Safe… No More
A One Shot
FNF#10: Put that away, we don't have time for that right now.
She had met Jason Morgan once, but that was before.
Before she fell in love, before the fire, before she found out she was pregnant. It was hard to think about the short amount of time that had separated her very first and, as far as she was aware, only meeting with the intimidating mob boss and the point where her life had changed completely. One minute she was a normal teenager, and, then, the next thing she knew, she was mourning the loss of her boyfriend and branded the town slut, tossed out onto the street to fend for herself. Eighteen and knocked up, the Webbers had wanted nothing to do with her. Eighteen and knocked up, her Gram had decided that she was sick and tired of trying to clean up her granddaughter's messes, that it was high time for her to learn to take responsibility for her own actions. And, eighteen and pregnant, the Spencers had suggested she have an abortion.
But Elizabeth had ignored them all.
Not that it hadn't been a struggle the past four years. At first, she had managed to rent a small studio apartment on the docks with the money she made waitressing at Kelly's, but, eventually, when she had to quit her job in order to have the baby, she had fallen behind in her bills, eventually getting evicted. At that point, she had tried again. Penniless, hungry, and with a constantly crying baby in her arms, she had applied, and then pleaded, and then flat out begged for a job at the various places of employment around town, only to be rudely, mockingly turned down. She sought out government assistance, but there was never enough to go around, never enough to make sure that her son was taken care of properly and that they had a roof over their heads. It had been the hardest thing she had ever managed to live through, and, even though she and her little boy had eventually found a way to make it work, there had never been a point when she had regretted her decision to keep the child.
Upending another drawer full of clothes into her large duffle bag, Elizabeth pushed the items aside, making room for more. She didn't care if the t-shirts and jeans and sweaters were folded neatly. At that point, it didn't matter. Later, once they were safe and someplace new, she could worry about unwrinkling her clothes. In that moment, though, time was of the essence. If they weren't out of the house in a matter of minutes… Well, she didn't even want to contemplate what could… and probably would happen.
So, she didn't. Rather, she focused on the task at hand – packing. Cameron was in his own room, hopefully, working away just as she had told him to. While she would worry about gathering the necessities – their clothes, their blankets, the few items of food she kept in the cabin, her son was supposed to be packing up his favorite toys. Not that he had very many to choose from, but, because they were running on foot and had been staying there for a good six months, there would be things he would have to leave behind. She was only
one woman, and her arms were only so big. Some things would simply could not taken.
It was the risk they took, living the way they did, and to think that it had all started with a boxcar. Broken and desperate, the new, teenaged mother had roamed the streets of Port Charles after her son was born and they had been released from the hospital. With no job, no family who wanted to claim them, and no one to turn to for help, she had eventually taken them to the old boxcar that her high school sweetheart and the father of her baby had lived in for a while. The walls she had worked so carefully on were still painted, and she used the old abandoned railroad property to recuperate. The weather wasn't perfect for practically camping out, but, as long as she kept the baby fed and warm, that's all that mattered, and, eventually, more importantly, staying there had given her an idea.
There were plenty of properties in and around Port Charles where she and her son could stay, could live. There were summer cottages by the lake, cabins on the outside of town closer to the mountains, and she knew that the local crime syndicates kept plenty of safe houses sitting empty all year round. Stocked safe houses. And, thanks to the fact that she had dated Lucky Spencer, not only did she know where most of them were, but she also had the skills to disarm the alarm systems. So, that's what she did. She and Cameron would trespass and then squat on the local mafia don's properties, putting to use the resources he so flippantly took for granted.
It wasn't perfect. The homes were impersonal, and she couldn't very well redecorate, especially on her budget. Eventually, after she had a chance to settle into one of the bungalows temporarily, managing to clean up her appearance and print out resumes at the library, she had gotten a job, but it wasn't enough to pay for all the bills, and, while Jason Morgan unknowing provided her and her little boy with a place to stay, free electricity, water, and heat, her paychecks took care of the food and their clothes, daycare costs, and, every now and again, managed to treat her three year old son to a train or two.
But Cameron was happy. He was healthy, and content, and, in their own way, they were a family, however unconventional and unique. And she loved her little boy more than anything else in the world. It wasn't much, but it was better than what some parents offered their children; it was more than her own parents had offered her, and no one had a right to criticize her or the job she had done raising her only child, because they had never been in her shoes, and they had no idea how hard it had truly been.
Satisfied that she had enough clothes to start again somewhere new, Elizabeth tossed the overflowing duffle bag by the back door, two other bags, one with her son's clothes and the other with various other personal effects, waiting there as well for her and their impending flight from relative, fleeting safety. All she had to do was grab Cam and his toys, and then they would leave, saying goodbye to yet another almost home. She knew that her son would be confused, that he'd cry for the first few nights, wanting to be back in his own bed, but, just as she always adjusted, so would he, and, in a few weeks' time, their old cabin would be a distant memory as they settled into another temporary home, one always belonging to the most feared man in town.
Calling out ahead of her as she quickly made her way down the short hallway towards her little boy's open bedroom door, the young mother asked, "honey, are you almost ready? It's time to…"
But her words trailed off as she looked at the sight before her. It was obvious to the brunette that her son had been in the middle of packing ALL his toys instead of just a few, not that that he had many to start with in the first place, when he had dropped his bucket of legos. It was his newest present, a gift he had received just a few days prior for getting such a good report from his playschool teacher at daycare, and her toddler refused to go anywhere, not even to the bathroom when it was time for his nightly bath, without the colorful, mini blocks. But, apparently, he had tripped when gathering up everything else, knocking the hundreds of legos over onto the bland, beige carpet, and he was currently, one by one, quietly, studiously, picking them up to place them back in the now empty bucket.
