Brides Watch Over Thee

Chapter One
CFFC#1: On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: A partridge in a pear tree.
~
The Twelve Days of Christmas

She was being pushy. And stubborn. And demanding, she knew that, but it was her special day, and everyone knew that a bride received anything and everything she wanted on her wedding day, even if that something was for the chance to play matchmaker.

However, the task before her would be no easy feat.

Knocking briskly on her friend's bright, welcoming front door, Robin Scorpio, soon to be Robin Scorpio-Drake, waited for the young, single mother of two to greet her. Being honest with herself, the doctor had no idea what to expect.

No one had seen Elizabeth for weeks prior to the evening before when she had shown up at the General Hospital Christmas party, her boys in tow. After her youngest son had been returned to her, the nurse had hidden away in her home, refusing to rejoin the real world, her fear of the unknown and the dangerous making her a prisoner in her own life. And the time away from her job, from her friends and coworkers, and from the pressures of everyday living had not been kind to Elizabeth, that much had been clear and apparent the night before.

The young mother looked completely broken, both inside and out. Her normally bright and shiny hair had hung limp in her face, shrouding her countenance from all to properly see. It was as though the pretty brunette was hiding behind her own form, and it had saddened Robin beyond words. There, she herself was, perfectly happy and content, a new mother who was just hours away from marrying the man of her dreams, while one of her best friends seemed to be disappearing before her very eyes.

And then there were Elizabeth's clothes, too. Loose and baggy, they swallowed her petite form whole. The extra material that hung from her arms was even used to cover her hands, as if the nurse couldn't even bear the sight of her own unblemished skin. She never smiled, she seemed to walk through the motions of feigning excitement and joy for her children as they celebrated the holiday season, totally oblivious to the pain their mother was drenched in, but, without a doubt, the most frightening aspect of Elizabeth the evening prior had been her eyes.

Always expressive, always a beacon to her inner most thoughts, wishes, and desires, the former artist's orbs of deep, enchanting sapphire blue were muted. Silenced. Dead. Robin, luckily, had only managed to see eyes that broken once before in her life, and she knew, no matter how long she lived or what kind of horrors she might eventually have see in her days, she would never forget the bleeding pain and emptiness Jason's gaze had held the day she had gone to AJ to tell him the truth about Michael's paternity.

Yes, her former lover and current friend had recovered from the loss of his son, but it had taken Jason years to do so, and she didn't even want to contemplate how much strife he had gone through in order to return to a semi-healthy existence. No matter what, she did not want to see Elizabeth go through the same thing, so that's why she was here, banging on her coworker's front door, asking for, no, begging and demanding for entrance.

And the wooden structure swung back, just as she knew it eventually would, emitting warmth which surrounded her chilled form and showcasing mother and son in an obviously intimate, parental moment. Elizabeth appeared harried and Jake perfectly content, both his bib and his face smeared with baby food.

The young nurse smiled, the gesture false and doing absolutely nothing to lighten the dark cloud which had settled over her delicate features weeks prior, before standing aside in a silent gesture of welcome. "Robin," she greeted her. "I wasn't… um… expecting…"

The pleasant politeness disappeared, and the new mother realized her friend simply didn't have the energy to pretend any more. "What are you doing here?"

"Patrick and I are getting married today."

Elizabeth moved away from her, shutting the front door before returning to her chair at the dining room table where she had been feeding her youngest son. Without glancing up or managing to show an interest in what she was so routinely doing, the onetime artist returned to her former task, pushing spoonful after spoonful of carrots into her son's patient and always eagerly awaiting mouth. "I know."

Never before had Robin ever felt so awkward around Elizabeth; never before had she ever felt so unwelcome by her friend. But she pushed those thoughts and feelings aside, sympathizing with the young mother as soon as she recalled what her coworker had recently just been through. Why, if it had been Emma who had been kidnapped… Or if she had finally pushed Patrick away for the final and unwavering time… Well, Robin wasn't even sure she'd be operating as well as the nurse was managing to do.

