He rushed into the room, his heart thumping in his chest.
His eyes did a quick scan of the room and he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a familiar sight. Unruly brown curls. Teeth biting into a plump bottom lip. A fidgeting form, trying to sit quietly in a chair, unable to do so.
He took a step forward, intent on crossing the room, but stopped when he heard his name being called.
"Mr. Morgan," said a voice from behind him. "Thank you for coming so quickly."
He turned to face the person who had addressed him and nodded his head once in reply.
"Let's step outside to talk, shall we?"
He paused before stepping outside, casting a glance over to the other side of the room, his heart clenching at the sight of tears pooling up in those beautiful eyes as they guiltily shifted away from his stare.
"Thank you, again, for coming so quickly. I know this is the first time we've ever called you."
He nodded again. "Yeah, I was a little surprised when you called."
"Well, you are the second number on our contact list."
He bit back a grin. He had no idea she had listed him as one of the main contacts, but it pleased him to no end that she had done so.
"So when we called upstairs and were told that Mrs. Morgan was in surgery, we went to the next number listed. I hope that was alright?"
He nodded again. "Of course. That's fine." He glanced over his shoulder briefly. "What happened?"
"I'm not exactly sure. One minute, everything was fine, the next minute, I was breaking up a fight. When I tried to find out what the fight was about . . . I got silence," she tsk'ed once in disapproval.
He tensed at the sound of disapproval, not liking it.
He felt a sense of vindication when his reaction was noted as she quickly went on to say, "Cameron is usually a very well-behaved boy. I can't imagine what brought on such bad behavior. Perhaps -."
"I'll talk to him," he cut her off, not wanting to hear anymore disparaging comments from the daycare coordinator about his stepson.
"Maybe that would be best," she said nervously, averting her gaze from his unblinking glare.
He nodded once one last time and turned to walk back into the room. He saw Cameron stop fidgeting, holding completely still as he watched Jason approach.
He crouched down in front of the little boy. "Hey buddy," he said.
The little boy sniffed. "Hi."
He noticed a scratch on his cheek and reached a hand out to caress the wound tenderly. "Are you okay?"
Cameron sniffed again. "Yeah."
"Mrs. . . . uh," he paused, giving himself a moment to remember her name, "Mrs. Thompson said you were fighting."
Cameron tucked his head down, his chin practically pressed against his chest. "Yeah."
"Why were you fighting, buddy?" he asked.
Cameron shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno."
He sighed and shifted on his haunches. "Come on, Cam. You can tell me."
He wasn't expecting to see the fierce, angry look in the little boy's eyes when he lifted his head. "Jimmy's stupid!" he practically shouted.
"Okay," he said slowly. "Why is he stupid?"
"Cause he is," Cameron said and Jason's heart clenched as he watched the little boy's eyes fill with tears. "He's stupid and he says stupid stuff and I wanted him to shu-ut u-up," his last two words broken up by a sob.
"Hey," he said gently. "Hey, it's alright buddy," he opened his arms and Cameron practically launched himself against Jason, clutching his little arms around his neck tightly as he cried against his shoulder.
He held him as he cried, his own chest constricting at the sound of the little boy's sobs.
"Are you mad at me?" he heard Cameron ask, his head still pressed against Jason's shoulder.
"No," he said quickly, gently. "I'm not mad."
"Mommy's gonna be mad," Cameron sniffed.
The corners of Jason's mouth tilted up into a grin. "Your mom's going to be upset, yeah. But I don't think she'll be mad at you, Cam."
He grinned again as Cameron pulled back enough to look up at Jason with big eyes, his teeth gnawing on his bottom lip. It took his breath away, sometimes, the resemblance Cameron had to his mother.
"Do we gotta tell Mommy?" Cameron asked quietly, ducking his head down as he spoke.
