Digging for Love
A One Shot
VFFC Prompt: Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up. ~ James Baldwin
"I know you're not late for work because you, once again, slept in, Nurse Webber," her boss, Epiphany Johnson both warned and threatened on Elizabeth's answering machine, making the young mother jackhammer up out of bed in both fright and irritation. While she respected her supervisor, no one else's voice grated on her nerves worse than the older, domineering woman's. "I'm sure you have a good excuse for leaving me short staffed yet again. Either Cameron's running an extremely high fever, and you took him to Mercy because it's closer to your house, or your kitchen pipes froze, burst, and, now, you're house is flooded with icy, cold water."
With that, the head nurse's tone turned threatening. "Now, listen to me, Nurse Webber. This is the last time I'm going to allow your tardiness to slide. If you're not here within the next thirty minutes, you're fired!"
And Epiphany did have the power to terminate her contract with General Hospital.
Getting out of bed so quickly that she ended up tripping on her own tangled blankets, the single brunette landed harshly on her right hip, jarring her slight, petite body. Immediately, she swore in reaction, cursing her ever present bad luck. There was no way that she could make it to her place of employment in thirty minutes. Her commute into work alone was fifteen, and, before she could leave, she needed to get dressed, wake up and dress her son, pack up his things for his day in daycare, feed him, and somehow manage to come up with a sympathetic excuse to tell her boss in an effort to keep her job.
It wasn't so much that she was a bad employee. In fact, in her opinion, Elizabeth Webber thought that she was a pretty decent nurse. She was cheerful with her patients, knowledgeable in her chosen craft, and she was always willing to take an extra shift or stay longer to make sure that those in need received the care that they both required and deserved. And, really, she didn't mind her supervisor.
Although Epiphany was strict, she was also the most competent head nurse in General Hospital's history. She was beyond proficient; she was almost psychic, anticipating problems before they could arise and fixing mistakes before her nurses even realized they had messed up. However, she also held everyone to her own practically impossible standards. She had no room for errors, justifications, or indolence. However, in the young mother's opinion, such standards were oftentimes unreasonable.
Epiphany Johnson lived two blocks away from the hospital. If her car broke down, she could still take public transportation to work or even walk. She had a building supervisor if anything went wrong or broke, and she didn't have a three year old depending upon her for everything like Elizabeth had. Her son was grown, independent, and no longer the head nurse's responsibility. Her supervisor had one person to take care of and one person only; her life was practically worry free. Unfortunately, the brunette nurse couldn't say the same thing.
Sacrificing personal hygiene for timeliness, Elizabeth skipped her habitual morning shower. Luckily, she had just taken one at work the night before, but her hair was going to be wild and curly, because she had rushed from work, allowing it to air dry, and then had proceeded to sleep on the damp locks, further mussing them. Because she had slept in yet again, she was forced to toss on the first pair of clean scrubs she found, not realizing that they were stained with ketchup. In her toddler's world, Cameron believed that ketchup was its own food group. He got it everywhere… including splattered on her. But she was in such a hurry that the petite beauty didn't notice the stain. Instead, she finished getting ready by brushing her teeth, throwing her hair up in an uncombed ponytail, and applied enough deodorant and perfume to last her the day. Unfortunately, dressing and readying her son wouldn't be as easy or as quick.
Cameron Webber was not a morning person. If she let him, he would sleep until noon every day, no matter how early he went to bed the night before. It was almost as though the three year old was allergic to the early hours of the day. He would, at first, just ignore her, rolling over to duck his head back under the covers. Then he would fight her, whining and complaining about having to get up, and sometimes even going so far as to kick her away from him. While the toddler never physically hurt her, his morning tantrums always cost her precious time, and she didn't have either the patience or the luxury of putting up with such behavior that day.
Walking into her son's bedroom, the cheerful space decorated to reflect her little boy's personality, she silently yet quickly crossed to the three year old, preventing his usual stall tactics by bodily removing him from his bed and carrying his sleeping form into the bathroom. Even though Cameron had been bathed the night before, Elizabeth still planned to wash his face and hands, hoping the water and washcloth would help to rouse the tired toddler, and to brush his teeth.
