A/N: Okay, so for RTN's 12 Days of Christmas, my plan is to write two different ficlets, each six parts in length. While I realize that I'm somewhat behind, I also just finished up with my finals week, and I have all of winter break to write... though my hope is that I don't take that long to finish these two short stories. And I think that's all. Happy holidays, everyone! ~Charlynn~
Title: Christmas Stalkings
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters presented in this story nor the show from which they originate. Unfortunately.
Summary: Following a series of unfortunate and unlikely events, Jason and Elizabeth find themselves continuously tossed together. Sometimes literally. After one too many coincidences, though, Elizabeth starts to suspect that there is more to the "accidents" than what meets the eye and enlists her new enemy into helping her investigate.
RTN's 12 Days of Christmas Fan Fiction Challenge 2010
Prompt #1: Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?
~ A Charlie Brown Christmas
The room was dim – smokey, even, in the shadows of the fading, winter's day, but the darkness was appropriate; it confirmed the desperation saturating the thick, suffocating air. While outside the world was a place of wonder, a magical kaleidoscope of color, inside his office they were shrouded in secrecy and deception, the upcoming holiday and the spirit which infused it lost and forgotten. No, their world was anything but festive.
"Are you sure you want to do this," he questioned the attractive woman sitting across from him. It was a shame that someone so beautiful could be so forlorn, but, damn, did she class up his seedy joint. Dressed from head to toe in black designer wear, his latest client even had on a wide, somber hat with an ebony lace veil which obscured her drawn, pale face. Even in her despondency, though, she still exuded taste and refinement. It wasn't very often that he spent time with a broad of her fine quality. "Because, once you give me the go-ahead, you realize that you can't take it back, right," the professional warned her. "And this – what you want me to do – it could get messy. It'll be dangerous. Are you prepared to live with the consequences of your decision... whatever they may be?"
"It's the only way," she confessed tearfully, biting her full, ripe, rosy lip. He could hear the remorse dampening her voice.
"Alright," he stood and held out his hand for her to shake. "You have yourself a deal then. Payment is half now upfront and then the other half once the job is done."
Shocking the hell out of him, the mysterious beauty just smiled, tilting her head to the side. "I know," she explained her amusement. "This isn't the first contract I've taken out before."
Five minutes later, his client long gone, he was still speechless.
Lately, it felt as though her entire life was a human populated zoo. She went from the hospital in the morning and afternoon, an always oh so pleasant place during the holidays – what, between all the burns from baking Christmas cookies to all the melancholy drunks who though it would be a good idea to go jumping into the harbor, to the mall in the evening as she attempted to finish up her shopping list. It amazed Elizabeth that after just a few months in her new hometown and she already had more people to shop for than she had time. But Port Charles was just one of those types of towns. Live there for a week, and it seemed as though everyone knew you, that everyone wanted to be your friend. It was nice... in an overbearing sort of way... and dangerous to her credit card balance.
Driving home from yet another excursion to the stores, Elizabeth tried to mentally tally and calculate just how many more gifts she had left to purchase, just how much more debt she was going to incur. And, as she performed her mental gymnastics, she managed to hum along to the carols which played profusely through her car's sound system, bobbing her head and tapping her fingers rhythmically upon the steering wheel as she kept beat with the cheerful songs. Luckily, the roads were relatively good, because, otherwise, she wouldn't have been able to enjoy the moment nearly as much.
As one song ended and she began her search for yet another holiday jingle, Elizabeth lowered her eyes for just a moment, allowing her sight to guide her fingers to the appropriate knobs upon her radio. Rather than driving her old car across the country when she moved three months prior, she had elected to sell her old one and buy a new used car when she got to New York, but that meant that she wasn't quite used to all the gadgets and gizmos yet. Eventually, though, she located a Christmas song she was capable of singing along with, so, satisfied, she returned to her focused driving only to at the very last moment notice the faint outline of a body crashing through the illumination of her high beams, scaring and causing her to punch her brakes and not release them.
Relatively clear roads or not, it was still December in upstate New York, and the sudden shift in her car's momentum caused it to slide and swerve, fishtail and spin. Before she could readjust, Elizabeth heard the tell-tale screech of her car's vulnerable body colliding with the scraping, grating metal of a guardrail. Sparks erupted like a mini-fireworks display. And then, mere seconds later, it was over. Her car was wrecked, her heart was squished somewhere beneath her boot clad feet upon the coupe's floorboard, and the shadowy figure, the man that she had glimpsed out of the corner of her eye, was gone.