Ignoring the sudden wave of insecurity that washed over her, she took a seat at the table on the other side of Jake and approached the situation like anything else she did in her life: with a one track mind that refused to back down or be denied. "We, Patrick, Emma, and I, would like you to be there."

"I can't."

Immediately, she argued, "why not?"

"The boys…"

"The boys are more than welcome to come as well," Robin interrupted before her friend could even finish her protest. "Cam has already managed to twist both Patrick and Matt around his little finger, and this adorable guy, here," she smiled and leaned down to peer more closely at Jake, smiling at him when his ice blue eyes twinkled back to her in response. The sight left her speechless. "He's… uh…"

Silently, she finished the thought to herself. He's Jason's son.

Why had she never noticed before? How many times had she stared into the little boy's father's matching gaze over the years? How many nights did she wake up with those same exact eyes haunting her memories and her dreams while living in Paris? And how many times had she seen Jason and Elizabeth together, the love and affection they felt for one another written plainly across both their countenances and their forms? But, still, she had been blind.

She had faithfully taken the word of her friend at face value, never once considering what her own observation skills had told her. And she was a doctor, for crying out loud! It was her job to notice everything and always follow her instincts. It was no wonder that Jason had risked everything not just once but twice for the little boy sitting beside her, and it was no wonder why Elizabeth's decision to stay away from the man she loved was so quickly killing her spirit. Not only was she denying herself the very thing she wanted most, but she was also denying her little boy and the man she loved the chance to know one another.

"He's fussy," Elizabeth supplied for her, finishing the new mother's previously open ended statement after a few seconds of tension filled quiet. Tilting her head in question, Robin observed the little boy before her. He looked perfectly calm, perfectly at ease, and perfectly like his father. "He needs to take a nap, and I don't have time to not only get myself ready but also the boys. Speaking of getting ready," her friend tried to infuse her lifeless voice with even a sliver of enthusiasm. "Why aren't you right about now?"

"Are you kidding me?" The laugh that the young doctor forced between her lips sounded contrived to the both of them. "With Drill Sergeant Maxie shrieking orders at me and the fact that I've done all of this once already, we have the process down to a science. It'll take me thirty minutes to get ready, tops."

"Yeah, but what about Emma?"

"My Mom kidnapped her this morning… along with Spinelli, which was odd, now that I think about it, and I haven't seen the three of them since. I think they went shopping… or something."

"But your Dad's in town," Elizabeth tried to dissuade her once again. "I'm sure you want to spend as much time with him as possible."

"I do," the soon-to-be married medical professional admitted, "but not until after I say my vows. He's been driving me crazy all day, insisting that it's not too late to back out of my decision to marry Patrick."

"Well, what about Mac. He might want to…"

"Hey," Robin interrupted her friend for the second time that afternoon. "Enough," she ordered her, silencing the protest she could see building on the single mother's full yet chapped lips. Covering Elizabeth's free hand with her own, she pried the jar from the nurse's grasp and then moved to take the spoon she was using to feed Jake as well. "I'm not going to take no for an answer."

"I have nothing to wear."

"Sure you do," she argued. "Wear that green dress you had on for my first wedding. You looked beautiful in it, and, if I remember correctly, there was a certain blonde haired, blue eyed man who couldn't take his eyes off of you in it."

Swallowing thickly, the former artist whispered, "that's… that's not an option anymore," and Robin realized she had overplayed her hand.

Deciding to back up, she simply agreed with her friend, "whatever you say. Now, go. Take a long, hot back, get dressed, put on some makeup, and fix your hair. I'll take care of the boys."