Sighing in frustration, Elizabeth scrambled after her little boy, picking him up against his will. "I'm sorry, Cameron," she apologized, feeling both a mixture of guilt and annoyance. She knew it wasn't his fault, that accidents happened, but they were essentially running from the mob, and they had no time for mistakes. Every second counted. Just one could be the difference from continuing on with their way or life or losing everything in a blink of an eye. If Jason Morgan ever found out what they were doing, how they were taking advantage of him, she feared for their lives. So far, she had always been one step ahead of the game. They had never gotten too comfortable, and they had never stayed in one place for too long. It was almost as if she had a sixth sense about when it was time to leave, but that instinct had failed her this time, and, thanks to the radio that had been playing at work, she had heard about the explosion that had taken out his apartment building and knew that those in the Morgan Organization would be hiding out for a few days as they licked their wounds, regrouped, and assessed the situation before they struck back.
"Drop the legos, Cam," the single mother ordered her little boy, finally prying the toys from his grasp. "You can't take them with you. We don't have time to clean up this mess."
Before the last sentence had even managed to find its way past her full, makeup free lips, the three year old was crying. No, not crying – he was screaming. Kicking his feet, thrashing about in her arms, and sobbing as loud as his little lungs would allow him, but she never attempted to calm him down. Not only would it be a waste of time when she had more important things to worry about, but she also felt that he deserved a good cry. In fact, she wouldn't have minded one herself in that moment, but it just wasn't possible.
Slinging his bag of toys over her shoulder, she moved towards the back door as rapidly as her son's frantic movements would allow her, pausing momentarily to lift and somehow manage to arrange the three other bags upon her person. But it was too late. All the effort, all the energy, all the trouble was for nothing when the very door she was standing before opened in front of her, swinging open slowly, warily as if the person behind the action was aware of her presence.
They weren't, though, that much was obvious when she saw who it was and what kind of
shape he was in. It was the very man she had been stealing from for years, and Elizabeth found herself wondering just how he was still managing to stand erect. His entire body seemed to be injured – bruised and bleeding, burned and covered in dirt, grime, and soot. There was a deep wound on his forehead, one that would require stitches or otherwise it would scar. Even she knew that, and she was perhaps the most unknowledgeable person in the world when it came to medicine. The way he was clutching his ribs made her wonder if some of them were broken, and the awkwardly hanging left hand at his side told her that he had a dislocated shoulder and, perhaps, even a broken arm. He was in terrible shape, and that was just on the outside; she didn't want to consider what his internal injuries might be.
However, she couldn't worry about the battered mob boss in front of her. She had a son to take care of, he had to come first, but she was frozen inactive by fear and had no idea what to do next. She couldn't very well run away when bogged down by so much luggage and a suddenly rigid with tension and fright toddler in her arms, and, even hurt, it would have been impossible for her to get past the man standing in the doorway, the man who was staring at her with skepticism and astonishment written plainly across his pain filled face. Not to mention the fact that there were probably armed and dangerous guards just outside the safe house, and, unfortunately, she had played hooky that day in high school senior year when they had held a free self-defense course.
Taking a deep breath and choking back an anguished moan of panic, the waitress went to talk, tried to offer the crime lord an explanation, something that would buy her time and actually give her and, more importantly, her little boy a chance to live to see another day, but he beat her to the punch by simply asking, "who are you?"
"Elizabeth," she croaked out, swallowing thickly only to find her voice again. When she was nervous she rambled, and, when she rambled, she tended to forget herself and the situation. "I know this looks bad, but, if you would let me explain, I promise you that I meant you no harm. I'm just a single mom with no one to help her, and I needed a safe place for my little boy and I to stay, but, obviously, since this is your cabin, it was a pretty stupid idea to pick this house as our temporary residence, and I'm really sorry, Mr. Morgan, and I would say that I have learned my lesson and that I wouldn't do it again, but I refuse to make promises that I can't keep, not to you, not to myself, and certainly not to my little boy. Please, if you would just let us…"
He interrupted her. "You've been… you live here?"
Exhausted, she gave up any pretenses of actually being able to escape at that point, allowing the bags she was holding precariously in her arms to fall loudly to the floor. They smacked against the tile of the mudroom, some of the belongings falling out to litter the otherwise impeccably clean floors. While she might have been living in a place owned by the mob, she certainly took care of it by herself, taking pride in the fact that she could keep a house even if she wasn't actually in possession of it. Finally, after watching the man before her carefully, she put Cameron down, too, whispering to him to go to his room to pick up his legos. He ran off gratefully, eager to escape the awkward strain ever growing between the two adults and wanting to reclaim all his toys.
Once they were alone, the young mother tilted her chin up in arrogance, attempting to and succeeding rather successfully at giving off an unrepentant air. "Yes, we live here."
"And do you cook?"
Shaking away the cobwebs currently littering her mind, Elizabeth blinked rapidly, completely thrown by the older man's inquiry, but, after regrouping herself, she replied, "adequately," even if that was a slight stretch of the word. She could make macaroni and cheese, she could heat up premade meals, and she could bake a wicked batch of brownies, but that was about it.
Smartly, she snapped, "what does it look like? If I couldn't afford my own place and had to crash here, do you honestly think that I tossed money around on maid services?"
The injured don seemed to accept her acerbic comment, hobbling further into the house and, without giving her actual word, letting it be known that she was to follow. "And what about taking care of someone who's injured? You're a mom, so…"
"I can put a Band-Aid on."
"Well, I don't like it, but I won't faint at the sight of it."
"Alright then," Jason Morgan announced, sliding down onto the couch with a pained groan. "You can stay... on one condition." Locking his sharp gaze with her own hesitant one, he added, "as long as you manage to keep me alive, I'll let you live as well."