Author's Note: Well, here it is, the seventh and final chapter of my fic. Much thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed the earlier chapters- I really appreciate all the feedback you guys gave me, it's what keeps me writing. Special thanks to Melissa, Kate and Justine for helping me get started, giving me the idea for the title, and giving me tons of feedback. You guys are awesome!

Anyway, like I said, this is the last stand-alone in the series. It's about Mark, and it's basically a Susan/Elizabeth friendship fic. I was very tempted to make it a Cordano chapter, but I decided that a morbid discussion of Elizabeth's late husband was not what that relationship needed :) Anyway, please read and review, and I hope you enjoy the chapter!

***

"I'll close, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth Corday gratefully withdrew her hands from the surgical field. After three long hours, she and her surgical team had finally completed a complicated spleenectomy on a six-year-old MVA victim. It was almost six o'clock, and Elizabeth wanted to get home to see her daughter and go to sleep.

"Thank you, Edson," she said, pulling the bloody gloves off of her hands and exiting the operating room.

After she had washed her hands and changed out of her surgical scrubs, Elizabeth said goodbye to Shirley and got on the elevator. The doors opened, as they did every night, to a busy ER. Elizabeth fought her way through the hallway, praying that she wouldn't be approached for a surgical consult.

She had made it as far as the admit desk when she heard her name. She turned around to see Susan Lewis standing at the admit desk. Judging by the clothes she was wearing, Elizabeth decided that Susan must be on her way out as well. She walked back to the desk and greeted her friend.

"Hi, Susan. Hectic day?"

Susan laughed. "You could say that!" Elizabeth smiled. Since she had been on call in the ER that day, she knew how crazy it had been.

"Anyway, I just wanted to see if you were okay."

As they began to walk out of the emergency room, Elizabeth said, "I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, it's the one-year anniversary of Mark's death."

Elizabeth drew a sharp breath in. She should have known that Susan would remember this. After all, she had been Mark's best friend.

"You know, it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I guess working just kept my mind off of it, in a way."

Susan nodded. "I know what you mean. I've been dreading this day for weeks. I mean, the constant pain of him being gone left months ago, but I still miss him. A lot. And I thought today would be unbearable."

Elizabeth sighed, breathing in the warm May air. Winter in Chicago was finally over, and spring was here to stay. "I'm kind of dreading going home, actually. It's always worse there."

Susan suddenly stopped walking. Elizabeth turned to face her.

"Are you going to be okay, Elizabeth? Do you want to go out for a little while? Going home alone probably isn't the best thing to do right now."

"I know, I know. But I should get home to Ella. Chris will want to go home, it's been a long day."

Susan nodded. "Well, do you want some company?"

Elizabeth smiled appreciatively. "Company would be great."

***

Elizabeth opened the door to her house. She could see Chris, her nanny, getting up from the couch, where she was watching Ella play with some toys.

"Hi, Elizabeth," Chris said, looking pointedly at Susan, who had stepped into the hall and closed the door behind her.

"Hi, Chris. This is my friend Susan Lewis, she's a doctor in the ER. Susan, this is Chris Phillips, Ella's nanny."

Susan smiled and extended her hand. "Hi, Chris, it's nice to meet you."

Chris shook Susan's hand. "Same here." She then turned to face Elizabeth. "Well, Ella hasn't eaten or taken a bath yet. She did nap for 2 1/2 hours this afternoon, though."

"OK, that's wonderful, thanks so much, Chris."

Chris smiled and picked her coat up off of a chair in the living room. "I'll see you at 6:30 tomorrow morning, right?"

Elizabeth nodded. "Have a good night, Chris."

"You too. It was nice to meet you, Susan." Susan smiled as Chris let herself out of the house.

Elizabeth crossed the room and sat down across from her daughter. Ella was busy playing with a stuffed cow and bear. "Hello, darling," she said, kissing her daughter on the cheek.

"Hi, mommy!"

"Did you have a good day?"

Ella nodded emphatically. Elizabeth laughed. "Good, sweetheart. I'm glad." She looked up to find that Susan was standing next to the couch. "Ella, this is Susan. She was one of your daddy's friends." Susan crouched down next to Ella and smiled.

"Hi Ella!" she said. Ella smiled and waved back.