"I appreciate the offer, I really do, but Jake hates getting dressed, especially in fancy clothes. He'd rather run around in his diaper all day if I let him, and Cameron's just started this new phase where he likes to regress and pretend that he's a baby like his little brother as well. That's why he's upstairs right now. He was sent to his room for a timeout, which means he's probably playing with his toys, but I just didn't have the heart to yell at him again. Not that he actually cares when I raise my voice. I think it bothers me more than it does him." Realizing that she was rambling, the younger woman stopped abruptly, took a deep breath, and regrouped. "Are you sure you can handle them?"

Solemnly, for it wasn't often that she spoke of that particular time in her life, Robin answered, "I was Michael's mother for almost a year, Elizabeth. I can take care of a baby boy… or two. In fact," she admitted, scrunching up her face in thought. "When you really think about it, I was much better with Michael than I am with my own daughter, so maybe I have the little boy parenting gene."

"Well," Elizabeth quipped, for the first time since she had opened the door to allow her friend in actually showing some genuine emotion. "You did manage to tame Patrick."

"That I did! Now shoo," Robin ordered, even going so far as to wave her hands towards the stairs as if she were scaring away some persistent yet mangy birds in the park. "Trust me," she added when the young mother of two still seemed hesitant. "After you're done, you're going to feel like a whole new woman."

She watched as a ghost of a smile, a melancholy glimmer of doubt caressed the corners of her coworker's mouth. "You know, that sounds… really nice. If only it was that easy, to take a bath and simply emerge a different person."

As she watched the onetime painter walk away, she couldn't respond. Wordlessly, the doctor turned back to the toddler beside her, catching his sad eyes as he watched his mother walk away. Despite his young age, it was apparent that Jake knew exactly how depressed and miserable his mom was, and, despite the situation, Robin found herself smiling, for Jason had always told her that babies sensed things in the adults around them.

"I know, buddy," she sighed, shaking her head in disbelief. "We have to fix this, don't we?" The child smirked then, the very grin she knew she should have recognized as his father's months and months ago. "In the meantime, though, you need to finish your lunch."

Sticking her pinkie into the half eaten jar of carrots, she removed her finger and swiped it clean in her mouth, grimacing at the taste of the canned vegetables. "That is absolutely…" Shivering in disgust, Robin mentally attempted to push the unwanted flavor away. "Horrible!" How do you eat this stuff, let alone appear to enjoy it? All I know is, I'm never going to make my daughter eat something this disgusting. Wait here, Jake," she quietly instructed the little boy. "I'm going to go throw this away, burying it at the bottom of the trash so your mommy thinks you actually ate it, and I'm going to return with something we both can enjoy. How does that sound?"

Jake laughed, gurgled, and then squealed for something called 'ares.' Five minutes later, the engaged new mother returned with something called pears, delighted that her search had been so fruitful.

"You know, little buddy, when your Daddy's… nephew, Michael, was a baby, he liked pears as well. Do you think that's a coincidence? Yeah," she added when Jake blew a raspberry with his lips, spraying her with slobber and baby food, "I didn't think so either.

"Maybe it's a Quartermaine thing," she suggested. "Biologically, both you and Michael are Quartermaines, but I've always been a supporter of the nurture side of the age-old nature versus nurture argument, so that makes me wonder if your Dad likes pears, too. I don't ever remember seeing him eat one, but, then again, this is Jason Morgan we're talking about here. If it doesn't come in a Styrofoam box, he doesn't eat it, and, if it doesn't come in either a coffee mug or a bottle, he doesn't drink it.

"However, it's been a long time since I could honestly say that I knew your Daddy well enough to make such a decision about him. Maybe," she proposed wickedly, wiggling her eyebrows and making the toddler giggle. "We should ask your Mom. I bet she would know, because, if anyone could get Jason to eat a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, it would be your Mommy.

"Or," she offered, drawing out that one word mischievously. "When I go to see him later, I could just put him to the test."

Jake beat his little fists enthusiastically against the top of his high chair, showcasing his support for her second idea. "Alright then, covert operation 'Morgan Men' it is. And don't worry," she added, winking at the little boy. "I'll let you know what I find out later… at the wedding."