A continuation of my flash fic, A Distinguished Gentleman. The story picks up right where the "prologue" left off. For this story, forget what the show says about Jason. Jason is not a Quartermaine, he is solely a Morgan. Think of him as a brand new character. Other than that, things should be explained as the story progresses.
Jason Morgan blinked at the woman before him, certain he'd heard wrong; Elizabeth Webber could not be in labor in his hotel room. But as she gasped, clasped her stomach with her ringless left hand, and then doubled over, he began to realize that it looked very much like she was indeed in labor. She wobbled on her feet, her arm flailing for purchase on anything to keep her up, and he snapped out of his frozen trance and reached out to help. She latched onto his arm with surprising strength and looked up at him.
"I think I need to go to the hospital," she gasped out.
"Okay," he nodded, looking over at the phone. He didn't just think she did, he knew she did. "Do you want me to call an ambulance?"
The waitress he'd only seen earlier that night, had only spoken to less than half an hour prior, shook her head. "No. I can make it to the hospital if you call me a cab." She took a deep breath. "My water hasn't broken yet, there really isn't a rush."
He peered down at the top of her head. "A cab? I am not sending you off in a cab by yourself to the hospital."
"I'll be fine. It was my original plan anyways," she tried to assure him.
He wasn't going to hear any of it. "Can you walk?"
"Can you walk," he repeated, "or do you need help?"
"I can walk," she told him, her voice slightly unsure.
"Good," he nodded, leading her towards the door while holding her up. He snagged his wallet and keys from the table where he'd placed them when he first returned to his room and jammed them in his pocket. "Let's go."
Halfway down the longest elevator trip of his life, another contraction hit Elizabeth and he held her up under her arms while she deep-breathed her way through it. Her eyes were closed and her face tensed, but she didn't yell out as he'd expected from any TV show or movie he'd ever seen of someone unexpectedly going into labor. Finally, her face relaxed and she let out a slow, deep breath and sagged against him slightly.
"I'm okay," she assured him after a moment.
"Alright," he nodded, not too sure that he was okay. But he managed to catch the elevator door before it closed and walked them through the underground garage towards his car. Pressing the button on his keychain, he popped the locks and reached out, opening the door for her.
"Get in," he told her, but she balked. Didn't move. "Elizabeth?"
"Those are leather seats."
He frowned down at them, then over at her. She was in labor and she was going to lecture him about killing a cow for his seats? "Yes."
"I can't sit on those."
"Look, I'm sorry if you're offended. Tell me all about it after you're at the hospital. Just get in the car."
"I don't want to ruin your car," she tried to step away from him. "Just call me a cab."
"Get in the car," he told her. "I'm not waiting for a cab to arrive when we have a perfectly good, probably better, car right here."
"What if my water breaks?" she tried to argue, and still tried to back away but he wasn't letting go of her arm.
"Then it breaks," he shrugged, not seeing what the problem was. "I don't care about the interior of the car; I want to get you to the hospital."
He glanced down at his watch and wondered how long they had until she had another contraction. He would really like to be on the way to the hospital when that happened. So what if her water broke? What was a car seat in comparison to a new baby about to be born?
"Ms. Webber," he said, inflecting a hint of authority into his voice which he suspected would help her change her mind. "Get in the car so your baby can be born in a hospital and not here in the garage."
Jason breathed out a sigh of relief when she stopped fighting him and moved towards the car. He made sure she was in and secured with the seat belt, then nearly slipped on the concrete as he sprinted in slick-soled shoes around to the driver's side. He was already backing out of the space before he had his seatbelt clicked into place.
"Slow down," she murmured, just before she gripped the door handle and her face screwed up in a contraction. He knew she wouldn't say anything more while she was concentrating on her breathing, but he heeded her command and got himself and the car under control. Getting them in a wreck would accomplish nothing.
By the time they reached the street level, he was feeling calmer and Elizabeth was beginning to release the arm rest. He paused for a minute, trying to remember the layout of Port Charles from his few times in town, then finally decided he needed to turn left. She could probably direct him how to get to General Hospital, but he didn't want her to have to give him instructions while she was focused on pain control.
Thankfully he only turned wrong once, and that was when Elizabeth had gasped as a contraction hit her and he took his eyes off the road to make sure she was alright since it was the first sound she'd made during the whole ordeal. He expected to see that her water had broken, but it must have just been a stronger contraction because her face was more pinched in concentration. He pulled up in front of the hospital, after she insisted they didn't need to go to the ER, and he would have left the car where it was except for a valet coming forward. He tossed the keys to the man, even as he scoffed internally at a valet at a hospital like it was a fancy restaurant or something. But the whole thing was quickly forgotten as he walked Elizabeth into the hospital, found someone to help them, and got her situated in a wheelchair.
Following beside her while an orderly pushed the chair, he held her hand, encouraging her quietly and telling her that it would all be fine because she was at the hospital now. She smiled up at him, looking a little tired and a little nervous and quietly said, "Thank you, Jason. I appreciate you bringing me here."
He gave her hand a squeeze, and was glad she was still remembering his admonishment from the car to call him Jason - somehow Mr. Morgan seemed incredibly formal as he holding her hand through a contraction. He nodded gently, "You're welcome."
When they reached the maternity floor, a nurse came forward and took control of the wheelchair, pushing Elizabeth into a room while he stood in the hallway suddenly feeling lost. He'd been completely focused on getting Elizabeth Webber to the hospital, and now that she was on the other side of the door in the safe hands of doctors and nurses he didn't quite know what to do with himself. Did he just turn around and go back to his hotel and act like the whole thing never happened? Did he stick around and wait for news on a stranger and her baby? That felt like an odd thing to do, yet so did leaving.
"There you are," a different nurse than the one who had wheeled Elizabeth away suddenly appeared at Jason's elbow. "Come with me."
"What?" he blinked.
"Come with me," she repeated. "I'll show you where you can go."
Ned Ashton stepped off the elevator on the fourth floor and sighed. How did he get himself into these things? He had his own company, had given up his position on the ELQ board because he'd grown tired of the constant fighting within the family and the blackmail tactics by his own mother and grandfather. He had never gotten involved in the hospital board business because he had L&B to run, and he simply didn't want to be involved in the medical bureaucracy. Yet here he was looking for his uncle, the Chief of Staff.
All because his grandmother asked him after their dinner together tonight to deliver some files and messages to her son. He could never deny Lila anything, and she was the only reason he hadn't sold his stock in the family company and broken ties with the nuts completely. But he was becoming increasingly irritated because Alan wasn't anywhere he was supposed to be. His secretary wasn't at her desk, or had left for the evening considering it was after 11 at night, and a passing nurse who bothered to stop and answer his questions had started him on a wild goose chase over the hospital. Every time he got to a floor one hospital worker was certain they'd seen the doctor, he was no where to be found and someone else was sure he was on a different floor or in a different department. Alan wasn't answering any of his pages so either he just wasn't bothering to answer them, or he was somewhere else and wasn't even hearing them. All in all, Ned was ready to give up and tell his grandmother that he'd tried, but his uncle was nowhere to be found.
Just as he was ready to go back to the elevators, he saw Jason Morgan. He knew his friend was in town; they'd been exchanging phone messages for several days but hadn't yet connected. Ned frowned, wondering why Jason was at the hospital at this time of night, but shrugged and started across the lobby towards the younger man. If he couldn't find Alan, at least the trip wouldn't be a total waste since he could catch up with his friend.
He was just about to call out to Jason when a nurse came up to him and said something to the blond. His friend followed after the woman, and Ned watched with furrowed brows wondering with renewed curiosity why Jason was not only at General Hospital, but had just followed a nurse into a maternity room.
Elizabeth was changed into a well-worn, soft, but thankfully not too thin, cotton gown and was lying in bed with monitors attached to her stomach. One measured the baby's heartbeat, which was strong and steady and reassuring, and one measured the frequency and strength of her contractions. She really didn't need a machine to tell her they were getting stronger and closer together.
The nurse lowered the sheet back over her legs and stripped off her gloves. "You're eighty percent effaced and four centimeters dilated. You're doing good."
"Do I have time for an epidural?" she asked as she felt a contraction building. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly while closing her eyes and trying to think of something soothing.
Now that she was no longer in a stranger's car as he sped towards the hospital, she thought it might be easier to deal with the pain. She just needed to relax and focus on the breathing techniques she'd practiced. That didn't mean she was going to try and go through this whole process without the benefit of modern medicine. Oh, no. As her boss Bobbie Spencer liked to say, better living through chemistry. This was no longer the day and age of laboring in the field and giving birth in a rice paddy, and Elizabeth was going to take full advantage of the wonders of pain relief.
The nurse chuckled slightly as she finished making notes on Elizabeth's chart and walked over to check the blood pressure cuff on the brunette's arm. "Yes, you still have time. I'll make the call and the anesthesiologist should be here soon."
"Thank you," Elizabeth smiled with relief as she released her grip on the bed rail and shifted on the bed to find a slightly more comfortable position.
"You're doing great," the nurse smiled encouragingly. "I can get you some ice chips and send them in with Dad."
"Dad?" Elizabeth parroted in confusion, but the nurse was already leaving the room. There was no dad around to send in.
The door opened a moment later and she looked up, expecting to find her nurse, but instead saw a bewildered looking Jason Morgan in scrubs walk in holding a Styrofoam cup. She squinted at him, her expression matching his. "Ja-Jason?"
"I...uh..." he paused halfway across the room and shot a look over his shoulder. "Joy...your nurse...she told me to bring you these."
He slowly walked towards her and set the cup down on the plastic table beside her. "I think there's been a mistake. This nurse grabbed my arm and led me to a room where I could change. She..." He trailed off and looked at his shoes. "She thinks I'm the father. She told me lots of dads love being in the delivery room, even if they're a little nervous."
"Dad," Elizabeth said softly, now understanding what her nurse had meant.
"I didn't tell her I was, I swear," he quickly tried to assure her.
"Relax," she shook her head. "They probably just assumed since you brought me in and were looking all nervous."
He chuckled and she gave a fleeting smile. "I'll tell them and you can go. Thank you for caring enough to drive a stranger to the hospital."
"You're welcome." He seemed to relax slightly and he looked around the hospital room, then back at her. "Is there anybody I can call for you? I know you said the...uh, the father's not around, but is there a friend? A birthing coach or someone you want here?"
"No," she shook her head slowly. "My boss at the diner is also a nurse here and she said she'd come in when I went into labor. But her son got hurt a couple of days ago at summer camp so she's not in town."
"Well, how 'bout another friend?" he asked. "Someone at least to come sit with you so you're not alone."
"I don't really have a lot of friends," she told him and hoped she didn't sound too pathetic. "Most of my friends were friends of my boyfriend's that we went out to bars with and when I got pregnant...they all kinda faded away with him. It was okay since I began working a lot of hours to start saving money. And my co-workers are in high school or college...I'm sure the last thing they want to do is sit in a hospital room in the middle of the night. But thank you for offering. I knew I'd be alone, I'm sure the nurses will get me through me just fine."
There, hopefully that sounded confident and brave enough and wouldn't show that she really lamented the fact that Lucas had gotten hurt and Bobbie wouldn't be around. But instead of taking his out, Jason Morgan grabbed a chair and brought it closer to her bedside. "Well, I don't have any place that I need to be. So if you feel like some company..."
She opened her mouth to say no, that she couldn't ask that of him, that she wasn't sure she wanted him there. Having him drive her to the hospital was one thing, sitting in her labor room was something completely different. But a contraction hit her and she opened her eyes wide on a gasp, "Oh!"
Not quite sure how it happened, she ended up with his hand in hers and his other hand was rubbing soothingly over her arm. As she blew out a cleansing breath at the end of the contraction she closed her eyes and leaned back against the pillows. That contraction was stronger than any of the previous ones and she really hoped the doctor got here soon with her epidural.
"You alright?" Jason asked softly, trying not to intrude too greatly on her moment.
Slowly she opened her eyes and realized she was still holding his hand. She quickly released it and nodded. "Yeah. I'm okay. It was just strong and I wasn't paying attention to the build up."
He wiggled his fingers teasingly with a laugh. "I felt it."
"Sorry," she blushed slightly as she dipped her head.
He shook away her apology. "Don't worry about it."
She blew out a breath and looked over at the door, then at the monitor where she could see the graph paper cascading onto the floor. By the lines on the printout she could see the contraction was definitely stronger. Suddenly she felt scared and didn't want to be alone to go through another one like that by herself. Maybe if he just stayed until her epidural...
"Jason?" she asked, her voice a little hesitant and uncertain. "Do...would you mind staying at least until the anesthesiologist arrives?"
He looked her square in the eye and nodded solemnly. "I'll stay as long as you want."
"Could you talk to me?"
Jason cleared his throat and looked up at her, "What?"
"It's too quiet," she said, shifting on the bed slightly. The faint din of people in the hallway and pages over the intercom drifted in through the closed door, but they were too far away. "Your voice helped when we were in the car."
"I wasn't even aware of what I saying half the time," he chuckled. "I was a little nervous."
"So was I," she admitted. "But your voice helped, gave me something to focus on."
"I'm sure the anesthesiologist will be here soon. I could ask the nurse."
She squeezed the hand she'd been holding for the past twenty minutes and five contractions tighter when she thought he was going to let go. "Don't go," she pleaded. "I'm sure the doctor will be here soon. I..."
"You want me to talk," he smiled. "About what?"
"I don't know," she shrugged with one shoulder. "Anything."
She never thought she'd see a billionaire stammer; Elizabeth thought they were all pompous windbags like Donald Trump or Jasper Jacks who could bluster on about anything and everything. Maybe what he needed was to talk about himself - probably his favorite subject. "Tell me about yourself."
He frowned, "What?'
She could feel a contraction building and took a deep breath. "Why are you here in Port Charles?"
"I came to Port Charles because my friend Ned lives here. Ned Ashton...I don't know if you've heard of him." She almost chuckled, but focused on breathing instead. Of course she'd heard of the Quartermaine grandson. But she stayed quiet and took another deep breath through her nose and concentrated on letting it out slowly. "He keeps telling me that this is a great town, and I've been growing tired of traveling. I'm tired of New York City and the social pariahs trying to sink their claws into me, so I thought I'd come up here. Look around for more than just an hour or two, see if I liked the town enough to stay, maybe move my corporate headquarters up here."
"Hmmm," she murmured as the contraction lessened. "How'd you meet Ned? Country club mixer?"