It, unfortunately, didn't. Instead, he just slumped against her and continued to slumber away, even going so far as to snore softly. At the sounds emerging from her three year old, Elizabeth couldn't help but grin slightly. No matter what his faults were, Cameron was an adorable child, and she loved him more than anything else in the world. She didn't regret keeping him after a one night stand gone bad, and she didn't regret her decision to raise him on her own either. Being Cam's mother was the most rewarding experience of her life, so far, and she would be hard pressed to imagine anything else that could possibly give her as much satisfaction or joy.
Deciding to use her little boy's exhaustion to her benefit, the single mother carried him back to his room, put him back down on his bed, and dressed him as he slept. In all actuality, it was far easier to maneuver his tiny body when he was relaxed in rest than it was when he was struggling against her. He was dressed in both his clothes for the day and all his various, necessary winter accoutrements in less than five minutes. Sure, she had already used up ten of her precious thirty, but she was faring far better than she usually did.
Carrying Cameron downstairs, the young nurse deposited him on the couch, making sure that he was situated so that he wouldn't roll off and injure himself. Quickly, she ran to the kitchen, intent upon grabbing something easy for her son to eat on their way to the hospital. As for their lunches, she decided to worry about that when the lunch hour came along. GH had a cafeteria, and, though she rarely took advantage of the prepared food and packaged snack materials in an effort to save money, she would splurge that day if it meant helping her keep her job.
By the time she got to her front door, Elizabeth was so focused and determined to sway Epiphany into being compassionate or, at least, human that she didn't pay any attention to her surroundings until she stepped into a knee high snow drift piled high against her front porch. Immediately, the legs of her scrub pants were soaked through, and, instantly, the cold of the powered precipitation chilled her body, sending shivers through her petite form.
It was no wonder she had slept in.
So tired the night before when she had gotten home from her double surgical shift, the brunette had skipped watching TV, forgoing her evening ritual of watching the weather report in order to prepare for the next morning. She had forgone painting and sketching, refused to read the next chapter in her Italy travel guide, and had put Cameron to bed without playing with him first. After setting her alarm for the proper time to wake her the next day, she crashed, falling asleep without even actually trying to.
When she had been late to wake that morning, being roused by the loud, cantankerous voice of her boss, she had just assumed that she had been too exhausted to hear the peels of her clock, but, rather, the town of Port Charles had been assaulted by yet another early winter storm the night before, blanketing the entire city in a heavy layer of snow and ice which, at some point, must have shut the power off, resetting her alarm. However, the realization didn't make her feel any better.
Sure, Epiphany might now be a little more understanding about her set of circumstances, because, obviously, Elizabeth couldn't control the weather or the outdated power lines that supplied electricity to those homes in the suburbs, but there was no way now that she would even be close to making the time deadline her supervisor had provided her with. Her car was trapped in her driveway, blocked in by more than a foot of snow, and the windows were all thickly iced over. It would take her forever to clean both her vehicle and the path it would take to pull out onto the slippery, still yet to be plowed road.
She could have broken down and cried right then and there, but she didn't. If not for her own sanity, she had to hold it together for Cameron. Blubbering like a baby wouldn't get her to work any earlier, so, with a fortitude she really didn't feel, she trudged down the steps of her front porch, dragging her already freezing legs through the ever deeper snow as she made her way down the path towards her driveway.
She kept her shovel and snow scraper in the garage that was too full of her son's toys and her old, college painting supplies and completed canvases to actually house her car. After retrieving the equipment, she set to work, first focusing on her average, run of the mill sedan so that she could get it started and warmed for Cameron. While it took her nearly fifteen minutes, compared to the task her driveway was about to present, the single mother feared that things were just going to get worse for her.
Each width of the driveway with the shovel took several trips, for there was too much snow for the tool to handle on a single pass. The excess would be pushed off the sides, falling behind to recover what she had already tried to clear. It was frustrating and tedious, and she knew her body would be sore the next morning from the unexpected physical exertion when she woke up.
