A/N: AU from the point of Jake's death. Also, Cameron has been sorased. Or...Morgan and Molly have been de-aged. Either way, they're all the same age now. As it technically should be.
Like all stories, it starts with once upon a time. Because once upon a time, Cameron Webber was seven years old, the oldest of three, with parents who loved him and a normal enough childhood - as normal as it got in Port Charles.
And then it happened and his world fractured and splintered so that it never was put back together correctly.
Now, Cameron Webber is fifteen, unhinged and in love.
Once upon a time, this could have been a fairy tale.
He wakes up.
Hung-over. Throat sore and unable to see much from behind the mop of curls he's been cursed with. He wakes up with a headache and a tinge of depression. They suggested pills for this. He keeps them out on his dresser - a way to keep his father out of his room. Tiny capsules of kryptonite to the man Aiden still calls superman.
Cameron wakes up and eyes those pills, but doesn't take them. He heads down to breakfast wearing yesterday's clothes. He stops at the landing peaks out and sees his father reading the paper at the table, his mother pouring him coffee and they're both smiling at Aiden.
It's the perfect family.
For the record, he does not feel sorry for himself. He knows he's not a part of their picture for a valid reason. He was always meant to be a footnote. The other Spencer. The Webber boy. Like there's a chasm under his feet so that he always stands crooked. He's felt this way since he was born, and he's gotten used to it, played the part well.
Embrace a tilted world and suddenly you see straight.
Cameron wakes up and it's just another morning.
To be said: Aiden is perfect.
They make this clear early on.
He's the golden child the minute his mother finds out that he's Lucky son. He is definitely Lucky's favorite. They may pretend otherwise, but trying too hard only makes it more obvious. And Cameron knows now why, learns as he knows more about his other brother and gets it, painfully.
Aiden does no wrong. He is an easy baby, easy toddler, easy kid. He is smart and funny and well-behaved. He makes it easy for them to call him perfect.
Cameron, on the other hand, sticks to the creed that nothing in life should come easy.
Cameron sits down, and if they notice the green streak in his hair or the acrid smell of smoke radiating from his leather jacket, they don't say anything or maybe they just can't bring themselves to care anymore. He says good morning and his mother kisses the top of his head and his father passes him cereal and still they don't say anything. Aiden rambles on about something only an eight year old would care about, his parents nodding in all the right places, and Cameron smiles at the empty seat to his right.
Smiles at the ghost who sits there.
Jake was perfect too, in his own way, but Cameron can't say his name out loud without wanting to throw something hard at the nearest wall. It's just one of the many things they'll never talk about. Jake, whose memory is all but faded now to everyone else, but who Cameron still thinks of every morning when he sits down for breakfast. He still sees his four-year old brother making grabby hands so that Cameron would pass him the box of cereal when Mom wasn't looking. Jake was quiet, never sure if he could ask for anything, always needing to be led - stuck in his own world - sad, so very sad for a child. No one really noticed. Mom and Dad were too busy repeating their mistakes to see what a miserable child they were raising.
The difference here.
Jake was Cameron's brother in a way that Aiden would never be.
Cameron never finds a way to explain it, but it has something to do with that chameleon definition of perfect.
Every morning his father offers him a ride to school, and every morning Cameron politely declines.
He pats his brother on his shoulder and waves at his mom, and then he walks a few blocks to the bus stop and waits for Molly. He offers her a cigarette while they wait for the bus and she declines and then rattles off statistics and graphic details about lung cancer. He laughs, but dies his out half way through because it's her way of asking nicely.
"Morgan's been asking about you," she says then and the arm wrapped casually around her shoulder shrinks back.
"Yeah," he says quietly. Molly opens her mouth to continue and he knows what comes next, he's worried, but the thought leaves something heavy settling on Cameron's chest. "Don't tell him anything."
Morgan said he looked good with green hair. Kind of edgy. He bumped shoulders with him and smiled. Cameron laughed it off, but deep down, he knew it meant too much.
