A/N: Just a quick message to remind you - this is the last chapter for this ficlet. Enjoy!
Jason wasn't quite sure what he had been expecting as he approached Elizabeth's apartment building, but it sure as hell wasn't what he had found. As he knocked, knocked some more, and continued to knock on her door – loudly – without response, he wasn't all that surprised she couldn't hear him. Between the noise being made by the heating system – where that heat went exactly he wasn't sure, because even he could feel how cool the building was – and the strange mixture of voices coming from inside the brunette's studio, voices that alerted him to the fact that she was, at least, home, it was no wonder she couldn't make out his pounding on her door. Unfortunately, that was the only thing about his trip to return her coat that made any sense.
The first thing that bewildered him was the fact that her apartment was definitely in the wrong part of town. Close to the docks and on a block more frequented by drug dealers, pimps, and crack whores than taxi cabs and pedestrian traffic, even he had been leery of leaving his motorcycle parked out front without some kind of alarm system or lock on it. At that point, Jason had thought his impression of her place would improve; after all, she was a glorified princess who worked for the queen of upscale living, but, instead of finding a chic, trendy interior to the dilapidated building, he found a hellhole that was a burnt out light bulb away being condemned.
Where he had expected a doorman to greet him at the entrance, instead, he found a bum begging for spare change. The state of the art fitness center and pool were non-existent, but the building did come equipped with a broken elevator and boarded up windows in what he supposed was to pass for the lobby. The dimly lit, narrow stairway led him to a hallway that was barely negotiable it was so dark, and, while he had been expecting lavish decorations and ornate detailing, he found cracked plaster and what had to be the most intimidating, thick, and impenetrable door he had ever seen in his life…and that was coming from a security expert. It was the only thing reassuring him that Elizabeth did, in fact, live there and that her best friend had not played some sort of weird, sick, practical joke on him.
After five minutes of continuous knocking and still not receiving an answer, Jason decided to take matters into his own hands – literally. Thankful that he always came prepared for any sticky situation, he pulled out his lock picks and set to work letting himself into the infuriatingly sarcastic assistant's studio. Was it the smartest decision he had ever made, probably not, but, for some reason beyond him, he knew that he not only wanted to see her but that he needed to as well, so, if he had to risk making her mad at him, once again, he would. As he tried to listen for the telltale signs of the lock clicking into place over the loud, hypnotic voice of a recording, the soft, fairly dreadful strains of female singing, and the chugging and churning of a hot water heating system that was definitely not living up to its name, Jason endeavored to formulate a plan of how to approach Elizabeth and what he was going to say to her in order to minimize the damage of him technically breaking into her home.
By the time he had the door open, the only things he had figured out was that she was listening to a travel book on CD – that was the monotonous voice droning on in the background of the apartment – while singing a slightly tone-deaf version of a Christmas song he couldn't quite recall the name of. Unfortunately, he was plan free, but, even if he would have been successful in coming up with a battle strategy, the sight that greeted him as he pushed open the heavy, steel door would have robbed him of any clever thought or sharp, quick witted idea.
Unlike the rest of the building, Elizabeth's studio was bright, cheerful, and even warm thanks to several space heaters strategically placed around the sparsely furnished, massively large room. Other than a modest kitchen that was tucked into a faraway corner of the loft space, a door which led, he presumed, to her bathroom, and a curtained off area which, undoubtedly, housed her bedroom, the entire space was devoted to her artwork. She had shelving for supplies, storage units to house stretched, prepared canvases and already completed pieces, tables for mixing paint, a sketching desk, several easels, stools, and a lone couch which, in all likelihood after taking in the rest of the apartment, was more for her to relax on while drawing in a sketchpad than to serve as a welcoming, comfortable seat for guests.
She really was a devoted artist who worked for Lucy to pay the bills. It wasn't that he had doubted her dedication after reading the printouts Emily had left for him, but he hadn't expected her to be so consumed with her art, so passionate about her craft, so….simple in her wants and desires and refreshingly uncomplicated, two things he prided himself on being. Watching her from the entryway, he took in her appearance.