She was halfway through her driveway and already forty minutes later than what Epiphany had allowed via her message when tragedy struck, and her one and only shovel broke, the handle snapping off completely from the sheer weight of the heavy, thick snow that she had been pushing dutifully for half an hour. To make matters worse, in that exact moment, a snowball hit her in the head, its crumbling flakes falling down beneath the loose collar of both her coat and shirt, skittering down her bare back.
Whirling around to face her mischievous, smirking son, Elizabeth was already yelling before she was even facing the three year old. "Cameron Steven Webber!"
But he seemed imperious to her wrath, perfectly content to focus upon what he perceived as the magic that had befallen their neighborhood during the previous night. "Mommy, mommy, mommy," he shrieked elatedly, running towards her the best that his short, little legs could manage in the thick, wet, deep snow. "It's a snow day!"
Two weeks before, after a particularly harsh November storm, those doctors and nurses who had young children not yet in school had been called off due to the fact that the woman who ran the hospital daycare had been in a car accident on her way to work and couldn't open the complementary service. Explaining it to her toddler, the single mother had called it a snow day, and, apparently, her son, having seen similar conditions as the morning from two weeks prior, automatically assumed the same thing.
He thought that they would be spending the morning and afternoon at home, that they would build a snowman, have a snowball fight, construct a fort, and hike down to their neighbor's pond to have another impromptu skating lesson. He thought that they would roast marshmallows in their fireplace, have hot chocolate with every meal, and bake brownies to take to their elderly neighbors who were shut in because of the storm. Elizabeth would have liked nothing better than to spend another day just like that with her son, but a snow day had not been called, and, in all likelihood, she was about to lose her job. True, she'd have a lot more free time to spend with her little boy, but they just might end up spending that time in a cardboard box.
Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. Then and there, right in the snow, she collapsed, bursting into wracking sobs, the tears falling from her eyes stinging her already wind burnt face because of the biting cold. Cameron just watched on in confusion first and then sadness, his own tiny, plump lip quivering as he took in his mother's reaction. But she felt so dejected, so miserable that she couldn't comfort the three year old. Instead, they just remained there, her sitting in the partially shoveled driveway and Cam standing before her, both of them crying.
She was so consumed with her self-pity that she didn't hear anyone approaching behind her. Vehicles had come and gone, going past as she toiled away on her driveway, but she didn't pay them any attention, knowing that no one would stop to offer her any assistance. Everybody else had lives of their own to lead; no one had time, especially on such an abysmal morning, to help anyone else.
"Are you, uh… Are you okay?"
Barely breathing, Elizabeth managed a strangled, "oh my god," refusing to turn around to face the stranger behind her.
Not only was she embarrassed to be caught in such an emotional state, but what she was supposed to tell the unknown man? Quite frankly, she wasn't alright. She was about to get fired, and she couldn't think of anything to get her out of this latest mess. In the past, the fact that she was related to Steve and Audrey Hardy had helped her out in a pinch, and, although the single mother had hated using her family name to slide by, she had been forced to push her pride aside and accept the favors. Her spotty attendance record when Cameron was a baby was overlooked because of who she was, and she had gotten more slack about being late than any other nurse at General Hospital. But Alan Quartermaine had retired, and the new chief of staff was not as sympathetic towards the legendary hospital leader of the past's granddaughter, playing right into Epiphany's controlling hand. So, unless this want-to-be Good Samaritan had influence over her boss and she highly doubted that, there was nothing he could do.
However, Elizabeth was certainly not going to tell him all of that. Her imminent termination was no one's business but her own. So, instead of replying, she remained silent, hoping that the stranger would eventually just leave on his own, fed up with her inability to answer him or her refusal to. Except, as everything seemed to be going for her that morning, he didn't leave. Rather, he just kept pressing.
"Are you hurt?" Bending down to crouch before her, he seemed to be observing her collapsed form, looking for signs of what was bothering her. After several moments, he spoke again. "It doesn't look like you are." Standing up once more, he glanced around her partially shoveled driveway, his gaze eventually landing upon her broken shovel. "Oh."
