HHFC#2: "Halloween is the night that not you is you, but you, you know?" – Buffy in Halloween, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Nocturnal Encounters

While his life had been comparably short, at least when measured by time, Jason Morgan was certainly not lacking from experience. He had seen – and done – more haunting, unbelievable things than any one man should ever have to endure in an entire lifetime. The improbable was rather ordinary in Port Charles. Decade long vendettas and feuds, people seemingly coming back from the dead after their friends and family had mourned their passing without any hint of their true deception, and strange, science fiction, diabolic plots were really just par for the course when it came to his hometown in upstate New York. However, the uncommon was one thing; the paranormal, the supernatural, for the onetime enforcer, that had been an entirely different story…

… until he had become a part of it.

And not just him either but Elizabeth as well, the one person he had wanted to protect and keep innocent from all the harsh, ugly cruelties of the world. However, as he glanced around the pitch black forest, his yellow, hungry eyes noticing even the minutest of details, Jason had to admit to himself that he had failed. Horribly.

The night that everything had changed had started out like any other. He had been lonely, Elizabeth had been antsy, and, as he pulled up to her studio on his bike, revving the engine as he wordlessly asked her to take a ride with him, they had both relaxed and settled into their easy more than friendship with just a single glance. After all, that's what they did. They centered each other, giving one another strength and support, and even something as simple as going nowhere, to them, meant everything.

So, they had ridden, farther out that evening several years before than they had ever gone prior. In fact, they had gone so deep into the dense, unpopulated woods surrounding their small, lakeside town that not even the blonde haired hitman had been there previously during his own explorations. And it had been exhilarating, sharing that experience with the woman he was in love with. What was supposed to be just a quick ride to relieve some tension had turned into an all night sojourn, but neither he nor Elizabeth had minded.

However, things didn't stay as idyllic for long. While, normally, he could go days without sleep, Jason had found himself exhausted as they took his motorcycle along the winding, dense mountain paths, but he fought his fatigue, struggling on as he tried to get them back to safety. Despite the fact that he had slept in worse places than the damp woods, Elizabeth, in his mind, deserved better than that, so he pushed on until finally they came upon what had appeared to be an abandoned cottage. With shelter in sight and respite on the horizon, he had stopped the bike, both of them retreating into the little house's sheltering warmth.

Three years later, it still sometimes felt as if he was asleep.

Really, that was the only way Jason could rationalize what his – and Elizabeth's – life had become. By day, he was a man, wandering lost through the forest that surrounded his former hometown, but, by night, he was an animal, literally, a hunter, an unknown.

Physically, he knew that he took on the shape of a bobcat, and, during the sunless hours, he also behaved like a mountain lion as well. Living on instinct, doing whatever it was necessary for survival. He lived in a world where the motto was kill or be killed, and, oddly enough, perhaps because of his former experiences as an enforcer, he excelled at Mother Nature's game of survival. But Elizabeth didn't.

She was miserable. While his life had always been about base needs and necessities, hers had been about beauty and grace, about art, and trapped twelve hours a day in her new animal form, the woman he loved, now part white tailed deer, was miserable. Isolated because of the curse that had been somehow visited upon them, she missed human companionship daily, being forced to endure hour after hour, week after week, month after month of existence in the wilderness. And the worst part was that the spell they were both toiling under separated them as well.

It wasn't the fact that, as a bobcat, Jason now ate deer as a common staple of his diet. Elizabeth wasn't in danger, physically, at least, from him. Because of her human attributes as well, he could tell her apart from any other of her animal species. Her scent was still uniquely Elizabeth, her eyes, though now brown, still held the same mysteries, hopes and dreams, and desires that the brown haired, blue eyed girl of his past and woman of his present and, hopefully, his future displayed. The problem was that their new lifestyles separated them purely by nature.

He was nocturnal; she, eleven months out of the year, roamed the earth during the day. It was only during the fall hunting season that her habits were altered, allowing her to sleep during the daylight hours and feed and walk during the twilight ones, and, so, it was only during the hunting season, the most dangerous time of the year, that they were now able to see each other. At night, they would explore the woods and meadows as one, avoiding all other animals for fear of inspiring doubt and mistrust amongst their fellow creatures. After all, it was unnatural for a bobcat and a while tailed deer to live together in harmony. And, during the day, they would retire together to Jason's cave, locking themselves away from everything else as their bodies were finally allowed to take their human forms together.

During those weeks, he would hold Elizabeth in his arms as they both slept, savoring her closeness and relishing the ability to simply just be with someone, the only someone who mattered. Their days – and nights – were uneventful, really, merely consumed with meeting out their everyday needs, but he cherished them anyway, especially the early morning hours and those that came at dusk, for it was then that he and the woman he loved were granted moments of wakeful consciousness, and, in the throes of their ripe, ferocious passion, they could forget the curse hanging over them and simply live in the moment with each other.

It wasn't everything. In fact, it was almost nothing, but for Jason and Elizabeth, it was also all they had.