Her clothes were the same ones she had left the roof that morning wearing, albeit with several new stains thanks to paint splatters, her face was scrubbed free of the heavy, dark makeup she had been wearing the night before to the party, and her hair was still in the complicated up do her costume had required, just slightly messier and more curly than it had been all those hours early when she moved away from him as quickly as her petite, shapely legs could carry her. It was obvious by her facade that she hadn't showered yet, and it gave Jason's male pride a strange surge of satisfaction to know she would still smell like him, that she still hadn't washed away the physical evidence of their love making.
Why it should matter, he wasn't in the mood nor was he patient enough to think about. He didn't want to figure Elizabeth Webber out by brooding silently while watching her like a furtive stalker from the doorway to her apartment; he wanted to get to know her by simply spending some time with her, by talking to her, by letting her get to know him. "I don't know much about art," he announced, progressing his way into the studio while having to stifle a deep, rumbling fit of laughter as he watched her jump in place, splash paint on her face, and nearly knock over her easel and the wet piece of art resting on it all because he had startled her, "but I like that….what you're working on."
"It's the Port Charles skyline at night from the rooftop of the hotel," she replied automatically and instinctively, a robotic answer to an unspoken question. Shaking her head slightly to clear away the clouds of confusion and chaos obscuring her common sense and blurring her grasp on the situation, she asked, "what are you doing here, Jason, and, more importantly, how the hell did you get in?"
"How I got in is not important. You don't want to know."
"Don't tell me what I do and don't want," she snapped at him, holding the paintbrush that still in her hand out as if it were a menacing weapon. "You don't know me, and you sure as hell don't get to tell me what to feel or think."
"You're right, I'm sorry," he hastily apologized, disguising his smirk of amusement by rubbing the stubble on his jaw. He was still the master. They had been talking for less than a minute, and he had already managed to annoy her and make that infuriatingly arousing hellcat temper of hers make itself known. Deciding to play with fire, he explained, "I let myself in."
"With what," she questioned, "and do not even try to tell me you used your credit card like they do on TV, because I already know that doesn't work."
"And where were you trying to break into, Webber?"
"You think you're cute, don't you," she asked rhetorically, but he still shrugged his shoulders in an evasive, vague gesture of response. "You think that you can turn the tables on me, redirect both the question and my concentration and get the spotlight off of yourself. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not going to work, so either tell me how you got into my apartment or I'm calling the cops."
"I'd be gone before they even picked up their order of jelly donuts from the bakery," he dismissed her threats, "but, because you're so adorable when you're angry, I'll answer your question anyway." When she glared at him and cocked her hip in a silent promise of not backing down, he couldn't hold back his laughter for a second time, but the sounds of his amusement only served to increase her ire, the pink flush of fury coloring her cheeks making Jason wonder what other parts of her body he could make blush if he got her angry enough. With one last appraising, appreciative glance in her direction, he finally replied, "I used my lock picks."
"That still doesn't tell me why the hell you're here. After all, didn't we agree to never voluntarily see each other again?"
"I find myself in the possession of a new coat," he taunted, removing the black fabric from his shoulder and attractively presenting it to her, "but, unfortunately, I have nothing to go with it. So, I thought I'd stop by and see if you could help me out."
"Very funny, Morgan," the young artist refused to laugh at his antics or his rare attempt with humor. "Why didn't you just ask Brenda to give it to Lucy? She would have seen to it that the jacket got back to me." Before he could reply, she cut him off, waving a thin, porcelain hand in an effort to silence him. "You know what, on second thought, I don't care why you did what you did. Just hang it up by the door on your way out. I appreciate you bringing it back to me. Now, can you leave so I can get back to work?"
She had already turned her back to him to continue her painting, but his question made her twist around in place to regard him once again. "What else do you want – a medal of honor for one not-so-shitty deed of goodwill, a parade down Main Street on your behalf so that the town can celebrate your benevolence, the Noble Peace Prize? I already said thank you…"
"No, you didn't," he interrupted her. "You told me that you appreciated me returning your coat, but you never said thank you."
"Well then, I just did."
"Come on, Elizabeth," he cajoled, a disarmingly dangerous, seductive, and charming smile lighting up his normally stoic face, "can't we at least try to be friends? Where's that warm, funny girl I got to know last night? Where's that talented woman I read about from the file your friend Emily brought me this afternoon that made me want to spend time getting to know her and protect her in the same breath?"
