Written in 54 minutes.
Morgan House: Backyard
Cameron was determined to end this fight with Emma, even if he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d done wrong. He’d invited her over to hang out in the backyard while he baby-sat his younger brothers (to remind Emma that she liked what a good brother he was), made sure to have her favorite soda and snack ready.
He was going to fix this. Somehow.
Emma sat stiffly across from at the patio table, her arms folded. “Well?”
“Uh.” Cameron shoved the drink closer. “You want some Dr. Pepper? I also got you Takis. You know, the purple kind—”
Emma pursed her lips—not a good sign—looked down at the soda and bag, then back at Cameron. “You said you wanted to apologize.”
He coughed lightly. “Uh, yes. I was wrong. And I’m sorry.” He flashed her a bright grin. “Did you get your dress for Homecoming—” He glanced over his shoulder when the back door opened and Jason stepped out. “Oh, hey, Dad. You’re home early.”
“Yeah. Your mom wants a burger. On the grill.” Jason went to light the gas. “So that’s what’s for dinner.”
“Oh, one of those cravings.” Cameron turned to Emma, confident that he’d taken care of everything. “Mom’s been cranky lately. On Monday night, like in the middle of the night, she woke up and was eating ice cream.”
“Which you wouldn’t have known about if you’d been in your room sleeping,” Jason said idly. “Instead of playing video games in the living room.”
Cameron hunched his shoulders. “Uh, yeah.”
“Your mother is having a baby. She’s literally creating life,” Emma said flatly, the tone indicating that perhaps he hadn’t done an adequate enough job of apologizing. “Men do nothing but complain—sorry, Mr.Morgan,” she said as afterthought. She got to her feet. “You have no idea why I’m mad, do I?”
“I do, too.” Cameron stood. “You wanted me to ask you to the dance, and I didn’t. I’m fixing that. You’ll go, right?”
Emma’s cheeks flushed, her eyes flashed, and she whirled around. Then she was gone, the kitchen door slamming behind her.
Cameron sunk back into his seat, glared at the Dr. Pepper and Takis. They were just mocking him because they hadn’t done a damn thing except make Emma angrier—he slid a glance at his father. “Hey, Dad.”
“Yeah?” Jason closed the grill and came over to sit across from him.
“You used to mess up with Mom a lot, right?’ Cameron brightened. “Like all the time. She used to cry a lot.”
Jason stared at him, and then Cameron’s grin faded. “I mean, Mom messed up, too, sometimes.”
His father sighed, then sat across from him. “Everyone messes up,” he said, pushing the snacks aside. “It’s normal. Yes, I made your mother cry sometimes. And she hurt me, too. That’s a relationship. It doesn’t matter how much you love or care about someone, it’s impossible to go through life and not cause pain.”
“Yeah, okay. I guess that’s realistic. It’s just—” Cameron gave up and cracked open the Dr. Pepper. It was his favorite, too. “We were all fine one minute, and then the next nope. It’s all about this stupid dance. She’s mad because I didn’t ask her. I just assumed we’d go together.”
“Well, it’s just—we’re dating, right? You and Mom are married. You go to stuff sometimes. Does she wait for you to ask her? Like when Dante’s mom got married. You and mom went together. Did you ask her?”
“No. She—” Jason squinted. “No. She told me when it was.”
“Exactly. Because you’re married. Why can’t things just be understood in a relationship, you know? Why do I have to magically know that sometimes I’m supposed to ask.” He shoved the other soda at his father, hoping he’d drink it, and then it’d be like two guys hanging out. Jason accepted it, popped it open and drank. “Did you and Mom used to argue about this stuff?”
“No,” Jason said after a moment. “But sometimes she was hurt when I didn’t always say what I was thinking. She’d assume what I was thinking — and be wrong — and then she was upset.”
“But that’s her fault for assuming and not asking, right?” Cameron pointed out. “Wouldn’t it have been easier if Mom had just asked? Like, if Emma wanted me to ask her, and that’s the problem, she could have just told me. But now I’m in trouble because I didn’t know there was a rule.” He huffed. “Why can’t she just tell me why she’s mad so I can fix it?”
