A/N: Yes, I have left a lot of gaps in this piece, but, if you are familiar with American history, you should be able to piece it together quite easily. If not, the title of his piece should also provide you with a clue that should help you out. Again, after I heard Dala's cover of this classic, I originally wanted to write this as a song fic, but, because I write too many of those to begin with and the premise of the story stretches beyond the reaches of the song, I waited, and this prompt, though my submission is several weeks late, fit it perfectly. With that in mind, here's a little exploration of a time period I have never seen covered in fanfic before. We're in unchartered territory here, folks. If you don't know, FNF stands for Friday Night Fics. They're similar to what I previous wrote, flash fics, but, instead of five minutes to edit, fifteen is allowed. Also, the prompts are provided by those at The Road to Nowhere. Enjoy! Charlynn
A One Shot
FNF#1: If you're reading this…
Despite the chaos surrounding her in a world gone to hell, Elizabeth Webber was content. She had her art, she had her studies, and, most importantly, she had her best friend. Strolling arm in arm across campus, she looked up at the man beside her, smiling softly at him. Though he didn't know just how much she cared for him, that was okay. She still had his trust and his confidence, and that was more than Jason Quartermaine readily offered anyone else.
They had been friends since they were children, she still in diapers chasing around her parents' best friends' son who was three years her senior and, none too surprisingly, not very interested in having a pudgy, little toddler nipping at his heals. But, eventually, through gifted treasures of toads and worms and shared cookies during church, she had won him over, and, from that point on, they had been inseparable. It was always Jason and Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Jason, and, as far as she was concerned, no matter what happened in their respective futures, marriage, children, or divorce, it was always going to be that way.
"So, what time will you be done today? Do you want me to wait around after my last final to drive you home to pack?"
Smiling up at her best friend, the petite brunette nodded, accepting his accustomed offer wordlessly. After all, he always waited for her, always offered her a ride, and she always consented, and, despite the fact that she could have gone out to celebrate the end of her first year of college with some of her girlfriends, she was not going to turn Jason down, especially since things would be changing slightly between them in the fall. Off to medical school, he wouldn't be there every day after her classes, waiting on a bench or lounged on the steps of the art building, book in hand, as she lagged behind. Instead, he would be studying hours away a different school; their daily lunches replaced with nightly phone conversations and the random, promising letter.
His laughter brought her out of her melancholic revelry, prompting her to return her gaze to his tanned, amused face. "Elizabeth," the sandy blonde next to her prompted, nudging her side gently with his elbow.
"The time… of your last final?"
"Oh, yeah." Realizing that his earlier question had gone unanswered, she glanced away from him in slight embarrassment, her cheeks turning a becoming shade of pink that had nothing to do with the bright, May sun and everything to do with the man standing so closely beside her. "Two-thirty," she finally replied helpfully. "That's not too late, is it?"
"Nah," Jason waved off her worries with a careless shrug. "You know I'd wait forever for you."
And he would… because he was her friend.
As they rounded a corner of the student commons, approaching Taylor Hall, they were met with a large, gathered crowd, angry yelling drowning out the sounds of an otherwise deceptively peaceful campus. Fear instantly settled low in the young artist's chest. "What's going on?"
Taller than she was by over half a foot, Elizabeth watched as her best friend scanned their surroundings, taking in the events enfolding ahead of them before responding. "It looks like they had the protest."
"What, but I thought it was cancelled? I got a flyer saying it was…"
"Yeah," Jason agreed with her, repositioning them so that she was slightly shielded behind his back. "So did I."
"Then… how…?" Her words trailed off as the crowd started to push back against them, forcing the two best friends towards the front. Before she could question further, she felt the medical student take her hand and pull her towards the very direction they had just come from, turning them away from where they both had to go for their last and final exam of the spring semester. "Jason?"