After Jake dies, Cameron learns what hate feels like. It's an endless pounding in his chest, an ugly curl in his stomach, a permanent clenching of his fists. It's panic and rush and ice cold running down his spine whenever he sees a trigger.
He hates Siobhan first. Cameron keeps asking when Jake will come home. His parents ignore him, too wrapped up in their own grief. Siobhan looks him in the eye when she avoids the question. Her sympathy reads like pity even to a seven-year old, and Cameron hates sympathy, carries this quirk with him for ages.
The bus is late again which makes Molly start to pace. Cameron watches her shoes leave permanent track marks in the muddy grass. They wait - five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen. The bus never comes. Molly calls her mother for a ride, so do the rest of the kids. Cameron considers his father, considers the unbearable silence or strangely veiled lecture that will inevitably accompany their car ride.
Cameron ditches instead. He heads down to the docks, to the bench by the pier that everyone seems to stop by and lies down. He watches the clouds and thinks of summer and poetry and all the tattoos he'd like to get when he turns 18. It feels like hours later when he's joined and maybe part of him expected this. Telling Molly not to do something is a guarantee she'll just try harder.
Morgan sits on the dock, positioned near his hip so that Cameron can only see the back of his head and part of his face.
"Missed you last night," Morgan says.
Because they're alone he pats aimlessly at the top of Morgan's head, runs his fingers through his hair and listens to Morgan's faint shudder. "No you didn't."
Last night, Morgan asked him to a movie.
It was casual enough, but then he slung an arm over Cameron's shoulder and just sort of pulled them close so that the sides of their bodies were aligned and Cameron could feel every breath Morgan took. There was always something there, just beneath the surface and Cameron thought Morgan might have been acknowledging that.
Cameron said yes, but never showed.
His father picks him up once from school after Jake dies and they never go home. His father's apartment feels too small, and he still can't look at Siobhan without feeling that funny darkness in his chest. By day three, Cameron snaps and screams that he wants his mother. He wants to go home.
Instead of home, they wind up at the weird place that smells like hand soap and markers and Mom's in her usual room, although Cameron's starting to think they all look the same. He's so happy to see her that he nearly knocks over a pile of magazines on the footstool trying to get to her.
She wraps her arms tightly around him and presses his name against the side of his head like habit, and Cameron has missed this. He doesn't remember what happens in the next twenty minutes or how they try to explain. He just remembers the look on his mother's face when she tells him she has to stay here for a while and that it's best thing for everyone. It's the "mommy's lying" look and he watches as her eyes flicker behind him towards his father. Intuition provides the rest.
"Please," he begs his dad and then buries his head in his mother's neck, "Please don't take her away from me!" He cries harder and his mother sobs, whispers, i'm not going anywhere and his father has the nerve to look guilty when he does nothing to stop it.
Cameron's father commits his mother a week before his eighth birthday.
Here, he realizes Jake's not coming home either.
Cameron is fourteen when he builds up enough courage to ask about his biological father.
His mother says she cannot remember him. Whether it's side affects from all the medications she's taking to stay 'sane' or wishful thinking, he'll never know, but she smooths a hand over his brow and tells him she knows someone who'd know best.
Alexis is helpful. She makes him hot cocoa in a large mug with smiling sunflowers on it and speaks slowly, knowing he needs to soak in every word. Cameron learns he has his eyes and his laugh and from his own intuition, Zander's strange sense of irony. The stories Alexis tells are honest, a well-rounded mix of good and bad.
he wasn't perfect,she concludes, odd smile flitting across her face at the idea.
He wants to say 'nobody is,' but the door swings open first. Molly is babbling a mile a minute, but he barely notices her. His eyes are focused on Morgan who gives him an awkward half wave before following her up to her room.
"I didn't know you knew Morgan." Alexis is still smiling, but it's different now, harder to read.
"Everyone knows everyone here." Cameron shrugs, hand reaching for the lighter in his pocket. "We're friends."
And Morgan is Cameron's friend in the same way that Lucky is his dad. It isn't the whole story, but it holds just enough truth that it could be believable. But Cameron's dad, his real dad, was a borderline psycho who got gunned down by police, and Cameron is pretty sure friends didn't stare at each other intently whenever they were sure the other wasn't looking.
