Plans and Procedures

AJ got his pay off with Elizabeth sooner than he'd thought. After their first meeting, it took less than two weeks before AJ got the gist of the story between Elizabeth and Jason out of her. It was almost obscenely easy. AJ made a habit of coming by Kelly's and having a cup of coffee or lunch, always being the good friend and ready listener. Talking to him, Elizabeth found that AJ wasn't half as bad as the rumors and what other people had made him out to be. He turned out to be surprisingly sympathetic to the situation between her and his brother. At first, Elizabeth was suspicious, but AJ gave her a plausible reason.

"My brother doesn't realize how his actions hurt other people." AJ told her. "I think he can't recognize the damage he does."

"And that Eliana is playing on that." Elizabeth was all too eager to latch onto any reason for Jason's rejecting her. She was going to be so easy to manipulate, AJ realized gleefully. Most women were, when their emotions came into play. He'd never met one who wasn't.

He usually came by after the first morning breakfast rush, when Liz would have time to sit down and share a cup or two of coffee with him. Sonny's Achilles Heel had always been the women in his life, AJ had realized. Him and his sanctified code and honoring women. Even that tramp ex-wife of his. She'd gotten herself knocked up by him, and what had the mini-mobster done? Why he'd just had to marry her. Now, if you could believe it, the two of them were in love. It was enough to make him sick.

Liz was all too happy to have someone to share her feelings with. Emily hadn't been too happy with the outcome of her latest plan and had flat out refused to be involved in any more of them. She'd had dinner with Jason and Eliana and had seen for herself how happy they were together, so she was not as sympathetic to Liz's problems anymore either.

AJ, on the other hand, definitely was on her side. Well, as much as AJ could be on anyone's side, Elizabeth realized that. But his theory fit in neatly with her own, AJ saying exactly what Liz wants to hear; that Jason really didn't know his own mind, that Carly was more than likely manipulating him for some plan they didn't even know about yet, and Eliana a willing co-conspirator.

AJ flattered her, inviting her to lunch and dinners, out of town, where they could talk. He even plied her with drinks to loosen her tongue. Knowing his history, she was a little apprehensive at that, but he insisted he could control his drinking. AJ had his story already prepared and in place. He made a point of confiding in her, that most of the time, he only pretended to be drunk. He did it to be able to read people better. "People don't take you as seriously as when they see you drunk. It's just a game I like to play with the people in Port Charles. But I'm only letting you in on the joke, because we have a common cause." He leaned across the table, touching her hand. "I'm not as bad as the stories make me out to be. I'm just…misunderstood." He shrugged, a touch of sadness in his eyes. "But it's alright. I tell myself that one day, Jason and I will be brothers again. One day, I'll be a father to Michael again. Maybe you and I, working together, can be the some of the first steps in making that happen. If the two of us didn't care about Jason, who knows what might happen to him? I can tell that you're so right for him."

Elizabeth looked at AJ with new eyes. "I'd be happy to help you with that." She told him. It was so nice, finding someone who felt the same as she did. She was the right woman for Jason, even if he couldn't see that right now. One day soon though, he would.

The day he found out, his timing for once, had been excellent. It couldn't have come at a better time. AJ had been coming around the corner, heading towards the front door of Kelly's just in time to see Jason, his woman and little Michael coming out. AJ had held back, not letting them in on his presence as the three of them walked laughing and talking to the waiting car.

An angry frown twisted his expression as anger and jealousy churned inside him, but he wiped it from his face as he entered the diner. Elizabeth was obviously as angry as he was, he noted. She was scrubbing the counter with a vengeance.

"Hey" AJ said, with a forced smile. "You're going to rub that counter down to the bare boards if you keep that up. What's the matter? Grouchy customers?" He knew what was bothering her, but deviously waited for her to bring up the subject.

"I wish." She muttered. Elizabeth wiped the counter dry, then poured him a cup of coffee as he sat down at the counter. "You must have just missed them, but Jason was in here a few minutes ago. With your son and her. He probably wouldn't have never began spending so much time with her if it weren't for Sonny. It was probably Sonny's orders to begin with."

"Sonny ordered Jason to get a girlfriend?" All of his senses told him that this was something important, but he let none of his anticipation show. Instead, he sipped at his coffee casually. "Why would he do that? Especially when he could have you."

"No." Elizabeth stopped and sighed. "I mean, Sonny probably ordered Jason to take care of Eliana, after everything that had happened."

"So, this girl -- Eliana's the name? She's someone important to him?" AJ kept his voice carefully uncaring, but something in him told him he was onto something.

Elizabeth hesitated. She almost told AJ everything she knew, or had guessed about her, but something inside her made her hold back. She told him about Eliana being attacked and how Sonny and Jason had been looking out after her since then. "There's something about her that's not on the level. I don't think either Sonny or Jason know about that. She's not all she appears to be."

AJ let nothing show on his face but surprise. But later that night, back in his private office in the Q mansion, he laughed to himself. He'd been waiting patiently for something from Elizabeth that he could use. And this was it, he knew it. He knew that she hadn't told him all she knew. Somehow this Eliana Salazar just might end up being the key to his plan.

He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a flask. He gulped at it greedily and his thoughts grew steadily destructive. All of them are laughing at him, he thought. Sonny is with Carly and they have his son. Jason has a new woman in his life, friend of Carly's. His anger, fueled by his alcohol, grew steadily, the more he thought about it. Why should they all be happy? Why did they get to have it all? The gangster, his ex-whore wife, his supposedly brain-damaged brother - the junior gangster-in-training. While he had nothing.

AJ stared at his computer screen. Something that Elizabeth told him jogged in his mind. If she'd been attacked, then she had to have been brought to the hospital. If so, then there'd be records and history…pieces began to fall into place and he began to type rapidly on his keyboard. It was hours later, close to dawn before he sat back, eyes red and burning, but it had been worth it. AJ sat back in his chair, toasted himself with another deep drink from his flask and laughed.