A/N: This is a one shot deal. Sorry that it's late, I intended to have it posted by Christmas, but with all the school work I have it kinda lost priority. And then I had trouble with the ending . . .I hope that you enjoy it!

Bkrd: Christmas time-Emily's cancer did not magically go into remission in this universe, instead it had metastasized. She is still in love with Zander and oblivious to Nikolas' hidden feelings for her. Elizabeth and Ric are no longer together. Jason and Courtney are not engaged or married.

~*~*~*~

Elizabeth stared at herself in the mirror and plastered on a fake smile.

"Everyone will see through it." She muttered to herself, half-heartedly, and went searching for the hat that completed her outfit. She underestimated herself as an actress, whom in the past had convinced any and every one that she was fine when she wasn't. All of course, but one person in particular, whom had not been in her life for months.

She found the hat on her couch and put it on top of her head and suddenly felt as ridiculous as she looked.

"I made a promise." She reminded herself and turned away from the mirror, grabbed her coat off the couch, and was out the door.

~*~*~*~

Elizabeth came out of the elevator and immediately scanned the room for her grandmother. She had been debating during the elevator ride up whether or not she could fulfill the promise she made to her with the knowledge that her best friend was facing death a few rooms away. She needed to find Audrey and have the older woman pass down some Hardy wisdom.

As if they knew her dilemma, right on cue, she heard the laugher of the children as they eagerly awaited Santa's presence. They promptly reminded her that she had made a promise and at once felt guilty for considering letting down her grandmother and the eager children of the hospital's pediatric ward. The children deserved a moment or two of happiness and she was not going to deny them.

Just as she removed her coat, she was startled out of her reverie by Nikolas' voice.

"Elizabeth?"

They were not at all surprised to see one another. Recently the hospital had become a second home to them both. She quickly took in his rumbled appearance and pallor.

"Hey." She offered, weakly, "How is she?"

He looked down at the floor as she took notice of the half moons underneath his eyes.

"She's . . . not too good. Monica thinks it might be any time now."

Elizabeth let out a breath she had not known she was holding.

"I think I need to sit down."

Nikolas put an arm around her and they walked over to the waiting area and sat down together. She let out a tortured sigh as she let her face fall into her hands. He comfortingly rubbed circles on her back.

She raised her head and looked up into his eyes, "I should have visited her more, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I can hardly stand to see her like that . . . what kind of person does that make me?"

"Human." He offered, knowing all too well how she was feeling.

She dried her eyes, "But I should be there for her. I'm being selfish."

"Elizabeth, you are anything but selfish. Your best friend is in the hospital and you have come, in that ridiculous elf outfit, to make some sick children smile. That does not sound selfish to me."

She plastered on her smile for his sake, "I guess so . . . maybe I will go visit her after my elf duties." She offered, half-heartedly, not entirely convinced.

He smiled weakly, "I think she'd like that."

He glanced down at his watch, "I promised Lucky I'd come by and pick him and LuLu up. Are you going to be okay?"

His dark eyes met hers and searched them for an answer.

"Don't worry, I'll be fine. Just make sure to tell LuLu that I hope she has a Merry Christmas." She offered, trying her best to sound the role she was attempting to play.

"I'll let you tell her yourself when she comes to see Santa." He offered, unconvinced.

"I'd like that," She offered, knowingly, "You better get going so you're not late."

He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze and then left without another word spoken despite those hanging in the air. She was glad for the reprieve from her act.

~*~*~*~ Jason hurriedly made his way past the nurse's station and down the hall towards his sister's room. He glanced in the window and saw that Zander Smith was visiting with his sister. He let out a sigh as he turned and stalked back towards the waiting area.

The holiday decorations colored the entire hospital in green and red. He heard the laughter from the children that eagerly were waiting at the base of a grand Christmas tree for the commencement of the holiday festivities. His eyes paused on the tree and an odd feeling came over him. Something was wrong with the tree but he could not pinpoint the problem. He brushed the uneasy feeling off and turned away disenchanted.

Carly, Courtney, Sonny, and Michael would arrive soon and he dreaded the moment where he would have to attempt to put a smile on his face for Michael. Jason did not want to ruin Michael's Christmas with his own sour mood but did not want to lie to the boy by feigning holiday bliss.