"Breast cancer fundraiser," he rebutted softly. "My mom died of breast cancer after I graduated from college. His aunt and cousin are both survivors. We were both there to support the cause, and met as we were trying to get the bartender to get us a beer to offset those silly little hors d'ouevres."
"I'm sorry about your mom," she said softly. "You and your dad must miss her."
He shifted and slid his hand over hers slightly. "I...I never knew my dad. When my mom told her boyfriend she was pregnant, he split. So it was just the two of us."
Just like her and her baby. She felt bad for judging him and Jason looked at her and must have read her mind because he gave her a reassuring smile and squeezed her hand briefly. "She was great, though. Never was bitter or complained. I knew she loved me and she did her best to give me everything I needed. Sometimes I think it was harder on her that we lived in a rented trailer than it was on me, because she wanted better. She signed me up for a Big Brother so I could have a man in my life, felt it was important. Kids are resilient, Elizabeth, and they don't need fancy clothes or toys. Society guilts parents into thinking all that's necessary. What kids need most is love. Give them that and that's the most important thing."
She looked up at him, mesmerized and calmed by his voice. She was also surprised by his story. Single mom, living in a trailer. Hoping her cheeks wouldn't flush with the embarrassment she felt, she felt chagrinned that she had lumped in with the same born-with-a-silver-spoon category as Ned and Jasper Jacks just because he knew the Quartermaine grandson.
"After she died," he continued on, oblivious to the thoughts swirling around in Elizabeth's head, "I threw myself into my business idea. I'd gotten a business degree and kept in touch with my Big Brother who quickly became my mentor. He floated me a loan when all the banks refused to give me one; they all said my business idea was too risky, likely to fail."
"You proved them wrong," she chuckled, knowing from his appearances on Oprah and 20/20 that he had made quite a name for himself.
His deep laugh mingled in the room with hers. "Yeah, I guess. All I wanted to do was honor my mom since she always believed in me and didn't get to see this all happen."
She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by her nurse walking into the room followed by an older man with a silver goatee wearing blue scrubs. The nurse started bustling around with supplies while the man walked towards her and smiled.
"Miss Webber? I'm Dr. Kertz. I hear you want an epidural."
"Yes," she nodded, just as she closed her eyes, feeling a strong contraction building and not wanting to speak. Jason wiggled his fingers just before she tightened her grip on his hand and the peak of the pain hit. The man beside her brushed the hair off her forehead and the doctor, thankfully, stayed quiet allowing her the ability to breathe through the pain without having questions hurled at her. Dr. Kertz spoke to the nurse in quiet undertones, and she found herself wishing it was Jason's voice filling the room instead of the stranger's who did nothing to help calm her.
As she let out a cleansing breath and opened her eyes, Jason nodded encouragingly at her and reached for the cup of ice chips on the table beside him. The doctor moved back into her line of vision.
"Alright now?" he asked and she nodded. He smiled brightly at her. "Good. Then let's have you sit up and we'll try and get this in before the next contraction comes. That way you don't have to feel the pain so much."
He turned to Jason and the smile changed to one of paternal inside knowledge. "Dad, why don't you step out into the hall while we do this? Don't need you getting queasy on us and passing out. She'll need you more later on and you're no good if you've hurt yourself."
Elizabeth's eyes widened as she looked up at Jason who was already standing and reaching for her arms to help her sit up. He got her situated and then patted her leg. "I'll be right outside. Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. I'll just get you some more ice chips."
"You don't have to stay."
Jason looked down at Elizabeth and dropped the plastic spoon back into the cup when she shook her head at the offer of more ice chips. The epidural administered two-and-a-half hours ago had really helped and she wasn't in pain anymore. And now that she wasn't worrying about getting through the contractions, her body had made good progress. At least that's the nurse had said mere minutes ago as she dropped the sheet back down on the bed and stripped off her rubber gloves after examining Elizabeth.
He hadn't been able to get out of the room quickly enough when he realized what Joy was about to do. So he'd stared straight at Elizabeth's forehead and tried not to think about what was happening below the sheet. The good news was she now completely effaced and almost completely dilated. Elizabeth's water broke an hour ago and it should be any time now before she was ready to push.
"Do you want me to go?" he asked. "I understand if you'd be uncomfortable with me in the room. So if you want me to go, just say the word."
"Jason, I had a group of interns all taking a peek under the sheet." Her laugh was a bit loopy from the fatigue she felt at two in the morning, and from the drugs. "At this point, my modesty is somewhere in the hall. I was thinking of you. You seemed pretty uneasy when the nurse was in here just now."
He looked down and his mouth shifted to the side. "I was more embarrassed for you."
"Okay," she drawled, clearly not believing him.
"Elizabeth, listen to me," he said. "If you'd be more comfortable with me not in here, then just tell me that."
She looked up at him, then her eyes drifted towards the ceiling as moisture flooded them. Her lower lip trembled and he reached out, taking her hand and cradling it between his. "Do you want me to stay?"
Her eyes stayed locked on the ceiling as she nodded. He could see the fear fade slightly to be replaced by sadness. "It's okay," he said gently, bringing one hand up to brush her sweat-dampened hair off her forehead. "If you want me to stay, I'm not going anywhere."
"I thought I could handle it with just the nurses," she turned to look at him, a tear slipping out of the corner of her eye. "But I'm really glad that I don't have to. I'm glad to have someone here with me, and that it's you."
As odd as it was, he was glad he was here too. When he'd left the blank check at the diner earlier that evening, sensing in her an honesty that would compel her to return it, all he'd wanted was the chance to talk to her. He knew Courtney Corinthos was a woman more focused on the superficial image of looking like she was helping the underprivileged, than really finding the most deserving. She probably wouldn't even think of helping Elizabeth until her kid got into trouble, and then she'd blame the entire situation on Elizabeth and being a bad parent instead of realizing that sometimes the best of people have a hard time overcoming the economic challenges before them. Jason believed that the best way to help children was to help the family from the beginning, not just when they got into trouble.
He'd offered to help Elizabeth because he felt that she would have potential she couldn't realize while locked into a minimum wage job. But he hadn't gotten a chance to lay out his proposal because she'd first been angry and insulted, and then she'd gone into labor. He could have just called an ambulance and sent her off by herself, but that wasn't his style. He'd never envisioned himself ending up staying in her labor room that was quickly going to become her delivery room, yet he wouldn't walk out and leave her now.
The nurse returned and began pulling back the plastic sheets over the trays of instruments at the end of the bed, breaking through the quiet that had stretched between the two of them. Elizabeth reached out for Jason's hand and looked at the brunette in the deep rose scrubs. Joy turned and gave them a reassuring smile, "I think we're about ready to have a baby, don't you, Elizabeth? How are you feeing?"
The woman in the bed shrugged with a nervous smile, "Alright, I guess. With the epidural I...feel pretty good."
"It's okay to be nervous. We're all here to help you, and Dad's been doing a great job."
"He's not the dad," Elizabeth said softly, finally correcting the hospital staff's assumptions. "He's just a very good friend."
"Then that's the best kind of help you can have," the nurse told them, glancing over at Jason. She pulled a stool to the end of the bed and reached for the sheet covering Elizabeth's legs. Jason made sure he was right up by Elizabeth's shoulder so he wouldn't see anything that might embarrass the both of them. Joy smiled with the excitement that Jason could only guess came from being a seasoned delivery room nurse and said, "Let's see how you're doing and try a couple of pushes so we know if we need to call your doctor."
Jason looked over at the woman who had just labeled him a friend and smiled to try to dispel the nervousness that was overcoming her face. "You're going to do great, Elizabeth. I know you will."
A soft knock sounded on the door a moment before it cracked open and Jason's voice carried into the room, "Are you up for a visitor?"
Lying back on the bed, Elizabeth looked tiredly over at the door. "Come in, Jason."
It opened wider and Jason shuffled into her hospital room. Her lunch tray was pushed to one side of her bed while her son's bassinette was on the other, and the star of the moment was safely tucked into her arms, happy and content after being fed. Jason, if that actually was him behind the balloons and rather large teddy bear, made his way over to her bedside.
"What's all this?" she giggled in disbelief as he began divesting himself of his load.
"Just a few things for you two," he smiled and then pulled a chair closer to her bed. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," she said honestly. "But I got some sleep between breakfast and lunch."
"That's good," he said. "You looked pretty tired afterwards, but I guess that's to be expected, huh?"
"Yeah," she groaned, feeling every tired and sore muscle. "How 'bout you? Did you get some sleep? I'm surprised you're even here right now after how late it was when you left."
"I got some sleep," he assured her. "I have a meeting this afternoon with some bankers, but I wanted to stop by and see you."
"You didn't have to," she quickly told him. "If you've got a meeting you should have gotten your sleep."
He just smiled and shook his head at her. "I'm fine. Trust me." Leaning forward he looked down at the bundle in her arms. "So how's this little guy doing?"
Elizabeth's smile was immediate. "He's perfect. Healthy, strong...he's everything I could have hoped for. Everything I wanted."
He stretched a bit more in his seat and brushed his finger over her son's leg that peeked out of his blanket. "I'm glad for you, Elizabeth. He looks a little different than he did at first."
Grinning, Elizabeth laughed silently. "They gave him a bath."
"So, did you name him yet?" he tipped his head quizzically to the side. "Or are we going to keep calling him him?"
"Sean," she smiled down at her son whose eyes were starting to drift closed.
"Sean," Jason said softly, his fingers still brushing lightly over the little boy's leg. Elizabeth made no move to shift the blanket to cover him. "I like it."
She smiled and tried to stifle a yawn as she said, "Thanks."
Jason looked down at his watch and then back up at her. "I should let you get some sleep. Especially since he's taking a nap."
She nodded and shifted slightly on the bed as fatigue began to claim her once more. "Of course. And you've got your meeting to get to."
He waved a hand though the air as he stood and wheeled the plastic bassinette closer to her bed. "I've got plenty of time, but you don't need to force yourself to stay awake on my account. Can you put him in his bed, or do you need..."
"Could you help?" she asked.
He nodded, looking unsure for a moment, but it quickly faded. He reached for Sean, making sure one hand was securely under the little boy's neck. The new, nervous mother in Elizabeth couldn't help but tense as she watched her son leave her arms and be placed in his bed, but Jason was gentle. Her son stayed asleep, and she looked up at the man beside her, "Thank you, Jason. I wasn't sure how I was going to get out of bed, or even lean over to put him in."
"You're welcome," he smiled, as he picked up his coat. "Get some rest. Would...would it be okay if I stopped by tomorrow?"
She was trying to stay awake, but felt herself losing the battle and so she nodded sleepily. "Sure. We go home tomorrow afternoon."
"Okay," he told her, his shoes quietly moving over the floor towards the door. "I'll see you tomorrow."
The door clicked shut, leaving the small family shrouded in a silent cocoon. Prying one eye open Elizabeth looked at her son. "Sean, there goes a very unique man. I really don't understand him at all."
He smiled as he walked through the bar towards his friend Ned, some of the tension of the day slipping away as he moved through the dusty bar. Collapsing into a scuffed and worn chair, he stripped the silk noose from his neck and stuffed it in his jacket pocket. The top buttons of his shirt were released and Jason felt like he could breathe once again. He hated having to get dressed up for meetings with bankers. He couldn't wait until he found a house and got it set up so he could work from home in the comfort of his jeans and t-shirts. He'd only have to wear button downs and slacks for the occasional half day he'd put in at the office to keep the corporate face going. And these blasted suits could be relegated to the back of the closet except for a rare moment.
A third man approached the table with three beer bottles and set them down before claiming the seat across from Jason. Ned grinned and looked between the two men. "Jason, this is Chloe's husband, Nikolas Cassadine. Nikolas, this is Jason Morgan."
The younger man extended his hand and Jason shook it agreeably. "Cassadine? Cassadine Industries?"
Nikolas shook his head as he lowered his beer bottle from his lips. "That's my father's business. I actually run a textiles importing company."
"Let me guess," Jason grinned around his own bottle, "dear ol' dad just loves that."
"Oh yeah," the younger man drawled.
"I've met Stefan," Jason nodded. "I imagine it was an interesting time when you stepped out on your own."
"You could say that," Nikolas replied, his voice - and his face - closing down. Jason respected that enough to back to back off and switch back to a safer topic. "So you're married to Chloe?"
Immediately Cassadine's face lit up and Jason glanced over at Ned who laughed at the love-struck look that infused the man's face. "Yeah," Nikolas smiled. "'Bout two years. We've got a little boy who's not quite one."
Jason smiled in return, thinking of the blonde designer he'd met several years ago through Ned, and the cute little boy he was sure she'd had. It also made him think of Elizabeth and Sean. It had been an amazing experience to be in the delivery room, beyond anything he thought he'd ever experience. Seeing the little boy right after he was born, seeing the tears of pure joy on Elizabeth's face, and getting the opportunity to hold him...Jason didn't even have the words for it.
"How's L&B doing?" Jason turned to ask Ned.
"Good," his friend grinned with the pleasure of a happy businessman. "Just signed a new artist on."
"It's going too good, according to Edward," Nikolas chimed in and laughed.
"Still trying to rope you into ELQ?" Jason grinned.
Ned just rolled his eyes. "He'll probably be on his deathbed and still trying to figure out how he can get me into the business. I am quite happy to let Junior run it. But Edward's got this whole primogeniture fixation. I'm the oldest grandson; I should be running the family business. Junior's actually doing good, but the old man refuses to see it and keeps harping on me."
He just gave a laugh and shook his head and then fixed a pointed and curious gaze on Jason. "Now, what I want to know, since we're playing catch-up and Twenty Questions, is what you were doing at General Hospital last night. Around midnight."
Looking over at Nikolas, Ned delivered what he was sure was probably the bombshell and would get his cousin's undying curiosity. "On the maternity floor with a scrub nurse leading you away."
Jason lowered his beer bottle slowly and shifted in his seat while tugging on his left ear. "You were there?"
"Yeah," Ned nodded, smiling around his own longneck. "So what were you doing on the maternity floor, disappearing into a delivery room?"
"A lady went into labor in my hotel room last night," he informed them, and their wide, curious eyes. "I took her to the hospital. And I think the nurses confused me for the father so they led me to scrub up."
"The father?" Ned laughed raucously. "That's an oops. So you corrected them and left, right?"
Jason paused and then slowly shook his head. "No. She was alone, nobody around for her and so I sat with her."
"Who is she?" Nikolas asked, leaning forward in eager question.
