Ellen fought hard to regain her composure. Looking into Matt's dark eyes and seeing the disbelief that was mirrored there cut deeply into her heart. During her absence, he had hardened. The open, loving man whom she loved completely had become a mirror image of the cold, distant woman she used to be. She could only hope that her tale would soften him. That he would believe her, help her and find a way to love her again.
"Ellen," he said, quietly ending her reverie. "I said I would listen, but I can't wait around forever. I have patients to attend to-"
"I'm well aware of that, Matt," she said, her voice husky with pent up emotion. "I-I know that you're on call right now, and I'm trying to find the words-"
"Try a little faster," he said, harshly.
She gasped in response to his tone and he quickly averted his eyes to his clenched fists that rested in his lap. Slowly, he flexed his hands in an obvious attempt to release his tension. Ellen watched in silence until her feet moved her into action.
She closed the distance between them and knelt in front of him. Her hands closed over his, reveling in the strength she felt there and the familiarity of his touch. He flinched upon contact, but didn't move. For that, she would be eternally grateful.
"Matt, I am sorry. There's so much that I need to tell you that I'm overwhelmed. I can't figure out where to start-"
"How about starting at when you left me?" he suggested. He raised his head to look into her brown eyes. Raw pain caused him to blink as he looked at her. "I think I'm owed at least that."
Her first response was to simply nod. Ellen drew in a long breath and then she began to speak quietly. "I didn't leave you. I was forced...tricked into leaving Port Charles. I didn't leave of my own free will. I would never have left you like that."
"Just like you would never have slept with another man behind my back?" he softly questioned. "After the lies and the deception with Sebastian, do you honestly think that I would believe you? Ellen, I may be a little younger than you, but you've gotta give me more credit than that."
"No," she said, shaking her head. "No, no, no! I admit that my behavior with Sebastian was wrong. I was wrong. I was scared and for once, I acted impulsively. I am forever sorry for lying to you about Sebastian, for sleeping with him...for everything. Matt, I admit that I was wrong! I haven't tried to deny the truth about that, so please hear me out. I am being honest with you. I know this is hard, but I need for you to find it in your heart to trust me again. Please, try."
"You're asking for a lot," he muttered, wrenching his hands from hers. His breath came in harsh spurts as he looked around the lounge. He was relieved to see that no one else was around to witness his pain...to see him willingly being played the fool again. He laughed humorlessly at himself before he closed his hands over the wheels of his hair and gripped tightly.
"Matt, no!" Ellen cried when he moved to leave her. "You said you would hear me out."
"I thought I could," he said shrugging, "but I can't. I'm not as strong as I thought I-"
"That's not true," she said with quiet conviction. "You're the strongest man I know."
"It's true," she responded to his tortured plea. "You are the strongest man I know and the only one I've ever completely trusted. And, I need you...to believe me and help me. I know that it's hard for you...seeing me again like this after so long...and I'm begging you to help me... I wouldn't ask this of you if I didn't think you could do it."
Ellen waited for Matt to respond to her. He kept his eyes straight ahead and his hands on the wheels. But he didn't move. She went to him again. Clasping her hands together, she stopped herself from touching him as she asked him one last time. "Matt, please. I need you."
Swallowing hard, Matt repeated her words, "I need you." He continued to grip the wheels as he said, "I needed you, but you went away."
"But I'm back now, and I'm not going away again," Ellen told him. "If you let me back in, I won't ever leave you again."
He shook his head. "It's not that easy..."
"Nothing ever is."
"Slowly, Ellen," he said, lifting his head to look at her. "I can't deny that I'm still in love with you, but even with that, I can't give you any guarantees."
"I understand," she said with a faint smile that emphasized her dimpled cheeks. "Okay, as for where I've been the last year-"
"Not right now," he said. He released one of the wheels to pull his beeper from his belt. The small device vibrated in his hand. "I have a young patient who likes to beep me. I have to check on her."
"Okay. I'll wait for you right here." Ellen moved to sit on one of the sofas as he began to wheel away.
He spun around at her soft statement. With concern, he asked, "You don't have anywhere to go, do you?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "I know that my mother isn't here any more-"
"She moved to Dallas. She's living with Winston there," he told her. "You didn't know?"
Sadly, Ellen shook her head. "No. I think you're not the only one who thinks I deserted them. Is she okay? Her heart...?"