In Port Charles, the truth is a relative term.
After Jake dies, Cameron doesn't learn to cope. He only knows this new feeling of hate and it manifests itself over time until his father grows impatient. And maybe if Cameron were more forgiving, in hindsight, he'd admit at this moment of their lives, Lucky doesn't know how to deal with the loss either, didn't expect he'd be raising two sons on his own. Because it was never supposed to be thesetwo kids and Elizabeth was supposed to be there.
Cameron should be the constant. But Cameron is seven and then eight and he is too young to adjust and too old to pretend like nothing ever happened. So he lashes out and Siobhan leaves and suddenly Lucky looks at him like he's not sure what he should be seeing.
His mother has been gone a year when Grandpa Jeff shows up.
Morgan moves to the bench. He rests his chin on top of Cameron's knees, wraps one arm around them and Cameron watches him stare at the shrubbery behind his head, can tell his thoughts are building to something.
"I think I've been going about this all wrong," Morgan says finally, and he smiles sheepishly at Cameron, "I'd like you to come over for dinner."
Cameron frowns. Morgan thinks Cameron stood him up because of the closet Morgan lives in, four years in military school, Sonny and Carly or shame and guilt and all the usual teenage feelings that are only amplified by being gay. Morgan thinks this is about him, but it's not.
This is about a different type of shame. This is disappointment and the sinking feeling you'll never be enough, so why try? This is about Cameron and a thousand unresolved quirks.
Cameron still doesn't correct him.
"Cameron," Morgan says, low and quiet, and Cameron has to look up. "Please."
Sometimes, like right now, Morgan looks at him with so much hope that it's hard for Cameron to remember why he tries so hard to erase him.
This is how they meet, officially: At thirteen: he's been home a few months and he tags one of Jason's buildings. Morgan hears the noise outside and goes to investigate.
"I'm sorry for your loss," Morgan says, eyes fixed on the site before him and his voice is so quiet, Cameron barely hears it. It doesn't matter that the words are years too late, they matter. Cameron stares at the art, a motorcycle buried in snow, night sky, a tiny cabin the background.
Jake's name doesn't appear but somehow, it's written in every stroke of spray paint.
Jason's been coming around a lot too. Cameron doesn't ask why (he didn't when he was little either, when Jake, the Morgan, the Quartermaine was just a thought). Whenever Cameron sees Jason, he sees the mannerisms Jake never embraced, the features he never grew into, the future he never got. Cameron doesn't hate Jason, but it would be easier if he could.
Morgan buys him a cup of coffee and he tells him what to expect from prep school. He doesn't mention or allude to Jake ever again.
Russia is cold, but he gets used to it.
He spends five years with Grandpa Jeff and Grandma Andrea and their emergency room.
Their way of life makes sense to Cameron. Bad stuff happens, patch up and move on to the next casualty. His dad calls every day and he asks if he's okay, and Cameron is too young to really understand all the ways guilt works. He's happy here, though. It snows a lot and people die just as often and he starts to get it.
The breakfast table is tinier and it's always dark out when they eat, but Cameron still feels Jake next to him.
Cameron loves his mother. He believes she is the only person in the world he'll ever be able to trust. Even though her time spent in the institution has left her withdrawn and the losses have etched out pieces of her he'll never get back, she is the only person who'll ever love him unconditionally.
The minute she's released she brings him home.
"I said I'd never leave you," she says, and he cannot tell if she's making a point or admitting a failure. It doesn't matter.
Cameron loves his mother, but he knows her love will never be enough.
Cameron doesn't hate it here. It's nice to see his family again. Aiden doesn't recognize anything but his voice. Lucky doesn't recognize him at all. It's a fresh start.
The darkness that was in hiding follows him home and after a few months, he's lashing out in new ways. Tagging buildings and lighting fires and ugly silence. He dares them to say anything, and they don't. They've given up, so sure they've already failed.