Bitterly, she found herself responding, despite her earlier promises to the contrary. "Yeah, and I'm already late for work because the storm killed my power last night which reset my alarm clock."
"Surely your boss will understand…"
In an unladylike manner, Elizabeth snorted. "Epiphany? Under normal circumstances, not likely, but considering the fact that I was already late once earlier this week because my son hid my car keys, this will put me over my points limit."
Thoughtfully, he asked, "Epiphany Johnson?"
The fact that this unknown man did know her boss set the young singleton on edge. They had never met before, so how was it possible for him to know anything about her life, let alone such a detail? Narrowing her usually wide and kind eyes in his direction, the nurse questioned, "how did you know that?"
"Her son, Stan, he works for me."
Grumbling about her supervisor, Elizabeth remarked, "poor you."
The unknown man chuckled softly before suggesting, "listen, I was on my way to a friend's house to plow her driveway, but she can wait."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, she's either going to the hotel she owns or shopping, and, even if she's in a hurry to leave, she shouldn't be. If it's alright with you, I'll finish plowing your driveway with my truck. You and your son should probably go inside, get warm, maybe change into some dry clothes."
The young mother rushed to oblige the stranger's offer. Not only was she appreciative of what he was proposing, but she really was freezing, and it would feel wonderful to take a quick, hot shower and swap her scrubs for another pair. In fact, she was in such a hurry to do as the man had said, that she didn't even stop to look up at him until she heard his voice coming from behind her as she walked to the house, Cameron scooped up in her arms.
"Epiphany, this is Jason Morgan."
Whirling around, she faced the kind Samaritan who apparently had a savior complex, and, immediately, she was mortified. Not only had a reputed mob enforcer stumbled upon her sobbing in her driveway, but the famous criminal was knee quaking, heart palpitations inducing attractive, and she looked like she had just escaped from a mental facility after a rather lengthy stay.
He covered the mouth piece long enough to ask her, "what's your name."
Whispering, she replied, "Elizabeth, Elizabeth Webber."
Mesmerized, she watched as her would be hero talked effortlessly, purposely to her boss, apparently actually getting somewhere with the drill sergeant nurse. "Look, I was just calling to let you know that Elizabeth Webber will be in for work in about thirty minutes, give or a take a few depending upon the roads." While the domineering older woman replied, she felt the man's gaze burn into her body as his eyes moved up and down her form. "No, I'm not dating her." After several more minutes, he replied, "I know she's been late before and that she's close to being fired, but couldn't you make an exception this one time? The electricity out this way went out last night, and the roads still aren't plowed. She's had a bad morning, and I would personally consider it a favor if you would just let her go with a warning this time."
Ending the call, the blonde agreed, "Thanks, and, yeah, I realize that."
"Realize what," she blurted out in a demanding tone as soon as the stranger snapped his cell shut.
"It's not important," Jason Morgan insisted, nodding towards her awaiting house. "Shouldn't you get inside, though? I need to get your driveway plowed."
With that, he turned around and jogged back to his still running truck parked in the road, not waiting long enough for her to respond even if all she wanted to do was express her gratitude. It wasn't, but the reputed enforcer didn't know that. But she didn't wait outside any longer to contemplate the fact. Instead, she rushed indoors to the heat and security, wishing that she wouldn't have to leave the comfort of her own home that morning but knowing that such thoughts were ridiculous in their futility.
By the time she got back outside, the handsome man was gone, leaving her no note with any way to get in touch with him in order to show her appreciation. While it wouldn't be much, she would have, at least, been able to send him a card and a tin full of brownies, but, evidently, the supposed criminal didn't want her gratitude. Rather, he had just helped her out because he could and she had been in need of the assistance. In her world, such behavior was such a drastic difference compared to what she was used to, and Elizabeth wasn't sure how to react to it.
Shrugging her thoughts off, she buckled her three year old into his booster seat and then climbed into her own, buckling up before backing out of her perfectly plowed driveway. With luck she didn't realize she had and the aid of the very last man she would have predicted to be a hero, she was going to somehow manage to retain her position at the hospital, surviving to face yet another day full of mistakes to be made and unanticipated joys to experience. She just hoped that someday one of those joys would be to see Jason Morgan again.