While the children laughed he thought of his sister down the hall and could not imagine pretending to be happy this year, even for Michael.

He turned to see Nikolas Cassidine getting on the elevator and put aside his feelings about the man and realized that the younger man cared for his sister and that was all that mattered. His fights with Nikolas seemed trivial compared to the real possibility of loosing his sister, one of his few links to his natural family.

He turned blindly and almost ran head-on into Elizabeth. Startled, she dropped her elf hat on the floor. He reached down to pick it up without thinking. As he handed it to her a sudden feeling of déjà vu crept over him. Obviously she had the same feeling because she laughed nervously the second their eyes met.

He looked over her and a smile brushed his lips as he took in her entire outfit.

She smiled nervously and replied, "Thanks."

It had been months since they had spoken, weeks since they had even set foot in the same room. But it felt as though the distance between them disappeared in that moment. He searched her eyes for the annoyance he had grown accustomed to seeing as of late and saw none of it.

She interrupted his thoughts with an exhausted voice, "Are you here to see Emily?"

"Yes." He offered, noting the tone of her voice.

He then dared to meet the depths of her eyes. For the first time in over a year, he looked at her and really saw her. He noted the dark circles under her eyes that spoke volumes of her fatigue. She was not sleeping. He noted that she had not even attempted to conceal them and that worried him even more. Her normally glowing complexion seemed flat and lackluster.

"Nikolas told me it could be any time now." Elizabeth offered, seemingly nonchalant, but he noticed the slight tremble in her voice.

She refused to look directly in his eyes, perhaps out of fear that he would see how she really felt, and allow him the privilege she felt he no longer deserved.

She continued, after a slight pause, in the same voice, "I found myself wishing yesterday that she would pass—not that I want to loose her—but she use to be so full of life. It is just hard to see her like this."

He could see the tears welling up in her eyes and did not hesitate to reach out and attempt to comfort her. His hand found her shoulder and, startled, she allowed her eyes to meet his.

She could read him just like before and saw that he understood what she meant and did not think less of her for it.

After an awkward moment of silence she separated herself from his touch and walked towards the waiting area. She sat down and he hesitated to follow. But she turned towards him and her blue eyes communicated to him the words that she refused to say out loud; that she wanted him to follow. Without the hesitation that recent months had afforded him, he did as requested.

"I don't think I can do this," She offered, "Pretend to be happy for all these children, today."

"Then why are you here?" He asked.

She glanced down at her outfit and then to him and he nodded knowingly.

"I made a promise," She started, "before I knew about her cancer metastasizing. In the elevator ride up I contemplated changing my mind and was prepared to tell my grandmother I couldn't do this . . ."

"What changed?" He asked.

She met his eyes, "Nikolas convinced me. He helped me remember why the hospital does this every year . . . some of these children, all they have is hope. If I can make just one of them happier then it is worth wearing this ridiculous costume."

He smiled, remembering the Elizabeth he use to know.

"I should have been a better friend." She offered, startling him.

He did not hesitate, "You were--are--her best friend . . ."

"I haven't been there for her in a long time. We haven't been friends the way we use to be in a long time." She offered, sincerely.

Jason could not help himself from finding a parallel between Elizabeth's relationship with Emily and his relationship with Elizabeth.

"She knows that you care about her." He offered, hoping with a small part of his heart that she would find the second message within his words.

She looked up and met his eyes, "But I should be able to tell her . . . and I can't. I can't find the words . . ."

Jason glanced at her hand, which was between them on the couch. He hesitated briefly and then took her smaller hand within his. Her blue orbs met his and for a moment they both contemplated the meaning behind this simple gesture.

He offered, "Sometimes you cannot find the words to say something, even if you know that someone needs to hear it."

Elizabeth caught on to the double meaning of his words. She was frozen for a moment, all except her eyes, which darted between his hand and his eyes. The silence was torture to them both.

She offered meekly, "Have you ever known just what words you wanted to say but were worried to speak them aloud because it would make them real—something you could no longer deny?"

He knew immediately the double meaning of her words. Blue met blue. Her eyes searched his for his answer and found it, despite his hesitation to say it aloud—to make it real.