"She's fine-" The pager vibrated in his hand again. He stopped it with a push of a button before he shoved the pager into his coat pocket. When he brought his hand out again, he had keys in his hand. He held them out to Ellen. "You're welcome to wait at my place. I don't live behind the Recovery Room anymore. I have a condo. It's at the corner of Birch and Elm. Number 14. Make yourself at home."
"Matt, I'm not sure...are you sure about this?" she asked, tentatively taking the keys from him. "I don't want to intrude in your home-"
"It's not an intrusion," he said very softly. He closed her fingers over the keys and said, "Make yourself at home. Rest. Eat. We'll talk later."
"Thank you," she said, watching him as he wheeled away from her. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to hope that this was a sign of better things to come.
"You never know how scary everything is until you see your mother lying helpless...and there's nothing you can do about it," Dawn said as she looked down at her mother's still form.
Lucky placed his hand at the small of her back, offering her comfort. "I know what you mean. It's an awful feeling."
"When I was little, I'd hate to see my mother sleep," she confessed. "I was always afraid that she wouldn't wake up..."
"Ssh," Lucky whispered, sliding his hand around her waist to pull her closer to him. "Don't even think like that."
"I have to prepare myself," she said tearfully. She rested her head against him. "I don't want to think it, but comas are not the same as sleeping. The longer she's unconscious... It's not good, Lucky. She needs to wake up."
Lucky gently cupped her face, wiping away her tears with the pads of his thumbs. "She needs to know that you're pulling for her," he said. "She can feel your energy. You have to remain positive and believe that she will wake up."
"You mean will her back to us."
"Yes," he said offering her a gentle smile. "It may sound weird, but it works. You have to believe."
"I do," she said nodding vigorously. She lowered her eyes to her mother once again. The older Jensen woman was still as the tubes and machines worked to help her. It all frightened and saddened Dawn. She became overwhelmed and a sob escaped from her.
Lucky pulled her into the crook of his arm and led her out of the room. He remained quiet as he guided them out of the hospital and down a wooded path. A bench appeared underneath the large branches of an oak tree. Lucky moved them towards the tree. Still holding her against him, he sat them down on the bench.
As she cried softly, he wondered about his most recent impression of her back at Mattie's diner. He couldn't believe the young woman who seemed so fearless back then now cried in his arms. He felt ashamed of some of the things he had said to her.
It wasn't like he hadn't known her before, he reasoned. They had been classmates. He remembered that she used to be a cheerleader. An image of her in the snug sweater and pleated skirted bouncing up and down on the sidelines flashed before and he felt himself grow hot. He quickly scolded himself and the memory faded. Now was not the time to indulge in a teenage memory. He needed to think with a clear head. He needed to understand the attraction that was pulling him to her and the idea of staying Port Charles when before, he never thought he'd step foot in the town again. He needed to get a grip.
"I'm sorry," Dawn said sitting up straight as she felt him stiffen against her. "I cried all over you. I didn't mean to."
"It's okay," he said, shifting on the bench to look at her. "You didn't break anything." He laughed softly as his joked and she joined in with a smile.
"I usually don't break down like that," she admitted. "I'm usually the strong one. People think that Dara is the fierce one, but they're mistaken. I'm the one to watch out for."
"Oh, really," he said, his voice deep and low.
"Yeah," she said, staring back at him. "Thank you for driving us here and going in with me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you did. I know that it can't be easy for you."
He raised his eyebrows in surprise, but didn't say anything.
"Oh, please," she said. "I told you before that I'm not a pushy reporter. I'm a writer. There is a difference. If you would like to see a sample before you agree to tell me your story, you are more than welcomed to. Just let me know if you'd like hardback or paperback."
"Excuse me?" he asked. "You're published?"
"Yeah," she said. "About 6 months ago. My very first effort hit the bestseller list in record time...not that I'm bragging of course."
"No, of course not," he said with a smile. "Okay, I'll bite. I'd like to see your book and then...maybe...we can talk. It's not like I have a story to tell."
"We'll see," she said. She breathed deeply as she turned away from him and looked at the beautiful outdoors. When she had her fill, she stood and quietly said, "It's time for me to go back. I'll understand if you'd rather not."
"No," he said, shaking his head as he rose from the bench. "I'll go with you. I want to."
She offered him a faint, watery smile and mouthed, "Thank you."
Lucky felt touch beyond words by the small gesture. He knew then that it was too late to get a grip. He was too far gone, and he had no intention of going anywhere. Quite simply, he was back.
Port Charles ©ABC
Dawn, Freedom to Love ©1998 niklovr
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