"She seems to turn into an antagonistic bitch whenever you're within five feet of her," the brunette replied with a derisive shrug of her shoulders. "You just seem to be able to push my buttons like no one else."
"That's not necessarily a bad thing," Jason pointed out with a smug smirk, "because, if I remember last night correctly and, trust me, I do, they're very nice buttons indeed." He took a step closer to her when she begrudgingly laughed at his teasing remark. "You know what I think we both need," he pressed, further closing the distance between them when she simply tilted her head in wonder and waited for him to continue. "I think we need to relax and let go of all the tension, sexual or otherwise, that's built up between us."
"What did you have in mind?"
"Go for a ride with me," the bodyguard urged, holding out his hand in silent invitation.
His breath nearly caught in his throat when Elizabeth's eyes lit up from within, the sudden joy and excitement his suggestion brought to her illuminating her exquisite countenance. "You mean, on your bike?"
"So, I take it you read a file on me, too," he remarked, pleased with the revelation. "Yes, on my bike….unless someone stole it while I was up here talking to you."
"It should be okay," the young artist joked while finally taking his hand and letting him guide her towards her still open doorway. "You normally get a twenty minute grace period. The criminals around here aren't so good at what they do, nor are they the quickest thieves, hence while they're still living here and not in a more wealthy part of town."
"Well, would you look at this," the blonde haired man quipped, surprising her further by wrapping a muscled arm around her trim and petite waist, "we're laughing together instead of at each other. See, we've practically got this whole friendship thing down already."
"Don't get too far ahead of yourself there, Morgan," Elizabeth chided him good-naturedly. "The Geneva Convention wasn't concluded after one conversation, and I doubt that we've come to a final peace agreement that quickly either." He nodded his head in concurrence but said nothing. Changing the subject, she asked, "so, where are you taking me anyway?"
"Somewhere that you will see an even better view of the Port Charles skyline than the one we got last night on the rooftop of the hotel. I thought you might want another perspective for your painting."
She regarded him closely before responding, obviously weighing his words. "Okay," she finally agreed. Neither of them said anything else, but, by the time they made it outside and to his still un-vandalized motorcycle, her body was leaning a little closer to his, and their steps were in time with one another as if they had walked as one for many millenniums instead of mere minutes.
As they climbed onto his bike, Elizabeth wearing the helmet he had handed her, he started the machine, letting it roar to life, but, before they were even out of the parking lot and onto the road, the steady hum of the bike had been replaced with the brunette beauty's squeals of laughter and glee as she yelled and screamed from behind him. He realized that she not only enjoyed being on his motorcycle; she loved it, and, in that moment, Jason also realized he might not only be able to like her; he might be able to fall in love with her as well, but, surprisingly, the thought didn't scare him. Instead, it offered him a rush of exhilaration and a flood of excitement more potent and more powerful than any ride on his bike had ever been able to offer him. Elizabeth Webber, personal assistant to Lucy Coe, aspiring artist, and masquerading temptress, was adrenaline personified.
"This is….this view is amazing," Elizabeth breathed out, her gaze never straying from the sight before them. "I've never been up here before. What is this place called? How did you find it? Is it open to the public or are we trespassing, because, I've got to tell you, this vista is worth a night in the big house."
"Whoa, slow down there, Midge. I'm not used to you being so chatty while you're excited. One question at a time, please."
"Do you have to turn everything into a joke about sex?"
While thinking about her question, he tilted his head back and looked up at the sky for a moment. Finally, satisfied with his response, he locked his eyes with hers once again and folded his arms across his chest. "Yeah, I think I do."
"Sadly, that doesn't surprise me," the young artist quipped, finally turning around to face him. "So, one question at a time, huh? Let's start with what is this place called?"
"You were pretty close before when you referred to the view as a vista."
Moving towards a bench, Elizabeth sat down and patted the space beside her to insinuate that she wanted him to join her. "What do you mean?"
"They call this Vista Point."
"It's a fitting name. I can't believe I've never heard of it before though," she exclaimed, the bewilderment evident in her voice. "I've lived here since my freshman year of college, and no one's even mentioned it in passing."
