Written in 59 minutes.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason thought it would be months before they’d be back in this place, before he felt like he could tell Elizabeth how he felt — he’d thought about it every day since she’d testified in court, since she’d looked at him and then back at Ric and told the truth.
He’d felt it growing between them for months, even as he tried to fix things with Sam and Elizabeth had married Lucky once again. After the kidnapping, when he’d brought Jake home to her, and she’d held their son in her arms, and he’d picked Cameron up — he understood what she meant about wanting the dream.
Because for those few moments before Lucky came in and reclaimed his family, Jason had let himself want it, too.
And now, if he was careful not to push too hard or too fast, the dream could be theirs.
Jason slid his hands through her hair, the strands like silk. Her fingers twisted in his shirt, tugging him closer. How could he have let an entire year pass without holding her in his arms, the scent and taste of her seeping into his veins—He touched the hem of her shirt, his fingers brushing the skin underneath—
There was a click of a tumbler in the door behind them, the only warning they had before the door opened, and Spinelli stepped in. His head was down and he had headphones on—Jason and Elizabeth broke apart, her cheeks were flushed, her mouth still slightly open, her breathing shallow. He swallowed hard, then focused on his roommate.
Spinelli tugged off his headphones and grinned at them. “Hey. Fair Elizabeth, you’re still here. Awesome sauce. I was gonna suggest Stone Cold get pizza tonight. The Jackal had a burger at the diner, but I’m still hungry. You in? Little Dude probably loves it, right?”
“Um—” Elizabeth took a deep breath, crossing her arms over her chest. “He’s napping, but—” She darted a look at Jason. “We don’t usually eat for another hour. Maybe two.”
“Stay,” Jason said gently. Forever would be fine, but he’d settle for dinner. “Cam can finish his nap, and Spinelli—pizza’s fine. We’ll just wait.”
“No worries, the Jackal can feast on cheese puffs and orange soda. Just let me know what the little dude likes.” Oblivious to the tension in the air, Spinelli went past them towards the sofa, winding the cord around his headphones. “I have a project to distract me.”
The monitor on the coffee table made a sound, and Elizabeth went to it, picking it up. “Oh, it’s Jake. Um, I should get him before he wakes up Cam. Cam’s really cranky when he doesn’t get at least an hour—”
She nearly flew up the stairs, and Jason wondered if maybe he’d already pushed too hard. He cleared his throat, looked at Spinelli. The tech had tugged out the omnipresent laptop, his brow already furrowed as he bent over the keys. “You’re not doing anything that’s going to get you arrested, are you?”
“Only if the Jackal gets caught—” Spinelli said absently. He scowled. “Why aren’t all cell phones registered? I should be able to track a blocked number.”
“Don’t get caught,” Jason muttered. The last thing he needed was to be accused of harboring a fugitive. He looked towards the stairs, argued with himself for a minute, then gave up and started for the second floor.
Morgan Penthouse: Nursery
Elizabeth had reached Jake before he’d really started to fuss, and Cameron remained blissfully unaware, sprawled out on his race car bed. Elizabeth scooped Jake out of the crib and cuddled him against her still racing heart.
What the hell had happened downstairs? How had they gone from arguing about being investigated to murder to—
Elizabeth kissed Jake’s soft, silky head, closing her eyes, gently swaying in the infant, trying to wrap her min around the reality. Jason loved her. He’d said the words, and he’d kissed her.
Or had she hallucinated that?
She heard the soft creak of footsteps outside the door and turned to see Jason in the doorway. They stared at each other for a long moment before he stepped inside the room, then he stopped and smiled. Not at her, but behind her.
At Cameron laying on his stomach in bed, his arms and legs spread out like he’d been dropped from a height. The thin top sheet she’d tucked around him earlier kicked off, half on the bed, half trailing on the floor.
“He sleeps just like he does everything else,” Jason murmured, stooping to toss the sheet back on the bed, but not covering Cam again. “Full throttle.”
“He’s always been a good sleeper,” Elizabeth said, wistfully. “Even when he was a baby. I feel like I hit the jackpot with him. All mothers should get such a sweet baby for their first. It makes it less scary.”
“Jake’s making up for that, I guess.” He crossed to her, stroked Jake’s back. The infant turned at the movement, slowly twisting his head to find his father, a smile spreading across his face. He cooed, and one of his arms reached for Jason.
Elizabeth handed him over without protest, some of the twisting tension fading. She’d made so many mistakes and forced Jason to lose months of being a father, but at least the damage wouldn’t be long-lasting. Jake already loved his father.
“We should talk,” Jason said, his voice little more than a whisper. He tipped his head towards the door. “Come on.”
She wasn’t sure she wanted to, but she followed him anyway, closing the door behind her. Instead of going downstairs, Jason led her down the hallway into the master bedroom — where there was another white baby monitor. This one didn’t have the video like the downstairs one, but she was moved by the evidence of how invested Jason was in being with Jake. Not only did the bedroom have a monitor, but there was a playpen with stuffed animals and an activity blanket spread out nearby.
“I wish I could take credit,” Jason admitted. “I would have put things in here—” He looked at her. “We talked about overnight, and I wanted to be ready, but then—”
“Spinelli the Fairy Godfather struck again,” Elizabeth said. “He’s such a sweet kid, Jason. I’m so glad you have each other.”
“He’s definitely not what I expected,” Jason admitted. “I didn’t think he’d still be living here, but it’s just…”
“It feels right. And I’m glad he has a home. A place to belong.” She exhaled slowly. “He was kind when Jake was kidnapped. He came by a few times, offering to go over every detail with me. I thought you’d sent him.”