"Ella, are you hungry?" Elizabeth asked her daughter. Ella nodded. "Okay, then, let's go make some dinner." Elizabeth picked up Ella, and gestured that Susan should follow them into the kitchen.

***

Elizabeth quietly walked down the stairs and into the living room. It was 7:30, and Ella had been fed, bathed, and put to bed. Susan had helped happily with the feeding and bathing, but she had gone downstairs to let Elizabeth have some time alone with her daughter before bed. Now she was sitting on the couch, looking at an old photo album that had been left on the coffee table.

Elizabeth quietly sat down on the couch next to Susan, and Susan moved the album so that it sat between them. The album contained many of the best pictures taken of Mark and Elizabeth over the years- alone, with friends, and with each other.

The album was opened to a group of pictures that were taken about three years before. One of them featured Elizabeth sitting at a table wearing a long black dress, with her head flung back in laughter. Elizabeth chuckled at the sight of the picture. That picture had been taken at one of the fancy dinners that Elizabeth had been coerced into going to by her boss, Robert Romano. She couldn't remember what she was laughing about, but she did remember that she had spent the next four hours with the hiccups from laughing so hard.

The next picture was of Elizabeth and Carol Hathaway at Carol's house. Elizabeth remembered that night perfectly. Carol had called her, exhausted, needing help with the twins. Elizabeth had come over and watched Kate while Carol took a wailing Tess outside to calm her down. After the girls had finally fallen asleep, Carol and Elizabeth had spent the night with a quart of coffee ice cream, talking. Right before Elizabeth had left, they spontaneously decided to take a picture, which ended up being one of the best pictures ever taken of the two of them together. Elizabeth smiled and turned the page of the album.

Staring back up at her was the face of her late husband. This picture had been taken on their engagement night. Although nobody else was home, Mark had insisted on setting up the tripod to take an engagement picture. As Elizabeth recalled, most of those pictures hadn't come out so well, but this particular one had come out wonderfully. Mark was leaning against the rail of the deck, smiling, with his arm wrapped around Elizabeth. They looked so happy then. So perfect.

But that was just the beginning. Their relationship had certainly had its share of hardships. Mark's brain tumor. Rachel coming to live with them. Ella's ecstasy overdose. Their separation. The recurrence of Mark's tumor. Yes, they had certainly had more than their fair share of difficulty. But there was something about Mark that kept Elizabeth coming back. Kept her in love with him. She had never been able to explain what it was, but there was something about Mark that she had never felt in any other relationship she had ever had.

A tear splashed on the album page, right on Mark's nose. Looking up, Elizabeth realized that her eyes were blurry. She was crying. She had done a lot of that over the past year. Elizabeth knew that it was no use trying to hold back the tears. So she let herself go, and began to sob.

A single tear trickled down Susan's cheek as she reached over to hug Elizabeth. As Elizabeth sobbed into her shoulder, Susan's eyes began to well up more and more, until she was crying just as hard as Elizabeth was.

"I miss him like crazy, Susan," Elizabeth choked out.

"I know, Elizabeth. I miss him too."

Elizabeth pulled away from her friend's shoulder. "I had thought that it would get easier with time. That some day the pain would fade away, and I could go back to living my life like I did before this all happened. But the pain never fades away. It is always there, nagging, wanting to be heard. I miss everything about him- the way he smelled, the way he would swear when he cut himself shaving, the way he always knew how to make me feel better after a bad day. Every day I am reminded of how much I miss him. And as much as I love him, I just want the pain to go away."

Susan wiped her eyes. "I know. But it's missing him that keeps him with us, Elizabeth. The pain will never go away completely. You just have to learn to live with it. You can't go back to being who you were before you met Mark, before you fell in love with him and married him. None of us can. All we can do is try to remember the good times we had with him, and hope that those memories will carry us through the pain."

Elizabeth sniffled. "Thanks for staying, Susan. I don't know what I'd do if I was alone tonight."

Susan managed a weak smile. "I don't know what I'd be doing right now either." She turned the page of the album, and she knew that both she and Elizabeth would get through tonight. Together.

***

Author's Note: Well, there it is. This fic is officially complete. I hope you all enjoyed reading it- I certainly enjoyed writing it. Anyway, I would appreciate any reviews. Thanks for reading!