"I—"He started, but was interrupted by Courtney's saccharine voice, "Jason?"

On reflex his hand left hers and his eyes turned to met Courtney's. Elizabeth's hand felt vacant and she let out a sigh of regret that she might never hear Jason speak his answer aloud and confirm what she had seen within his eyes.

She stood up and put on the simple elf hat. He looked up at her and she sensed his apology without the words spoken. She was use to it by now.

"I have a promise to keep." She offered weakly, the pain evident in her voice, "Merry Christmas."

She ignored Courtney's presence, took one last glance at Jason, and left.

He let out a sigh that he had not known he was holding.

"That was a ridiculous outfit." Courtney offered, breaking the silence that had hung in the air since Elizabeth's departure.

He looked up at her from his seat on the couch, disgusted. He glanced over her entire white ensemble and felt the desire to roll his eyes, but he did not.

He stood up and turned to her, offering flatly, "I'm going to visit my sister."

"But Jas—"She started to protest.

He interrupted, bluntly, "Alone."

~*~*~

"Elizabeth!" An excited Lulu screamed when she exited the elevator with both her brothers.

Elizabeth turned, knelt down, and held out welcoming arms to the young girl she considered a younger sister. The smaller girl circled her small arms around Elizabeth excitedly. It was then that Elizabeth remembered that she had forgotten to get the little girl a present. She felt especially guilty for forgetting because this would be another Christmas the girl would celebrate without her mother.

"Merry Christmas." Elizabeth offered, trying to sound the part, "It's great to see you."

Lulu left her arms and corrected her, "It's Christmas Eve, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth stood up and looked down adoringly at the little girl, "You're absolutely right."

It was then that Elizabeth looked up and met Lucky's worried expression. She put on a fake smile and he saw right through it. Nikolas could see that the former couple needed some time alone and thus took Lulu's hand and led her towards the grand Christmas tree.

Lucky gave her the once-over before pulling her into his arms.

He whispered into her ear, "How are you holding up?"

She pulled away and evaded his question, "I completely forget to get Lulu a gift . . ."

She attempted to avoid his eyes as she rambled, "I don't even have a clue what to get her. I was thinking a Barbie, but she has so many, I was afraid I'd get her one she already had. I saw this cute car for Barbie with a pink . . ."

Lucky interrupted her, "Elizabeth, don't worry about it. Lulu understands. She knows that Emily is your best friend and that she's sick. She'll forgive you."

Elizabeth looked up to meet his eyes and saw that Lucky was aware that she had avoided his question.

Before he could ask again, they were interrupted, "Elizabeth?"

She turned and met the concerned eyes of her grandmother, "It's time."

Elizabeth glanced over at the group of children that surrounded the tree and sent an apologetic glance in Lucky's direction.

"Duty calls." He offered, pardoning her.

She walked over and joined the other two elves, Georgie and Maxie Jones, feeling old and out of place. But she plastered on a smile, and prepared to play her role to the best of her ability. Even though her Christmas was not going to be merry, she refused to let her sour mood influence the children.

Her blue eyes accidentally met the brown eyes of Michael Corinthos. He smiled at her and she nodded in reply. She noted that he was with his parents and she successfully evaded their eyes. Courtney was a few feet away from the family, alone. Elizabeth glanced quickly over the entire group and deduced that Jason was nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps their conversation earlier had just been a figment of her imagination. She blamed it on her fatigue and focused all her energy into avoiding the eyes of the blond whom was starring invisible daggers in her back.

~*~

He opened the door as silently as he could, afraid that he would wake her. From his vantage point from outside it had looked as though she was asleep, but she was not. He looked around the room cautiously as if afraid to enter for fear of breaking the silence of the room.

Emily did it for him, "It's all clear, Jase—No Zander. No Nikolas. No hovering Quartermaines. Come here."

He crossed the room with a light smile across his face, impressed with his sister's candor. He sat down at the chair beside her bed, which was still warm from a previous visitor.

"How are you feeling?" He asked, softly.

She ignored his question, "What's wrong, Jase?"

He said nothing but had no need to.

"You wouldn't be here—alone—on Christmas Eve if something wasn't wrong."