Jason opened his mouth, then closed it. Cameron felt the sweet sting of victory. “I’m right, aren’t I? If Mom asked you, you would have told her. If she gets upset then, okay. But it’s not your fault if she created a whole argument out of nowhere—”
His father hesitated. “Well, that’s not really it, but—” Jason paused. “I know you’re not right. And that I was wrong,” he continued, “but I can’t really remember why. Your mother explained it better.”
“Yeah. I don’t know if I was supposed to say that—” Jason scrubbed his hand down his face. “Okay, listen. Sometimes we have to do things that don’t make sense. I’m pretty straightforward. Logical. You’re like that, too. You like things to just be said straight out. No guessing.”
Cameron tightened his hand around the soda can. He liked the idea of having something in common with his dad. Even better, like maybe Cameron had this trait because they’d been a family, and this was something that was theirs. “Yeah. That’s all I want. Why am I wrong?”
“I don’t know. You are,” Jason added. “But—” He sighed. “Maybe you both are. She’s not wrong for wanting to be asked, but you’re not wrong for wishing she’d tell you why she’s really mad.”
Cameron perked up. “So, like, she owes me an apology, too.” He got to his feet, chugged the last of his soda. “Thanks! I knew I was right.”
“Uh, that’s not—” Jason winced as Cameron went into the house. Damn it. He’d understood what Elizabeth meant when she said it, but Cameron had made sense, too. He was just going to turn the whole mess over to her. She would fix it.
General Hospital: Hallway
Patrick opened the staff locker room door for Elizabeth. “After you, madame.”
“Thanks. I’m so excited for you guys,” she said as they headed for their lockers. “I’ve loved Cameron and Emma growing up together, and the idea that we get to do it again—”
“And that we’ve got built in baby-sitters.” Patrick rubbed his hands together in glee. “Grandparents, brothers, sisters. This is much better than when we were doing this alone.”
Elizabeth laughed, and spun the dial on her locker. “Have you heard about Cam and Emma’s fight?”
“They’re fighting?” Patrick frowned. “I knew she was upset over something, I just figured it was Joss again.”
“No, that’s been quiet since the blue dye fiasco.” Elizabeth pulled out her street clothes. “It’s not that serious. Cam didn’t ask her to the Homecoming Dance because he assumed they were going to go together.”
Patrick wince. “Rookie mistake, man. You hate to see it. I blame Jason. He doesn’t remember being a teenaged boy. Number one rule — you never assume when it comes to occasions where a girl’s gotta buy a dress.” He sighed, pulled open his locker. “That explains her rotten mood.”
“I told Jason to talk to him, but you know,” Elizabeth smirked, “I’m not sure Jason doesn’t agree with Cameron’s stance. He thinks Emma should have just told him she wanted to be asked.”
“That defeats the purpose of being asked in the first place.” Disgusted, Patrick opened the locker. “And there’s no way Jason doesn’t agree with the kid. He’s too logical. Are you sure there’s emotion in there?”
“Ha—” Elizabeth tugged off her scrub top, then pulled on a sweater. “I just thought if I tried to explain it, Cam would think I was taking Emma’s side.”
“Yeah, but he doesn’t need to know that. If Jason tags me in, and I mess it up, you’re on deck.”
“Got it—” Patrick stopped abruptly. “That’s weird. The picture from Labor Day—” He tapped the inside of his locker where he’d taped photos. His wedding day, a picture of Emma as a toddler, a shot of Emma and Cameron dressed as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider with Aiden as a pumpkin — and there had been a group shot from the Labor Day barbecue at Patrick’s house with Patrick, Robin, Robert, Anna, and Emma.
“Maybe it fell off and got swept up by the janitor.” Elizabeth looked around the staff room, checking the other aisles. “I don’t see it. I’m sure Robin can just print another one—”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s the second picture that’s gone missing in the last few weeks,” Patrick admitted. “I should start paying attention.” When she frowned, he continued, “Last week. The picture in my wallet? The day I bought you Doritos.”
“Oh, yeah. That is weird.”
Patrick closed his locker. “You doing anything for dinner?”
“Jason’s grilling — I made him,” Elizabeth said. “You ready for Robin’s cravings?”
