It was the first snow.
She didn't know what it was about the first snow that made the world around appear so magical. Snow, itself, was a pretty magical thing. White flurries raining down from the heavens, turning the atmosphere into a tiny cozy snow globe.
Mostly, for Elizabeth, she loved the way snow stilled everything. It didn't matter your job or station in life, things just stopped and you had no choice but to pay attention and still along with it. The iffy part was whether you enjoyed the idea of being so introspective about your own life.
Her life had been going good. For a while it had been close to perfect. Jason and her were going to try. They had finally gotten to place where they admitted they wanted to be together. And even through all their denials and life's hard punches they had found a way to reach one another and hold on.
Then Sonny faked his death and fucked everything up.
The thought made her frown so hard, her eyes at the ends hurt from it. She deposited another dish, another cup. It was all the same. It never stopped. The mononity of the day is what truly wore down on her.
She sighed, pressing the palm of her one unoccupied hand into her head, then raking her hair back roughly. At least it was snowing. She glanced out the window. She was closing tonight. Courtney had plans again.
God, she couldn't remember the last time she had plans with anyone. Even her Grandmother. She was officially a hermit. She worked, she went home and drew, she talked to Emily once a week and that about summed up her daily interaction with life and the people in it.
Bobby rounded the corner, folding the apron in her hand as she rounded the counter. " Elizabeth, I'm off. I've got plans with…"
" Sure Bobby." She quickly interjected, slightly perplexed by her sudden need for solitude. " I, uh, left something in my car…can you just give me a minute?"
Bobby watched wide-eyed, nodding as Elizabeth dumped the half full tray behind the countertop and jetted to the door. " Elizabeth…no hurry. Take your ten minute. You forgot to take a break earlier again anyway, sweetheart," she yelled after her.
" Ok." Elizabeth's small echo replied, her body already a shadow on the ground.
This felt good. This felt better. She inhaled, loving the stark freshness that greeted her nostrils. Sometimes Kellys just got to overwhelming and stuffy. Elizabeth wasn't exactly claustrophobic, but after a double shift the walls definitely seemed like they were closing in on her.
She fisted her hands under her arms, cursing her stupidity for rushing out without gloves. Served her right. She was late. All the time now and she didn't even have a good excuse like a boyfriend or a child or…anything remotely serious to keep her from her job.
She didn't know why she was late. Maybe she just didn't care.
The snow dropped heavier around her, covering her navy peacoat, dotting her shoes. She hoped it snowed good and hard. She wouldn't mind being buried at Kellys as long as there were no customers.
Not that she needed solitude. In fact she had a little too much of it. But nothing seemed right since…
" Make a wish?"
The woman behind her startled her, making her jump in her cold clothes. The old lady's small face peaked out from under a gray scarf. Her eyes glittered as if snowflakes had fallen into them.
What did she have to be so happy about? And where could Elizabeth go to get it?
" Um yeah," she heard herself appeasing the small elderly person. Her tiny smile warming Elizabeth's frosted insides. " I wish for happiness." The woman was looking toward the sky and she turned her head to look to. " And soon, please," she whispered into the air.
She heard a soft chuckle behind her. " Not to worry," the lady came closer as if to tell a secret. Elizabeth met her eyes, not able to look away. " It's on its way. It might take you by surprise."
Elizabeth smiled, forcing herself not the mentally roll her eyes. The lady was sweet, genuine even. Elizabeth eyed the dark canvas the sky had become…remembering a time when snow was a memory she fondly reminisced over. Over and over…
Suddenly remembering the cold she turned " Would like a hot chocolate…" the words died in the air. She was gone. That was weird. She hadn't heard her approach her and certainly didn't hear any footsteps leaving.
Hopefully that was the last weird encounter of the night.
" Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty five, thirty…"
Even, good. The draw was even, the clock just struck nine. It was snowing like a blizzard outside and she hadn't had one single customer all evening. She caught up on her shopping list, her registration for spring semester, and her fake trip to Italy. She was set.
She refolded the last of the napkins, setting up for the morning crew. Which of course included her, but she was trying to forget that part. Maybe her studio would go on lock down because of the bad weather or a big lake of ice would surround the building permitting no ins and outs due to fear of broken limbs.
The door rattled, severing her wishful trail of thoughts. Of course, she pressed her lips together. There was always one zany customer who came out in the weather that dared a car wreck. Kelly's apple pie was good but it wasn't worth the risk of injury.
She jogged over, her boots clicking on the freshly mopped floor, curtsy of hers' truly.
When she caught sight of the shiny blonde head, she paused, her hand already on the metal knob.