"I wanted to see you." He offered, honestly, but his tone convinced her that he was holding something back.

"It's not like I can get out of bed and shout your secrets from the rooftop. Let me help if I can." She offered, her sarcasm intact.

Jason would forever be amazed at how strong his sister was.

He evaded her question; "Sonny and Carly brought Michael for the holiday. I just like being here for him."

She smiled at the thought of her brother and Michael. She remembered back to the time where Jason was all Michael had and how she had seen a new side of her brother. She had always known he was a big old softie, behind the guise of a hard-as-nails enforcer, whom just needed the proper motivation to show his true colors.

"What about Courtney?" She asked, not oblivious to the fact that her brother had not mentioned his girlfriend's name.

"She's around—with Sonny, Carly, and Michael." He attempted to offer nonchalantly.

Emily could tell that Courtney was not a topic that Jason wanted to discuss. It made her curious as to what had happened. She had thought her brother was happy with his girlfriend—what had changed?

She decided to change the subject, "So, Nikolas tells me that the two of you have been getting along lately. What changed?"

He let out a sigh, "It just no longer seems important."

She laughed, "So no screaming matches and fights at the hospital this Christmas?"

He was suddenly reminded of his run in with Elizabeth earlier in her elf costume. The hat from the elf costume—that's how the fight had started. Nikolas had overreacted at some playful keep-away and insisted that Jason keep his hands off Elizabeth. The image of the fight played in his head vividly.

"Earth to Jason!" Emily interrupted his thoughts.

He met her eyes and she questioned, "Where were you?"

"I was thinking about that Christmas and the fight with Nikolas . . . how trivial it all seems now."

"How'd it even start?" She questioned, having not seen the beginning.

He let out a sigh; the images fresh in his mind but the idea of saying them aloud—of making them real—seemed a difficult task.

His voice sounded far away as he spoke, "I told her that her outfit looked ridiculous. I snatched the hat right off her head, was holding it higher than she could reach. She tried to get it from me and somehow she was in my arms . . . Nikolas started yelling at me to stop touching her, that I had no right . . . I didn't even say anything to him but she did. He didn't even listen to her, but before I knew it I slammed him against the wall. He said something that wasn't true, and it was my fault, not hers . . ."

"Elizabeth and I were elves! I remember, and Nikolas screamed at you." She offered, completing his thought. And submitting the name that he had refused to say aloud.

"We looked like such dorks . . ." Emily started on about the outfits, "I was so happy the year I grew to tall the stupid thing. Elizabeth never did grow any taller, but Audrey stopped asking her to dress up after that year. I think it might have had something to do with the scene that you and Nikolas caused."

"Audrey asked her this year . . .," Jason offered.

For a second Emily thought that it was Jason's lame attempt at a joke, but he look on his face led her to realize that it was the truth. That, and the fact that, Jason never joked.

"Did Elizabeth tell you that?" Emily asked, curious, having thought that the two were not on speaking terms.

"I ran into her, before coming in here. She has it on right now."

Emily laughed, uncomfortably. She could tell that something had happened by the tone of Jason's voice. And with his desire earlier not to talk about Courtney, her interest was suddenly piqued.

As if he sensed her next question, he stood up, "I really should go out there—for Michael."

She let out a sigh, realizing the moment had passed. He took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze as he planted a chaste kiss on her forehead.

She said nothing and watched him as he left.

~*~*~*~

After the holiday festivities were at an end, Elizabeth attempted to make a quick escape to no avail. She had been worried to run into Nikolas or Lucky again, afraid that they would pry at her more for details, but was suddenly met with the green eyes of Courtney Matthews.

"What did you say to Jason?" Courtney demanded, suspicious.

"What I said to Jason is none of your business." Elizabeth offered coldly as she attempted to brush past the larger blond.

Courtney made it a point to get in her way, "It is *my* business, he is *my* boyfriend."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes at the hypocrisy of this moment. She had not been in the best mood to begin with and suddenly felt the urge to tell the blond where she could shove it—how Lizzie of her, she thought, but agreed that it had to be done.

"As you as you tell me what was said during each one of your conversations that you had with Jason when he and I were together, I'll be sure to recall the important details for you—and I'll even say it in small words so you will be able to comprehend it."

