CHAPTER 3

The inside of Dawn's silver gray Honda CRV buzzed with anticipation as its trio of occupants thought of what lay ahead for them. Lucky's knuckles were raw and white as he gripped the steering wheel. His dark blue eyes remained focused on the road as he remembered the town he once thought of as home. How would everyone react to seeing him again? Or would they even have to? He considered dropping the two women off and thumbing his way back to Mattie's, but the soft sniffles that Dawn could barely contain caused him to change his mind. After a quick glance at her, he swallowed his trepidation and changed his mind. He wouldn't run out on her. He didn't understand his sudden need to help her. He just knew that he had to.

Dawn swallowed down the sobs that were lodged in her throat. She could feel Lucky's eyes on her. She didn't want to appear as anything less than a strong, independent and capable woman in front him. Besides, she thought, her tears wouldn't wake her mother from her coma. Maybe her prayers would. Ignoring the eyes that she knew glanced at her from time to time, Dawn bowed her head, closed her eyes and began to pray.

Ellen's restless hands stopped smoothing the wrinkles out of the coat she borrowed from Mattie as she watched Dawn pray. She leaned back against the backseat and closed her eyes, too. She said a prayer for Dawn's mother, Carrie. Then she said a few prayers for herself.

She prayed that when the time came, she would have the courage and the strength to face Matt again. She also prayed that he would be generous enough to hear her out. He would be hurt and confused, but if he would just listen to her, maybe they could make things right again.

~*~*~*~*~

Matt held the clipboard in his hands as his dark gray eyes scanned the vitals that had been handed to him by Nurse Tracy. The young nurse was very thorough in her exam, but Matt couldn't help but wonder if something was amiss.

He placed the clipboard in the side pocket of his wheelchair before he rolled closer to his patient's bedside. He glanced down at the comatose Carlotta Jensen, frowning as he remembered the vibrant General Hospital board member. Only a week ago, they had joked back and forth about the rather eccentric Quartermaines. He was saddened that his suggestions for her speedy awakening weren't doing the trick.

He stared her listless body a moment longer. He drew a long breath and then he wheeled himself out her room. Silently, he promised himself that he would find a way to reach her and bring her back to her two daughters.

Lost in his world of possible solutions, Matt's mind was miles away as he rolled down the hallway and back towards the elevator. Startled, he jumped when he heard his name called.

"Sorry about that," Dr. Kevin Collins said with a faint smile. "I just didn't want you to go by without asking you about Carrie. How is she?"

"I'm sorry, Kevin," Matt said, steering his wheelchair away from the elevator and towards Kevin. "She's still comatose. How's Dara? Where is she?"

"She's checking on the twins. Amy's watching them for us, but you know how new mothers are," Kevin replied.

"Again, congratulations," Matt said, offering Kevin a brief smile. "Was Dara able to reach Dawn?"

"Yeah, I think so," he said with a frown. "I didn't get a chance to talk to my jet-setting sister-in-law, but I'm pretty sure that Dara did. Um, Matt?"

"Yeah?"

"I don't want to overstep my bounds, but when Dara comes back, it would be okay for her to see Carrie, right?"

"Yeah, it would be fine," Matt said, nodding. "I have a few more rounds to make, but I'll be back as soon as I can. Just tell Dara to hang in there. Carrie's a fighter. She'll come out of it. I guarantee it."

~*~*~*~*~

The large white building seemed imposing to the solemn trio who walked through its doors. The familiar smells and sights immediately assaulted Ellen and Lucky as they followed Dawn inside the hospital. Rushing to the admissions desk, Dawn was oblivious to her companions' reactions. Her concern for her mother was the only thing on her mind and nothing else mattered.

"Excuse me!" Dawn called out to the approaching nurse. "My mother was admitted today. I need to find her."

"Okay," the blonde nurse replied with a warm smile, "calm down. Just give me her name and we'll see what we can find in the system."

"Thank you." Dawn paused for a moment to catch her breath. "Her name is Mrs. Carlotta Jensen. I'm her daughter, Dawn. My sister called me today and told me that our mother was in a coma. She's diabetic and-"

"Okay," the nurse said, gently cutting Dawn off. "I see that she was admitted. She's upstairs on the tenth floor. Check in with the duty nurse up there."

"Thank you." Dawn responded. She turned as a warm hand touched her elbow. Looking up, she encountered the tenderness in Lucky's sapphire eyes. He briefly nodded his head toward the elevator, silently telling her that he would join her upstairs. "Thank you," she murmured for his ears only. Lucky responded with a smile.

"What floor is she on?" Ellen asked, taking a deep breath as she mentally adjusted to being at her former workplace again.

"She's on the tenth floor," Lucky said. He looked towards Ellen and noticed the tension that radiated from her. With concern, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she said, unintentionally brusque. "Did she tell you who Mrs. Jensen's doctor is? Maybe it's someone I know...maybe I could help in some way."

"No, Ellen," Dawn said, shaking her head. "I didn't think to ask. Should I?"

"No," Ellen said with an encouraging smile. She patted Dawn's shoulder before she moved past her to push the elevator button. "The important thing is that you made it. We can find out about the doctor later."