So, as the new hunting season approached, heralded in by the dawning of All Hallows Eve, Jason slithered along the path that would take him to their designated meeting place: the tree disguised cottage that had forever altered the course of their lives. And when he reached the tiny, rundown bungalow, she was there, waiting for him, smiling demurely and looking, for the first time in eleven months, happy and at peace, mirroring the emotions stirring in his own rapidly beating heart.

As he approached her lounging form, Elizabeth stood up on all fours, ducking her head to nuzzle his soft, furry neck. They stood like that for several moments, only the sounds of the surrounding woods breaking into their private little haven until finally he broke the stillness, walking away with the knowledge that they had been in the open together for far too long already. And she followed him, just like she always did, for their four weeks together were much too short to waste.

One Year Later…

He had a surprise for her.

If it had just been him, Jason was almost positive that he would have remained in his unnatural state of limbo between the human and animal worlds, but it wasn't just him, and he would do anything to make Elizabeth happy and to give them the chance to truly be together every day of every month for the rest of their lives.

That was why he had spent the last eleven months searching for help. Limited because of the spell he existed under, it had taken all of his patience and all of his diligence, but, finally, progress had been made. Risking everything, he had ventured closer to town than he had been in three years' time. By day, when he was human, he would visit hospitals and clinics, seeking medical help, but, when he confided in the confident physicians and self-important specialists, they had all deemed him unstable, a danger to himself, insane. Not that Jason was entirely surprised, seeing as how, since he had woken up from his coma years before, he had been consumed with a general distrust of all things medically related, including doctors. However, their absolute refusal to even consider something unexplainable was nevertheless disheartening.

From there, he had started seeking out the help of professors – biologists, physicists, psychologists, even historians, but Port Charles University had been another dead end, so he had moved on to doing his own research. Unfortunately, the onetime hitman had been unprepared for the daunting task ahead of him, and, if it wouldn't have been for a mere accidental run-in, quite literally, with a rather mousy, socially inept computer major, he would still be floundering hopelessly along the halls of modern academia.

Damien Spinelli, computer hacker by day and self-proclaimed sorcerer by night, was on the cusp of reversing the curse laid upon both Jason and the brunette artist he so ardently wished to free from the confines of their animal restrictions. With a mixture of both the supernatural and, surprisingly, considering the source, common sense, the young college sophomore was prepared to attempt a new spell of his own that would return both the retired enforcer and the woman he loved back to their old selves. All they had to do was meet him at the stroke of midnight, Halloween night, at the bridge to nowhere.

Head held high with renewed confidence and hope, Jason, in his bobcat form, strode into the cottage's clearing, eagerly anticipating seeing Elizabeth again after so many lonely, miserable months. Only, this year, something was different.

Whereas before she would always be resting facing the direction he approached from, this year she was curled up with her back towards him, her head bowed away from his impending form as if wrapped around something protectively. Fear immediately sliced through him, rendering Jason immobile.

Was she hurt, and, if so, how badly? Would she be able to travel in order to meet Spinelli? If she couldn't, would he be able to shoulder the burden of getting her there himself? And what if he couldn't? What if they would both have to wait another year to even try to reverse the curse visited upon them so many months before?

So many questions swirled around in his mind, numbing his mountain lion body, but, then, Elizabeth heard him, and she swiveled her graceful neck around to look at him, an expression of pure contentment and love radiating from her dainty face. And that's when he saw what she had been protecting.

It wasn't her own injured body but rather the helpless, wobbly, uncertain form of a newborn fawn. Scientifically, he knew that white tailed deer were supposed to give birth in the spring, but because her DNA was entirely human, he wasn't surprised that, as an animal, Elizabeth's biological clock did not match up with those of her species, and that meant that the woman he loved was now a mother, that she had a child, and that he was a father.

Slowly, the former artist stood, nudging her baby fawn to stand up as well. As mother and child approached him, he grinned, a giant, unsteady, emotional grin that spoke of his own sheer happiness and instantaneously love for the tiny deer. Wordlessly, the two lovers communicated, using their minds to talk to one another.

Jason, Elizabeth began, allowing their offspring to stand cocooned between them. I'd like you to meet your daughter.

And, with that one sentence, everything made sense to him. Because their child was a girl, she took on the form of her mother during the twelve hours of the day that they were cursed to wander the world as an animal, but, when Elizabeth was human, so would their daughter be. With that realization, the blonde found himself starved for a glance upon his newborn baby's face. He wanted to know if she had sapphire eyes like her mother or arctic blue ones like his own, whether her hair was curly or straight, brown or blonde, and he wanted to make sure that she had all ten of her little fingers and all ten of her perfect, little toes.

And he would soon find out the answers to all his questions, because it was in that minute, when he laid eyes on the woman he loved and the child they had created because of that love, that he knew that Spinelli's spell would work. In a matter of hours, he, Elizabeth, and their daughter would be free of the curse hanging over their heads and disrupting their family. And it wasn't hope that made him so positive or even faith; it was simply fact in his mind.

Let's go home, he finally responded, causing Elizabeth to pause, tilt her head in question and confusion, and then finally perk up with anticipation. It's time.

And it was.