Using his connection to Epiphany, since that morning more than two months before, Jason Morgan had made sure that her driveway was plowed before each and every one of her shifts, even if the town of Port Charles had only received a sprinkling of snow the night before. All her neighbors were jealous of, as it was termed, her little snow angel, for they had no idea who cleaned her driveway every morning or why, and, for some reason, Elizabeth preferred to keep the knowledge to herself, foolishly savoring the secret for reasons not even she was ready to contemplate yet.
However, on that particular day, there was no chance that the reclusive, suspected mob enforcer would be dropping by her house, for she didn't have to go into work. Despite the heavy snowfall from the night before, apparently her supervisor had informed the blonde that she didn't go into town on her days off, so he would wait and clear her driveway for her the next morning.
The last place Elizabeth wanted to be, though, on Valentine's Day was alone, at home, thinking about the man she kind of, sort of, quite possibly might have had a crush on while, at the same time, trying to forget the memories February 14th stirred within her. Years before, when she was just a child at the tender age of fifteen, she had been raped on Valentine's Day, and, from that point on, the pretty brunette had tried to ignore the holiday, tried to busy herself so much that she wouldn't be able to think about what had been taken from her that horrible evening.
Unfortunately, her boss had been of a different mindset, though, when she had scheduled her day off for that particular Thursday. When she had started at GH, Elizabeth was almost positive that she had told the head nurse that she hated the holiday and always liked to work a double on it, but, apparently, Epiphany Johnson's mind was not on par with an elephant's as all her employees thought; evidently, she could forget things, too, just like everyone else. It was a startling and, on that particular day because of the ramifications of the mind slip, wearisome realization.
Deciding to be proactive, to busy herself with mindless, numbing chores, the single mother reasoned that she'd put her brand new shovel in the garage to work, finally breaking it in as she dug out her own driveway that morning instead of waiting for Jason Morgan to come the next day and do it for her with his truck. "Stay inside, honey, and watch cartoons," she instructed her toddler who absolutely refused to remove his riveted gaze from the television before him that was blaring his favorite series, Chuggin' Charlie. "Mommy's going to go clear the driveway." Instead of replying, Cameron simply shoved another spoonful of cheerios and bananas into his mouth.
After bundling up, the brunette braved going outside. While she knew that she looked ridiculous in her mountain of layers and doubled winter wear, she didn't mind the lack of fashion sense. She was comfortable, and she was warm, and that was all that mattered. Besides, it wasn't as though there would be anyone to see her outside that she would want to impress.
Except, there was.
There he was, all perfect and beautiful in his jeans, t-shirt, and leather jacket, the cold weather obviously not affecting him, just standing there as though he didn't know what he wanted to do or why he was even in her driveway in the first place. His hands were shoved so deep into his front pockets that the wrists of his coat met the material of his pants, and his brow was furrowed in both thought and frustration. Elizabeth was quite taken aback by his flustered appearance, because, if nothing else, the accused criminal always seemed to be absolutely confident of both himself and his actions.
"Jason, what are you doing here?"
He shuffled his feet before answering, avoiding her questioning gaze. "I, uh, your driveway needs plowed."
"Yeah, but I don't work today, and I know that you know that."
Still, the blonde refused to look at her. "It's Valentine's Day, though, and I thought that maybe you'd have someplace to be or someone to meet." Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jason breathed out harshly. "Look, I thought maybe you had a date or something."
"Nope," she replied, shaking her head to emphasize her point. "I'm not really a fan of today."
As soon as the words left her mouth, she could visibly see the reputed enforcer's shoulders sag. "Oh."
Feeling herself deflate as well, Elizabeth sighed, "So, I guess that means that you're off the hook this time. In fact, I was actually coming outside to dig my way out of my own driveway, you know… just to keep busy."
"I could help, if you want," the blonde suggested, shocking the petite nurse.
"You would want to do that?"