Jason took a short, deep breath. "Yeah, buddy. Yeah, we do." He watched as the little boy's shoulders slumped in acceptance. "Why don't we get your brother and go upstairs to wait for your Mom to get out of surgery?"
Cameron sighed, "Okay."
He hooked one arm underneath Cameron, lifting him as he stood, and made his way down the hall to the daycare play room.
He couldn't hold back a smile when he saw his son's own smile at the sight of his father and brother in the doorway. "Da! Da! Da!" Jake began to chant, excitedly.
He missed the frown that appeared briefly on Cameron's face.
"Ready to go, Jake?" he asked with a smile as he bent down to pick Jake up in his other arm. Jake responded with a happy squeal as he buried his face against his father's neck.
He turned to leave, but stopped when he heard his name being called.
"Mr. Morgan!" Mrs. Thompson said, approaching them.
He turned to face her.
"You have to let us know if you're taking them," she said, flustered.
He nodded his head once. "Alright, then. I'm taking both of my boys home."
He missed the frown that appeared on Cameron's face again.
"We'll let Mrs. Morgan know when she-."
"No," he interrupted her, shaking, "I'll stop and let my wife know."
He made his way to the 10th floor where Epiphany told him Elizabeth would be out of surgery shortly. He sat down with the boys in the waiting area, content to just sit and watch them interact with each other.
He saw his wife coming towards them after a brief wait and his heartbeat quickened at the sight of her, as always.
He watched as a beaming smile came over her face when she spotted them.
She kissed each of them in turn, leaving her husband for last and he shifted over on the couch to make room for her to sit.
"Well this is a nice surprise," she said happily. "Did your day finish early?" she asked him.
"Not exactly," he said casting a glance over at Cameron, who had his head ducked down again, a guilty look on his face.
He watched as his wife looked from him to Cameron, then back to him again.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"You were in surgery, so I got a call from Mrs. Thompson," he replied.
"Mrs. Thompson?" she asked, "From daycare?" At his nod, she went on, "What happened?"
His eyes shifted towards Cameron again and his wife turned to look carefully at her oldest son once more.
He heard her gasp and he knew she had seen the scratch on his face. "Cam?" she said, bringing one hand up to touch his cheek. "What happened baby? Are you alright? Did you hurt yourself?"
He watched as Cameron shook his head, a miserable look on his face, but he remained silent.
"How did you get that scratch?" she asked. When Cameron remained silent, she let out a huff of air in frustration. "Will someone tell me what happened?"
He cleared his throat and took his wife's hand in his. "It seems that Cameron got into a fight at daycare."
"A fight?" she repeated, a dumbfounded look on her face. "Why?"
He could only shrug and shake his head in response.
"Cameron?" she said and took her son's arm, bringing him to his feet so that he was standing in front of her. "Look at Mommy, Cameron," she said. When the little boy brought sad eyes up to meet his mother's, she went on. "Who were you fighting with?"
"Jimmy," Cameron sniffed.
"Jimmy," she repeated and Cameron nodded. "Why were you fighting?"
"Cause Jimmy's stupid," Cameron said, that angry look appearing on his face again.
"Why is he stupid? What happened?"
Cameron remained stubbornly silent, but he cast his eyes quickly over to Jason before turning back to look at his mother.
He watched as his wife let out another frustrated huff of air before turning to face him. "Do you know what this is about?"
"That's pretty much all he would tell me, too. He said Jimmy said stupid stuff and he wanted him to shut-up, so … I guess he hit him," he said.
She turned to look at Cameron again. "What did Jimmy say?"
Cameron again remained stubbornly silent.
He could tell by the look in his wife's eyes that she was growing more upset with each non-response. Before she could say anything else, her pager went off.
"Damnit," she muttered under her breath. "I'll be right back," she got up quickly and walked over to the nurses station.
"Told you she'd be mad," Cameron said under his breath once his mother stepped away.
Jason bit back a chuckle. Before he could reply, Elizabeth had returned. "They need me in ICU, I have to go," she frowned.