"Listen, I know that you're scared," he attempted to sooth her, his voice calm and rational, almost effectively hiding his own fear, "but I need you to do what I say without argument, okay?" She nodded yes, waiting for him to continue. "Whatever happened today, it couldn't have been good. The National Guard's here, there's tear gas canisters on the ground, and neither side looks to be backing down. We need to get out of here, and we need to go as quickly as possible."
"But our tests, your practical…"
"They don't matter right now, Elizabeth," her best friend interrupted, arguing with her. "Nothing matters right now but making sure that you're safe. Now, let's go."
She expected to feel him tug on her hand once again, and he did, but the momentum didn't pull her forward. Instead, she stumbled and fell to her knees as Jason's body collapsed onto the sidewalk beneath them. Blood pulled underneath his head, his penetratingly cobalt blue eyes drifted shut, and that's when she became blaringly aware of everything else around them. Shots were being fired, the protesters and innocent students alike were being attacked, and, somehow, her little, idyllic word had been pierced by the terror surrounding and enfolding the rest of the world. War had found her doorstep.
Two Years Later…
Leaning back against the perpetually damp bedding of his tent, Lieutenant Jason Morgan listened to the steady staccato of the nightly Vietnam rain showers, its dull roar nearly blocking out the gunfire raging blindly in the distance. Oddly enough, it was the sound he preferred to fall asleep to. Otherwise, if it wasn't raining, if the guns weren't spitting out their constant, never-ending supply of bullets, that meant silence, and silence during warfare meant imminent attack and death.
Using his flashlight to read the neatly printed name on the envelope resting tenderly on his lap, Jason allowed his blunt, stained fingers to run over her name, grinning slightly at the only actual tangible proof he had that such a woman was really in his life, that Elizabeth truly did know and care about him. Even after twenty-four months of being separated from her, he could still see her clearly in his mind, smiling wistfully up at him as he backed away from her that last day in the hospital. And, still, no matter what, she kept her word to him.
He didn't need to open the letter again to know what it said. Instead of focusing on the fact that he was in Vietnam and she was just entering her senior year of college, his best friend, his more than friend, if he was honest with himself, detailed to him her latest pieces of artwork, telling him the paintings instead of trying to make him see them for himself. After all, if anyone would know the limitations of his mind, it would be Elizabeth, and she certainly knew that he had a hard time looking at art along with many other mental deficiencies. And she would tell him about her friends, and her family, and her plans after she graduated in the spring, always leaving out stories of her past with Jason Quartermaine and any mentions she may have had of his own estranged family.
The letters always served to remind him as to why he was in Vietnam fighting in the first place, and they always reinforced the promise he had made to the beautiful brunette all those hundreds of days before. Closing his eyes, he settled down to go to sleep, Elizabeth's letter clenched possessively in his grasp. Just as she wrote to him in every one of her notes, pledging to be there for him when he returned, he meant to make sure that he did, one day, make it back to her in one piece, of sound mind, and in a position where he could be the man she believed him to be. And, even though he only received perhaps one out of every fifty letters the younger woman sent through the military's mail system to him, he knew that all her other notes ended in the same exact words as the one clutched so desperately between his long, lean digits did.
… I'll be waiting.
August 11, 1970
Elizabeth Webber was excited.
Her best friend was getting released from the hospital that day, and, despite the fact that she didn't know what that meant for Jason, for her, or for their relationship, after not being sure he would survive the gunshot wound to the head that he had sustained months before, any progress, in her mind, was good progress. Rounding the corner of the hospital corridor that would take her to his room, she didn't even pause at the nurses' desk, the women who worked there too used to her continual presence to pay her any attention.
Not a day had gone by since Jason had been admitted that she hadn't been at his side, holding his hand while he was in a coma, reading to him while he slept on, talking to him while, she hoped, he dreamed, and, since he had awakened, she had even managed to increase her visits, occupying not only her own previous time in his room but also his family's as well since her best friend didn't want them around. She was the only person Jason didn't turn away, perhaps because she, without hesitation, accepted Jason Morgan for the man he was and didn't try to remind him who Jason Quartermaine had been, and, because of that reason, he wanted her in his life.