Courtney was shocked silent for a moment, hardly able to believe that Elizabeth had been so forward with her.

Finally she was able to manage out, weakly, in her defense, "Jason is MINE."

Having heard the confrontation from across the room, Sonny walked over to intervene. If he had not, Jason would have.

"Ladies . . ." Sonny started.

Elizabeth offered, "Jason does not belong to anyone. He makes his own choices—and he chose to not be with you right now. Maybe you should take a week off and ponder that thought."

~*~*~*~

"Hey, Jase—were you visiting Emily?" Carly asked, noticing his downcast expression.

"Yeah."

She could tell by the tone in his voice that he did not want to talk about it. However, she had never been one to follow anyone's drummer but her own.

"How's she doing?"

He pinched the bridge of his nose, "Monica thinks it could be anytime now."

She put a comforting hand on his shoulder and gave him a reassuring squeeze, "I'm sorry, Jason. She's not my favorite person or anything, but I would never have wished--"

Jason interrupted her, "Carly . . ."

She stopped herself from attempting to help him and inadvertently hurting him more.

She tried to change the topic, "You missed a helluva after show. Courtney and Elizabeth were arguing . . ."

His eyes told her that he had no need to hear any more. She let the topic drop. Before anything more could be said, Sonny walked up with Michael.

"Uncle Jason, are you coming to spend Christmas Eve with us?" Michael asked, looking up at him adoringly.

Jason ducked down to the little boy's height, "Not tonight, buddy. But I promise I'll be there, bright and early, tomorrow morning."

"You promise?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world." He offered with a slight smile, all that he could muster for the little boy.

Not oblivious to Jason's mood, Michael circled his arms around the older man and gave him a reassuring hug.

~*~*~*~

Elizabeth paused in front of the door, her hand an inch from the knob, frozen. She took a deep breath, plastered on a fake smile, and opened the door.

"Hey, Em."

Emily opened her eyes, startled by the voice, "Hey."

Elizabeth hesitantly approached the bed and sat down on the bedside chair. She did not meet Emily's eyes and instead began picking at the imaginary lint on her costume.

"So, is it still as itchy as it was?"

Elizabeth met her eyes, confused, "What?"

"The elf costume?"

Elizabeth let out a watery laugh, "Yeah . . ."

Emily laughed in response and for a second Elizabeth saw he Emily she use to know.

"How are you doing?" Elizabeth asked, trying not to sound too concerned.

"Don't do that."

"Do what?" Elizabeth asked.

"Change the subject to something negative. We were having fun!"

Elizabeth could not think of anything positive, especially because she was sitting beside her best friend in the hospital.

She started to tear up, "I'm sorry, Em."

Emily took her hand, "I didn't mean to . . ."

"Not for this," Elizabeth started, "I'm sorry that I haven't been here for you. I should have come more often . . ."

Emily squeezed her hand, "I know this isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. Trust me, I know that better than anyone. It means enough that you are here now, on Christmas Eve no less, for me."

Emily and Elizabeth wiped off their eyes.

Jokingly, Emily offered, "It's Christmas Eve, we should be merry!"

Elizabeth let out a watery laugh.

"So, what are your big Christmas plans?" Emily asked.

"This is it . . . the hospital. Nikolas and Lucky invited me to spend Christmas with them . . . so did Audrey . . . I just don't think I can." Elizabeth offered, weakly.

Emily sat up and their eyes met, "Don't tell me that this is because I'm here. I don't want to ruin your holiday. I won't let you use me as an excuse to sit in your studio, by yourself, dwelling on things you have no control over."

Elizabeth stared at Emily in awe of her strength. Before either could say anything else, the door to the room opened and they both turned.

"Elizabeth," Monica greeted her, "How are you?"

"Elizabeth." Alan offered in courtesy.

"Mr. And Mrs. Quartermaine, I was just leaving . . ." Elizabeth started as she got out of the chair.

She turned to Emily and gave her a reassuring squeeze, "I'll see ya later, Em. Take care."

Just as she was out the door, Emily called out, "Give Lucky and Nikolas my best!"

