Chapter 6

 

Phineas and Jeffrey eased inside General Hospital's staff lounge to find more appropriate clothing. They quickly found what they needed in several large boxes labeled 'Goodwill.'

"Hurry up," Phineas ordered as Jeffrey secured the lock on the door.

"She's cute, but Bogg…"

Phineas pulled a navy blue turtleneck sweater over his head. The jeans he found were a perfect fit, as was the dark navy pea jacket. "Who's cute?"

Jeffrey rolled his eyes and caught the pair of black jeans and matching gray sweater that Phineas tossed his way. "Come on, Bogg. What do you take me for? We've been together for how long? I know what that look in your eyes mean. Don't fall for her. It looks like she's already taken."

"Smart kids give me a pain," Bogg muttered under his breath.

"Oh, yeah? Probably because you know I'm right," Jeffrey replied with a small laugh. Bogg had uttered that same phrase at least once a day since the first day they met. It was as common as 'bat's breath' as the older man's favorite phrases.

Dressed and ready to go, they quickly hid their belongings in a locker and left the lounge in search of the kids. Jeffrey's warning lingered in Phineas' mind. The kid was right. Falling for another one would be a mistake because in the end he was a Voyager and nothing could change that.

-/-

"The offer still stands, you know," Matt told Ellen with a smile. "All you have to do is say yes."

Ellen frowned at him and shook her head. "You never give up, do you?"

"Not when it's something…or someone I want." His voice lowered to a seductive whisper and he said, "Come on, Dr. Burgess. Say it. It's a simple word with only one syllable and three little letters. You know you can do it. You know you want to."

"Dr. Harmon, I don't know what you have on your mind, but-"

Matt interrupted her lecture with a deep, very masculine laugh. "What I have on my mind is dinner. The vegetarian lasagna, remember? Now, as for you what you have on *your* mind…" He didn't finish. He simply let the words drift between them, hanging in the air as they both pondered the possibilities of the double-meaning.

"Cute, Matt, very cute," she told him as a tiny smile formed on her full lips.

"So, you think I'm cute. That's a start," he said with a smile. Inside, his mind spun and his heart pounded. She'd used his first name. Sure, it wasn't that big of a deal, but it was. Ellen closed herself off from everyone and for her to say 'Matt' a step. A very big step. He was getting to her. He could feel it.

"That's not a start," Ellen denied, shaking her head. "It was a figure of speech. I was by no means making a statement about you."

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," he grinned unable to stop teasing her. Her eyes narrowed at him, but he saw the glimmer of a sparkle there. The sparkle was his. He put it there and he beamed. "Come on, Dr. Burgess, dinner at my place for a job well done. I promise I won't tell anyone that you drooled…over my food." He spun around in his wheelchair and was about to call to her over his shoulder again when a lone figure made him pause.

Ellen, who had against her better judgment been following him, stopped short.

She saw the change in Matt and immediately responded. "What's wrong?"

"That boy over there," he said. His voice had suddenly become very quiet as he pointed to the teenager with the shoulder-length curly brown hair. Matt's gray eyes clouded over as he continued to stare at the oblivious teenager. "I-I think

I know him."

"Really? Well, maybe you should talk to him. Re-introduce yourself," Ellen suggested. Matt's behavior concerned her, but maybe there was a logical explanation for the sudden change. Perhaps he was teasing her again, being melodramatic as a joke, or perhaps he wasn't. Without thinking twice, her hand lightly grasped his shoulder. "Matt? Who is he?"

"I'm not sure," Matt began, keeping his eyes on the boy, "but he looks like my cousin, Jeffrey, who disappeared fifteen years ago."

"How could you recognize him? He couldn't have been much more than a baby then," Ellen said, confused.

"Actually, he was eleven at the time…"

"Matt, you're not making any sense. There's no way that young man over there can be your cousin. It's just not possible. I think that instead of dinner you should get some rest. You're off duty now. You should go home," Ellen told him, her tone was gentle, but firm. But as Matt continued to stare at the teenager, her voice became stronger. "Matt!"

"What?" he asked, dragging his eyes away from Jeffrey. "Did you say something?"

"I said that you're to leave right now! And, that's an order."

The intent stare, which he had trained on Jeffrey for the last several minutes, disappeared. The light that he reserved just for the woman before him reappeared and he smiled. "Yes, ma'am!" He spun around in his wheelchair again so that he faced her. "But, only if you take me up on my dinner invitation. Three little letters…one word…Dr. Burgess, just say it," he coaxed her with a teasing smile.

"Yes, Dr. Harmon! Yes," she repeated with a grimace that both knew she didn't feel. "Now, let's get out of here."

"Yes, ma'am!" he replied. He waited for her to lead the way and then he followed her to the elevator. As they waited for the car to arrive, his eyes once again drifted to the teenager who now leaned against the wall. He looked exactly like his cousin, Matt thought. So much so that there was no way he could be anyone but. Later, he would find out if the uncanny resemblance was real or a figment of his imagination. Now, the woman beside him called to him, and he'd waited too long to let the moment pass between them. His curiosity about the boy could wait, but not his interest for the woman. Everything in its due time, Matt thought.

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