"I don't think too many people realize this place is out here," Jason responded, shrugging his shoulders for the lack of a better answer. "It's kind of out of the way, and the cliff roads are definitely not the most popular streets around town. I think that's why I like it so much; it's secluded."
"Everything's secluded about you, Morgan," the blue eyed brunette realized, observing him closely. "You live inside a virtual fortress, secured and locked away from the rest of the world, you don't socialize with the general public unless Miss Barrett forces you to, and you talk about yourself even less than you smile and that's saying something."
"I'm not that interesting."
"Ha," she returned as a challenge. "Try selling that line to someone else, because I'm not buying."
He smirked at her. "Oh, so you're interested in me?"
"Again the remarks with the double meanings – can't you just take what I say for face value and quit looking for an invitation for more?"
"Alright, alright, Webber," he appeased her. "I didn't mean to get your granny panties in a bunch."
"I think we both know that I don't wear granny panties."
"Point taken," he agreed, "but now who's referring to our sexcapades?"
"Get back on topic," the assistant snapped her fingers. "You claim that you're not interesting to other people."
"I'm not," Jason argued. "If I was, people would ask me more questions, and they don't."
"Perhaps they're a little put off by the block of concrete your face usually resembles," she suggested. He tilted his head to concede the point to her but said nothing in argument. Narrowing her gaze, she leveled her deep, bottomless blue eyes upon him. "Are you telling me that you'll answer any of my questions as long as I ask them?"
"Been there, done that, and, despite your prickly personality, you weren't bad," Elizabeth teased him. "Now, tell me this, what made you start driving a motorcycle?"
"I see how it is," he returned her taunting. "You're only talking to me because of my bike."
"Chicks dig your ride, Morgan. Face it, it's the only thing you really have to offer."
"Oh, let me assure you, I have a whole hell of a lot more to offer, and, you, Shorty, have only just started sampling what I can do." She went to protest, to continue their verbal banter, but he stopped her by suddenly turning serious and addressing her query. "I got my first Harley when I was eighteen. Brenda was going to give the whole modeling thing a try, I didn't want to have anything to do with my family, so, as soon as we graduated from high school, we hit the road together. I went with her both to make sure that she wasn't hurt or taken advantage of and to escape from my crazy relatives. The bike was the cheapest form of transportation, and, because my parents absolutely hated the idea, it was one final way for me to rebel against their wishes."
"Are you telling me that Brenda Barrett, international fashion model and media darling, used to ride on the back of your hog?"
"Don't let her prissy exterior fool you," he warned. "She still has the leather chaps and riding jacket in the back of her closet. However, I don't think even she yelled and screamed as loud as you did."
"Yeah," Elizabeth cringed, "sorry about that. I'm surprised you can even hear me right now."
"I'm used to blocking out the sound of perky brunettes."
"No, I'm serious," she pressed. "I didn't even think about how my piercing shrieks of laughter were probably giving you a headache. It was just….so much fun."
Jason surprised her by reaching out and grasping of her hand. "I'm glad you liked it," he reassured, thoroughly ending her apology and creating an awkward moment for the two of them to wade through.
Clearing her throat, the artist tried to lighten the mood. "I bet this view," she motioned towards the cliffs, "is just as breathtaking during the day, too."
"I'm going to have to come here sometime when I have an afternoon off and a new, empty sketchpad to fill. I'd love to do a whole series of pieces based upon the different times of day and the different seasons," she shared, offering him a small smile when their gazes met before looking back out at the city. "You'll have to give me directions, so I don't get lost trying to find my way back up here on my own."
"Or I could just bring you," the blonde haired bodyguard suggested. "We can make a day of it – go for a ride in the morning, spend the afternoon here while you sketch, and then, I don't know, play some pool once it gets dark."
Expression wide and searching, Elizabeth dared him. "You wouldn't be asking me out, would you, Morgan?"
"On what you want," he finished, answering her. "Do you want me to ask you out?"
"What I want," the assistant thought about his question, standing up from her seat on the bench and pacing the length in front of it, "is dinner." Suddenly animated, she turned towards Jason. "Are you hungry, because I could really go for a ridiculously greasy and unhealthy calzone from this family owned Italian diner that's a few blocks from my place. We could stop by and pick a couple up on our way back."