"She's right," Lucky added in a low voice. He gave her elbow a brief squeeze before he removed his hand and shoved it inside his front pocket.

Silence came upon them as the elevator light came on, signaling that a car was about to open for them. Subconsciously, they stepped aside to give the departing passengers some room. Dawn nodded her head as a familiar face rolled out of the elevator. "Hi, Matt."

"Hi, Dawn," he said. His dark, inquisitive eyes bored into hers and he took note of how upset she was. He pointed back towards the elevator, indicating that he would go back upstairs with her. "I just saw your mother. She's still in a coma, but don't let that scare you."

"How can I not be scared?" Dawn asked, following Matt inside the elevator. "My mother has never been lax about taking her insulin. She takes care of herself. She's not supposed to be in a coma, Matt!"

Concerned that she may start to cry, Lucky instinctively placed his arm around Dawn's shoulder. Without thinking twice, she accepted the support he gave her. Her hand went to his waist and she held onto him.

Behind them, Ellen moved inside the elevator. A group of orderlies joined them in the elevator and Ellen's presence went unnoticed by Matt. For the time being, she didn't mind. She was given the opportunity to look at him without any fear of being detected.

Like a shipwrecked victim starving for food, her hungry brown eyes greedily roved over him. She noticed that he had more strands of gray in his hair than he'd had before. The laugh lines at his eyes were a bit deeper than before and his warm voice still held that deep, rich timber that made her feel instantly safe and loved.

She swallowed hard as she thought of the last part. She had no right to feel that way, but she couldn't prevent the feeling of warmth at being so near to him. Even in an elevator car filled with people, and even though he didn't know she was there, she could still feel him. She stole a glance at him through the bodies of the orderlies and wondered if he could feel her, too.

~*~*~*~*~

The elevator stopped on the tenth floor. When its doors opened, Dawn flew out of them and Lucky was right beside her. Matt guided his wheelchair out of the elevator and moved at a slower pace. For some reason, he felt himself drawn backwards instead of forwards. In the next moment, he understood why.

"Matt."

A conflicting range of emotions coursed through Matt as his name was called out. He knew the voice. If he lived for another thirty years, he would never forget it. He dreamed of the voice and the woman it belonged to night after night. He couldn't imagine that his deepest thought would haunt him in the morning, too. He grabbed the wheels of his chair and made a move to go forward, ignoring the voice inside him that begged him to stay put.

"Matt!"

His heart lodged in his throat at the sound of his name being called out a second time. There was no way her voice could be a dream. Pulling a sudden maneuver, he whipped his wheelchair around to face his truth.

An unreadable light brightened his gray eyes as his mouth dropped open in surprise. "Ellen?"

The apparition nodded and came towards him. She knelt in front of him and slowly reached for his hands. Her large brown eyes stared back at him, shining with hope and desperation. A hint of dimples appeared in her thin cheeks as she began to speak to him. "Matt, it really is me."

Matt blinked. Words wouldn't form in his throat. He could only stare into her eyes and then lower at the hands, which clutched his. He then slowly raised his eyes to her again and waited.

"I have so much to t-tell you," she said in a husky voice. "I don't know where to begin. I can understand if you don't want to hear me, but you've got to give me a chance to explain."

"Explain?" he repeated quietly. "Explain." He looked down at their hands again and then he pulled away from her. "It's been over a year. I got your letter. I even memorized it, the fool that I am. You don't have to explain anything me. You already did."

"But, Matt, please!"

"No, Ellen!" He raised his hand to silence her. "No more."

"But, Matt!" she called out, her voice shaking with tears. "I never wrote you a letter."

"Yes, you did," he ground out. His eyes blazed with sudden anger. He willed himself to keep the other emotions at bay. The pain and the humiliation were ignored as he allowed the barely controllable rage to seep through. "I got your damn letter, Ellen! It was written in your handwriting so don't lie to me, okay? Not after all this time. Not anymore."

"But, I'm not lying!" she said. She frantically brushed at the tears that gathered in the corner of her eyes. "I didn't send you a letter! I couldn't have! The letter you got wasn't from me. Honest to God, it wasn't, Matt."

"Well, who was it from?" he asked, refusing to disguise the disbelief in his voice. "You must really think me a fool, don't you?"

"No, I don't," she said, taking a step toward him. "I think you're the man I love and the only person I can totally trust. I hurt you before by being with Sebastian and I'm sorry. I can't tell you how sorry I am, but I didn't leave you a second time. Will you please hear me out? Listen to what I have to say? Just a few minutes of your time is all I'm asking for. Please."

"Ellen," he said through gritted teeth. He didn't want her to beg him. He knew that he wasn't strong enough to refuse her.

She took another step toward him. "Matt, please."

Tears rained down her cheeks and she didn't wipe them away. She was a prideful woman, but now she stood before him, crying and pleading. Matt knew that he would regret his decision later, but he couldn't resist her. He nodded his head and said, "Okay. Okay, Ellen. Tell me what happened."

Port Charles ©ABC
Dawn, Freedom to Love ©1998 niklovr
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 4


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