Jason figured he was a nice enough man if Ned called him a friend, but Jason didn't know the Cassadine man. He shifted a bit uncomfortably, but then said, "Her name is Elizabeth. She's a waitress at Kelly's. I...I'd had a meeting with Courtney Corinthos earlier-"
Ned grimaced around his beer bottle. "I bet that was an interesting meeting. I'm sure I don't have to tell you to watch yourself around her."
Jason shook his head at his friend. He knew what kind of trouble Ned was warning against. "Elizabeth was there working. I watched her, with the customers and with Courtney, and I thought that instead of just giving to Courtney's charity, I'd also give directly to those who needed it the most."
Ned leaned back slightly in his seat. "I know Elizabeth a little. She's been at Kelly's for years and she's also an artist who's helped out with the Nurse's Ball and Children's Wing at the hospital. I can't imagine she just jumped at your offer."
"No," he shook his head. "She turned me down flat at first. I was trying to explain and convince her, but then she went into labor."
Nikolas looked over at Ned, his eyebrows stitched in question. "Is she the woman Chloe's worked with? The artist who made the shirt design last year and did a lot of the sets?"
"She's good," Nikolas praised her immediately. "Chloe mentioned last year that she's always wondered why Elizabeth didn't do more with her art because she has the talent for it."
"So why is she working at a diner?" Jason asked, not knowing the woman he'd met and helped at the hospital was an artist known by these two men.
"Probably money," Ned said pure and simple. "I've seen her art, it's really good. But she probably figured the diner was steadier income. And then with a kid coming and all..."
"Yeah," Jason nodded, remembering his own mother working at jobs she didn't necessarily like or want to be at, but doing it because she needed to provide for him.
It all just made him more determined to help her. She seemed like a decent person, obviously was hard working if she was at her job up until the day she went into labor, and she cared about others if she was involved in things around the community and these two men knew of her. Knowing what his mom had gone though, Jason wanted to help Elizabeth out. But after listening to Ned and Nikolas, he figured it would be difficult to convince her to take any money he offered. Maybe when he stopped by tomorrow at the hospital he could broach the subject. But that was all for tomorrow.
He stood and stripped his jacket off, looking down at the two other men. "How 'bout a game of pool? I'll buy the next round, you rack 'em."
He turned for the bar, unbuttoning the cuffs of his sleeves and rolling them up. Jake's was no longer the mid-scale bar it had been when he first came here with Ned, but it didn't matter to him that the dock rats had pretty much taken over. It was still their place where they could go and unwind and shoot some pool. And now that his meetings were done for the day, he just wanted some beer, some pool and some time with people who weren't trying to fleece his pockets. He was pretty sure Ned, and Nikolas, would oblige him.
"Thank you so much, Penny," Elizabeth smiled tiredly, but gratefully, at her co-worker and friend. "You saved the day."
"It was no problem," the Filipino girl smiled as she held Sean in her arms. "Why didn't you call me sooner?"
"I was so tired," she said, the words sounding like they were struggling to come out. She pushed her hair out of her face and picked up the clothes that were in the suitcase she'd packed several weeks ago. "And then I didn't even think about his car seat and the suitcase until the nurse started talking about all the things I needed to do before we could go home today."
"Well, I'm glad you called," her friend said. The smile slipped just slightly, "But you know I would have come and helped you in the delivery room if you'd asked me."
"Pen," Elizabeth shook her head. "You nearly passed out when Don nicked his finger. You know you couldn't have handled the delivery room. You would have been on a bed of your own, unconscious."
"I know," Penny sighed regretfully. "But with Bobbie out of town, I hate the thought that you were all alone."
She looked down at the clothes clutched in her hand and said, "I wasn't alone."
Penny peered pointedly at her. "What?"
"It's a long story, and I promise I'll explain it all, but you have to go to work and with Bobbie and me not there you've got to be in charge." Elizabeth also wasn't sure exactly how she was going to explain what she was doing in Jason Morgan's hotel room when she went into labor and how he then ended up staying with her in the delivery room. She was still processing it all, she wasn't ready to discuss it yet with others.
Her friend looked down at her watch and sighed in defeat this time. "Okay. You're right. I gotta get down there soon. How 'bout tomorrow I drop by? I'll call and see if you need anything, and then you can tell me."
"Thank you, Penny," she smiled in relief at dodging the bullet for today. She looked at her son in her friend's arms and asked, "Could you watch him for a few more minutes while I change?"
"Sure," Penny immediately said with a nod. "I don't have to be there for a little bit."
"Thanks," she breathed out in gratitude. Elizabeth headed into the bathroom and moved gingerly as her body was still recovering, glad she'd packed loose sweats for the trip home. She'd taken a shower earlier that morning, and she didn't care about make-up or her hair, the hot water had done wonders to make her feel better. Add some real clothes and things would be good.
Now, all she wanted to do was take Sean home. She wanted to put him in his own crib, she wanted to sleep in her own bed, and she wanted to stop being woken up by nurses who came to take her blood and temperature. Sure, she didn't know exactly what she was going to do with the future, how she was ever going to pay for the bills Medicaid didn't, but she'd figure it all out. She was determined to do so, no matter how the odds seemed to be stacked against her.
And she knew that despite everything that said she should take it, she wasn't going to accept the money Jason Morgan had offered her two nights ago. It just felt too much like pity; like a soul-crushing handout. It had been hard enough swallowing her pride and signing up for government assistance, but she was determined to make sure she and her baby were healthy. Now she was determined that even though she might have to struggle a bit, she would find a way to provide Sean with everything he needed. She had some money saved, she knew Bobbie would help if she could, and most of all, she'd love her son the very best she could. It would work out.
Pulling open the bathroom door, she glanced at Penny and her son asleep in the younger woman's arms. "Thanks," she said quietly.
"No problem, he's a gorgeous baby," Penny cooed. "You sure you're going to be alright?"
"We'll be fine," Elizabeth vowed, even if she didn't have the full answers yet as to how that was going to happen. "We'll be just fine."
"Okay," her friend nodded, even if it was a bit reluctantly. "I'll call you tomorrow. I promise it won't be too early."
"Well, it's just you and me," Elizabeth said softly after Penny left and closed the door. She looked down at Sean and his lashes settled against his cheeks. "The nurse will be by soon to let us go home. I hope you like it; I picked out some bears and rainbows for the wall above your crib. You won't be able to appreciate it right away, but give it a few months and then you'll be able to really see all the bright colors."
There was a soft knock at the door and she looked up, wondering if it was the nurse with their discharge papers. But instead, Jason Morgan poked his head through the space he'd opened. When he hadn't shown up that morning, she hadn't been disappointed. Honestly she figured a multi-billionaire entrepreneur had better things to do with his time than to be constantly stopping by her hospital room. He'd already done more than she ever expected of someone in his position.
"Good," he smiled, then winced when he saw Sean was asleep. Lowering his voice as he came into the room, he continued. "Sorry. But I'm glad you're still here. I had an emergency meeting this morning and I hoped it would end before they discharged you."
She simply stared at him, unsure of what to say, unsure of why he would care so much about coming by before she left. He tucked his hands in his pockets and looked at the suitcase on the bed and the car seat on the floor. "Are you getting ready to go?"
Nodding, she replied, "As soon as the nurse comes and I call a cab."
"A cab?" he frowned.
Exasperated, and a little stung by his tone, she huffed. "I don't have a car. And even if I did, you brought me here, and I'm not really in any condition to drive."
"No, yes, you're right," he stammered, then paused. When he spoke again, his voice was better under control. "I could take you home."
"That isn't necessary," she shook her head. "I couldn't ask you to do that."
"You didn't ask," Jason said simply. "I offered. So it's no big deal."
Elizabeth sighed and shifted Sean in her arms so she could rub her forehead. "It's not going to matter if I tell you that you don't have to do this, that you've already done enough, is it? You're not going to let it go, are you?"
He shook his head with a smile, and she just shook hers as she closed her eyes in weariness. "Alright. I'm too tired to argue and I'd rather Sean's first trip not be in the back of a cab that smells like sweat and cheap booze."
"Then I'm glad I could help," he grinned slow and easy. "Why don't you get him ready to go and I'll see if I can't get a nurse to give you your walking papers."
When Jason was gone she looked down at Sean as her son yawned and opened his eyes after his catnap. "Sean," she said once again, "I just don't understand him. I mean, we're nobody special to him, and yet he's always offering to help us out. But if it gets us home, we'll take it. Right?"
He yawned again and bunched up his fist by his cheek. "Good to know your position on this, Sean."
By the time Jason and a nurse returned to her room, she had her suitcase packed with all their things they had brought to the hospital, and with what they'd been given in free samples, and Sean was strapped into his car seat. The nurse gave her a stack of papers to sign while she checked Sean's seat. When everything was done, Jason grabbed her suitcase while she held her son on her lap and an orderly took control of wheelchair. They were going home.
And she knew that their whole life was going to change. She just hoped she was able to handle whatever came their way.
She'd only been a single mother for a week, and already Elizabeth felt like a complete and total failure. If she hadn't taken Sean to the pediatrician yesterday and found out he'd actually gained a couple of ounces since their release from the hospital, her misery would have been compounded. Apparently, she could do something right; she could produce enough breast milk to feed her son adequately. Bobbie had encouraged her to breast feed if she could, even if it was just for the couple of weeks she was home and recuperating. The nurse and restaurant manager said that any amount of breast milk would be beneficial.
It was certainly cost-beneficial. And while Elizabeth knew eventually she'd have to start buying formula, she'd take the money saved for now. Besides, after the first day or two of frustration and tears, she liked nursing her son. Liked having that special bond it gave her to Sean. Having Bobbie return to town and give her a few encouraging words, after cooing appropriately over the little boy, had helped as well.
The only draw-back to nursing, it was demanding and sometimes time consuming. Every two to three hours meant she would sometimes end the day feeling like she hardly left the rocking chair. But it was the nights that were getting to her. Sean loved to be awake at night, and when he did finally fall asleep, he seemed to make so many little coos and grunts that she hardly got any rest. She thought that a one bedroom apartment would be fine for now, but she was seriously reconsidering it.
Apparently the person who coined the phrase sleeping like a baby didn't mean a newborn. Newborns did not sleep, especially not heavily. And Elizabeth was ready to start sleeping on the couch, considering Sean's crib was set up in the bedroom, just so she wouldn't wake up with every little sigh and whimper. She didn't regret not having the father around, but sometimes she did envy two-parent families because it meant one person could sleep while the other watched the baby.
Apparently, she'd looked tired today, because when Penny stopped a couple of hours before her shift she'd asked Elizabeth if the new mom wanted to take a nap and let her watch Sean. The Filipino girl had nieces and nephews, she wouldn't mind taking care of Sean for a little bit. Especially since he'd just been fed and would either be asleep or content to play happily. Elizabeth was too tired and too weak to refuse the delicious offer and she'd collapsed wearily into bed and fell into a blissful sleep knowing she wouldn't have to be alert for every little sound.
For four-and-a-half hours.
Elizabeth's eyes snapped open in wide panic as the clock came into focus. Penny was supposed to be at work over an hour ago. Why hadn't she woken Elizabeth up so she could go? Oh no, her friend was late and had to be so upset with her. She flew out of bed, her foot tangling in the sheet, and reached frantically for the doorknob.
"Oh, Penny, I am so sorry. Why didn't you wake me up so you could go to work?"
She stopped in the middle of the main room and her wild and frantically apologetic gaze landed on Jason Morgan. Jason Morgan who was standing in her apartment in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt holding her son. Looking around the room, she pushed her sleep-tousled hair out of her face and searched the room for answers. Penny wasn't there, and Jason was. She didn't understand that.
"Jason? What...where's Penny?"
"She went to work," the entrepreneur told her.
"Elizabeth, sit down," he laughingly instructed. "You're still half-asleep."
She sat down and leaned forward to brace her elbows on her thighs. "How did you end up here?"
"I came by to see you and your friend Penny opened the door," Jason explained. "She let me come in and said she was just about to wake you up so she could get to work. She went in to your room and when she came out she said you were awake and should be out in a few minutes."
Elizabeth looked at him in pure befuddlement. She didn't believe he was lying to her, because he had always been honest, but she had no recollection of Penny coming in. So either Penny didn't wake her up - which she didn't believe - or Elizabeth had woken up briefly enough to speak, but hadn't completely and truly been awake.
"Why didn't you come get me?" she asked, feeling bad that he'd been stuck watching Sean while she slept.
"Clearly you were tired," he shrugged, as if that was fine enough of an explanation. "I didn't have any meetings or any place I needed to be, so it was no problem for me to watch him. He was fine."
"I can't believe he didn't get hungry," she shook her head.
"Well," Jason drawled out. "He did, but Penny showed me the bottle you left her and I warmed it up for him. He drank a little."
"You didn't heat it in the microwave, did you?" she questioned. She knew it was an irrational, even rude question, to ask the man who had been so kind to her and helped her out more than anyone else had, but she was still waking up. And the first words out of her brain were to make sure he hadn't nuked the bottle of breast milk she'd expressed yesterday before taking Sean to the doctor.
He didn't take offense, just shook his head. "No, she told me how to do it before she left, said she was just about to do it. Don't worry, we were fine," he bounced Sean slightly in his large arms. "Weren't we, Sean?"
"I'm sorry," she groaned and covered her eyes. "I'm really grateful you watched him. I guess I'm a little more tired than I thought. I thought I'd just sleep a couple of hours and get up before Penny had to go to work. I think that's the most sleep I've gotten at one time since we came home."
"That's understandable. I've read babies don't sleep much at night in the first bit."
She raised her eyebrows and shook her head. "No, they don't. I'm sure I'll get used to it."
"I'm sure you will," he said in a way she totally believed and didn't feel like he was being condescending or patronizing.
When they both fell quiet, Elizabeth shifted on the couch and twisted her hands in her lap. "So, why...why did you stop by?"
Jason shifted Sean, bringing him up against his shoulder and cradling her son's bottom with one hand. "I uh...I wanted to talk to you. About the check."
Jason had never seen a person's demeanor change so quickly as Elizabeth's did when he mentioned the check. Her soft, sleepy countenance - once she'd stopped worrying about her co-worker and him - immediately changed into a frown. Where she had once seemed open, if not completely at ease with him being there she was at least accepting of it, was gone. Her face was hard, her body drawn into itself, and he knew he was responsible for the transformation.
The check he'd written her the night she went into labor had been discarded on the floor in the bustle to get her out the door. A cleaning person had picked it up and placed it on the desk in the suite. He'd seen it the next day and tucked it into the in-room safe. He didn't mention it to Elizabeth right away because a hospital didn't seem like the right place, but he still wanted her to have it.