"I think you're the one inviting me on a date now, Webber," he teased, joining her by standing up, "but dinner I can do."
"My treat," she offered.
"Oh, I don't think so. I never let the girl pay," the security expert argued. "So, I'll tell you what – I'll buy dinner, and you can be dessert."
"You're doing it again, Morgan; you're trying to get me into bed."
"I'm dedicated," he excused his flirtatious behavior. "I see what I want, and I go after it."
"So, you want me?"
"Midge, the entire straight male population of the western world wants you," Jason returned. When she simply blushed at his compliment but didn't chastise him, he smirked in victory and continued. "So, while we're eating, what do you want to do? Should we pick up some movies on our way back to your place?"
"I have a better idea," Elizabeth announced animatedly, dragging him back towards his bike. Quirking her eyebrow in what could only be described as a decidedly mischievous way, she asked, "how do you feel about a little payback?"
Sitting close together on her small couch, Jason had a hard time concentrating on the task at hand. It had been difficult enough when they were seated across from each other and simply eating. Somehow he had managed to not drop any food onto his shirt, but, now that they were working together on her laptop, Elizabeth's legs folded up underneath her while her right, bare knee kept brushing up against his jean clad one, he could focus on nothing but the tiny, teasing freckle on the inside of her left ankle. He wanted to kiss the small sun-induced blemish that was taunting him, he wanted to remove the shorts and sweatshirt pajama combination she was wearing to look for any other beauty marks he could brush his lips against, he wanted to forget the payback she was so determined to give their best friends and, instead, thank them for their efforts by wrapping her small, supple body around his, once again, and making love with her for as many times as they possibly could in one night.
"Almost done," her energetic voice interrupted his arousing and indecent fantasy, "but, first, I'm going to need you to answer some questions for me about Brenda."
At the moment, his best friend was the last thing Jason wanted to talk about, but, besides a few innocently veiled remarks, the young artist had done nothing but act as his platonic friend the whole evening, and he was afraid of what her reaction would be just then to his come-ons. "Like what?"
"How old is she?"
"Well, legally, she's thirty-two, like me," the blonde haired bodyguard answered, "but she tells everyone that she's only twenty-eight."
"Thirty-two it is," Elizabeth announced, smirking impishly, "after all, this is retaliation, and there's no such thing as niceties or favors in war."
"Remind me to never piss you off, Webber; you're brutal."
"Oh, don't kid yourself," she quipped, laughing at him. "You have the ability to make me angrier quicker than anyone else I've ever met before. I just have to deal with your wickedness differently than I do everyone else's."
"Punishment, eh," the security expert questioned with an intrigued quirk of his eyebrows, "now you're just getting kinky on me, Midge."
"You wish," she replied, rolling her eyes. "Should I put down that Brenda's a fashion model or not?"
"Well, it's the truth, isn't it," Jason pointed out.
"Yeah, but you're her bodyguard. I wasn't sure you would want her to have that kind of exposure even if we are doing this to pay her back for setting us up."
That surprised him. "Thank you," he said sincerely, "for considering me and my job and putting my convenience ahead of your vendetta."
"I'm not a selfish bitch, Morgan," the personal assistant commented softly, turning her attention away from the computer screen to regard him. "You might frustrate me, but I would never want anything bad to happen to you or Brenda."
"I feel the same about you, too, Shorty."
"So," she prompted.
"Put down that she's an aspiring actress," he suggested. "At thirty-two and still aspiring to a career, she should attract some real winners, and it's pretty much the truth since she's starring in her first movie soon."
She giggled at his comment, further stroking his ego, for a moment while she typed, only stopping to voice another question. "What about her hobbies and interests? What does she like to do?"
"Brenda likes to shop," the bodyguard offered. "She enjoys traveling, decorating, giving people makeovers even when they don't want one, waxing…"
"No woman enjoys waxing, Jason."
"Barrett does," he argued. "She threatened to take me with her if I didn't go to the party with you."
"Aw, the sign of a true friend," the blue eyed, brunette teased him, giggling again when he playfully glowered at her. "Okay, how about this," she wondered out loud. "I put down that she enjoys doing anything that involves spending obscene amounts of money."
He shrugged. "That's pretty accurate."