Shit. It was Courtney. And if it was Courtney that meant it was…
Her eyes traveled on their own accord to the dark companion behind her. Jason.
Great. She turned the knob harder than was necessary, cursing the snow now, cursing that old lady. Happiness? Right now she'd take army of baseball players with appetites the size of Goliath compared to this.
The door swung open just as her back met them. She pretended not the hear them murmur. They had to be close to do that, physically the proximity comparatively guranteed kissing possibilities.
Stop it. She squeezed her eyes shut, grabbed the folded napkins from the top and started to refold them again.
" I left my jacket here earlier..," Courtney trailed off. Elizabeth nodded her head in her general direction, keeping her eyes rooted to the cheap napkins shaking in her hands.
She refolded the crease of the last one five times already. She didn't look up. " Hello."
She heard the hesitance in his stance. His feet shuffled, his words followed in suit.
" You're working the late shift. Is that safe?"
His concern was easier to brush off than she imagined it would be. She sighed, placing the napkins in groups of twos for each table. " I've done it a million times."
" But is it safe?" he asked, gruffer.
She wanted to throw the paper napkin at him, but what damage would that do. Now a napkin dispenser…she could at least get a good bruise off of that one. She eyed him from below her lashes. Marring up that pretty boy face would make this year almost worth it.
" It's fine," she replied, arching a brow at him. The audacity of his sudden care made the words come out stiff. " I'm used to it."
He placed a hand on the chair in front of the counter. " Being here? Or being alone here?"
Setting the napkin down she finally gave in and stared in his direction. Taking in the setting behind him, making him appear unfocused and blurry. " I said I'm fine," she plastered a tight smile. It threatened to break the teeth inside her mouth.
He leaned closer, sighing with a tinge of frustration. " You always say that."
That made her gaze swing his way, root on him. She glared, her hand coming up to lean against her hip. "I don't need.-"
" Found it!" Courtney announced, skipping over to Jason with a full on giggle crossing her mouth. " I left it in the back room. I can be so absented minded sometimes. Jason?"
Breaking his gaze from the woman behind the counter, he offered Courtney a small gesture of a smile. " Good."
" Okay, well..um, Have a good night Liz." Awkward, the young blonde stuttered, her face reddening when she noticed Elizabeth's face. She scraped her fingers over her forehead nervously. " Um…you know Jason and I…we're just friends. The whole stalker thing is getting way out of hand and he's just helping me out…"
" I don't need an explanation." Elizabeth replied, hastily. The sight of them shoulder to shoulder, explaining their actions to her, made the situation that much sicker on her stomach.
" Neither of you owe me anything."
" But Elizabeth, I want you to know anyway. There's nothing going on between me and Jason. We're just friends…"
" Friends?" she whispered, shaking her head. Jason's eyes were back on her, boring through her well placed armor, sending a message Elizabeth didn't want to receive. " Yeah…I got it."
The door jingled announcing another patron. Elizabeth didn't stifle the harsh groan that rose from her mouth. Lord, were people nuts?
" Sir, I'm sorry, we're…"
" Closed, yes. I saw the sign in the window." He smiled at her, his face, she guessed, resembling a man in his mid forties. Shaking off the snow on his coat he moved over to her. Still smiling, the crinkles in his face giving him an even cheerier disposition, he came towards her. " Elizabeth Webber?"
Instantly she froze, her eyes shot to Jason and Courtney but they were huddled and talking so intensely it appeared almost as if they weren't moving. " Who wants to know?"
" Me. Of course. You are Elizabeth." His smile never faltered and his eyes beamed pleasantly at her. Making himself at home, he threw his coat over one of the chairs, followed by his gloves and cap. " It's so bad out there. I wasn't sure I'd make it time before you left."
All she could do was stand there and gawk at him. Was this some sort of joke? She couldn't…she wasn't understanding something. She was definitely missing some vital piece of information.
" Um, sir." She came around the counter. Her steps reluctant as she faced him. He was looking down at her with such a glow in his face it appeared almost unearthly. " I think you might have me confused with someone else. Or maybe you're um, misinformed. I… is there someone I can call. I mean do you need a lift?"
" No," he shook his head confidently, unwrapping the long red scarf that was snaked around his neck. When he was finally done, he waited, as if preparing for something.
" You are Elizabeth Webber, are you not?"
She was definitely right about the age, but there was something angelically childlike about him. " Yes. I am, but I-I don't know who you are. We've never met."
" You don't." He leaned a bit closer, but for some odd reason it didn't bother her. " But I do. See I'm your guardian angel."