With his neck heating to a ruddy shade, the handsome man pressed on, speaking in a rushed yet stilted way. "You were right; I did know that you were off today, and I didn't want to plow your driveway so that you could go on a date with someone else later." Exhaling roughly, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and cracked his knuckles. "What I wanted was to find out if you were single so that I could ask you out myself."
They were the very last words she had been expecting to hear out of Jason Morgan's mouth but the same ones that she had been secretly hoping for since the morning she had met the gorgeous man. At the realization that he liked her, too, a small, timid, yet stunning smile emerged upon her fresh scrubbed, clean face only to quickly disappear as she recalled exactly what day it was.
"Thank you for asking, but today's just not a good day for me."
Averting his eyes from hers, the suspected enforcer turned around quickly, already walking back towards his parked and turned off truck. "I understand," he said, and, by the tone of his voice, it seemed as though he actually believed that he did, but there was no way that he possibly could.
"No, Jason, wait," Elizabeth yelled after him, skidding and sliding down her front walkway as she ran after him. He kept walking, but his pace was slower than hers, so, just as he was about to open his driver's side door, she caught up to him, reaching out to pull demandingly on his left arm. Once he was facing her, she explained, "no, you don't understand."
To start off a new, potential relationship by bringing up the darkest period of her life was not what the young mother had in mind, but, if doing so meant that the blonde would stay and really realize why she couldn't go out on a date with him on February 14th, then it was worth the pain such recollections would arouse.
"When I was fifteen, something really bad happened to me on Valentine's Day, and I just… I don't want our first date to be haunted of memories of that night. You deserve more than that, and so do I." Shrugging her shoulders, she quirked her brow in a hopeful manner. "So, can I take a rain check?"
"Sure," the presumed mobster agreed, his own mouth quirking up in delight and relief. "That sounds good."
But, still, he turned back to his truck and went to enter the vehicle, and, again, Elizabeth found herself tugging on his arm. Once more, he twisted to face her.
"You could still stay, you know," the brunette found herself proposing promisingly. "I only have one shovel, but I'm sure you have another in the back of your truck."
"I do," he answered her, already reaching for it.
"And, when we're done, you can come inside with me, and, if you want, I'd actually put my manners to good use, and, yes, I do have some, and introduce you to my son this time."
"I'd like that," he allowed.
"We're probably just going to play in the snow today, you know build a snowman, have a snow ball fight, make a fort, and I promised Cam that we'd go down to the pond and try ice skating again. I don't have an extra pair of skates that would fit you, but you're more than welcome to join us."
"That sounds like fun," Jason admitted, now fully grinning.
"We'll make brownies, too, drink hot chocolate, and eat smores," Elizabeth shared.
Teasing her, the blonde taunted, "don't you feed your kid anything substantial?"
Playing along, the young mother stuck her tongue out at the handsome man, blushing prettily when his eyes darted after the movement. "Only on rare, special occasions," she found herself replying slightly breathlessly.
"Well, maybe I should stay and make you guys a healthy dinner then, too."
Moving so that she could walk in front of him and making sure that she added just an extra little swish to her hips, Elizabeth happily tossed her responding remark back over her shoulder. "If you insist, Mr. Morgan."
He caught her before she could get too far ahead, crashing her back towards him with a single arm wrapped around her waist that was still quite narrow despite the numerous layers she had on. "It's Jason, Elizabeth," he told her pointedly. Lowering his head towards her own, the petite nurse was positive that the blonde was going to kiss her, and she certainly wasn't going to object to such an advance. She had been dreaming of kissing him since the very day all those weeks before when they had first met. However, just before his lips brushed against hers, he smirked, refusing to close the rest of the slight distance.
"Start digging," he instructed her, removing his arm from around her suddenly heated form.
Too bad she had already been doing so now for months. It was just a different sort of digging, one that she was almost certain Jason wouldn't argue with, for she had her suspicions that he had been doing the same thing towards her all that time as well. With only one way to find out, she sidled up to him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and leaned into his completely willing embrace. Kissing his cheek, she murmured, "Happy "Un-Valentine's Day, Jason," confident that it surely would be just that.