Morgan House: Kitchen
Elizabeth hung her keys up on the hook, smiled at Jason pulling out a bag of buns from the cabinet. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He paused, pulled her in for a kiss that lingered.
“Mmm, what was that for?” she asked, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“I missed you.” Jason kissed the tip of her nose, then winced. “And I talked to Cameron.”
“Yeah, it didn’t go well.” Jason sat at the island. “He takes after you. You talk in circles until I agree with you, and I don’t know how I feel about being manipulated by a fourteen year old.”
Elizabeth laughed, went to the fridge to grab some tomatoes to slice for the burgers. “It’s also just possible you agree with him. Cameron thinks Emma just have just told him she wanted to be asked, and it’s not his fault if she gets mad because she didn’t tell him what she wanted.”
“Uh—yeah.” Jason nodded. “That sounds fair to me.”
“Because I’m a thirty-six year old woman who has has a lot of life experience, and I know that sometimes—” She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the counter, their eyes meeting. “Just because someone doesn’t say something, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. But I had to get hurt a lot of times to get here. Cam and Emma—they’re just learning these things.”
“But you still think Emma’s right,” Jason said slowly. “That Cam should have asked?”
“I think—” Elizabeth paused. “I think she’s not wrong for wishing Cameron thought this dance was a special occasion. That it means as much to him as it does to her. They’re freshman. It’s the first year in high school. And it’s a real dance. Not like the middle school stuff. She’s starting to feel grown up. And mature. And all she wants in the world is the boy she’s crazy for to think she’s special. To treat her that way.”
Jason tipped his head. “And not asking her makes her think she’s not.”
“Yeah. It’s not just the movies on a Saturday night or grabbing dinner at Kelly’s. It’s their first formal dance since they started dating. And she’s probably bought a really pretty dress, and thought about her hair, and—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I was the same. And I wish I could tell her that it’s not that serious. That it’s just a dance, and that Cameron has proved how much he cares in other ways. But she’s just a girl, Jason. And maybe it’s wrong not to want her to have this sweetness as long as she can. Robin and I—we didn’t get to have that. Not really.”
“You did all that for your dance, didn’t you?” Jason asked. “The dress, the hair—”
“Yeah. I searched for hours—” Elizabeth laughed again, but it was a little derisively. “I knew Lucky thought we were just friends, but I thought — if I find just the right dress, he’ll change his mind. I’ll look so beautiful and better than Sarah, and he’ll fall in love with me.” She swiped at a tear. “He only saw the dress after it was torn and dirty.”
“I’m fine. I am. I didn’t—maybe it’s why I understand Emma so much. I wanted that dream. I wanted to matter to someone. I had the dress box in my lap when Lucky came to tell me he was going with Sarah. I was crushed. Embarrassed. Humiliated. I lied to cover it up.”
“Maybe you’re just a little worried that this is all over a dance,” Jason pointed out gently. “And you’re feeling protective of Emma because of that. You don’t want her upset enough to lie and not go.”
“That’s part of it, I think.” She exhaled slowly, put the sliced tomatoes in a container. “But I think it’d be a good lesson for Cameron to learn. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you get to stop taking care of each other. Look at you—you were at work, and all I did was mention I had a craving for a burger. It’s the little things that matter, Jason. Because when you don’t do the little things, they pile up and explode into one big problem. Today, he doesn’t think it’s a big deal to not to ask her to a dance. Sure, he’s got a point. It’d be easier if Emma explained this to him. But maybe she can’t. Maybe it’s too big and it hurts too much to put in words.”
Jason rounded the corner to take her in his arms. “Hey.” He brushed at a tear sliding down her cheek with his knuckle. “You’re right. Cameron might not be wrong, but I don’t want him making the same mistakes I did. It took me too long to say what needed to be said, to do what needed to be done, and you shouldn’t have had to wait for me to figure that out.”
“I should have been able to find the words. I didn’t try hard enough. I let the pain and hurt swallow me whole.” She rested her forehead against his chest, and let him put his arms around her. This would always be her safe place. The one place in all the world where nothing could hurt her. “I’ll talk to him.”
“Yeah, I can do it now.” She kissed him, cupping his face. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”