It's a fresh start, but it leads to nothing new.
Cameron almost gets lost on the driveway and it takes him five minutes to figure out where the doorbell is hiding on the ornate front doors to the Jacks house, but eventually, Carly lets him in.
Cameron can tell right away she's not a fan. If her son was going to be gay, she had hoped he'd have brought home some polite, well dressed boy who complimented her decorating and brought baked goods to dinner. The stereotype. Instead she got some emo-punk who hides behind ripped jeans and long bangs and thinks feng shui is a type of sushi roll.
His mother did teach him manners though and he wasn't going to show up empty-handed.
He reaches into his coat and presents her with a procured item. "I nicked this from Grandpa Luke's stash. I know there's no way in hell Morgan and I can have any, but you should enjoy it."
Carly stares at the offered item. "You stole a bottle of scotch."
Cameron shrugs. It's hard to tell if Carly is angry or just curious. "I left a note."
"Thank you...I think." She smiles a little, begrudgingly. Score one for the Webbers.
He hears Morgan coming down the stairs. The sight of him always takes Cameron's breath away which is probably why he doesn't look him in the eyes as often as he should. There's something painfully beautiful about someone like Morgan, whose smile and laugh are the two most natural things in the world - so warm and affectionate that they could swallow a person whole. He's smiling now when Cameron turns to look at him.
"You couldn't pick a normal one," Carly says, but there's affection there. She pats her son on the arm before heading into the living room. Cameron didn't think it was possible, but Morgan's smile brightens.
"Do I want to know?" Morgan asks.
Cameron grins, and that's as close as he gets to a smile. "Probably not."
"Come on." Morgan reaches over and tugs at the green streak in his hair. "Dinner's ready."
Cameron takes a deep breath and tries not to trip over it.
Instead of catching a movie with Morgan the night prior, Cameron goes to the Pine Barrens.
He wonders how many dead bodies lingered below his feet, how many of them Jake's dad had put there. How many ordered there by Morgan's. A chill passes over him. He shouldn't be thinking of this.
He lights a cigarette, then lights a pyre for all restless souls and hopes it can atone, just in case the saying's right and sins of the father fall to their sons.
The night starts off smoothly.
Cameron tries not to mention his mother much. He also doesn't mention his father. It's weird to think about Carly and Lucky as cousins. He knows he and Morgan aren't related by blood at all, and that Carly and Lucky barely acknowledge they're family. It's still an awkward topic to bring up when meeting your boyfriend's parents.
Boyfriend - that word sits strangely in his mouth.
They like him though. He can tell. He says all the right things, not because they're right but because they're the truth. He compliments the food because it's good. He compliments their home because it's nice. He compliments Morgan because he's wonderful. If there's one good trait Cameron's comfortable admitting he has, it's his need for blunt honesty. This time it makes him likeable - at least to the parents.
The word's still out on Jocelyn who seems to be waiting for him to prove his worth.
It's about half way through dinner when Jocelyn says something, something about a truck and he laughs thinking about Jake.
She looks at him with big eyes, studies him with all the same intensity that Aiden has at this age before she says, "I like your hair."
He smiles, then realizes who she is and his heart clenches.
He never thought about it before, the organs they carved out Jake. It was something he hadn't understood as a child. And it was more like a wisp of a memory - Carly's kid getting Jason's son's kidney. He wishes he'd paid more attention during science class because maybe he'd know what exactly a kidney did, where the hell it even was. It's suddenly frightening being this close to a part of Jake, the only physical part of him that lives on in this town.
His heart races and his palms start to sweat. Because it's not the ghost of Jake, the smile he sees at the table every morning. It's more than that. It's a presence. It's a sign.
"Cameron." The hand on his shoulder is too heavy.
"I got to go," he whispers and he flees as fast as he can.
There were things that he never told a soul. Things he thought about in Russia, cried out in the middle of the night where the silence was heavy, deadening and still no one could hear him.
Guilt, they call it. Those things you whisper in the dark.