He stood, holding Jake in one arm, grasping Cameron's hand in his. "I'm going to take them home."
"Okay," she said and kneeled down in front of Cameron. "We're going to talk about this when I get home, Cameron," she said sternly.
"Okay," Cameron said miserably.
She reached over to kiss her son's cheek lightly and then stood, giving Jake a kiss on the cheek as well. "I shouldn't be too long," she said before touching her lips to her husbands.
No matter what he tried, Cameron remained stubbornly silent on the issue during the car ride home, and then the entire time they were at home before his wife arrived.
They ate dinner in silence, mostly, as Cameron could only play with his food, and Elizabeth grew more and more upset at her oldest son's behavior.
After putting Jake down for the night, Elizabeth and Jason sat with Cameron in the living room to try and get some answers from him.
Sitting next to each other on one end of the couch as Cameron sat on the other end of the couch, they shared a concerned glance as Cameron remained silent.
"I want you to tell Mommy what happened," she said.
"Cameron," she went on, getting impatient. "Answer me. Why did you fight with Jimmy?"
"Cameron!" she exclaimed.
He put one hand on his wife's knee, trying to calm her down.
"Cam," he began, "We just want to know what happened so we can help you, buddy. We don't want you getting hurt."
Silence. And a sniffle.
He heard his wife take a deep, calming breath before speaking. "Did you start the fight?"
They were both surprised when Cameron finally spoke. "No," he said quietly.
"So Jimmy hit you first?" Jason asked.
Cameron's chin dipped down to press against his chest again. "No."
"You hit him first?" Elizabeth asked.
"Yeah," Cameron sniffed. "But he started it!"
He shared another concerned look with his wife. "How did he start it, Cam?" he asked.
His wife sighed in frustration. "Alright Cameron. It's obvious you're not going to explain yourself. I want you to go upstairs and get ready for bed."
Cameron got off the couch, but before he could walk away, his mother grabbed a hold of his hand. "But tomorrow, we are going to daycare and you're going to apologize to Jimmy for hitting him."
"Will not!" Cameron said, angrily.
"Yes you will, Cameron," Elizabeth said firmly. "You are going to tell him you're sorry."
"I'm not sorry, Mommy!" Cameron said, crossing his arms angrily. "And I'll hit him again if he's stupid again."
"Cameron-," she began, but before she could say anything more, he turned and ran out of the living room, up the stairs.
They both winced when they heard him slam his bedroom door shut, and held their breath, hoping that Jake wouldn't wake up.
When there remained silence from upstairs, they both relaxed.
He wrapped his arm around his wife as she groaned in frustration, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I don't know what's gotten into him," she muttered.
"Do you know this kid Jimmy?" he asked, bringing his hand up to run through her hair, knowing it would help relax her.
"Not really. But I know his mother," she grimaced.
He chuckled at the look on her face. "Not a friend of yours, I take it?"
"She's another nurse at the hospital. And she's a real bitch. So if her kid's anything like her, then
…" she trailed off, leaning forward a bit so he could move his hand up to her neck, massaging the tension there gently.
"He must have said something pretty bad to have set Cam off like that," he said.
"I don't care what was said. You don't solve anything by hitting someone," she said tiredly.
"Sometimes you do," he couldn't help but reply.
He was smirking when she turned to glare at him. After a moment, she was grinning as well and she leaned into him, laying against his chest. "Don't let Cam hear you say that. He's already taken on an irritating habit of yours, husband."
"What habit would that be, wife?" he asked, chuckling.
"The silent glare when being questioned, that's what," she shook her head with a rueful smile.
"He sure did show that he won't crack under pressure, didn't he?" he said, deep affection for the little boy stamped across his face.
He couldn't help but laugh when he felt his wife's elbow digging hard into his side.
"It's not funny," she said, pulling back to give him a mock glare.