Elizabeth smiled at Emily's way of pressuring her into visiting their friends for the holiday. She just didn't think that she was up for it.

~*~

Jason glanced up at the night sky and looked at the stars. They seemed so close that if he reached out he might be able to touch them. He sighed, realizing it would have been a perfect night for a ride if the roads had not been icy. Not that he had taken a ride in a while. He had not been able to since the break up. It was too painful to imagine going on a ride without Elizabeth's arms circling his waist. He imagined her pleading with him to steer, to take the cliff road, to ride faster . . . but no more.

He had been walking around mindlessly after his conversation with Carly. He knew that he would have to face Courtney eventually, and he had been prolonging the inevitable for months, but now was not the time to face her.

He had been forced to do some soul searching over the last couple of months. Emily's illness had changed his perspective on everything he thought he knew, including his relationship with Sonny, Carly, Michael, Courtney, and especially Elizabeth.

When she had broken things off with Ric, he had wanted to console her, but had been unable to approach her. He feared that any attempt he made to rectify their relationship was futile. He was afraid that he would put his heart out on his sleeve and have it once again trampled upon. He was not angry with her, and he certainly didn't blame her, he understood all too well where she stood. It was his fault that things had ended before they had really begun.

It had hurt. It hurt worse then when Robin betrayed him, and when he had walked in on Sonny and Carly. He thought he knew pain but he had not before that October day when she walked out his door and he knew, without reservation, that whatever they had once had was no more.

He wanted to feel nothing, which is what he use to be good at. But she had opened up his heart and he had not been able to go back to that place of nothing. He had needed something to fill that void—although he knew that nothing would ever fit like Elizabeth had—and thus he found his comfort in his own destruction.

He had set out to destroy himself. He found himself drinking more readily. Soon after he found himself drawn to Sonny's sister, not physically, but psychologically. He knew that Sonny would never allow it, would consider it a betrayal, and it might destroy their relationship. That had been his plan, to destroy his ties to Sonny—he had not even thought of how he would inadvertently use Courtney in the process.

Before he knew it, he was already too far along to stop. And then the guilt set in that Sonny was not to blame and Courtney did not deserve to be used. So he had been frozen, unsure where to go from there.

His sister's illness had been the turning point. Watching one of the most precious people in his life wither away in front of him made him realize the fragility of life. It made him realize that time was fleeting, and that he needed to find a way to escape from the hole he dug for himself.

He had been waiting for the perfect opportunity, and tonight he had found it.

Walking along the main drag of Port Charles he saw a tiny sliver of hope that not everything was lost. And he decided to seize the day. He made his selection, paid the clerk, and was finally, after too many months to count, on his way home.

~*~

". . . I promise you, I'm fine. I'll come over tomorrow . . . give Lulu a kiss for me?" She paused to listen to his reply and then offered, "Okay . . . I'll see ya then . . . bye."

She placed the phone in the cradle and felt guilty. She had lied, she wasn't fine, and Lucky knew it. She also felt guilty for doing just what Emily had told her not to do—sitting on her couch in her studio dwelling on things that she could not change.

She could not change the fact that she was slowly loosing her best friend to cancer. She could not change the fact that Ric Lansing was a spawn of Satan dressed in a nice business suit. She could not change the fact that in some way or another she had dug herself into a pit of her own depression.

Since she was informed, through Nikolas, that Emily's cancer was metastasizing, she had practically shut off all interaction with the outside world. She called in sick to work complaining of a stomach bug or headache she did not have. Nikolas and Lucky attempted to cheer her up by taking her out but she would decline on the same grounds. On night, drunkenly upset, Zander had come over and offered to take her to Jakes and drown her sorrows . . . she even declined that offer, despite how appealing it would feel to be numb.

She had no desire to face the world again. She just wanted to curl up into a ball and sink into her lumpy couch for the remainder of her years. At least there, no one could hurt her, except for herself.

She pulled her knees to her chin and closed her eyes in a vein attempt to drown out the outside world. With her eyes closed all that she saw was black, nothingness.

* "Do you know what nothing feels like?" *

* "Yeah. That's pretty much where I live." *

Startled, she opened her eyes. Where had that come from? She hadn't thought about that night in a long time. Before she could come to some logical—or illogical—conclusion, she was interrupted by a knock on her door.

