Finally, he turned off onto a side road and followed its winding path. He hadnít planned on coming here, but that was fine. This was a place that no one he knew had known about. It was an old, abandoned estate that heíd found when heíd left Port Charles; heíd found it that first night heíd left. When heíd come back, it became one of his private spots, a place where he felt safe.

There was an old garden, with stone benches and statuary and an old stone bridge where a branch of the Port Charles River chuckled and murmured to itself.

The night was chill and sharp, the scent of pine and other greenery filling the air as he maneuvered the motorcycle through the overgrowth.

Then they were through the growth and came upon a clearing. He turned the ignition key and listened as the motor died. Then there was just the sound of the river and the wind whispering through the trees. Wisps of fog drifted up and eddied around the edges of things.

Behind him, Eliana shifted and got off the bike. She walked to the bridgeís parapet and leaned on it, still not facing him.

Jason stayed seated on the bike, not moving except to unzip his jacket. They stayed where they were, in silence for a time as the peace of this place settled over them.

"Why did you do that?" he spoke first.

Earlier, sheíd had a hundred good reasons why sheíd reached out to him. Now nothing seemed adequate to say. The truth be told, she couldnít answer it herself.

"If you didnít want me to touch you, all you had to do is move. You didnít." she pointed out.

"Sheís my friend, Eliana."

"How good of a friend, Jason?" Eliana swallowed hard. What she was about to ask was none of her business and Jason was perfectly capable of telling her so. When did I start caring? "Do you have feelings for her?" Do you have feelings for me?

"I thought I did. I used to. I donít know. It doesnít matter; she doesnít feel the same about me. What were you trying to prove to her?"

"I wasnít trying to prove anything to her." Eliana shot back over her shoulder.

He didnít let her off the hook. "That doesnít explain why you did what you did. You playing games with peoplesí heads now? You know what she thought; that you and I were there together. And you wanted her to think that. I donít play games with people and I donít like people who play games either. Iíve had enough of that in my life."

"I donít play games either." Eliana turned to face him, more than a little angry. Her words came spilling out, without conscious forethought. "Look, I didnít plan what I did earlier. I just did it. Iím sorry, okay? But the fact of the matter is, we were there together, Jason. What makes you think I didnít take your hand back there at Jakeís just because I wanted to? Or are you going to tell me that I imagined what almost happened between us the night of the blackout? You wanted to kiss me and I wanted you to."

The silence was deafening.

Her eyes widened as she realized what she had just said aloud.

Why did she say that?

Because, she was forced to admit, itís true.

Putting her growing feelings into words for the first time, she realized they were true. Eliana took a tentative step towards him and took his hand again. Time to step up to the plate, amiga. Hesitantly, she placed her other hand over his heart, then lifted her eyes to meet his. "I know weíve been friends for a long time now." she said quietly. "And I donít know when things changed between us, but they have...havenít they?"

Even though the intensity of his eyes staring into hers is almost more than she can take, she will not drop hers. Eliana was afraid to move, afraid almost, to even breath. If Jason doesnít want her, he wonít give her empty words, fill her head and her heart with empty promises. He will tell her exactly how he feels. Either way, it will be the truth, something real. Right now, she realizes, thatís what she needed. Something real to hold onto.

Sorelís attack has torn her loose from the moorings of her life. It has made her question who and what she was. She is not self-sufficient, self reliant, hell, she is not even strong. Look what she had allowed Sorel to do to her. She hadnít been able to stop him. She felt like she had lost control over her life, but she wasnít going to let what Sorel had done to her crush her spirit. She could still feel, she could still care. He was not going to win.

In a sudden flash of clarity, Eliana could see deep into Jasonís eyes and see all the emotions unfold and slowly reveal themselves, all that people claimed he didnít have was there for her to see. With an intensity and openness so rare that it took her breath away and shook her to her core, she saw the longing and the needing and the wanting, all the same newly born emotions that were warring within herself.

She felt him drawing her closer, but his eyes still held hers. His fingers entwined themselves with hers and this simple contact set her heart to pounding as it ignited a sharp flash of desire in them both. Jason pulled her a step closer. Their bodies touched, and the reaction was electric. She drew in a sharp breath and felt his body do the same. Then his lips were brushing hers.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" he whispered against her lips.

Eliana drew back slightly. "Are you?" she asked softly, just before she leaned back into him.

She felt his hand come up to cup the back of her neck, pulling her to him, then he was kissing her. Slowly placed feather-light kisses, each one softer than the one before, tasting her. Elianaís senses came alive at his touch, became achingly aware of the scent of him, a clean smell of leather and the wind and something indefinable that was uniquely Jason.

AhhhÖsweet Madre de Dios, who would think that his lips could be so soft, that his touch be so gentle. Then she stopped thinking altogether as his mouth took hers, his lips parting hers and his tongue delving into her mouth to tangle sweetly, breathlessly with her own.