With shaky hands, Elizabeth unbuckled, shoving open her car door despite its damaged protests. For the moment, though, she couldn't focus upon the vehicle's dents and bruises or the steam hissing noticeably under the hood of her still running car. Rather, all she could think about was that she had killed someone, that, in her enthusiasm to give to others, she had taken the most precious thing from a stranger – his life. And it was a man. Faint or not, distracted or not, Elizabeth knew for a fact what she had seen, but, as she rounded her car and looked at the pavement before her, the pavement behind her, the pavement to both sides of her, and even the pavement below her quivering car, there was no body to be found.
Turning wildly, she ran a trembling hand through her thick, tumbled curls. "But I don't... it doesn't... I..."
Before she could finish her thought or, more accurately, actually articulate one of the hundreds forming and then catching upon the tip of her tongue only to languish and die there in the face of her confusion, fear, and sorrow, a harsh voice from behind slapped Elizabeth out of her agitation. "What the hell was that," the man demanded to know. Whirling to face him, she just stood there, too emotionally paralyzed to respond – her gloved hands hanging limp at her sides, her mouth gaping open in apprehension, her vision clouded by a sheen of fine, hazy tears. "Do you have any idea how dangerous what you just did was? You're lucky to be alive! I'm lucky to be alive! As it is, I ended up sliding by bike on the pavement for several yards to avoid your out-of-control car. I swear, if there is any damage to..."
This time, it was her turn to interrupt him. "Did you see him? Did you see where he ended up?"
Caught off guard by her question, the stranger sputtered, "what? Who?" Narrowing his already lethal, glacial gaze, he glared at her. "This better not have been for some damn stray cat or a rabbit or something."
"No, no," she assured him, assured herself. Spinning around, Elizabeth pointed in the direction where she had first seen the jaywalking figure. "He... a man... was there. I saw him."
"Well, he's not there now."
"Don't you think I know that," she bit out acerbically, pivoting in the rude man's direction once more to confront him and his taunting words. "I'm not an idiot, you know."
"Oh, so, what? You only drive like one."
With his insolent words, the last of her trepidation and worry disappeared only to be replaced by a blazing fury, her temper ratcheting up to meet his own monumental level of wrath. "Just who the hell do you think you are... to stand here right now and talk to me like this? I just wrecked my car. I thought I had killed someone. Do you have any idea what that feels like, how scary, and traumatizing, and haunting a moment like that is? And you're what – worried about your precious bike? Well, guess what, buddy? It's fine. I'm the one who is either going to have to pay to fix her car out of her own pocket or turn it into my insurance company and pay a premium out of the nose for the next few years. So, yeah," she finished, realizing that, during her little tirade, she had, for some reason, started to advance forward upon the total stranger and had her hands fisted upon her hips, "if you could manage for just a few minutes to not be a total asshole, I'd really appreciate it."
"Are you drunk?"
Tilting her head to the side, Elizabeth regarded the man carefully, her eyes narrowed into twin sapphire flames. When she spoke, her voice was cool, brittle, and succinct. "Excuse me?"
"Your little hallucination," the motorcyclist waved off towards the area in which she had indicated she had seen the fleeing man. "You're either drunk or you're insane."
"And what does it matter to you?"
"Well, if you were drunk," he told her, "I'd call a cab and make sure that you took it home so that you didn't put any more lives in danger this evening."
"Remind me to nominate you for the local hero award, ass," she insulted sarcastically. When he said nothing after several quiet moments, she pointedly answered, "no, I'm not drunk. Are you satisfied now?" The stranger shrugged, nodded, and turned to walk away. "Hey!," Elizabeth yelled after him. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"
"But what about my cab?"
"You're not drunk, and, while being crazy is still dangerous, you're more likely to hurt yourself than anyone else."
"I'm not crazy," she defended herself, stomping her foot. Despite the fact that she knew the gesture was immature, Elizabeth couldn't help herself. "There really was a man out there, I swear!"
His only response was to pick up his bike, seemingly straddling it and starting it in the very same gesture, the movement was that smooth and practiced. Seconds later, the man was gone, his fading taillights her only reassurance that he had been there in the first place. Moving back towards her car, Elizabeth found herself recalling the accident, trying to remember every single moment which, just minutes before, she would have sworn would have been emblazoned upon her mind for forever. But, now, the whole ordeal seemed hazy, like a dream. All she could actually think about was how angry the stranger had made her feel, how brutishly rude he was. However, the one thing about the wreck that she was sure about was that there had been someone there; a man had walked out in front of her car. The only questions that remained were: why and where the hell was he now?