"It's kinda funny," he said, smiling.
They shared a loving look for a minute, but then his expression sobered. "Is it alright if … tomorrow, would it be okay …"
"What?" she asked, bringing one hand up to run through his hair.
"I'd like to be there tomorrow when you bring him to daycare," he said, licking his lips nervously. "If that's alright."
He watched as a big smile slowly stretched across her face. "Of course it's alright, Jason," she leaned in to press her lips to his, pausing to whisper, "I love you so much," against them.
He kissed her tenderly, sweetly for a few moments, but then the kiss became heated. Before it could go too far, he pulled back with a regretful sigh. "We better check on him," he said.
The next morning, they had to deal with a very angry, very stubborn boy during breakfast. He remained silent as both his mother and his stepfather told him that he would be apologizing to Jimmy that day. He remained silent as they dropped Jake off at Audrey's.
He remained silent on the car ride to the hospital.
As they approached the doors of the daycare office, they shared a worried glance over their little boy's head, both of them a bit unnerved by his silence.
He couldn't help but shake his head in wonder. Was this the way his own silence affected people? A part of him wasn't thrilled that Cameron had adopted his silent glare when being questioned. And another part of him was overwhelmed with love for the little boy who had chosen to emulate him.
Waiting for them in the office was Mrs. Thompson, and Jimmy along with his mother. Jason immediately noticed the fat lip Jimmy had, as well as the furious look on his mother's face.
"Hello Mrs. Thompson, Betty," Elizabeth said.
"Mrs. Morgan, Mr. Morgan," Mrs. Thompson replied, while Betty remained silent.
Elizabeth urged Cameron forward, "Go on Cam. You know what you need to do."
Cameron allowed himself to be pushed forward a few steps, but then crossed his arms over his chest and continued to remain silent, staring angrily at Jimmy, who was staring back at him just as angrily.
Before either Elizabeth or Jason could say anything, Betty scoffed in annoyance. "I should have known," she said.
"What was that?" Elizabeth asked, her brows coming down in irritation.
"I should have known that your boy would continue to be an ill-behaved little-."
"Now you wait just a minute," Elizabeth cut her off in a fierce whisper, stepping towards her. "You don't talk about my son that way."
"I call it as I see it," Betty snapped.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Elizabeth hissed.
"Oh dear," Mrs. Thompson said, wringing her hands, trying to usher the two women away from the children. She looked towards Jason for help, and she wringed her hands harder when she saw the furious glare he was directing towards Betty. She managed to get them to move a few steps away, trying to insert herself between the two women who continued to whisper furiously at each other.
They were all stunned into silence when they heard a shout coming from the direction of the boys.
They turned to find Cameron holding Jimmy in a headlock, yelling, "You shut-up! You just shut-up, Jimmy!"
"Lemme go! Mommy!!" Jimmy wailed.
Jason quickly stepped forward and easily pulled Cameron from around Jimmy, crouching down low beside him as he did so.
Betty let out a shout of her own and lurched forward, grabbing her son and pulling him away from Jason and Cameron. "You stay away from my boy!" she shouted at Jason.
Elizabeth, Jason, and even Mrs. Thompson all looked at Betty as if she had sprouted a third head.
Cameron was refusing to stay still in Jason's grasp, trying to move forward towards Jimmy again. "You take it back!" he yelled.
"No!" Jimmy snapped back. "My mommy said so!"
"Shut-up!" Cameron shouted.
"Cam," Jason said gently, trying to calm the little boy down.
"My mommy said that he's a bad man!" Jimmy pointed towards Jason. "She said he's a … a … cri-ni-mal! My mommy said he should be in jail like he was before!"
Elizabeth gasped and looked towards Betty, who was standing there, her expression much like a deer caught in headlights. Jason scowled up at the woman who was, just as his wife had said, a real bitch. Mrs. Thompson continued to wring her hands, chanting "Oh dear, oh dear," incessantly.