So now that she'd been home almost a week, he figured he should bring it by. It seemed like the right thing to do, but judging by Elizabeth's reaction she didn't feel the same. Jason smoothed his hand over Sean's back and looked at the baby's mother.
She took a deep breath and pushed her hair back from her face. Looking down at her feet she said softly, "I...I appreciate the offer. But..."
Looking up, but still not at him, she licked her lips and said, "But I can't take it. I...I know that night I... I've changed my mind."
"Why?" he asked gently. He didn't want her to feel like he was attacking her, but she'd probably feel that way regardless.
"Because I...because I'll find my own way. I know I don't make much money as a waitress, but I've been saving. Ever since I found out Sean was coming I've been preparing. Bobbie, my boss, came by and we talked about the diner...she said they could use an assistant manager so that would give me a raise. And if...if I need more money I talked to the community center before Sean was born about giving some art lessons. Sean could stay in their childcare center for free while I taught."
She looked up at him, "It may not be easy, but I know we'll make it. And while I appreciate the offer...I just can't take it."
She had so much independence and pride - not in a bad way - that Jason knew this was too big of a pill for her to swallow. Elizabeth reminded him in so many ways - all of them good - of his mother and his friends' single mothers. Determined to do their best without resorting to hand-outs.
"It would probably be futile to argue with you," Jason said with just a hint of a smile to try and show her he wasn't going to judge her or push the issue.
She shook her head, her visage and shoulders relaxing slightly. "I know all the reasons and arguments why I should take it, but I...I just can't. It's this big charity hand-out and to take it before I even try to make it on my own..."
"I understand," he said when she trailed off. "I really do. I don't think my mom would have taken a check either. At least not without trying first to do it herself. But what about a job?"
"A job?" she asked faintly.
"Don't like that idea, either?" he raised his eyebrows.
Elizabeth bit her lip and squirmed slightly on the couch. "A job at your company? Let me guess, there would be childcare, fabulous benefits, and an amazing salary for even just an entry-level position. Wow, what an amazing stroke of luck for a waitress who never finished college and has a brand new baby."
Jason shifted his hold on Sean and walked over to the couch to sit on the other end of it. "Listen, Elizabeth...I'm not trying to patronize you. Really, I'm not."
She sighed and ran her hand over her knee. "I...I believe you. I do. I know that all you want to do is help out. So a job isn't supposed to be like a hand-out. Except, can you honestly tell me that if I just walked in and applied for a job in your company I would get the position you'd ensure I got now?"
Letting out a little chuckle, Jason shook his head. "You really do go for the jugular, don't you? Is it a new job you object to, or is it one in my company?"
When Elizabeth hesitated he said, "I'm not angry, Elizabeth. Really. And I get that you're uncomfortable and I'm not trying to do that to you. I just...I just remember what my mom went through and how she sometimes wished someone would just give her a break so she could prove she could do more than sling hash."
"I know that this is a wonderful opportunity, but I just..." Elizabeth huffed and shook her head in annoyance. "I never would have applied for a job in your company if I'd seen an ad in the paper. So I'm not...I'm not opposed to breaks or networking, but I never would have applied for a job with you. So how can I accept a job I never would have tried to get?"
Jason pursed his lips slightly and nodded. "I understand. You don't really see yourself as an office drone, no matter how good of benefits you'd get."
She nodded slightly and he smiled. "What would be your dream job?"
Rolling her eyes, she shook her head. "Yeah...whatever."
"No, I'm serious," he said, as Sean fussed briefly and Jason bounced him slightly. "What would you love to do?"
"Paint," she said, as she blushed slightly. "I'd love it if someone would pay me to paint. While giving me health benefits and make sure Sean was being watched." She raised her eyebrows in a teasing challenge. "Know where I could find a job like that?"
When he opened his mouth she silenced him with a frosty, "And don't say you'd pay for it."
"No," he shook his head. "I wasn't going to say that. What I was going to say was there are endowments you could apply for."
Elizabeth reached for Sean who was beginning to squirm and fuss more, and gave a scorn-filled laugh. "Not in a town like Port Charles."
Jason shrugged and leaned back on the couch. "Okay, I give up."
She regarded him for a moment and shook her head. "I don't believe that for a second. You're just stopping for now while you figure out your next tactic. That's okay," she shrugged. "Go ahead and try, but you'll find out that I'm rather stubborn. So if I ever change my mind, it would have to be some amazing offer."
"I always love a challenge," he grinned. "So it sounds like I just have my work cut out for me."
She took the teasing in stride as she stood up and bounced Sean. "Yeah, I can only imagine what you'll come up with. Listen...I...he's hungry and I need to nurse him. That's why he's fussing."
Jason stilled, and then stood up. "Then I should I get out of your way. Would...could I stop by another time?"
She looked both surprised and skeptical, but eventually shrugged. "I suppose... If you want."
"I do," he smiled. "Sean's a neat little guy, and his mom's pretty interesting too. I'll give you a call next time to make sure it's a good time to stop by. I'll see you later."
"Yeah, alright," she said, as she followed him to the door to close and lock it behind him.
When Jason was in the hallway, he allowed a smile to cover his face. Elizabeth said she wasn't opposed to networking if she was interested in the job. Well, it was a good thing for her he knew a lot of people, and several of them lived right here in Port Charles.
As Elizabeth stepped out of the bedroom and softly closed the door behind her, she sighed and let a small smile cover her face. Sean was asleep, and it never ceased to amaze her how her heart would swell when she watched him. His tiny features, and his tiny, perfect fingers and toes were so amazing to just marvel over. She'd help create a small miracle, and she got to watch him grow every day. Sometimes she could just stand next to his crib while he slept and have tears come to her eyes as she watched him, overwhelmed by all her emotions.
She couldn't watch him today, though, because Penny was waiting to talk to her. Her friend and co-worker had stopped by after calling and offering to stop at the grocery store and pick up anything she needed. Elizabeth was grateful for the offer, she was running low on a few things, and she was determined to stay awake for the visit after last time's disastrous nap. So, she slept before Penny came.
What Elizabeth hadn't expected from her thoughtful friend was an inquisition. Of course, the interrogation hadn't started yet, but it was waiting. Especially now that Sean was asleep. Now it was time to face the Girl, we have to talk that Penny had issued when she walked through the door bearing bread, milk and fruit.
Making her way over to the couch, she could feel the Filipino girl's intense and inquisitive gaze. She sat down and pulled her feet up beside her, leaning against the arm of the sofa. As she pulled a Boppy Pillow onto her lap, she smiled at Penny. "Thanks again for stopping by the store."
"No problem," her friend waved it off. "Although, maybe Mr. Morgan could have picked you up a few things."
Elizabeth groaned slightly and tried not to blush. Not that it would have fazed Penny any, because she kept right on going. "How in the world do you know Jason Morgan? And well enough for him to stop by your apartment?"
Letting out a breath, Elizabeth leaned back against the couch. "Remember that long story I told you about at the hospital? Got the time for it now?"
Penny laughed. "I've got all the time in the world. I finished up my shift before I came over...since I always seem to be rushing off to work. So," she leaned back in her chair and arched an eyebrow, "spill."
"He was at Kelly's having a meeting with Courtney Corinthos about her foundation."
"Funny," her friend mused, "I always thought he was supposed to be smart and have impeccable taste. Maybe he's hiding some brain damage or something."
Elizabeth couldn't suppress her laugh. "Who knows? Courtney was her usual self; sugar sweet belle when he was around, sexual innuendos and nasty barbs when he stepped outside to make a call. I was the only one in the diner so I was busy, and didn't really pay that much attention to them because I figured he should be old enough to take care of himself. Who am I to warn him off the town tramp when my boyfriend ditched me the day he saw the EPT box in the garbage?"
Shaking her head before Penny could say anything, she continued on. "When I was cleaning up I found a signed, blank check under the table where they'd been sitting and I figured I should return it to him. So I walked to the Port Charles Hotel and just intending to leave it at the front desk. But they called up to his suite and he wanted me to come up and give him whatever I had in person."
"Why?" Penny twisted her face up in question.
Elizabeth paused. Why? She knew why Jason wanted to talk to her in person; he'd offered to help her out by filling in that blank check. But it soured her mouth to think of telling that to her friend. While Penny might understand, especially why she turned it down - Penny refused to take student loans to pay for college, insisting either to get grants or scholarships or save up and pay for it all herself - Elizabeth still wasn't comfortable talking about the charity Jason Morgan offered her.
"Just wanted to thank me in person, I guess," she shrugged lamely. She figured Penny would be suspicious and she wondered if her friend would press it. She didn't want to outright lie, but she just wasn't comfortable telling her everything, about the check especially. "Who knows what goes through the minds of billionaires."
"Which explains how he showed up at your apartment, how?" Penny asked curiously.
"When I was in his hotel room, I started having contractions. I'd been having a backache all day, but there was no mistaking the contraction that hit me as I stood, smelling of liver and onions, in the middle of his hotel suite. He drove me to the hospital," she looked down at the pillow. "He talked to me, kept me calm, and I know it sounds strange, but he ended up staying with me during the delivery so I wouldn't be alone."
Penny's eyebrows rose dangerously high on her forehead and she said, "You're serious? A complete stranger was in your delivery room...the entire time?"
Elizabeth could only nod. "Yeah. I know it sounds strange. When I think about it, I can hardly believe it and I was there. But at the time...I was glad someone was with me. And I saw a different side of him."
"A different side?"
Elizabeth could hear the skepticism in her friend's voice. She knew how bizarre this whole thing sounded, a perfect stranger sticking around for a birth. But that's the only way Elizabeth could describe it. She'd seen a different side of Jason Morgan, Billionaire. She saw a guy who clawed his way out of a trailer park, and was genuinely concerned and nice.
"Yeah," she said. "A different side. Not this image of the guy on TV or in magazines, just a regular person."
"Okay," Penny drawled out. "So why's he showing up at your apartment?"
"Just to check on us, I guess," Elizabeth hedged again. "He's a nice man. I'm sure though, that he has better things to do with his time than keep coming by. It'll just be me, Sean and our friends. And we'll be just fine."
Jason glanced down at the address and instructions on the seat beside him to make sure he was at the right place, and then turned off his car. The Cassadine's house was in a nice area of town that spoke of wealth, but it wasn't huge, overbearing or ostentatious like the Quartermaine Mansion or that Gothic monstrosity on an island in the harbor Ned had shown him once. Climbing out of his car, he brushed his hand through his hair and tugged his shirt down. Now that he'd decided to move his headquarters and his house to Port Charles he was anxious for his motorcycle to be sent up from the city. His car was comfortable, but he missed his bike.
"Jason," Nikolas greeted him as he opened the door in response to the doorbell. "Glad you came. Come in. Ned's here and he and Chloe are out back arguing over the grill. As much as I love her, she just doesn't seem to understand that the grill is a man's domain and we do, in fact, know how hot it needs to be for steaks."
"Can she cook in the kitchen?" Jason asked with a skeptical raise of his brow. "I remember Ned saying the family cook wouldn't let her anywhere near the kitchen."
"That's just Cook," Nikolas laughed. "Chloe used to take lessons when she lived in Milan and is really good. The first time my father came for dinner after we were married, he was surprised - and didn't seem to believe she'd cooked it herself."
"Jason," Chloe's bright voice called out to him when she saw him. She came inside leaving Ned standing by the grill. "How are you?"
"I'm good," he said, having no choice but to accept her effusive hug. "How 'bout you? It's been a couple of years since I've seen you."
"I'm great," she smiled and kissed her husband's cheek as he walked past on the way out to the patio. "Come help me take the steaks out and then you can meet Timothy. He's out on the toddler swing at the moment."
Jason shook his head in amusement as he dutifully followed behind her. Chloe hadn't changed a bit. Still bubbly and energetic and going in five directions at once. She grinned at him over her shoulder as she pulled out a pan of steaks drenched in marinade sauce. "So you finally gave in to Ned's pestering and abandoned the city for the quiet, bucolic life of Port Charles."
"Somehow, I really doubt this place is bucolic," he laughed. "Not with the headquarters of ELQ, Cassadine Enterprises, your design company and Ned's music business here, and what with this being the reputed home base of Sonny Corinthos' crime syndicate."
"Alright," she shrugged off-handedly. "We're not small time, but we're a lot better than the city. Better place to raise a family."
"Speaking of," he asked with a twinkle in his eye that caused her motherly pride to bloom and would get her away from asking questions about his life, "where's your son I've heard so much about?"
"Come on," she beamed at him. "I'll introduce you."
After a dinner of steak, fresh roasted corn and several different salads, they all sat in the shade of the porch around the table, relaxed and enjoying the evening. Timothy was restless after being confined to his high chair for dinner, so Chloe let him down to walk around and explore. The swing no longer held his attention and he wandered around the company, playing amongst their legs. Ned was a frequent visitor to the house, so the little boy's attention naturally turned to the unknown person, Jason. He situated himself at Jason's legs, pulling on the man's pant legs, standing up, then sitting down, and smacking his chubby little hands along the businessman's thighs. Amused by the toddler, Jason reached down and lifted Timothy up, settling him on his lap as everyone talked.
The little boy was content to sit for a while, and then once again grew restless. With Jason's hands preventing him from falling as he shifted around, he stood up on the man's lap facing the stranger. Jason wasn't bothered by it, he just moved his head back enough to keep little fingers out of his eyes as he continued to talk with his friends, laughing about previous times together and getting to know Nikolas better. At one point though, Timothy grabbed both of Jason's ears firmly in his grasp and squealed in delight as he bounced on his new friend's legs.
"Timothy," Chloe chided in a bit of embarrassment as she stood to reach for the boy. When Jason waved her away with a smile, after extricating himself from the little one's remarkably strong grip, she explained. "Horsey is one of his favorite games with Nikolas. He...uh...was just grabbing onto the reins for a ride."
"It's okay," Jason assured her with a laugh. "He's just having a bit of fun."
"You seem to have quite a way with children, Jason," Ned teased, a glint entering his eyes. "Maybe for kids and mothers."
Nikolas tried to hide his laugh, causing it to come out as a strangled snort instead. Chloe looked at him curiously, and then over at Ned who wasn't bothering to conceal his mirth. "What?" she asked. "What are you guys talking about?"
Ned just raised his eyebrows, "Ask Jason."
The blond rolled his eyes, but knew that Chloe was like a dog on a bone when she was curious about something. And Ned and Nikolas would only pique her interest, but never satisfy it, with their teasing and dangling statements. Sometimes it was just easier to face all the questions and get them over with rather than try to evade them. He'd definitely learned that about the designer.