“No, I didn’t. But I would have if I thought it would help.” Jason hesitated. “I was going out of my mind stuck in jail.” He stroked Jake’s back again, then set the infant down on his back on the activity blanket, underneath the plastic arch with dangling toys. Jake immediately batted at them, his legs kicking. “I wanted Spinelli to help me get out.”
“Get—” Elizabeth frowned at him. “You mean escape? Jason.” She exhaled slowly. “I know you were just as scared as me, but I didn’t realize—” She bit her lip. “I guess I was freaking out enough for all of us.”
“You were getting enough from everyone else,” Jason reminded her. “The interrogations, the looks—” His mouth twisted. “Anyway. Spinelli talked me out of it. I’m glad. If I hadn’t waited for bail, I never would have been at the studio when Amelia talked to Maureen and heard crying.”
“Thank God for Spinelli.”
They stood in silence for a long moment, watching Jake as he played with his toys, then rocked back and forth, trying to roll over. He didn’t really have a lot of room, so he went back to playing.
Elizabeth sat down, her back to the edge of the bed and just wanted their son. Jason sat next to her, their shoulders brushing. He stretched out his legs.
“Downstairs—” Jason began then stopped, as if unsure where to go from there. Elizabeth looked at him and their eyes met. “I don’t want to push you. I know it’s been…there’s been a lot going on. And it’s not going to change in the next few months.”
“You never push me,” Elizabeth said. She leaned her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes. He lifted his arm, wrapped it around her to hold her closer. “Even when you should.” She didn’t say anything else, just soaked in the moment—this lovely, quiet moment of two parents watching their son. A piece of that fantasy she’d never dared to believe would become reality.
“I know we have to be careful, to take things slowly. I don’t want to do anything that will make the divorce or custody harder,” Jason said. “So whatever Diane says to do, that’s it. But I need you to know that I want the same thing. The dream you had—it’s mine, too.”
“I thought you didn’t dream,” Elizabeth said, tipping her head up, smiling so he knew it was a joke. But his eyes remained serious.
“I don’t. But I like to believe in yours,” he said, echoing the answer he’d given her all those years ago. “Being with you, being a family — it’s a good one. And I promise, if you’ll give me a chance, we’ll make it real.”
Lewis Hall: Georgie and Chelsea’s Room
Georgie’s stomach dropped when she saw the third blocked call of the day. She glanced over at Chelsea who was studying for their chemistry final — the last one of the summer program. “Hey, didn’t you say you were gonna ask Robbie about the hazing?”
“What?” Chelsea blinked. “What?”
“Robbie. You were going to ask him if Sigma Alpha was doing initiation early.”
“Oh.” Chelsea straightened, stretched her arms over her head. “I did. He said no, that they don’t do anything until rush week later next month. He said there weren’t a lot of members on campus anyway. Not until this week when moving in for fall starts.”
That wasn’t the answer Georgie wanted as she stared down at the cell phone. At the blocked call. “Maybe some of the older guys are testing out ideas.”
“That’s possible. I mean, they get watched really closely by the admin,” Chelsea said. “So they’re probably trying to brainstorm new ways not to get caught hazing. Sigma’s throwing a big party on Friday. I can ask Robbie then if you want.”
“Yeah. I guess I’d just feel better if we were sure the flowers were a prank.”
“Haven’t had any since, so probably.” Chelsea flipped a page in her book. “It’s not a good one, maybe they didn’t like the reaction.”
“Hopefully,” Georgie muttered. She turned off her cell phone and went back to studying.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Spinelli set the pizza boxes on the coffee table then sat next to Cameron who was practically vibrating with excitement. “I love pizza,” he told Spinelli for the third or fourth time since he’d learned they were staying for dinner and dinner was pizza.
Elizabeth laughed from the other end of the sofa, bouncing Jake in her lap. “And we got your favorite—”
Spinelli lifted the top on the first box, steam rising from inside. “Yum, pepperoni!”
“Yay, roni! And no green stuff.” Cameron looked up as Jason stepped around the sofa, setting down paper plates, napkins, and a bottle of orange soda. His eyes were wide. “I have soda?”
Elizabeth made a face, but the joy in her son’s expression was impossible to resist. “Just a little.”
“Little Dude is an orange soda fan?” Spinelli offered him a high five. “My kind of kid.”
Jason set down an empty sippy cup with Spiderman emblazoned on the side. “This just appeared in my kitchen,” he told Cameron.
“The Fairy Godfather strikes again?” Elizabeth wanted to know as Cameron almost bounced of the sofa. Jason poured a little of the soda into the cup, twisted the top on and handed it to him.
“This is the best day ever. Soda and roni.” Cameron sighed happily, beaming at Jason. The toddler turned back to Spinelli who handed him pizza. “Best day,” he repeated.
Jason couldn’t disagree with that sentiment. He sat on the arm of the sofa, next to Elizabeth, and watched Cameron tear into his slide of pizza—carefully cut into small pieces because Spinelli somehow thought of everything. He’d have to find a way to show the kid how much he appreciated making Elizabeth and the boys feel at home here.
He hoped that one day, not too far away, it would be their home. He knew that Elizabeth would pack the boys up after dinner and take them to Audrey’s. It was far too soon to talk about staying — and Jason wanted to make sure that Cameron was included in any overnight visits with Jake. Just as much as he’d wanted to be with his son—how he found himself hoping Lucky pushed Elizabeth too far, that the time would come when Jason could tell Elizabeth that he wanted Cameron, too. He wanted them, all.
But rushing her would only backfire, Jason decided. If he was careful and patient, he would be able to make her dream a reality.
Elizabeth smiled up at him. Their dream, he corrected himself. It was theirs now. And he wasn’t going to let Lucky Spencer ruin it.