The warmth that swept through him as she touched him startled Jason. Even as he pulled her to him, his fingers, of their own accord, intertwined themselves with hers.

Are you sure this is what you want?

Are you?

Yes.

He hadnít known how much he wanted her before this moment. Jason could feel himself losing himself inside their kiss, breaching the carefully erected walls heíd put up to protect himself.

Elianaís kiss tasted so sweet, her full lips parting eagerly under his, the tiny unconscious sigh of yearning that rose from her throat as his mouth deepened its possession of hers kindled his desire. Jasonís arms tightened around her. He felt her free hand come up to mold itself against his throat, fingers seeking to caress his skin, rising up to trace the sharp contours of his face.

How long they stayed like that, neither of them ever knew.

Finally the kiss came to an end. Eliana didnít move away though, and Jason didnít release her from his arms. He brought one hand up to touch her face as though seeing her for the first time.

"When did you realize that you wanted to kiss me?" he asked.

"About five seconds before I did." Eliana ducked her head in a fleeting moment of shyness. Then she laughed. "Seriously, Iím not sure. I really donít think I really knew anything for sure until tonight. I thought you did, and I thought I did, but I just didnít know."

"I have to admit it, I didnít expect this. Any of this." Jason explained himself by pulling her into another soul shattering kiss.

"Me neither." Eliana said when she could catch her breath again. "So what now?"

"We go home."

The penthouse is draped in moonlight and shadows. Jason opened the door for Eliana. As she passed by him, the scent of her drifted up to him. Unbidden, her name came to his lips. "Eliana."

She turned; sheíd been so close that the movement put her into his arms. A question was on her lips, in her eyes, but before she can voice it, before Jason could think about it, he found his arms closing around her, drawing her closer into an embrace and then a kiss that made the world around them melt away. Those first kisses had been gentle, compared to this. Then, their kisses had been tentative, hesitant as they explored new territory and newly exposed feelings.

This was different. Flesh calling to flesh. Male calling to female, taking the banked embers and warmth of their previous encounter and igniting them into passion. Without knowing, or caring, how she got there, Eliana found herself with her back pressed up against the wall while Jason was kissing her fiercely. His arms were around her, molding her body to fit more snugly against his. Her arms sought to pull him even closer. She felt the proof of his arousal against the soft core of her womanhood and moaned softly as her body began to respond.

His hands slipped lower, caressing her intimately then slid to her waistband, fingers slipping inside to caress the smooth skin of her stomach. She felt them at the fastenings of her jeans. Her fingers threaded themselves into his dark blonde hair, encouraging him.

*flash *

The image of Sorelís face flooded into her mind.

Eliana froze. "No!" the word escaped her lips against her will.

Hearing her panicked gasp and feeling her body stiffen, Jason checked himself. He pulled his hands away.

"No," Eliana whispered, her voice husky with unshed tears. "Oh, no no no ...Jason, it wasnít you, I didnít mean you."

"I know." Jason said, just as softly. He cupped her face gently, trying to ease her pain. "I donít want to -- I would never hurt you."

"You wonít." Eliana said. She let her hands travel up over his chest to come to rest on his shoulders. When she would have kissed him again, Jason stopped her, shaking his head.

"Itís too soon for you. ShhhÖ." he said as Eliana began to protest. "Itís okay. No really, itís okay. I can wait. We can wait."

He brushed his lips against hers briefly before he stepped away.

"Goodnight, Eliana."

For a moment, all she can do is gaze up at him. Her mind was still trying to recover from the flood of sensations his touch and taste and feel had evoked. Then she understood. All that is happening around them is colliding with all that is happening to them. She thought she was ready for this, she wanted him, and not just to wipe away any and all the bad memories but as a woman wanted a man. Theyíd been moving towards this for a long time, but neither one of them had seen it, she realized. But obviously thereís a part of her thatís still not ready. It wasnít her fault, she knew that; still, she was saddened and felt something close to guilt.

Jason saw the conflict in her face. He spoke before she could. "There is nothing for you to apologize for. Nothing."

She let one hand come up to caress his face. "Thank you." she said quietly. She let her hand trail slowly from his face, across his shoulder and down his arm to his hand as she regretfully steps away from him. All the while, she never took her eyes from his.

The look they give one another says that neither one of them wants to let go, but knows that for tonight, itís for the best. The touch lingers until the only contact is by their bare fingertips. Then, finally, Eliana turned away and headed up the stairs.

She didnít look back. She couldnít, before she lost what little control she had. Her legs were shaky under her. When she knew she was safely out of sight, Eliana stopped, leaning against the wall for a momentís support.

"Damn." Jasonís voice came to her as the merest whisper. There was no anger in his voice. Instead, Eliana felt all the longing in it. The same longing that echoed inside herself and turned her around for a split second. Then she caught herself, turned again and forced herself upwards.

That night was the first full night of sleep sheíd had since sheíd come to stay in his apartment.

This time it was Jason that lay awake long into the night.