"A week ago a woman went into labor in my hotel room and I took her to the hospital. She didn't have anyone to be there with her and I ended up staying during the birth. Ned saw me as I went into the delivery room."
"A pregnant woman in your hotel room?" Chloe said, the tone of her voice showing she wasn't above teasing him either. "A bit different I suppose...but to each his own. If that's what you like..."
He looked at her in mock offense, "I can't believe you said that in front of your son. Ned's rubbing off on you...or maybe it's Nikolas. Because you used to be sweet and innocent."
"Not even," Ned snorted behind his drink while Nikolas laughed outright.
"Alright," she shook her head at the men, "What really happened?"
"She's a waitress," Jason told her. "Elizabeth Webber."
"Elizabeth?" Chloe perked up at the name. "I know her. We worked on the Nurses' Ball together. She's really nice, and very talented. She had her baby?"
Jason nodded, "A little boy."
"Oh," she cooed excitedly. "How's she doing?"
"Good," he replied.
Chloe's brow furrowed slightly. "Why exactly was she at your hotel?"
"That's where it gets interesting," her cousin laughed. "Jason is a philanthropist, you know."
When Chloe just looked at him in confusion, Ned went on to explain - as best he knew - the history of Jason's meeting with Courtney, the younger man's ability to see through the foundation president and then the blank check he'd left behind which led to Elizabeth's arrival. When Ned was done, he and Nikolas once again laughed at the whole event. Jason understood why Ned would find it funny that Jason, a bachelor who had eluded matchmaking mothers and opportunistic women, had ended up in a delivery room of a complete stranger. But Chloe looked at her sniggering husband and cousin and just shook her head.
"Men," she scoffed. Looking at Jason she said, "I think it's really admirable what you did. I'm just a bit surprised she took the check."
"She didn't," Jason grimaced. Whether that was from Timothy pulling on his lip just then, or from the admission that his offer had been rejected, he didn't care to analyze.
"She didn't?" Nikolas asked.
"Of course not," Chloe said with a tone that conveyed her exasperation at her husband's ignorance. "Last year when we were working on the Nurses' Ball, she'd just found out she was pregnant and her jerk of a boyfriend immediately split on her. She was a mess emotionally, but she was determined to keep working on the Ball, even though she wasn't feeling well, because she'd promised Lucy. And she was insistent on keeping her word. I remember coming upon her and Bobbie one day as Bobbie was trying to convince her, for the sake of the baby, to go on Medicaid. I could tell it was hard for her to swallow her pride, but she agreed to do it for the baby."
"Yeah," Jason nodded, feeling a bit uncomfortable discussing this with other people, but sensing Chloe understood what he'd seen in Elizabeth. "She wouldn't accept a job in my company either, because she said never would have applied for it and it would just be another handout.
"But," he looked intently at the blonde, hoping to recruit her into his plan, "she did say she wasn't opposed to networking. So, given that fashion is closer to art than electronics is, I was going to ask you if you could think of anyone you know that she might be able to apply to. Someone that might be able to help her out without it just being charity."
"I can do better than that," she smiled brightly at him, sitting up straight and excited in her chair.
"I know that look," Nikolas murmured to Ned who nodded.
Jason didn't, so he was forced to ask, "You can?"
"Yes," she fairly beamed her answer. "I can give her a job."
"Do you need anything else?"
Chloe looked up at the waitress and smiled as she shook her head. "No, not right now. Thank you."
The girl nodded and headed back behind the counter, leaving Chloe and Timothy at the table. Nikolas had already gone back to his warehouse after meeting them for lunch, but Timothy was still playing with his fries and applesauce, so Chloe had decided to stay. She was content to let her son play for a bit longer, especially since she was looking for an excuse to stick around.
It wasn't unusual for the small family to meet at the diner for lunch, and she was happy to use that to her advantage. It really was no hardship to meet with her husband for lunch, and Nikolas was always happy to see Timothy during the day. So she wasn't out of place at the diner near the docks, despite being an international designer. Most of all, she was comfortable being here so she wasn't looking anxious as she waited for Elizabeth to arrive.
The biggest problem with her plan was that the whole thing depended on luck. Luck that Elizabeth would show up at the diner to introduce her co-workers to Sean like she talked about one day to Jason - and he passed on the information to her - and that Chloe would be at the diner when she did come. A major snag was that she couldn't be at Kelly's every day. Already showing up two or three times a week was a difference from her norm of once a week; she couldn't push it by showing up every day.
Because of that, she'd missed Elizabeth once when the new mother came in to introduce her three-week old son. Chloe had heard from Jason, after he'd stopped by yesterday to see Elizabeth, that the younger woman was thinking about stopping in again today. Elizabeth had less than two weeks left of her six-week maternity leave Bobbie Spencer had insisted she take, and Chloe was going to have to strike quickly to implement her plan.
Nikolas was supportive of her, but he always was. Ned was skeptical, but her cousin seemed to have a perverse streak in him which made him oppose anything she supported just to annoy her. But she knew him well enough to know that he only got that way when he thought her plan was good and would work. Jason, the person who really mattered here, told her he trusted her and left the details up to her. She knew Elizabeth better than he did, especially in regards to work, and if Chloe thought she could convince Elizabeth to come work for her, then there was no harm in trying.
It really had been a stroke of fortune that Jason mentioned looking for a job for Elizabeth. Chloe's assistant at her shop was leaving in less than a month because Julie's mother was having surgery and would have a long recovery period afterwards. So Julie was going to move back to Chicago to be with her. Chloe was sad to see her go, but it allowed her the perfect opportunity to offer the job as her assistant to Elizabeth. A job with good pay, benefits and childcare at the office because Chloe couldn't bear to be parted from Timothy while she was at work.
The door opened, causing the bell to jingle and Chloe looked up on reflex. She fought to keep a ridiculously pleased smile off her face when she saw it was Elizabeth. After coming in so many days, it had finally paid off. Elizabeth pushed her son's stroller through the door and up to a table next to Chloe's. Immediately all the waitresses in the diner, which was slow after the lunch rush, flocked to the table to coo and ahh over her son.
After Elizabeth had placed her order and the initial fuss died down, the other girls headed back to work. Albeit very animatedly with several called out comments directed at their recovering co-worker. Chloe decided now was the time to make the opening move while the food wasn't out.
"Hi, Elizabeth," she said brightly and cheerfully.
The brunette looked over, a bit surprised, and replied, "Hi, Chloe.
Glancing at Timothy to make sure he was still content trying to spoon the last of his applesauce into his mouth, she slid her chair slightly towards Elizabeth's table and smiled. "You had your baby."
The new mother nodded with a smile known to mothers everywhere. "Just over a month ago. I can't believe how much he's grown in that short a time."
Chloe looked into the stroller and her heart melted, remembering Timothy when he was that small and new. "He's adorable. What's his name?"
"Sean," Elizabeth smiled down at her son.
"I like it. How are you feeling?" she asked, making small talk known to all mothers.
"Adjusting to it all," the brunette replied. "Tired a lot, though."
"Oh, I remember those days," Chloe laughed. "I felt like I walked around in a fog most of the time. I remember leaving the milk out on the counter and one time I put the clothes in the dryer before I'd even washed them."
"A fog is a great description," Elizabeth said with a rueful shake of her head. "I'm grateful for my friends who've watched him so I can get some sleep without having to worry about keeping one ear out for Sean."
Chloe paused for a moment. Despite the smile the on the younger woman's face, she detected a bit of wistfulness in Elizabeth. She could only imagine how hard it was as a single mother to recover from childbirth, adjust to taking care of a baby, and doing it all on her own without help. Nikolas had been invaluable after Timothy was born, and even though she was determined to raise her baby on her own and not just ship him off to a nanny, she did have a babysitter to help out when she needed it. She knew Elizabeth didn't have the same options, especially given the fact that Jason was trying to find her a job.
So she quickly moved away from anything that might make Elizabeth uncomfortable by emphasizing the differences in their situations in life. Instead, she moved on to her plan, and worked to remind the artist of their similarities.
"How much time are you taking off?" she asked, trying to be delicate as she moved into a new topic.
Elizabeth shrugged a bit stiffly. "Another couple of weeks. Bobbie's offered me more time if I want it, but I don't know yet."
"Well, I don't want to overwhelm you while you recover, but I'm glad I ran into you today. I was hoping we could talk," Chloe smiled, her face cheerful and exuberant.
"About what?" Elizabeth questioned as Penny approached with the younger woman's food.
"Lucy called me about the Nurse's Ball. Seems she wants to get started early so we're not rushing around at the last minute like before."
The younger woman laughed. "I think Lucy lives for chaos and rushing. She wouldn't have it any other way. But why would this involve me?"
"Well," the designer-cum-plotter smiled brightly. "You helped with sets last year and you did the t-shirt design a couple of years ago. I know with a new baby you probably couldn't do as much work on the sets as you did before, but I was wondering if maybe you'd be willing to help with some planning?"
"Planning with you and Lucy?" Elizabeth almost said on a squeak.
"Actually," Chloe laughed, hoping it would put her at ease. "Lucy wants me to work on the initial planning. Oh, she'll still be the Mistress of Ceremonies and she'll probably end up in her underwear at the end like always, but she said she was feeling uninspired creatively, at least for the initial planning phase, and was hoping I could come up with some preliminary theme ideas. I thought you might be interested in helping as well, that way I could present a variety of ideas to Lucy."
Timothy squawked to announce that he was out of food and wanted to get down from the confining high chair and Chloe knew that she'd spent enough time for now with Elizabeth. She should let the new mother eat her lunch in peace, preferably before it got cold, and spend some time with her friends. "Just think about it," Chloe said as she stood to go back to her table. "And give me a call in a couple of days if you're interested."
Now that the groundwork had been laid, it was time for Jason to work on the next phase of convincing.
Elizabeth was full of peaceful contentment as she lay on the floor beside Sean, propped up on one elbow as she watched him. He was shaking his wrist, staring in fascination, and a bit of bewilderment, at the plush elephant rattle she had strapped to his wrist. She couldn't tell if he was confused or angered about the fact that it wouldn't come off because of the Velcro strap securing it around his arm. Eventually he gave up trying to shake it off and was now trying to maneuver it into his mouth and not having a lot of success. When it did manage to make it in, he seemed so surprised that he jerked his arm away and had to start all over again.
She loved this time with Sean, when he was awake and playful after being fed. Now that he was nearly a month old, she marveled at how much he had changed, how much more alert he was. She allowed herself to just marvel in her son and his growth, especially since it allowed her to not have to think about Chloe Morgan's request. It had come out of the blue and truly surprised Elizabeth that the designer would remember her, and ask her of all people to help her out.
A knock at the door brought her out of her ruminations, and she gave Sean a kiss on his fine brown hair before standing. When she opened the door she was surprised to see Jason standing there in a suit. He always seemed to show up when she least expected him to, mostly because each time he left she always figured it was the last time he would stop by. The suit surprised her a bit because the last few times she'd seen him he had been dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt or a t-shirt. His look now reminded her of the night she went to his hotel room and ended up going into labor.
"Hi," she said, automatically stepping aside to let him in. She had given up trying to find a rhyme or reason to his visits, or try to turn him away. She just let him in, even though she still couldn't understand why someone like him would come to visit someone like her. Most of all, she was surprised to see him after he'd just been there yesterday.
"Hi," he said. "I'm sorry I didn't call first. I just... This'll probably sound weird but I just got out of a long and very stressful meeting, and as I was driving by I just...found myself stopping. I hope it's not a bad time."
"No," she smiled, taking pity on his miserable look. "It's okay. Sean and I were just having a little playtime on the floor, but you're welcome to join us. Besides, you didn't see him yesterday since he was asleep."
"Thanks," he said, his voice evening out and losing its tenseness.
Sean was beginning to fuss, and so rather than make Jason sit on the floor in his suit, Elizabeth picked up her son and handed him to the obviously weary-looking man. Jason smiled at her, then down at Sean, before sitting down on the sofa. She picked up the blanket and folded it as she sat down in the chair across from them.
"Hi, Sean," Jason smiled at her son. "Playing with your mom?"
Sean waved his arms from his content perch in Jason's arm, secure against his side, and the elephant rattled. Jason looked at the source of the sound, brushing his finger over the soft cloth. "Do you like elephants?"
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and smiled, watching the two interact. They got along well, and she liked how Jason showed a genuine interest in Sean, talking to him and turning his complete attention on him. It wasn't false or feigned; she honestly believed that Jason Morgan, Billionaire, liked holding her son. She thought back to his story he told her in the delivery room and she figured at some point she would sign Sean up for a Big Brother so he would have a male presence in his life like Jason had. Someone to help him in ways she might not be able to.
After a few minutes of talking to Sean, Jason looked up at her and grinned. Maybe a bit sheepishly, but she didn't feel like she was neglected as the two had interacted. "How was your day?" he asked. "Did you manage to go visit your friends at work?"
"I did," she grinned with a slight nod of her head. "I saw some I didn't get to see last time. And I had a very strange encounter."
He looked at her in concern. "Is anything wrong?"
"No," she assured him quickly. "Nothing bad happened...just weird. I ran into Chloe Morgan who was there with her son; I've worked with her on the Nurse's Ball in the past. The Nurse's Ball is a big fundraiser for AIDS research, people do skits and sing and it's all a lot of fun. I helped with sets and designed a shirt once, things like that."
She took a breath and realized she'd been rambling. "Anyways," she shook her head. "Chloe wants to get started on this year's ball, and she asked if I wanted to help her before I head back to work at the diner."
"Why is that weird?" he asked as he shifted Sean on his lap when the little boy started to fuss.
"Because she's Chloe Morgan and I'm just a waitress in a diner. Why would she want my help?"
"Because you're not just a waitress in a diner," Jason shook his head. "You're an artist as well and if you've worked with her in the past she knows that. And so she wants to work with you again."
"But I just...we spoke before during the prep for last year's ball, but it's just weird to me that she would remember me and ask me to help her plan this years. Not just help out with sets or costumes, but come up with the theme and the organization."
He just smiled and shook his head a little. "I think you're selling yourself short, Elizabeth. But what do I know? You keep refusing to show me any of your work, so maybe you really do stink."
Jason said it all with a smile and a bit of a laugh and she couldn't help but smile too. He'd asked to see some of her sketches, but she felt embarrassed showing them to a man who knew artists whose work hung in galleries in New York and Paris, so she'd never pulled them out. Sean was squirming and beginning to fuss again, but before she could stand and take the wriggling baby out of Jason's arms, he shifted her son to rest against his shoulder. Lightly rubbing Sean's back, with an occasional pat, the little boy seemed temporarily mollified.