"Cameron Steven Webber," Morgan yells, and Cameron doesn't bother asking how he knew his full name, or why he used Webber instead of Spencer. Morgan cares enough to know these things. Cameron feigns deafness at first, but half way down the ridiculously long driveway he realizes Morgan's not going away. When Cameron spins around, Morgan's already in his space.
"Morgan-" he stutters out, caught off guard by how intense Morgan looks.
Morgan grabs a hand full of his shirt and hauls him even closer. "What the hell was that?"
"I don't deserve you," It comes out as a rushed, mess of words, and before Morgan can truly think about what he's said, Cameron does what seems natural - reckless and impulsive and distracting - he pushes forward, catching Morgan's jaw with one hand, pressing their lips together. Morgan breathes in, surprised, and Cameron uses that moment of hesitation to nip gently at Morgan's lower lip, run his thumb along the hard line of Morgan's jaw. This is suicide, this is playing with fire and knowing you're going to be burned.
He pulls away fast, and when he sees Morgan's eyes are still closed, he turns around and runs.
Lets the fire find him.
A week before Jake dies, Cameron asks him what he's going to be when he grows up. Jake looks through him, like he had just spoken another language and tells him soon he might turn five.
Much later, Cameron reads Little Women for freshman lit and cries like a twelve-year-old girl remembering this.
That night he lights another fire.
His father is waiting for him when he gets home. "I heard you had dinner with Morgan's parents."
He shrugs, hands finding his pockets. Burnt out matches sting the tip of his fingers, but his wry smile doesn't flinch, "If you could call it that."
"Morgan came by earlier looking for you."
"Yeah well..." One of Cameron's hands escapes his pocket and scratches at the back of his head. "I'll talk to him."
When Lucky doesn't say anything else, Cameron heads for the stairs, hits the landing before the sound of his father's voice calls him back.
"You know you can tell me anything, right?"
It's too dark and the angle's all wrong so it's impossible for Cameron to see Lucky's face, though he's sure his father is probably sincere. He's not sure if they're referring to the fires or the boyfriend, or this giant wall that stands between them.
Cameron grips the banister tighter, tries to control his breathing, tries to keep from saying anything, but like expected, he fails. "I saw Jake at dinner tonight."
He turns around, walks back down the steps and lingers on that first one, dangling his foot over the edge, watching it instead of looking at his father. "I know we like to pretend like he didn't exist or whatever, but I still see him every morning at the breakfast table, and I still hear him at night. I think he's haunting me, and the strange part is most of the time I don't mind." Cameron looks up and he sees the concern on Lucky's face. It overshadows the grief. It's similar to the look he saw when Lucky decided to put his mother away, and it makes Cameron's mouth keep running. "The truth is, dad, I'm afraid if I tell you things like this, you'll send me away again."
Lucky's face falls, "Cameron-"
"So yeah...good talk." Cameron moves past him, toward the door instead of upstairs.
"I asked them to bring you back," Lucky's voice is quiet, "The second you were gone I knew it was a mistake."
Cameron feels his fingers curling into fists. His whole life "mistake" has followed him around, sewn itself into the very fabric of who he is. He hates the word more than anything.
"You shouldn't have sent me away in the first place." Cameron blurts out and before he can stop himself, he keeps speaking, his voice gaining force, "You want me to talk to you? Fine. Some days I wish you would crawl into a pill bottle and never come out of it just so mom and I could lock you away and show you what it feels like to be rejected by someone you love when your problems become too much for them to handle. I was eight years old. My brother was dead, and you sent away my mother. You were all I had left and you abandoned me the second you could. You pawned me off just to remind me I wasn't yours. That my problems weren't yours."
Cameron shakes as the words leave him, realizing he hadn't even known he felt this way until the words are out there. Lucky looks stunned, and Cameron can't help the rush of satisfaction he feels for finally getting to see that look on Lucky's face, but that feeling dies as soon as it comes, leaves him feeling empty. Try as he might to pretend otherwise, Lucky is his father in all the ways that ever mattered and he still hates hurting him, even when he knows he deserves it.