"Alright then," she sighed, setting the computer aside and stifling a small yawn, "that means we're finished. Do you want to check her account and handle the potential suitors on your own, or do you want me to do it for you?"
"I can do it." Watching her closely, he noticed how her long lashes were fluttering lower and lower against her soft, round cheeks. "Are you tired?"
"I'm fine," she lied, "and you're just trying to get me into bed."
"No, I'm not," Jason argued, shocking her by standing up. "If you're really tired, I'll go home."
"Just like that?"
Angling his head to the side, he narrowed his gaze at her. "What do you mean?"
"I thought you'd fight a little harder to spend the night," she explained. "I didn't think you'd go all noble on me and offer to leave before I threatened to kick you out."
"I'm trying a different approach."
"Well stop it," she ordered, rising from the sofa as well. "I like the Jason Morgan who is so confident he makes me want to knock him down a few pegs."
Grinning boldly, he teased her, "you like me, Webber?"
"You might want to shut up while you're still ahead of the game," she threatened, taking another tentative step towards him and suddenly becoming shy and demure. Tucking a stray, errant lock of hair behind her ear, she gazed up at him. "Do you want to spend the night?" Before he could respond, she continued, "and don't think you're getting laid tonight, because last night was a fluke, and it'll take more than one meal to get me to sleep with you again."
"I never thought you were that easy," the bodyguard defended himself, following her into the curtained off portion of her studio apartment. "We'll go on a real date first before having sex for a second time."
She stopped walking, almost making him plow right into her back before she swirled around to confront him. "Just for being so presumptuous," she glowered, poking him in the stomach, "we're waiting at least two weeks, and I don't care if we go on fourteen dates during that time. You're still not getting any."
"That's okay," he accepted her declaration. "I can be a gentleman and wait for as long as my girlfriend wants me to."
"I'm not your girlfriend," Elizabeth corrected him.
"My lover," he suggested; she snorted in disagreement. "Fine, what do you call what's happening between us?"
"We're friends," the young artist decreed.
"Fine," she stomped her foot and huffed in frustration. "We're eventually going to be friends with benefits."
"No," Jason argued, "we're dating."
"Fat chance of that, Morgan," she scoffed quietly under her breath. "Hey," she called out shocked, immediately starting to laugh when he lifted her up and, quite easily, tossed her over his shoulder as he carried her into her improvised bedroom, "what do you think you're doing?"
"I'm putting my girlfriend to bed," he answered arrogantly. "You know, you become entirely too obstinate when you're suffering from a lack of sleep."
"Put me down," she ordered, reaching down and, at first, slapping his butt before escalating her attack and pinching him when the inadequate blows of her open palms weren't effective enough. "This is not funny, Jason."
"Or maybe you just become completely uncooperative when you're trying to deny your feelings for me," he continued, ignoring her directions.
Dropping her on top of the unmade bed, he loomed over her. "And what feelings would those be," she wondered out loud, challenging him to respond.
"You're falling in love with me, Midge," he retorted confidently. His face was void of any teasing or humor, "just as I've falling for you."
Abruptly subdued and serious herself, the petite pixy of a brunette remarked, "this is all happening so fast."
"Do you want to slow down?"
Her only response was to hold out her hand, an unspoken request for him to join her on the bed. Blanketing her body, Jason braced his weight on his forearms while lowering his mouth to delicately taste hers, but the embrace quickly intensified into more than either of them intended.
Pulling away breathless, Elizabeth stated, "fast works for us."
Jason smiled lazily, enjoying the trust he could hear in her tone and her readiness to refer to them as one identity. "But we're also good at nice and slow."
With that said, he stood up on his knees, pulled off his shirt, released the button and zipper on his jeans to remove them, and, once he was just dressed in his boxer-briefs, laid back down onto the bed, drawing her into his arms and, almost effortlessly, closing his eyes in contentment.
"Night, Morgan," she returned on a sigh, already falling asleep.
They had the whole next day to discuss their new relationship, what she wanted to label them, and her ridiculous idea that they would wait another two weeks before making love together again, but, for the night, he was simply satisfied with getting to hold her against him as they both slept. After all, they might be dating, but it didn't have to be at a high speed; the connection they shared would not be easily set aside, and they had all the time in the world.