"Bad man! Bad man!" Jimmy shouted, ignoring all attempts by his mother to silence him.
Cameron ripped himself out of Jason's embrace, that had gone slack with shock, and he shouted, "No he's not! My daddy is NOT a bad man!" He launched himself at Jimmy and all four adults stood there, stunned for a moment.
Elizabeth quickly looked down and found Jason looking up at her, both wearing identical shocked, yet joyous looks on their faces.
Realizing it was the wrong time to wallow in the utter delight he felt rush through his body at Cameron referring to him as daddy, Jason quickly sobered and leaned forward, pulling Cameron away from Jimmy. "Cam," he said, holding the boy back as he tried to lunge forward again. "Hey, buddy, calm down," he said, pulling him into a tight embrace, pressing his face against Cameron's temple. "It's okay, Cam. It's okay."
Cameron turned in Jason's arms, tears pooling up in his eyes. "Daddy," he said in a small voice and fell against his chest, clutching his neck tight.
Elizabeth felt tears come to her own eyes, but blinked them back quickly, and directed her attention to Betty, who was staring at the three of them furiously.
"You certainly have taught your son well, haven't you?" she spat out.
"I told you, I call it as I see it," she spat back.
"I'll give you something you can see," Elizabeth said and took a step towards her, pushing the sleeves of her shirt up.
Jason quickly stood, holding Cameron with one arm against his chest, and grabbed his wife's arm, stopping her in her tracks.
Elizabeth struggled to free herself from Jason's hold.
"Elizabeth," he said gently. He gave her a patient smile when she turned to look at him, a fierce look in her eyes. "Let it go."
"Jason, I won't let her get away-," Elizabeth began, her tone fierce.
"What happened to 'you don't solve anything by hitting someone'?" he asked, unable to hold back the twinkle in his eye.
He watched as his wife fought back a smile, "Sometimes you do," she said, glancing from Jason to Betty and back again.
He gave her a small grin, and then his expression became serious. He tugged on her arm, turning her attention fully to him. "She's not worth it," he said softly.
The sight of her son in Jason's arms, crying, drained all of the fight from Elizabeth, and she quickly calmed, stepping into Jason's embrace. "You're right."
"Well!" Betty snapped, taking her son's hand and moving quickly out of the room. "I'm not going to keep my son around here. We're going to find a different daycare!"
"Maybe that would be for the best," Mrs. Thompson said, still wringing her hands, following her out of the room.
Jason held his son in one arm, his wife in the other and closed his eyes, struggling to control the intense range of emotions running through him. Love. Anger. Remorse. Sorrow. And joy.
He pulled back and found his wife's teary eyes gazing up at him. "We should get him home," he said.
Cameron stopped crying by the time they got in the car, but he remained silent during the ride home. Agreeing that the would get Jake a little later on, they went straight home, both of them glancing back at Cameron in the back seat worriedly throughout the ride.
By the time they pulled into their driveway, Cameron had started to fall asleep, the events of the morning having drained him.
Jason carried him into the house, cradling him tenderly in his arms, as Elizabeth followed.
He laid Cameron down on his bed and they both kneeled down beside him, just gazing at him for a few minutes.
Just as they were about to get up, Cameron shifted in his sleep.
"Mommy?" he said drowsily.
"I'm here, baby," she said, taking his hand in hers.
"I'm sorry for fighting," he said, his eyes fighting to stay open.
"I know you are," she said, blinking back tears. "We'll talk about it later. Just get some rest now, baby."
They both moved to get up again, but Cameron's next word stopped them dead in their tracks.
"Daddy?" he said.
Jason blinked back tears of his own as he looked at his wife, who didn't bother holding back her tears anymore.
"Yeah, buddy?" he said, taking Cameron's tiny hand in his.
"I'm sorry if Jimmy hurt your feelings."
"He didn't, Cam," was all Jason could say.