Lucky doesn't say anything for awhile and the only sounds between them is the heavy breaths Cameron's taking to calm himself down. Cameron waits but Lucky just keeps staring at him, sad wide eyes searching his for something, something more maybe. Cameron has nothing left to give.
"Come here." Lucky's words tumble into the darkness. They are only a few feet away and Cameron knows if he gets any closer he'll be within Lucky's grasp.
"Cameron," Lucky says, taking his own step forward. Cameron can't decide which will make him look stronger, standing his ground or taking a step back. Before he can decide, Lucky reaches out and pulls at his shoulder. "Come here."
There's not enough force behind the tug to make him move into his father's embrace, but somehow he finds himself there anyway. His father has not hugged him since he was a boy, since that day they sent him away. Lucky whispers into his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
He wishes that were enough of a promise, but it's all déjà vu.
"You'll be good for Grandpa Jeff." Lucky says when they are at the gate. Grandpa Jeff and Grandma Andrea are off ahead waiting for him, and Aiden is tucked away safely at home. It's just the two of them and Cameron can feel to the bone the press of his father's hands against his shoulders.
"What if I don't want to go?" Cameron asks even though he's going to get on that plane. He asks because he wants to know the answer.
"Just say the word and you can come home," Lucky promises.
Cameron cannot look at his father then, cannot understand why it's so hard. "When I come back everything will be better."
"Cameron..." Lucky's voice is sad, and Cameron cannot understand why. His father always said it was a good thing to tell the truth.
"I'll be better." Cameron looks up and finds Lucky looking right at him, all the intensity that he remembers from being yelled at with none of the anger behind it. He feels confused.
"You're perfect just the way you are."
Cameron nods his head, but at eight the words are just words. "I want to go with Grandpa Jeff. It'll be fun. Like an adventure."
"I'm sorry," Lucky says, and it's all he's done for the past year - apologize for things. Cameron knows hate and he knows love, but forgiveness is something he'll never truly understand.
For as brave as Cameron became, he never found the courage to say those words.
After their moment, Cameron goes back upstairs without another word. He waits until he hears the padding of feet as Lucky makes his way upstairs, until the shower has started and then turned off, until the light dies out down the hall. He waits a few minutes after the lights go out, knowing Lucky will be asleep within minutes - a combination of a long shift at work and emotional exhaustion making sure of it. Once he's sure everyone in the house is out cold, he slips out his window, shimmies down the oak tree and heads west.
Morgan is waiting for him at the Pine Barrens. Cameron is surprised and at the same time, he's not. Morgan is curled up under a tree watching the fog roll over the vast space. They say this place is haunted, cursed with restless souls and even those who don't believe in such things wouldn't be brave enough to step foot out there. Witnessing the truth of this place will bring you a more concrete kind of curse. Cameron never took Morgan out here, but he had to know about it. Molly knew and whatever she knew Morgan knew. It was just another one of those things they didn't talk about.
Morgan doesn't acknowledge presence. He glances once at him but it's there and gone. Cameron can't make anything out of it so he thinks about leaving, but there's nowhere else to go. He settles down in the space next to Morgan, close enough that their hips and knees brush with each nervous sway of his legs. Morgan's hand creeps over to the top of his knee, makes the jittery limb stop moving. Cameron eyes it. They don't say anything for awhile.
Minutes pass and then Morgan clears his throat. "My brother took me out here once. Pointed to all these shallow graves and said if my father ever found out who I was I'd wind up here too."
Cameron is not expecting it. They've talked about it before. Never really in detail. The whole town knew how Sonny had taken the rumors. Morgan seemed uncomfortable whenever Sonny's name was mentioned and that only got worse when they were discussing whatever it was that was going on between them. They talked about Carly though and how she was proud of him and how Jax came around faster than expected. They talked about how Dante knew because Dante's a detective and he just knows these things, and how Kristina didn't because Molly actually kept a secret for once. Cameron never asked about Michael, maybe because he knew that Michael wasn't Dante or Kristina. Morgan was closer to Michael than all the others and that just made it worse because they all could guess how Michael would take it. He was the carbon copy of Sonny.