Then catastrophe struck. The patting on his back caused Sean to burp, and Elizabeth was horrified when she realized that it wasn't a dry one. Quickly she stood and rushed towards Jason, wielding the blanket like a towel to assist the suit-clad man. "I am so sorry," she said, her face wide with embarrassment as she saw the damage her son had done.
"It's okay," he shook his head as he stood.
"No, it's not," she insisted. "Jason, he threw up all over your suit."
His suit that probably cost more than her rent, for two months. She couldn't stop the groan that escaped her as she surveyed the damage. "It's on the couch and your pants. I...I don't even want to imagine how much this cost. I'm sorry."
"Elizabeth," he said calmly as he handed Sean to her and took off his coat, without really even looking at it. "Don't worry about it. Babies spit up. It happens; it's okay. I'll take it to the cleaners and it'll be fine."
"I'll pay for it," she insisted. "The cleaning."
"No, you won't," Jason shook his head. "The cost won't be a hardship to me. I'm not going to argue with you about it; but I'm not going to make, or let, you pay for something that was an accident. I'm not mad he spit up on me...it happens. I'm just glad it happened after my meeting."
She knew he was trying to put her at ease, but she couldn't match his smile. She still felt horrible, and she'd try again later to pay for the cleaning cost. She didn't even want to think about how much a new suit would cost if the stains didn't come out. At least it was only breast milk and not strained carrots or something.
"But," he said, "I should probably go change and get this to the cleaners."
She nodded as he crossed the room, holding his folded coat. "Let me know how your meeting with Chloe goes, I'm anxious to hear about it."
Then he was gone and all she could think, apart from changing Sean's clothes and putting him in the bath, was that she hadn't agreed to meet with Chloe. But, she also couldn't deny she wasn't curious about what the designer had to say. Maybe she would call. Just to satisfy her curiosity.
She was nervous, and she really couldn't understand why. It wasn't like Elizabeth had never been around Chloe Morgan before; she'd worked beside the designer, both of them in paint-splattered clothes and scuffed shoes back when they'd rushed to complete the sets. Chloe had been more than willing to get paint in her hair and get just as dirty as the rest of them, but that was when they were rushing to meet a deadline.
Now Elizabeth was meeting Chloe at L&B Records/Chloe Morgan Designs. This was the designer's place of business, her inner sanctum where she created clothes that Elizabeth could only look at and drool over, knowing that it would be impractical to spend that much money on one outfit when she had so many other things that needed the money more. She felt a little more self-conscious about meeting the older woman now. Especially since she couldn't wear her favorite, most confidence inspiring outfit since it was too tight. The baby weight, which she'd known she wouldn't lose immediately, had made the outfit an inconsideration, and so she was frustrated trying to find a replacement and it only added to her nervousness.
She settled for dressing in a simple sundress, pulling on the matching cardigan to cover the increased cleavage due to nursing, and was pleased with the results. She looked like she wouldn't be completely out of place at Chloe's office, and then Elizabeth caught herself and shook her head. Turning away from the mirror, she picked up her purse and walked out of the bedroom. She was meeting with Chloe at the other woman's request; it wasn't like Elizabeth was trying to make a good impression at a job interview. If Chloe had any objections to her outfit, Elizabeth just wasn't going to worry about it.
"You look cute," Penny complimented her when she looked up.
Elizabeth tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Thanks. You got everything you need?"
"We'll be fine, Mom," Penny assured her as she held Sean and waved his arm at his mother. "You just fed him, you've expressed milk, I think you pointed out the extra diapers at least three times. We'll be fine. I promise."
"I know," she sighed sheepishly. "It's just-"
"The first time you've left him," her friend said with empathy. "It's okay. I've got the number to Chloe's company, and if anything happens I'll call you. But everything will be fine. So stop worrying."
"Thanks, Penny." Elizabeth fought the urge to wipe her palms on her dress. "Now if I could just convince myself this is another meeting at the set construction warehouse instead of her headquarters."
Penny set Sean down in his bassinette and walked over to clasp Elizabeth's shoulders. "Relax and remember to breathe, Elizabeth. Chloe asked to meet with you because she knows you're talented and are capable of doing more than delivering dockworkers their lunch. You have talent, girl, and it's time you stopped denying it."
"Penny," she blushed.
"Nope," her friend shook her head. "Don't go in there thinking you don't belong. Just 'cause you don't have a degree or aren't an international designer doesn't mean Chloe's going to think you're an idiot. If she did, she never would have asked you to come meet with her. So tell her your thoughts...you know you've been thinking of ideas ever since she talked to you."
When Elizabeth grinned a little, Penny smiled and nodded her head. "See. So go have this meeting. And, hey...if Chloe offers you a job, don't think you don't deserve it."
Elizabeth laughed; feeling more relaxed after Penny's pep talk. With her confidence bolstered, she kissed Sean, thanked her friend and grabbed her purse. She headed out the door, ready to meet with Chloe and put all her nerves behind her.
"Hi," Chloe smiled brightly as the door opened and Elizabeth walked into the office. She knew for today to work she had to tread carefully. So she did her best to put Elizabeth at ease, which meant meeting her downstairs in the lounge area as opposed to in her office with the name on the door. "Come on in. Do you want anything to drink?"
"Um, some water, please," the brunette softly requested as they walked towards Chloe's office.
Grabbing two bottles of water from the mini-fridge in the outer area, she handed one to Elizabeth as they walked through the door. "How's your son?" she asked with a soft smile as she twisted the top off her water.
"Good," Elizabeth said, her smile a bit tight. "I can't believe how big he's gotten so quickly. It was hard to leave him today."
The new mother looked uncomfortable at the admission and Chloe immediately wanted to help put her at ease, as well as give her something to think about. "When I was ready to go back to work, I didn't want to leave Timothy. But it was too hard to work from home where I was just tempted to play with him all day, so I had to come back to the office. I cried the first day I was here and he was home with a nanny. So I told Nikolas I was going to bring him to the office with me. I had a room put together and started a daycare here. A couple of my workers bring their kids in, too. So now I can pop in and see Timothy when I want."
"Wow," Elizabeth said, somewhat dispiritedly. "Bobbie's offered to let me start back part-time so that I can get used to being apart from Sean."
"Bobbie's great," Chloe grinned. "She's always helping out with the Nurse's Ball and other events."
"She is great," the brunette nodded. "It's why I keep working at the diner; I'd probably never find another boss as understanding as she is."
They fell silent for a moment and Chloe took a sip of her water. She knew she should move into talking about the ball so she could bring up the next phase of her plan.
"So, have you thought about the Nurse's Ball?" she asked with a bright, hopeful smile.
"I have," Elizabeth said. "I'm still surprised by your request, but I'm willing. I just don't know how much time I'd have."
"Don't worry about that," Chloe said with a smile and a wave of her hand through the air. "Any time you feel you have would be helpful. And if you wanted, you could always bring Sean here and put him in the daycare while we talked. That way you wouldn't have to worry about trying to line up a sitter."
"Thank you," the new mother said. "You sure it wouldn't be a bother?"
"None at all," the blonde quickly assured her. "We've got two workers for three kids, they certainly wouldn't be overwhelmed. Would you like to see it?"
"Um...sure," Elizabeth shrugged.
Chloe stood and smiled brightly, inwardly and outwardly. The plan was unfolding. "Come on."
The two of them left the office and headed towards the daycare down the hall. As they walked there, she saw that her assistant had stepped out as previously planned, and she gave another employee a small nod as they passed by. When they reached the daycare, Chloe's face bloomed into an immediate smile at the sight of her son. He was on the floor playing with the wooden blocks. The six month old daughter of her receptionist was asleep, but Timothy's close friend, a little boy a couple months older than him, was toddling around the room.
"Wow," Elizabeth breathed out, her eyes taking in the room. "All this for just the three of them?"
She nodded, "I wanted them to have room to grow, as well as have room for more kids if others had children and wanted to bring them in."
They turned to find Kelly, her receptionist standing there. "Sorry to bother you," she said apologetically. "But Scarlett Johansson's on the phone. She wants to talk to you about her dress for the premier. I looked for Heather, but I can't find her and Scarlett is pretty insistent to talk to someone about the sketches you sent her."
"Okay," she sighed. Turning to look at Elizabeth, she apologized. "Sorry, I need to take this call. My assistant, Heather, is moving in a few weeks so I gave her some time off to take care of some things she can't do after work."
"No problem," Elizabeth quickly shook her head. "Maybe I should go so you can work."
"No," Chloe immediately said. "This shouldn't take long. Scarlett is just a worry-wart and constantly changes her mind. If I tell her I'm in the middle of a meeting she won't be able to keep me on the phone all day constantly making changes or requests."
"Okay," the brunette somewhat unsure, but followed after Chloe. As they entered her office once more, the designer couldn't keep from smiling. This seemed to be working. Just a few more nudges, and Elizabeth would have a very tasteful, and profitable, job offer before she left.
Penny looked up as the door opened, and she watched Elizabeth walk into the apartment. Her friend looked dazed, and Penny's brows wrinkled in question at what could have happened during the meeting with the designer. She didn't think it would have overwhelmed the brunette this much. "Hey," she smiled, trying to draw her friend out.
"Hey," Elizabeth murmured.
When she said nothing more and collapsed onto the couch, Penny's worry kicked up a notch. "Elizabeth? Is something wrong? Did your meeting go badly?"
"No," she shook her head. "Nothing like that. I...it was a bit strange."
"Okay," the waitress snapped, wanting answers and no longer in the mood to deal with Elizabeth's bewilderment. Her friend could be a bit absent-minded like this and she knew that force was needed sometimes for direct answers. "What's going on? What happened?"
"Chloe offered me a job."
Penny grinned even as she gasped. "What?! She offered you a job? Get out!"
"So?" she demanded. "What happened?"
"We were about to talk about the Nurse's Ball when Scarlett Johansson called from California to talk about a dress Chloe is making for her. Chloe's assistant was gone because she's moving in a few weeks and had some things to do, so I just waited quietly during the call because Chloe asked me to stay. But pretty soon she needed things found. So she started passing me hurried notes 'Go ask Kevin about this swatch' and 'Can you find the file on this person?' so I started scurrying about. I was getting fabric swatches and sketches and finding files and then I was taking notes as Chloe spoke on the phone.
"When she got done with the call, Chloe apologized but I told her it was okay, I actually liked it. It was exciting and fun. And, Penny, you should have seen it all," Elizabeth said very excitedly, her eyes bright. "The sketches were beautiful and the fabrics were so gorgeous. Then I couldn't believe it when Chloe began asking me which fabric styles and colors I thought would be best with the sketch."
Penny could see the excitement just rolling off her friend. It was contagious and it reached out to her and she couldn't keep from smiling along with Elizabeth. "It does sound exciting."
"It was," the new mother enthused. "So we just got talking about her business and her assistant leaving because she's moving out of state. We talked about the Nurse's Ball and came up with a theme we both really like so Chloe's going to take it to Lucy. But we talked about her assistant's position quite a bit."
"And that's when she offered you the position?"
The other woman nodded. "I met her current one after a while and we talked some and the job doesn't sound too overwhelming. Chloe's really nice and she said she'd teach me what I need to know. I'd get to help with designs and swatches sometimes."
"So are you going to take it?" Penny asked eager, excited for this opportunity for her friend.
"I don't know," Elizabeth hesitated as she bit her lip.
"What?" she demanded, then looked over at the door that Sean was asleep behind. Hopefully her outburst wouldn't wake the little boy. Lowering her voice she leaned forward. "What do you mean you don't know? What's not to know? It's a great job."
"I know," her friend admitted. "But what if I screw up?"
"So what?" Penny countered. "Chloe's nice, you just said so yourself. She's not like Tracy Quartermaine, Chloe knows you've never done this before. She's willing to teach you, and most of all, she asked you to take the job! So you must have impressed her when you helping her. Why not take it?"
Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. "Because I'm a waitress and she's Chloe Morgan."
"And she puts her pantyhose on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us poor schmucks."
"I know," her friend sighed.
"Elizabeth," Penny said in all seriousness. "You are not a waitress. You're an artist, a very talented one, and you've just worked at Kelly's for stability - especially now that you have a son. But here you have the opportunity to work for an international designer and be more who you really are, an artist. This is right up your alley, Elizabeth, you know you also love fashion."
"It was great being there," she admitted. "It was fun."
"See," Penny prodded. "You know you want to take the job. It's got a daycare so you can take Sean with you, won't have to spend money on a sitter. I'm sure you'll get benefits, which will be helpful with a newborn, and you'll make more money than you are now so you could move into a better area of town and get a car to replace that bucket of bolts your ex so kindly stole from you."
"Then don't be a fool," she chided. "Dump the diner; Bobbie will understand. She'll be excited for you, you know she will. Just be sure you put in a good word for me for the assistant manager's job, okay?"
Elizabeth smiled and gave a little chuckle. "You know I will."
"And don't be a stranger, you hear me? When you're Ms. Personal Assistant to International Designer Chloe Morgan, don't forget your old friends."
"Like that would ever happen," Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
"So you're taking the job?" Penny smirked knowing at the woman across from her who still looked a bit nervous, but more confident than she'd been a moment ago.
"Yeah, I guess I am," her soon-to-be-ex-co-worker smiled. "It really is a great opportunity."
"It is, Elizabeth," she agreed in all seriousness and support. "And there is nobody who deserves it more than you." She let out a breath and hoped to temper the sadness that creeped into her. "I'm going to miss you."
"Me too," Elizabeth said softly.
They paused for a moment, and then Penny forced the excitement back into her voice to pass it to the other woman. Tears for goodbye would come later. "So, when are you going to call Chloe?"
Letting out a slow, measured breath her friend said, "Tomorrow. It's late, Sean's going to wake up soon. I'll call her tomorrow."
Penny stood and went to gather her stuff. "Alright. Call me afterwards, okay?"
"I will," she agreed.
Smiling at her friend, Penny gave her a hug and then headed out. She'd just lost her best friend at work, the one who made double shifts more bearable, but she couldn't be upset about it. Elizabeth, and Sean, deserved this break and she was glad her friend got it, and had decided to take it.
The day before Elizabeth officially began her job at Chloe Morgan Designs, she was suffering a crisis of confidence. Sean had an uncharacteristically rough night and she had spent several tearful hours trying to calm him back down. It didn't help that he woke up at his normal hour like nothing had happened. She had managed to get a brief nap during his morning one, but it hadn't been long enough to abate the blues she was feeling that day.