Entering his room with a casual knock on the partly open door, the pretty brunette smiled before she realized her best friend's bed was empty, quickly glancing around the sterile space for the missing man. It didn't take long for her to find him, though, for Jason was standing just inside the bathroom, and the sight of him nearly brought her to her knees from both shock and dread.
It wasn't the fact that he was standing without assistance, that he was dressed and, apparently, ready to leave the hospital with or without her help, or that he was staring angrily back at his own reflection. No, rather, she was used to Jason's newfound stubborn streak and almost obsessive need for independence, and the fact that the blonde was angry not only with himself for not understanding some things about life but also the rest of the world was nothing new to her. Instead, it was the fact that he was dressed in army fatigues that left her speechless and terrified.
"Wha… what's going on?"
He spun around quickly, evidently so consumed with whatever was on his mind that he had been unaware of her presence in his room. "Elizabeth."
But she didn't give him a chance to continue. "If you were drafted, if they told you that you have to fight, you really don't. We can run away. We can go to Canada together, and they'll never find you. We'll leave tonight. I'll get my trust fund money, and we'll use your car, and we'll be across the border before sunrise."
He shook his head, negating her offer. "I won't run away."
"But you're still recovering from a brain injury, Jason," the artist argued, her voice dropping in volume with desperation. "They can't expect you to go off and fight for them when you've already taken one unnecessary, undeserved bullet for their stupid cause."
"They don't expect anything from me."
That made her pause. Quirking her head to the side, the brunette observed the stoic man before her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that I wasn't drafted, Elizabeth." She watched as he crossed the room towards her and lifted her trembling, freezing hands to hold in his own steady, warm ones. "I volunteered."
"No," she breathed out harshly, wrenching her arms away from his grasp. "No."
"You know that I hate it here, that I'm sick of the Quartermaines trying to tell me what to do and who I am. This way, I can figure those things out for myself."
Spitefully, she accused him, "so you are running away, just not with me but from me?"
"That's not it at all," Jason defended himself, once again reaching for her. Surprising the both of them, she let him weave their fingers together as he pulled her towards the bed, the two of them sitting down side by side. "I'm doing this, in a way, for you. I… you, you're the most important person in my life, Elizabeth," he confessed, glancing up long enough to meet her tear filled gaze and to grin sheepishly. "And I want to be worthy of you feeling the same way."
"But you already are."
"No," he contended, "I'm not. But I will be… someday. While it's not perfect, the army's easy for me. I can take orders and follow them through. I'm strong, I'm physically capable, and, if nothing else, I know how to survive. And, when I come back… for you, to you, I'll be someone. I'll know exactly who Jason Morgan is, and I'll be able to offer you a real life with a man and not some recovering brain injury patient."
"But what if you don't…"
"I will," the blonde promised. Letting go of her hands, he reached up and cupped her face, his hands cradling the delicate structure of her jaw and slipping back into her cascading chocolate brown curls only to tighten and constrict possessively. Slowly, he leaned towards her, his breath eventually mingling with her own, and, in that moment, Elizabeth knew that he was going to kiss her. She didn't move, she didn't blink, she didn't even breath for fear that any slight stirring would cause her best friend to change his mind, and, eventually her stillness was rewarded when she felt his firm yet affectionate lips whisper over her own. Pulling away, once again, he murmured, "I will," before disappearing from the hospital room and leaving her in a feverish haze of desire.
And, just like that, she knew. While, at one time, she might have loved Jason Quartermaine, she was now falling in love with Jason Morgan, and, with that in mind, she would do anything within her power to make him happy, to give him peace, to comfort him. Rising
from the bed, she sprinted out of the room and down the hallway, following his previous path until she cornered him at the elevator. He was already boarding, but she called out, capturing his attention before the doors closed between them permanently.
"Jason!" He glanced up from the ground, meeting her almost frantic gaze. "I'll be waiting."
And she would… no matter how long he was gone.