She couldn't help it. She laughed. So hard, tears sprung into her eyes. The air inside her lungs tripped around and she coughed, holding the back of the wooden chair in front of her for support. " I'm sorry," she cleared her throat. " You're my guardian what?"
" Sir. Listen, I'm sure you, um, well…"
" I knew you wouldn't believe me." The confidence in his bouncy light voice never fractured. " But it's not for me to make you believe. At least not now. I'm here because you sent me."
" Sent you," the disbelief made her voice deepen.
The man folded his unusually large hands in front of him. Actually now that she was looking he was unusually big all over. He had to be at least six five. His height would dwarf Jason if they stood next to each other. Jason.
He and Courtney were where they had been since the strange man arrived. In fact, she squinted, exactly the same. She couldn't help but move closer, realizing as she came upon them that they weren't even talking.
" Jason? Hello?" She budged his arm, but he didn't move. Neither did Courtney. "Jason…what the hell," she muttered, backing away and hitting her bottom on the stool behind her.
" Don't worry about them. They're fine, but right now I'm here for you."
" Here for me? Okay, listen mister. I don't know what the hell is going on here, but you better stop it! I…what, you did some spell or something. Undo it."
" He said to watch out for your temper. I mean I knew …I've been watching you your whole life-"
" Watching me? Okay that's it." She stomped over to the phone, holding the phone out like weapon. " Whatever is going on better stop." She swung her hand over to Jason and Courtney frozen in place. " Fix them."
He regarded her with the patience of a saint. Shaking his head and chuckling at some private joke she wasn't privy too. " Elizabeth. I am here for you. Don't worry about your friends. They will be fine. We need to go now, please."
She laughed disbelievingly in her throat, nodding when he took a nonthreatening step forward. " I am not going anywhere with you. How dumb do I look. You need to get your weirdo ass out of here-"
" Cursing was always another problem I'd hope you'd worked on. Maybe if we start with the temper you won't want to curse so much. What do you think?"
" I think you need heavy therapy. I, on the other hand, need a drink."
His gaze darkened a bit in seriousness. " Your friends will be fine, Elizabeth. Have a little faith."
" In you?" she scoffed.
" No, in yourself." He paused, turning his head towards the door. " Are you ready?"
" For?" Her voice quivered, the lump in her throat growing at maximum capacity.
" To see your wish come true," he stated simply, satisfaction accenting his once aging features that no longer looked so mature. " I have come to show you your wish."
" My wish?" her voice sounded lost and then suddenly she remembered. Placing her hand on the counter for balance she set the phone down. The old lady….the wish….but how could he know about that? Her breathing increased, her pulse drumming against her jawline. " What did I wish for?" she challenged, out of breath.
His ethereal eyes shone, dancing happily as he voiced his answer. " Happiness."
" Oh my go-"
" You said you wanted happiness and to hurry, if I'm not mistaken." His hands spread at his sides. " Here I am."
" You are going to show me happiness?" she asked, doubt edging her question.
" Elizabeth, you know what faith is?"
She shifted as his gaze intensified. " Yes of course." Her shoulder lifted.
" You had faith that Jason would always tell you the truth. You had faith in believing the two of you could have a life together and make it work, make it last. And when that faith was tested, you failed."
" Excuse-" her hand whipped in the air. " You don't know what you're talking about. Jason lied to me, he told me that Sonny was…." Her words faded, the lump in her blew up to about the size of an orange. " How-how did you know that?"
" It is not important. What is, is that you follow me. Please."
Her breath steadied, a calm of reassurance gliding over her as she took a step near the strange man. " I..I don't…I can't believe this is…"
" Don't think," he whispered advisedly," Just take my hand and let me lead you."
" I don't see anything."
" That's because my hand is still over your eyes."
The shade of his hand slowly dissipated. Her eyes squinted, adjusting to the lights, the hard wood floor and leather couch centered in the middle.
Something sharp dug into her gut as recognition registered. " Jason's. We're at Jason's?!"
She turned, a nervous expression growing across her features. " Why? Why would you bring me here? This is the last place on earth I could ever find any sort of happiness. I mean I was delusional enough to believe that me and him could make some sort of semiplace of peace…"
The one word halted her undirected parade of words.
" Listen." He spoke softly next to her.
Next thing she heard were feet bounding down the stairs, hard heavy steps that she had memorized years ago. They used to trigger a smile now all they seemed to do was make her squirm inside her skin.
Jason paused at the foot of the steps and Elizabeth blushed seven various shades of red. She immediately went into panic mode, stammering for an explanation she didn't have. She stepped sheepishly closer, positive he would back away the instant she neared.