Cameron feels his stomach curl at the thought of Morgan stuck six feet under where they're sitting. The thought that Michael would even suggest it. His hands pull themselves into fists.
"I'd never let that happen to you."
He doesn't realize he's said it until the words are out there, but when he finally turns to look at him, Morgan is smiling. It's bittersweet, but it's something. He places his hand over the hard boulder that Cameron's made of his own, rubs tiny circles on the back of Cameron's knuckles until it's a flat palm stretched over his knee again.
"Michael was just being an ass, wanted to scare me into silence because who I am makes him uncomfortable and his whole life his needs always trumped everyone else's," Morgan pauses, eyebrows furrowing like he's suddenly aware of what he's said. "Don't get me wrong. He loves me in his own way, but that's the kind of person he is. The kind of brother."
"Jake always came first. His needs before mine. I made sure of it. That's the kind of brother I was" Cameron says. "In the end, it didn't make a difference."
This is why he doesn't try with Aiden. Aiden is perfect, Jake was too, but Cameron is not and if he tried his absolute best with Jake and still failed, how would a half-hearted attempt with Aiden fair?
"She reminded you of Jake, didn't she?" Morgan's words are too quiet, to earnest. Cameron's eyes are too quick to betray him and he finds himself staring at that bittersweet smile again. Morgan speaks before Cameron can say anything. "Don't be sorry. I'm just glad it wasn't something I did."
He leans forward, forehead pressed against the top of his knees. They don't talk about Jake and they don't talk about Michael, but here they are now. No going back. "I can't get over it."
"I don't think it's something that you get over, Cameron."
"Why can't it be?" Cameron says, and those are words he's whispered to himself a thousand times, "I feel like I failed him. I feel like that's all I do is fail people and I'm not sure how or why I do it. It just happens. Like it's in my DNA."
"I'm living proof DNA doesn't make a person."
Cameron scoffs, "You're the exception that proves the rule."
Morgan bumps his shoulder against Cameron's. It's a familiar gesture, and yet it still manages to make Cameron blush, a Pavlovian response to what he knows will be a ridiculously cheesy but heartfelt comment to follow. "Well I happen to think you're pretty exceptional too."
Cameron wants to ask why but he forces his mouth shut. Morgan's answer would just make him blush more.
"When I'm with you, I feel like a different person." He intertwines their fingers together, marvels at how they fit together so perfectly. "It scares me because I don't know who I am if I'm not this."
Cameron gestures to the ground before them. The desolate land filled with shallow graves and hate. He has spent almost a decade being angry, hiding in the dark and the cold, wallowing in hate and avoiding people who loved him. Now there is Morgan who found a way in.
"We'll figure it out together," Morgan promises. "I'm not going anywhere."
Cameron laughs, "Famous last words."
Morgan shakes his head. "Words to live by."
Cameron wakes up.
He is not hung-over. There is no headache or nausea. There is no depression. There's no hate, but instead the tiniest bit of hope has crawled into the darkness, like a light, it has cast a glow over everything inside him. He knows that it's not over, that there will still be bad days, that the sadness cannot just disappear. His brother died and he will have to live with it. Move on.
"Good morning," Morgan's voice shakes him from his thoughts. It was a warm enough night that they were able to fall asleep under the tree in the Pine Barrens. Morgan had dozed off first, but Cameron wasn't far behind him, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of a night and lulled to sleep by the sound of Morgan's heartbeat under his ear.
Cameron studies their arrangement. Morgan is now sitting up, back pressed against the tree. Cameron's head has landed in his lap. Cameron's a light sleeper. He can't figure out how Morgan managed to move them.
"I'm stealthy," Morgan shrugs. He runs his fingers through Cameron's hair, tugging once on the green strand. "Like a ninja."
"I hate when you do that," Cameron murmurs, voice thick with sleep. A mischievous grin plays across his face and he eyes the hip his head is balanced on. "This is a suggestive position."