As she got up and walked towards the door she took a guess and assumed it was Lucky and Nikolas, there to cheer her up. They always came as a team. Emily's illness had brought them closer than they had been in years. She glanced in t he mirror and plastered on the same smile she had that morning and opened the door.

To say she was shocked to see him would be an understatement. She looked at him curiously.

"Hey." He offered, solemnly.

"Hey." She replied, unsure, and then with concern, "Is it Em—is she . . ."

"No. She's still . . ." He offered, not having to complete the sentence.

She moved slightly to the side of the doorway, "Would—do you want to come in?"

He cautiously smiled, "Yeah . . ."

Despite the invitation, he continued to stand in the hallway. She forced herself to meet his eyes and could tell that something was different . . . something had changed since that afternoon when she had spoken with him. His eyes stole a glance down the hall and then back at her.

"Wait here." He offered, curiously, and left her alone in the doorway before she could protest.

While she considered everything from where he was going to the motives behind his visit he walked around the corner.

"I have something for you—"He started.

She wasn't sure how to respond, his behavior curious to her.

". . . the best bargain of the year."

She watched as he came back with a small miniature evergreen tree. She wanted to smile but the entire situation confused her. Why was he here? They had barely spoken in months. Just because of the conversation in the hospital earlier they were all the sudden back on track?

He carried the small tree into her studio and for a moment had to catch his breath. The place had not changed at all. It was like he was stepping back in time . . . and he smiled, enjoying every moment.

She closed the door behind him and watched him with some curiosity.

He turned to her and offered an explanation, "I thought you could use some cheering up . . . And you know what they say about Christmas trees -- if they're happy, then they make the entire room happy."

Elizabeth had to lean against the door to steady herself. She could not believe that Jason was there, let alone repeating something she had said to him, years ago, verbatim.

"Jason . . ." She started to say, but could not find the words and said nothing.

He looked at her and could see a slight resemblance to the Elizabeth he use to know. He pretended to not notice and offered as seriously as possible, "Do you have any construction paper?"

She said nothing and crossed the room to the closet. From inside she took out the paper and glue. Jason accepted it from her with a smile.

Without thinking, she smiled in reply and offered, "I thought that you believed that trees belonged in the woods?"

"I saw one once that changed my mind." He offered.

~*~

Elizabeth and Jason stared at the finished Christmas tree with satisfaction. The small tree was covered in a paper chain, a few little lights, and an angel on top.

Jason watched Elizabeth out of the corner of his eyes and saw the smile brush her lips and felt good knowing that he contributed to it. Elizabeth caught his stare.

He interrupted the awkward moment, "I almost forgot . . . your gift."

He began to reach into his pocket as she protested, "You didn't need to . . . I don't have anything for you . . ."

"I have everything I need." He offered, seriously, meeting her eyes.

She felt a slight blush creep up on her cheeks and she remained silent.

"Close your eyes." He insisted.

She did as she was told. He took his free hand and grasped at her right hand that was resting at her side. He pulled the hand towards him and opened her palm. He placed the gift in her hands and stole a moment to look at her.

Her beauty stole his breath away. He attempted to memorize her every feature with his eyes but realized he already knew it all by heart.

"Jason?" She interrupted his thoughts.

He was brought back to reality, "Open your eyes."

She did as she was told and looked down at her hands quizzically, "Keys?"

"It's the key to my bike . . . the roads are too icy now, but when it melts . . . I'll let you steer. We can take the cliff road, go to the bridge . . . wherever you want to go."

He watched her eyes light up. She posed a question she already knew the answer to, "Are you serious?"

He nodded and watched her smile light up her face. Before he knew it, she had circled him in a hug. Her arms hung around him loosely at first but eventually took hold like she had so many times before. He wrapped his arms around her without hesitation, welcoming the embrace. He inhaled her vanilla scent as he closed his eyes.

The hug lasted longer then it should have, both parties reluctant to pull away but concerned how the other might feel.

"I don't have anything for you . . ." She reminded him again.

Just as he was to offer his reply she rushed past him towards her closet, "Wait a minute!"