" Jason, I…I don't know what to say. One minute I was at Kellys playing tic tac toe and next I was.-"
" Make sure you bring the extra blanket. She got cold last time we took her to the park."
Blanket? " Jason."
When he didn't acknowledge her she made herself move closer, but he turned, one hand braced against the wall as he peered up at the darkness of the stairway.
" Don't forget Mr. Bear. You know," he chuckled, his head bowing as the memory washed over him, "… what happened last time."
Mr. Bear? Was that some sort of pet name for Courtney? Oh, lord.
She couldn't believe he was ignoring her like this. Okay so maybe she wasn't technically invited and Jason was more private then most, but to act like she wasn't even in the room. That was borderline elementary school garbage she hoped or wished they had gotten past. If not for civility's sake at least for the respect of what they shared together once.
" I know I've treated you like a stranger lately. I was hurt. I…I don't know why I'm here, but Jason-"
The stranger from Kellys was right behind her. " You simply do not listen, do you."
" What," she swiped her hand through her hair, annoyed. " What the hell am I doing here? He hates me. Is this my happiness your granting or the rest of Port Charles?"
He sighed, momentarily overcome with sympathy as she gazed down at her. " Child, you never do what you should sometimes. You've spent most of your relationship with Jason trying to figure out who he is and how he feels about you by dissecting what you have together. When all you had to do was stop and listen."
" Our relationship wasn't exactly simple. You can't stand there for two seconds and deem yourself some sort of –"
" Expert? Yes, I can. I've watched you from the beginning and I know that no man has cared for you more than him. He loves you, more deeply than any word or sentiment can proclaim. You just never noticed."
She huffed, her eyes all of sudden burning with tears that wouldn't fall. " Notice? Are you kidding me? I was barely a thought in his day. The man lied to me, never came home, he didn't even care when we broke up."
" That is where you're wrong. You were so busy being angry, hoping he'd run after you and make it right that you never realized that he was hurt as well. That he broke that day too when you walked out and never looked back."
Dismissing him and the sudden overwhelming wave of emotion that was storming through her she shook off his sincere proclamation. " He moved on," she sniffed, "…it's over so why the hell does it matter now."
" Because it's not." He tipped his head to the side, catching her straying eyes. " Because you asked for happiness and I'm bringing you to the place where your true happiness lies."
" He won't even look at me. What, I'm supposed to take that as a good sign." She threw her hands in the air, not shading her frustration.
" These are but shadows of what will happen. Jason does not see you Elizabeth. These things have not happened yet. They are what will be…if you are courageous enough to take them."
" I don't-I don't understand."
He guided her, placing his hands gently on her shoulder and turning her back to where Jason stood in the same position. " In four years, you and Jason will have a child together. You will live with him and raise the baby as a family. This is your future."
" I…I…this cant be. Jason likes Courtney."
" Watch." His light command erased further words from spilling forth.
Just then the bouncy step of a woman carried through the air, making its delicate feminine presence in small pieces.
" I got it. She is being so fussy today for some reason even with Mr. Bear. Maybe if she slept…" Elizabeth's head tilted as she shifted her daughter onto her hip.
" Slept, what's that exactly?"
She gave a husky laugh, eyeing Jason before adjusting the baby's pacifier. " I told you we needed sound proof walls. We have bulletproof glass in this place, but sound proof walls are a no? I don't get it."
" And what if she was sick or something?"
" Oh please, you check on her at least five times a night. And don't deny it; your stealth needs major revamping."
" I can't help it if a pin drop wakes you." He moved closer, hovering over his baby girl and the beautiful woman coddling her. " And I have stealth."
" Aww, did I bruise daddy's ego." She went on her tippy toes, placing a short sweet kiss against his already waiting lips. She pulled slightly back, but he held her elbow to keep her in place. When he was finally finished, his eyes dazed as he drank her in, his voice was deeper and warmer. " I'll get the car."
" Okay," a smile spreading as he continued not to budge. " You and the baby…"
" You know I think we are going to have to think of a name eventually. We can't keep calling her 'the baby'. She is going to get a major complex," she half chided, wiping the small stain of lipstick on Jason's mouth with her thumb. " At this point I'd take Williamenia. I just want a name."
" We'll find one." His arm came around her shoulder, guiding her toward the door as he cradled his family. " It's just…nothing's fit yet and sometimes it takes time to find the thing that just is …"
" Perfect," she finished along with him. " Yeah I see what you mean."
" I know you do. That's why I love you."
" Back at you," she winked, her eyes glittering under his heavy loving stare.