She was even more resolved today that she was putting the extra money from her generous salary towards a two bedroom apartment. It would be essential to her sanity and her sleep. Even if he never fully woke up, Sean just made too many sighs, coos, grunts and whimpers which had her startling too many times during the night wondering, and worried, if he'd woken up. Sean needed his own room, and Elizabeth longed to sleep in her own bed most nights instead of the lumpy couch she'd taken to sleeping on just to try and get some rest.
If she was going to move into a bigger apartment, she also wanted to move to a better building. Maybe a place with an elevator as opposed to just stairs; it would be easier for doing laundry, especially as Sean got older. But she knew she was going to have to get a couple of paychecks in the bank before she could afford first and last month's rent on a new place. Especially since she was working on paying her hospital bills. Yet she knew that with the generous salary she'd be making at Chloe's she wouldn't have to wait as long as if she were still at the diner.
Elizabeth's sleeplessness was compounding the nerves she already had about her job. When she first moved to Port Charles, she'd stumbled onto a job at the dockside restaurant. Through everything that happened in her life - boyfriends, breakups, becoming pregnant - her job had always been the one steady force in the tumult around her.
Bobbie had become a surrogate mother to her. The older woman had provided comfort, support, advice and help; which was why it had been so difficult for Elizabeth to tell her she was leaving. Even though Bobbie had been overjoyed for her, excitedly proclaiming that Elizabeth would be wonderful working with the designer, it was still hard to give her resignation. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown without her safety net, or simply the fear of failure, but there was no denying Elizabeth felt scared.
Despite the assurances from Chloe, and training with the outgoing assistant, Elizabeth couldn't stop the feelings of inadequacy she had. This would be different than the times she had stopped in to talk about the Nurses' Ball or to train. Those were done on her own time, and if Sean had a bad day it could explain her tardiness or be used to excuse her need to leave early. Tomorrow Chloe would be depending on her to be there on time and plan to put in a full day.
She knew that Sean liked the daycare at Chloe's, and Elizabeth liked and trusted the workers. Chloe had shown her the credentials on the workers so she knew her son would be in good hands; she also knew Chloe wouldn't settle for anything less with her own son. Technically she knew she had nothing to worry about. But she couldn't seem to convince her emotions and reason to cooperate today. She just hoped she got a better balance by tomorrow. It wouldn't do to break down in tears her first day on the job.
A knock sounded on the door and Elizabeth cast a weary glance over at the structure. She ran a hand through her hair and sighed before quickly securing her ponytail. She really wasn't feeling up to company today, but maybe it would be for the best. She probably could use someone to talk to, besides her fussy son. And since it was most likely Penny, she was sure her friend would understand that she was having a less than good day.
Opening the door, she stared in surprise that it wasn't Penny standing there, but Jason. She hadn't seen him for nearly a week, and she was a bit unsettled to suddenly see him now. Especially today of all days. She knew she had to have red, tired eyes that were also puffy from crying, and her nose was stuffy. Just the shock of seeing him made her eyes once again water.
The calm voice and the quiet concern she could hear in his tone undid her and she turned her head as tears suddenly rolled down her cheeks.
"Hey," he said softly as he took her arm and steered her inside. He led her to the couch and helped her sit down while reading for a box of Kleenex. "What's going on? Are you okay? Is something wrong with Sean?"
Shaking her head as she pressed a tissue to her eyes, Elizabeth took in a shuddery breath. "No," she tried to say calmly, "we're okay."
Jason didn't say anything for a few seconds and she hoped it meant that he wouldn't press her. But then he gently spoke, "Elizabeth. Everything isn't okay...you're crying."
"I'm sorry," she turned her head away from him even more. "I...it just hasn't been a good day."
She hadn't really meant to say anything, but Sean began crying again and Jason had his hand resting gently on her arm. It seemed that suddenly the flood gates opened and she couldn't stop herself from talking. "I'm not expecting him to sleep through the nights yet; he's not even two months old. But last night was one of the worst we've had in a while and I can't seem to get him to nap now so that I can get some sleep too.
"I'm...my new job starts tomorrow and I can't show up a nervous wreck because my son wouldn't sleep. And now Sean keeps crying and I...I'm sorry. I don't...I don't mean to dump this on you."
"No," Jason squeezed her arm gently, comforting her slightly. "It's okay. It's okay to have a bad day; I'm sure all moms have them."
"Yeah, but you don't deserve to have a stranger cry all over you."
He gave her a wry smile and shook his head. "Elizabeth, you are not a stranger. When you went into labor in my hotel room and I ended up staying during your delivery...then you were a stranger. Now you're a friend who's having a rough day and I don't mind listening. And I don't mind helping."
He pulled her to her feet, then walked over to Sean and picked him up. The little boy quieted down, his shrill cries turning to whimpers as Jason rubbed his back. "Hey, Sean," he said quietly with a happy smile. "Having a rough day, too? How 'bout we help your mom out? What do you say we hang out for a bit while your mom lays down and rests?"
Elizabeth's eyes widened as she shook her head. "That's not necessary, Jason. Really. Thank you, though."
Jason turned to face her as Sean quieted even more and then cooed. "Too bad I'm not going to listen, Elizabeth. I don't have any place I need to be, Sean and I will be just fine. Go get a little rest, and when you wake up we'll discuss my taking you out to dinner to celebrate your new job."
Jason opened his eyes with a start, but something instinctive kept him from sitting up abruptly as he woke up. It took him a few seconds to get his bearings, but when he saw Elizabeth leaning over him, cradling Sean as she lifted the sleeping boy from his chest he remembered. He had stopped by her place after returning from a five day business trip and found the new mother exhausted, emotionally overwhelmed and desperately in need of some rest.
When he'd stopped by he'd hoped to be able to convince Elizabeth to let him take her and Sean out to dinner that night. He'd tried a couple of times, but she'd always come up with an excuse. He'd finally understood a big part of her reluctance several weeks ago. When he'd offered to order dinner or go pick something up instead of them going some place, she'd agreed. Reluctantly. And only if she gave him some money to help pay.
In that moment he'd understood another aspect of Elizabeth Webber. Not only was she proud and refused to accept charity or a handout in the form of a job at his company, but she insisted on paying her own way for everything. It was a quality that surprised him, especially given the majority of women that he knew. Most women would be thrilled, and wouldn't think twice about letting him spend money on them. Elizabeth, however, wasn't like most women; even when it was something as small as paying for dinner.
Tonight though, he wasn't going to let her make excuses. He wanted to do something special for her, to celebrate her new job. When he'd spoken to Chloe a week ago to thank her for helping Elizabeth, the effusive designer had adamantly shaken her head.
"Jason, she said, her voice serious and not playful like he was used to hearing from her. He rarely saw this side of her. "I know you think I'm the one doing you a favor, but I'm not. I really like Elizabeth, and she's very smart. I really was dreading Julie leaving because I wasn't sure how I'd find another assistant like her. Elizabeth is everything I would have looked for. So in reality, you did me the favor by bringing her to my attention."
Jason wasn't sure he completely agreed with Chloe, but she'd been stubbornly firm. So he amended it to they'd both won. She got an assistant she was excited to work with, and he got to help out a very deserving friend.
A friend who was now looking at him with amusement as she held Sean. He sat up and glanced at the clock. "Hey."
"Hey," she smirked at him.
"I guess we all fell asleep," he shrugged with a lopsided grin.
"Yeah, I guess we all did. Thanks for watching him," she said as she sat down. "It's amazing how much better I feel after an hour and a half of good, deep sleep."
"I'm glad," Jason told her. She definitely looked better, and calmer, but he didn't think he should necessarily tell her that.
Sean squirmed slightly, and Elizabeth looked down as she patted his back. Even after her son was calm, she continued to hide her face behind a curtain of hair. He'd learned enough over the last few weeks to know she was embarrassed. So he just waited for her to speak, not pushing for her to talk before she was ready.
Finally she looked up, but would hardly meet his gaze. "I...I'm sorry about earlier, Jason. I didn't mean to dump this on you."
"Elizabeth, you don't need to be embarrassed. I told you...I don't mind and you certainly didn't bother me. So don't worry, okay?" he tried to assure her as he tipped his head to the side and tried to catch her eye.
She didn't respond, so he changed to subject to keep her from dwelling on her discomfort. He leaned forward and turned on the smile that he used in social functions to charm people into supporting his causes. "So...about that dinner."
Sighing, Elizabeth dropped her head towards her shoulder. "Jason. You don't have to-"
"Yes, I do," he firmly replied. "Because I want to. You're starting a new job and that's a reason to celebrate. It's what friends do. I would like to take you, and Sean, out to dinner. My treat."
"I don't know," she hedged.
"After Sean wakes up and you feed him, let me take you to Eli's." He grinned as he saw interest flicker across her face. "You've told me how much you like their ribs.
"Come on," he tried to entice her. "A full rib dinner to celebrate your new job."
She looked away, and then allowed herself to smile. "Alright. I... Dinner sounds nice."
Elizabeth hadn't realized how much she'd grown accustomed to Jason stopping by her apartment until he was out of town on business for nearly a week. She had grown slightly more comfortable with Chloe as they spent time together on the ball preparations and work. Yet Elizabeth still wasn't completely at ease with the international designer. School had gotten busy for Penny, and despite their vow to stay in touch, Elizabeth knew it would be hard. Especially given their respective work schedules. Penny would be working more evenings as she attended school during the day.
Jason, as odd as it had seemed to her nearly two months ago when he drove her to the hospital, had become her friend. She stopped looking at him as Jason Morgan, Billionaire and instead saw him as someone she had a lot in common with. He was very down to earth, more comfortable in jeans than in suits, and she had become more relaxed around him. In fact, whenever she saw him in a suit now it seemed out of place on him. Like some overgrown child had used him as a doll to play dress-up.
So as she walked through Port Charles Park beside him as he pushed Sean's stroller, she felt perfectly peaceful. Jason had told her about the sightseeing he'd managed to squeeze in on his trip, and she told him how the first meeting with Lucy had gone. She'd been intrigued by his descriptions, and planned to pick up a book at the library to read, and she'd managed to make Jason laugh with her imitation of Lucy's high-strung stream of consciousness rambles.
It was nice to talk to another adult about something other than fashion or skits. They easily flitted from topic to topic, or more specifically, Jason followed along as she talked about nearly everything under the sun. He didn't seem to mind as she babbled on, and even made comments occasionally. He seemed willing to indulge her, and when she'd stop, suddenly embarrassed by how much she'd been talking, he'd make a comment or ask a question that would cause her to go off again. It would always put her at ease and made her suspect that he really didn't mind.
"Thank you again for dinner," she said as they neared the playground. The evening was mild and there were a few families still out playing together in the twilight.
"You're welcome," he said as he glanced over at her. "I thought for a minute you were going to try and grab the check, but I'm glad you resisted."
She rolled her eyes at his teasing and bumped into his arm with her shoulder. "Alright, alright," she sighed. "You've made your point. I'm sorry I'm independent."
"I'm not," he shook his head, his tone a little more serious. "But it's not a crime to let someone treat you to dinner once in a while."
"Okay," she huffed, blowing up her bangs in frustration. "Point taken."
"Good," he smiled, once again at ease. As they reached the playground he paused, "Do you want to sit down?"
"Sure," she agreed. She wasn't really anxious to head back to her apartment yet. Jason stopped the stroller and set the brake, but didn't sit down as she expected.
"I'll be right back," he told her. He had a secretive smile on his face as he headed off.
Elizabeth watched him go, a bit puzzled, but her attention was soon drawn to the stroller as she heard Sean announce he was awake and wanted to be held. Unbuckling him, she lifted her little boy into her arms and soothed him. He looked around as they waited for Jason to return and Sean cooed and wiggled his arms and legs.
"He's awake," Jason smiled as he returned holding two ice cream cones.
She grinned joyfully at the surprise treat and the sight of him holding two cones that were just beginning to drip. Nodding, she shifted her son and reached for the chocolate cone Jason offered her. "He was nice enough to sleep through dinner. I guess he decided to wake up for dessert."
"Smart boy," he laughed.
"Thank you for the ice cream," Elizabeth told him, as she swallowed the melted confection she'd sampled. "I can't remember the last time I had a cone in the park."
"Me either," he said as he leaned back and crossed his legs at the ankles. "But I saw the vendor and remembered you saying how much you liked chocolate ice cream. It might not be Death by Chocolate..."
With a laugh she shook her head. "That's okay. It's the thought that counts...and I truly do appreciate it."
"Oh, how adorable."
Their attention was captured as they both swiveled to face the elderly woman who stood on the sidewalk smiling at them. "What a beautiful baby," she fairly cooed.
"Thank you," Elizabeth said through an embarrassed smile. She thought Sean was a beautiful baby, but she was also admittedly biased because she was his mother. But it was a bit embarrassing to have people say Sean was beautiful because it felt vain to say thank you. As if she had created him like a painting and had deliberately made him handsome. Yet, she couldn't be rude and not acknowledge the sentiments.
"How old is he?" the obvious grandmother asked.
"Almost two months," she smiled. Despite her awkward feelings, she couldn't contain her motherly pride.
"He's very cute," the older woman said again. "You make a very cute family."
Elizabeth was about to thank the lady again, when her next words froze the gratitude in the new mother's throat. "He's your first, right? You and our husband must be very excited, aren't you?"
She could only gape at the presumptuous older woman and make inarticulate sounds as the lady then smiled and walked away. Elizabeth turned and looked at Jason, feeling slack-jawed and embarrassed. He didn't seem as flustered as she was feeling; he just raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
"Don't worry about it," he shook his head as if he could tell she was about to apologize or bluster for the woman's assumption - she herself wasn't even sure which. He stood and reached for the stroller. "We should probably get back so that you don't throw his schedule off and he doesn't keep you up half the night. You'll need your sleep for tomorrow."
"Right," she nodded, hoping she sounded casual and not all what she was really feeling.
It was surprising and it made no sense, and no matter how strongly she told herself she was foolish, she couldn't squelch the sting to her feelings that she felt. Just because it came out of nowhere, it didn't stop the hurt she felt when Jason's carefully controlled visage and voice dismissed the old woman's comment and shut down discussion of it. It was just an off-handed comment; it meant nothing.
So why did it hurt so much when it seemed Jason would rather not discuss the thought of them being a couple, of the three of them being a family?