She opened the door and searched the shelves for just what she was looking for. She could barely see it up upon the highest shelf. She remembered asking Lucky to put it there so she could not see it—so she would not be reminded. She turned back towards the room quizzically in search of something to stand on to fetch the gift. She spotted a small stool, rushed towards it, and returned to the closet. She climbed on top of it and grabbed for the painting, almost falling off the stool in the process.

"Careful." Jason warned, as he caught her.

Their eyes locked and for a moment they were frozen. Eventually he helped her settle to the ground and immediately noticed a canvas in her hands. He knew without question what it was. She held it out to him, face down.

She apologized, "Sorry, I didn't have time to wrap it."

He took it from her and turned it over. Not that he had to look at it; he had it memorized by heart. He smiled and their eyes met again.

Before he knew what he was doing he took his free hand and brushed an arrant strand of her chocolate hair behind her ear. He let his hand rest on her cheek. He searched her eyes for hesitation but found none.

"Are you sure?" He asked, huskily, barely above a whisper. He did not want to pressure her.

She did not have to say anything, he knew. He inched closer, suddenly feeling the heat of her own hands on his cheeks. Their lips met, the kiss hesitant at first, but soon as natural as if they had been doing it for years. The kiss deepened as Jason allowed his free arm to circle her and pull her closer to him. Her hands moved from his cheeks to the back of his neck as his free hand drifted to her waist.

His tongue pleaded with her lips for entry and she allowed. He heard a slight moan escape her lips and realized that he was doing to her just what she was doing to him. He was afraid to pressure her but felt no hesitation on her part. As her hands made their way to his back he read her signals loud and clear: all systems go.

Just as his own hands found the bottom of her shirt, the purring of his cell phone interrupted them. She immediately pulled away, a look of disappointment on her face. He silently cursed the invention of the phone as he pulled it out of his pocket.

"Morgan."

Elizabeth sighed and crossed the room, her back to Jason.

"Where are you?" Courtney asked in her saccharine voice, "I'm at the hospital and you're not here. I know you're not at the penthouse because I was just there."

He shuddered and looked at the back of Elizabeth's head.

"I'm busy." He offered, causing Elizabeth to turn towards him in curiosity.

"On Christmas Eve? With who? I know you aren't doing business for Sonny."

Now was the time, time to make a decision, to take action, to accept the consequences. But could he do it? How?

He had underestimated Courtney, "You're with * her* , aren't you?"

He was shocked for a moment and then offered seriously, "Yes."

She whined, "But what about * us*? I thought I meant something to you."

He did not hesitate, "You do . . . but she means more."

Elizabeth's eyes met his but she was frozen in place. He did not even register the click as Courtney hung up the phone. He was frozen in place as well.

Elizabeth took a few steps towards him. He turned off the phone and pocketed it.

"Were you serious?" She asked, her blue orbs probed him.

He did not have to say anything; she could see it in his eyes. She just wasn't sure what to do, what would happen next.

"Don't you know what you still mean to me? Nothing has changed." He offered.

She took a step closer, the distance between them got shorter.

"Everything has changed . . .," She offered.

"Even how you felt?" He replied, suddenly sounding vulnerable.

She shook her head and a few stray tears fell, "I tried . . . but I couldn't stop myself. You're still * it* for me, Jason."

She hurriedly turned away from him and walked across the room.

She spoke with her back facing him, "I can't do this . . . not again."

He let out a breath he had not known he was holding.

She turned towards him and their eyes met, "I won't do this to myself. I won't get my hopes up. We know this won't work."

He crossed the room towards her, "It can if we want it to. What do you want?"

"Isn't it obvious." She let out in one breath, unable to really say it, and make it real.

She looked away from him. He moved closer to her and took her face within his hands and forced her to look at him, "Look at me."

She hesitated but finally succumbed to his request.

"I know what it is like to be with you and I know what it's like to be without you." He paused, as a single tear cascaded down her cheek "I know that you're *it* for me. No one has ever made me feel the way that you do. This time, I'm not letting you walk away."

Elizabeth was shocked by his statement. Selfless Jason saying something completely selfish?

"No bailing." She offered in a whisper, a slight smile brushing her lips.

He repeated her words, "No bailing."