He opened the door, nudging Elizabeth gently forward as he grabbed his keys from the desk. Elizabeth waited outside the doorway. " Park then Kellys or Kellys then the Park?"
" I'm hungry."
" You're always hungry. She just ate so…"
" Then why do you ask," he teased as the door slipped to shut. " Park. Fine. But I'm getting something on the way."
" Just remember honey" Elizabeth whispered into her daughter's ear, but loud enough for Jason to hear. " It's not just Daddy. All men need food, at least every couple of hours or they get very grumpy. Kind of like Uncle Sonny when can't fix little Morgan's toys…I, personally, think its genetic thing."
The voices left, fading into the air like a glorious apparition. Her and Jason…together? Having a child? A little baby girl. How could that be?
Getting a grip on the swelling emotions cascading through her brain, she turned and in the instant she did she was back at Kellys. In the same position she had been before she had taken the stranger's hand and hoped to God she didn't end up in the backseat of some truck tied and gagged.
The man was right where he was, granting her the same fixed Mona Lisa expression.
" Is, is that would could be or what will?"
His head bowed. " What will."
" Then why show me? Why not just let life takes it course."
" Elizabeth, you wished for happiness and soon. Jason is your happiness. You could either wait four years for that happiness to stumble upon you or you could take that step now. Life isn't about taking the easiest roads my child. It's about finding the path that brings you joy, completion and following it no matter where it leads."
Her head felt like it was about to fall off her shoulders. " What happens to Jason… I mean to us, in the next four years?"
" That is not for me to say. Only you can decide what to do with the time and choices you are given. You can either watch Jason walk out that door with Courtney never knowing where they will go and where it will lead. Or you can put your feelings on the line and let him know how you feel."
" But Jason doesn't…"
His head shook again, breathing out a sigh of pure patience. " My child, Elizabeth, when will you not see? Stop talking and listen. Listen with your heart. He cares. You just aren't paying attention."
She eyed Jason. The cozy intimate stance he held next to Courtney. They are so close. She was becoming something to him that she used to be. How could Jason and her undo the damage both of them have caused?
It was impossible. Her eyes swung back to the man but he was gone. The door to Kellys jingled but no glimmer of a body or presence gave away any evidence that the stranger was just moments ago there, in front of her.
Jason and Courtney stirred next to her. She heard their whispers grow as Jason backed slightly away, clearly uncomfortable.
She couldn't move and didn't try to. She was watching his back, his shoulders moved, straining against the leather fabric of his jacket. His head was down, his eyes averted to the side. As if suddenly sensing her gaze on him his head turned and instantly met hers.
She didn't turn away like she thought she would. Instead she pulled her body to move forward.
" Are you okay?" He placed himself closer as well. Courtney's presence a mere afterthought. " You look …different."
Those eyes of his said it all. Spoke to her, screamed in pain, in concern as they locked and pinned her in place. Blocking out the awkwardness that pervaded between them he focused solely on her condition. " What's the matter?" His head leaned forward.
Her mind went blanket. How could she not see the anguish. " I..I don't know."
" Come on Jason. We're going to be late." Courtney huffed, placing a hand on Jason's jacket.
He didn't hear it. Moving closer, Courtney's hand fell away on it's own, and he was now crowding Elizabeth. " Tell me."
The deep intensity of his voice sputtered her thoughts into action. " It's nothing," she routinely replied, shrugging off his blind concentration on her. " I'm fine. I'm okay." She gave a quick smile. It didn't even reach far enough to make her nose crinkle.
Not hiding his disappointment, his face suddenly went stone, masking over whatever emotion he had just gutted out before her, wiping everything away that had moments ago slipped out.
" She's fine. Let's go." Courtney breathed out irritated. The minute he turned Courtney's smile was back, her white teeth lightning up like a bulb. " How about the docks? We can get hot coco or maybe you can help me pick up something for-"
All the air left Elizabeth's lung. Her heart started to shrivel in her chest as she realized the last of her happiness; her chance was being dragged away unwillingly.
" Jason, don't go."
Turning slowly, his face revealed to her all the torment he had suffered these past months. The mask slipping away with each prolonged second he stood and stared. His voice was unsure and rough. " What?"
" I want you to stay." Her voice held the tears her eyes weren't shedding. " With me."
He stepped closer, tentatively stopping halfway across the room. " Why?"
" Because," she swallowed up the rest of the distance, gingerly capturing his hand in hers as her eyes caught and held onto his like a lifesaver. He answered her gesture by placing his fingers in between hers. " I want to talk about what we're going to name our baby girl."