As Jason left Elizabeth's building and walked towards his motorcycle parked on the street, he clenched his fists and felt the tendons stretch. He was glad to leave her and Sean, and yet he'd been torn because a part of him really wanted to stay. It made no sense; it was just an old woman's mistaken presumption about the scene before her. So why did it shake Jason so much?
It was like Jason's whole world had suddenly shifted, even turned upside down, and now he was left scrambling desperately to catch up. He was not prepared to have his view towards Elizabeth changed. She was his friend, he enjoyed spending time with her and he was comfortable around her. She wasn't just one of his few female friends, she was one of the few people he felt he could call a true friend and not just an acquaintance.
Jason wasn't a monk, despite Ned sometimes teasing him, but he wasn't a playboy. He was careful about getting involved with women because he had so many throwing themselves at him, hoping to grab some of his fame and especially his fortune. It took a special woman to capture his interest and make him want to get to know them and see them. Because such a woman was rare, and he tired of the games of the dating scene, he was accustomed to and used to attending social functions by himself.
Because he was focused on relocating his company's headquarters and he was removed from the New York City social scene, women and dating were the farthest thing from his mind. Suddenly, now that he was viewing Elizabeth in a different light than just friend, he felt off center. He wasn't prepared for the shift, and a part of him was even resentful about it.
It wasn't that Elizabeth wasn't an attractive woman; far from it. She was a beautiful woman, and she was very unpretentious in that beauty. He had a feeling that even if she wasn't recovering from giving birth, she still wouldn't be running around in skin tight revealing outfits. She just didn't seem to be that kind of person. He felt like he could say that after getting to know over the last couple of months.
Because he had gotten to know her, it only added to her beauty. She was real and genuine, a beautiful person inside and out. She was the complete package Jason always sought, not just superficial attributes that attracted momentarily until the woman spoke and was revealed to be shallow or shrill. The danger was that Jason could see him being extremely attracted to and falling hard for Elizabeth. If he let himself.
For many reasons, the biggest being the sake of their friendship, he couldn't allow himself to fall for her. It wasn't, as some snobs would probably claim, because she was a waitress soon to be receptionist. He didn't care about that; despite his wealth he didn't care about money. He grew up without it; he could live that way again if he had to. He didn't like the moneyed circle, he didn't think she'd be unable to cope with the demands of his social scene.
No, he would resist his attraction to Elizabeth because he didn't want to risk his friendship with her. He enjoyed spending time with her and her son. They grounded him, gave him an escape from the pressures and demands of his life that sometimes threatened to overwhelm him. Maybe it was irrational, or maybe it was just selfish, but he didn't want to lose their ease of interaction. What if she didn't feel the same way he did, didn't want to try a relationship with him and then their friendship dissolved because of awkwardness? Or, even worse, what if they did try and it didn't work out?
The roar of the engine and the rush of the wind did nothing to calm him down or ease his troubled mind. He'd been riding for hours, seeking out of the way roads so he'd have solitude, but he did not feel better. Usually he could find peace during a ride, a solution for the problem troubling him, but not this time. He felt as if he'd been worked into more knots than he'd had when he left Elizabeth's apartment. He was a decisive man, used to working through a problem, coming up with a solution and putting it into effect. That strength was eluding him now.
He was beginning to suspect he wasn't going to be able to outrun his indecisiveness. He slowed his bike, backing away from the breakneck pace he'd been on. Now that the scenery was no longer flying by at obscene speeds, he could look around and appreciate it more. His eyes narrowed as he saw a turnoff from the road going into some brush, a dark smudge on the scenery that attracted his eye.
As he got closer, he realized it was an abandoned road grown thick with vegetation. He slowly coasted his bike forward on the road, not sure of where it was going or what he'd find. The vegetation opened up and Jason found himself approaching an old stone bridge. Stopping his motorcycle, he climbed off and looked around. He could hear the faint sound of water and walked towards the side of the bridge and looked down. He was amazed at the distance down to a stream of water tumbling over large rocks before dropping off in a small waterfall.
It was beautiful and undisturbed here, and Jason knew he'd found a place he'd be coming back to often. It was a place he would be able to escape to and think peacefully, and he knew he wouldn't have to worry about finding other people here disturbing him. Even as he was thinking about the solitude he'd found and would have in the future, his mind drifted to what Elizabeth would think of the scenery and the view and how he could bring her up here.
Sighing in frustration, he fisted his hands on top of the railing. He'd found a place he'd hoped to find peace of mind in, a place to help him put his feelings into perspective and gain control over them, and his thoughts immediately turned to Elizabeth. This was going to be more difficult than he thought.
"My mother is at it again."
Elizabeth looked at Chloe, and then looked up at Ned Ashton as he stood in his cousin's office running a hand through his hair in frustration. It had been strange at first to get used to seeing the Quartermaine grandson around Chloe's business, but after three weeks she was adjusting. L&B Records was next to the design offices, and Ned often visited to talk to Chloe.
Elizabeth had first been uncomfortable by his suddenly popping in, still adjusting to working for a woman of Chloe's prestige. She wasn't really used to being around people of their wealth and position, despite knowing Jason for close to two months. Then, her discomfort turned to embarrassment when Ned mentioned his good friend Jason Morgan and that he knew the businessman had been in her delivery room. But Ned hadn't teased her; in fact he seemed to grow more respectful in his attitude towards her. He said that Jason was a great guy, and he spoke highly of Elizabeth and her son.
She really didn't need Ned, or Chloe when the blonde learned Elizabeth knew him, to sing Jason's good points. She knew the kind of man he was. Ever since the night they'd gone out to dinner, she found herself dwelling on him and those good points. He was generous, caring, helpful, genuine...and he was easy on the eyes. He was fun to be around and she could talk to him about anything; plus he somehow inspired her to believe in herself when she doubted her abilities.
There was one point about Jason that she never let herself forget; a point which kept her from getting too carried away in lauding him as a wonderful man that she could definitely find herself attracted to. Jason was way above her, socially and financially. She was living paycheck to paycheck in a situation so bleak he had offered a $25,000 check. How could he ever overlook that and want to be with someone like her? So it was best just to put her thoughts aside, concentrate on being Jason's friend and nothing more, and turn her attention back to Ned.
"What is Tracy doing now?" Chloe asked, a smile teasing the corner of her lips.
"Throwing another one of her parties," Ned replied, disgust obvious in his voice.
"What's the cause?"
"Since when does my mother need a cause?" he sneered. "Any time it's been longer than two months she feels she needs to throw a soiree. The excuse this time is a fundraiser for the hospital's cancer unit."
"Did she have a fight with Monica?"
Elizabeth frowned, lost in the cousins' understanding of shortened and odd phrases that left her confused. Chloe, who seemed to have an innate sense about her, looked over at the assistant and smiled, "We've lost Elizabeth."
"Sorry about that," Ned chuckled and finally leaned on a credenza along the side of the room. "My mother and my aunt, Monica, don't get along. She thinks my uncle, her brother Alan, married beneath him and constantly points it out. Monica is a breast cancer survivor and sometimes when the two of them have a particularly bad fight, my mother decides to hold a fundraiser for the cancer unit."
She could only shake her head and say, "That is honestly one of the strangest things I've heard."
He only shrugged with agreement. "Yeah. She acts like she's supportive and caring of Monica, but in reality she's gloating that she's healthy and that a lot of money for Monica's cause has come from her efforts. It's twisted, but it's my mother and I've come to just accept it."
"So does that mean you'll accept her matchmaking attempts?" Chloe snickered.
"Not on your life," he said forcefully. "I'm already thinking of who I can bring."
Chloe turned to Elizabeth and with a wicked gleam in her eye said, "Ned's mother has made it her life's mission to find a perfect society wife for Ned. His first wife was unacceptable and Tracy takes their divorce as proof of her inferiority. She doesn't like Ned's record business, and hopes to find the perfect woman to get him to settle down."
Elizabeth didn't know what to say, so she just pursed her lips and nodded. This just reinforced to her why she would never fit in Jason's world. These were the people Jason associated with in business and social functions; she would be looked down on as former waitress turned receptionist. She was help, more qualified to carry the trays of caviar as opposed to eating off them.
"So I make it my mission at these functions to thwart her plans and get her goat," Ned chuckled, as a mischievous look entered his eye. "I take someone that I like, that I have fun with, but who is someone my mother would not approve of."
Frowning slightly, she looked at him. "So you use them? Play up the fact that they're beneath you?"
Straightening, a frown crossed his own face. "What? No. No, Elizabeth, it isn't like that. They know how my mother is, and they know she's going to disapprove of them. She disapproves of almost everyone. The women I take are my friends, people I hang out with or would date anyways. They know I don't agree with my mother."
"But you're still using them, aren't you?" she challenged him. "You know your mother is going to look down her nose on them and you expose them to it. How is that being a friend to them?"
He frowned and looked at Chloe, confusion on his face. Her boss sat forward in her chair, "Elizabeth-"
"I'm sorry," she cut her off, feeling flustered and a bit exposed. Elizabeth had let her personal insecurities regarding Jason to influence her perception of Ned's actions and to judge him harshly. "I'm sorry, Ned. It's none of my business and if they know the deal when they agree to go, then I... Just forget I said anything."
She stood and gathered up the notes and fabric swatches she'd been working on with Chloe before Ned arrived. Not looking at him, she shot a quick glance at her boss, but mostly kept her eyes on the papers in her hands. "I'll just go type these notes up and send a copy over to production."
Then without waiting for Chloe to respond, she headed out of the office hoping they couldn't see the blush of her embarrassment.
Ned watched Elizabeth's retreating figure and then looked over at his cousin. "Any idea what that was all about?"
Chloe braced her elbows on the desk and gazed thoughtfully at the door. "I think she feels out of place sometimes. Just a few comments she's made about Jason and working here; I think she wonders why her? She's just a single mother who used to be a waitress."
Ned frowned at her statement, "But you don't think that, and I know Jason doesn't. That's not who he is."
"No. But Courtney and Carly Corinthos...those two are such snobs and so acidic. The week she started here she mentioned how she was glad she didn't have to serve them anymore."
"I can only imagine how those two treated her or what they might have said about her." The two women loved to flaunt their money, and their connection to Sonny Corinthos, the mob boss scourge of Port Charles. They treated people like Elizabeth like trash and looked down their noses at most of the town.
"And Tracy is pretty much just like them," his cousin pointed out with a raised eyebrow.
"And we just sat here and talked about her and my dates that I choose to offend her."
She let a small smile float across her face. "I think Elizabeth was projecting a bit as well as standing up for the women she probably thought you were feeding to Momma Wolf."
Ned sat down in the chair Elizabeth had vacated. "So you're saying if Jason asked her to go with him she'd probably say no."
Chloe sat up straight in her chair and gaped at him. "He's going to ask her to Tracy's event?"
"I don't know," he said, and watched her deflate. "But you know my mother will send him an invitation. Given his mother's cancer, you know he'll attend."
She nodded solemnly in agreement.
"And you know she will invite women she thinks will be good for him," Ned sneered. "I was going to suggest, especially since he's now living here and won't be able to escape her advice and attention as easily, that he bring a date. A date kinda like I bring."
"You were going to suggest Elizabeth," Chloe grinned.
"I am not matchmaking," he shook his head, knowing that glint in his cousin's eye. "I don't know that I would have even mentioned Elizabeth's name. Jason may have thought about her all on his own or he may have come up with someone else. I am not even going to think about why you automatically want to pair everyone up and why you got all giggly like a junior high girl when you thought about Jason and Elizabeth."
As he expected, she huffed and rolled her eyes. "I do not try to pair everyone up," she retorted. "Just my closest friends."
Now it was Ned's turn to roll his eyes.
"And it's not like I've been sitting around thinking up ways to get them together. But when you mentioned Jason and a date I just thought of Elizabeth," she shrugged. "I suppose it's because of their history and everything. But I think they'd get along well and Jason would probably enjoy this event better than any other one if he went with her."
Ned wasn't about to admit it to her, but he agreed with Chloe. He also didn't want to betray his friend or give unrealistic rise to Chloe's expectations, but Jason did talk about Elizabeth in a way that made Ned wonder what he felt for her. He wasn't sure if his friend was even aware of it, and he didn't think he should bring it up. If Jason had feelings for the petite brunette, it was nobody's business but his own. And Ned wasn't going to try and force him to acknowledge them.
"That's for them to decide," was all he said. "But given her reaction just now...I don't think you should get your hopes up."
When she rolled her eyes he just laughed and stood up. "I should let you get back to work."
"You mean you should get some work done," she teased him.
"Actually," he grinned, "I'm going to go warn Jason and give him plenty of time to prepare."
Chloe watched her cousin leave and smiled as she leaned back in her Italian leather chair. Despite all their teasing of each other, they got along well and she always enjoyed spending time with him. It was always a nice break to her day when he stopped by. Today was no exception; she'd been glad to take a break from the sketches she'd been working on.
And she'd just found something that would give her a lot to think about. The idea of Jason and Elizabeth, together, had never really crossed her mind. She knew how he had helped Elizabeth and been by her side during the birth of Sean, Chloe had heard both their versions of the event, and she knew Jason cared enough to want to help Elizabeth get a better job. But anything beyond that had never really occurred to Chloe.
Looking back on it though, she could see that there were seeds already being planted. Chloe knew enough from Elizabeth's casual mentions that Jason sometimes stopped by and saw Elizabeth and Sean. From a couple of conversations she'd had with Jason she knew he liked the little boy and enjoyed being around Elizabeth. They both had called the other person a friend.
Yet Chloe could sense there was hesitation. Especially on Elizabeth's part. Even before today's conversation, Chloe had sensed a bit of unease in her assistant. Maybe it was the differences Elizabeth perceived between them, but that Chloe knew Jason wouldn't care about, and didn't even dwell on. Jason hated all of the trappings of dinners and cocktail parties, fundraisers and social events. He was more at home at that grungy little bar Ned had taken Nikolas to than an event at the Port Charles Hotel.
But Elizabeth probably didn't know that. While Jason had been there in the delivery room and Elizabeth said she'd gotten to know a different side of him, she probably still tripped up on the public image. The Wall Street Wonder, the man who graced the covers of both Newsweek and GQ. Chloe knew it could all be a bit intimidating.
While Ned, and even Nikolas, would probably accuse her of matchmaking, that wasn't really Chloe's intent. She did, however, think it would be a good idea for the two of them to spend some time together in casual settings. This would help both Jason and Elizabeth be relaxed and get to know each other better. And so then if they wanted to get to know each other beyond friendship, then it might be a little easier.