As predicted, Morgan blushes a bright scarlet and starts to fidget. "Shut up, Cameron."
Cameron takes pity on him and sits up next to him. He curses as soon as the bright light peaks through the tree tops and lands in his eye. "What time is it?"
Morgan glances down at his phone. "Ten."
Cameron feels like cursing again. He's always home before sunrise. "I have to get home."
"I'll drive you," Morgan offers and then frowns. "Unless..."
"No that's cool," Cameron says quickly, a little embarrassed by how eager he sounds. It's worth it for the smile on Morgan's face.
Cameron doesn't exactly have a plan when he asks Morgan to come inside. It's not as if Morgan and his mother haven't met. She's stitched up half the Corinthos kids a dozen times or so. She also knows that they're friends and maybe she guesses there's something more there. After the night he and Morgan have had, Cameron's not ready to let go of him yet. Not when he still has to face his family and see if he can hold on to the hope. He has his keys in the door, but it swings open before he can turn them.
His mother looks a little frazzled but she always does. She pulls him into her arms before he can say anything.
"Oh thank God," she mutters into his shoulder.
"Were you worried?"
"You're usually home before morning, and then we can pretend you didn't ignore curfew," she says with a knowing smile. She pinches his cheek before he can feel guilty.
"I'm okay," he says and that smile of hers only gets brighter.
"You look better," she says and before he can ask what that even means, she turns toward the stairs and yells, "Lucky! Cameron's home. And he brought his friend." She turns back to Cameron and in a softer voice asks, "Friend? Boyfriend? What are we calling him?"
Cameron's eyebrows furrow, but before he can say anything Morgan speaks, "Morgan. We're calling him Morgan."
Elizabeth extends her hand. "Hi Morgan."
"Hi Mrs. Spencer." Morgan's smile is blinding, the kind that always manages to make Cameron's stomach flutter. He can tell it's working on his mother too.
"I approve. I doubt that makes a difference though," she says.
"Of course it makes a difference," Cameron says passionately. Her approval has always been the only one that matters.
Elizabeth places a hand on each of her son's shoulders and squeezes. "You are going to be just fine."
Cameron knows his mother's reputation. She is a liar, even to her children, but Cameron knows her better than anyone and he knows she means what she says right now. He smiles and she winks at it.
"Come on. Breakfast is still warm. Your dad made pancakes. Morgan, you'll stay, right?"
"Good." She links her arm in Morgan's and drags him to the kitchen table. "So tell me, how has Jax been? It's been ages since we..."
As they enter the kitchen, Lucky comes downstairs, and Cameron is pretty sure he timed that on purpose. Aiden is trailing at his heels.
"I'm sorry for-"
"Stop," Lucky says, and Cameron does. "No more missing curfew. No more lighting fires."
"I'll...I'll try," Cameron says, he reaches into his pocket and places his lighter in Lucky's hand, hoping it's a start. Lucky smiles but says nothing else. He heads into the kitchen.
Cameron rubs his eyes. He has the nagging urge to run upstairs and lock the door to his room and then he hears a voice beside him.
"I heard you last night."
Cameron peaks out from behind his hands. He had forgotten Aiden was there. "Yeah?"
"You see Jake."
Cameron's face falls. Aiden knows about Jake, and he comprehends death pretty well for an eight year old. He also believes in ghosts and Cameron can see how nervous he looks. "Aiden, I-"
Aiden cuts him off. "What was he like?"
Cameron takes a deep breath. "His favorite color was green and he liked motorcycles. He loved breakfast. He used to make me sneak him extra cereal when Mom wasn't looking."
Aiden nods. "You do that for me too."
Cameron blinks. He hadn't realized he was doing it but now that he thinks about it, it's the truth. "Yeah I do."
"Come on," Aiden says, tugging on his sleeve, "The pancakes will get cold."
Cameron smiles and follows him. Aiden stops before the kitchen door.
"You're better at this than you think."
Cameron normally doesn't believe in the wisdom of eight year olds but he can't help but smile. Jake would be proud of him, and Aiden already is.
And that's all he can ask for.