Chapter 11

Twenty-four hours passed slowly. Matt and Ellen forgot about the outside world as they stood vigil over their patient. They hated to pull rank, but even family members weren't allowed to enter Carrie's room. Her friend, John Black, had proved to be a handful when he was turned away, but he soon realized that he was no match against the formidable team of Drs. Burgess and Harmon. With a firm reminder that he'd be right outside Carrie's door, John left the doctors alone to do their work. Around 7am the next morning, the doctors' stubbornness was rewarded. Carrie Jensen woke up. And across town, Rachel Locke, also known as Ronda Lake, was arrested. Too tired to celebrate either success, the doctors went back to Matt's apartment to rest.

Sleep came after a deliriously passionate lovemaking session. Their bodies and souls became one. Once again, they reconfirmed their love for each other and the promise to never separate again.

The annoying buzz of Matt's alarm clock woke Ellen first. Stifling a yawn, she reached across him and ended the irritating sound. Staring hard at the numbers on the clock, she debated whether or not to obey its summons. Sleep had felt so good and lying next to Matt felt even better. She wasn't ready to end it so soon. Snuggling next to Matt again, Ellen rested her head on his strong, muscled chest. A few more minutes of bliss wouldn't hurt she decided.

Sleep offered Ellen another chance for rest and she declined. Instead, Ellen thought of the year she'd had and how bleak everything had seemed when she was confined to the mental institution. The only thing that had kept her from wallowing into despair at her situation was the thought of Matt. An image of his warm smile would flash before her eyes. Then, she would picture the devilish cleft in his chin, the beauty of his bare body pressed against hers, and the memory of serenity that she had only ever felt with him would return to her, too. In those moments, she found the strength to stay sane and the courage to plan her escape. Now, as she lay against him and listened to his every heartbeat, she thanked God for Matt and his undying love for her.

Overwhelmed with so much emotion, tears slid from her eyes and wet her cheeks and Matt's chest. Not wanting to wake him, Ellen tried to wipe the wetness away, but it was too late. Matt covered her hand with his and raised it to his lips. He kissed her fingertips gently before said, "Is everything okay?"

"I'm fine," she said, raising up to look at him. "Did you sleep well?"

"Like a baby," he said with a smile. He brushed her a curl from her forehand. Cupping her cheek, he asked, "What made you cry?"

"I was thinking about the past," she said, unwilling to hide anything from him. "These," she said as pointed to her eyes, "are tears of joy. I love you, Matt Harmon. I don't want you to ever forget that."

"I won't," he said leaning down to brush her lips with his. As he ended the kiss, he added, "Because you'll tell me every day."

"Several times a day," she admitted before she captured his lips in a deep, slow kiss.

The flame of passion rekindled between them again. They discovered that after rest, they had plenty of energy to please each other. Their early morning passion left them soaring to the clouds. When they came back down to earth again, neither wanted to move from the other's side, but duty called. They had a patient that they wanted to check on and there was also a criminal whom they had to see just once, sitting behind the cold, steel bars of justice.

~*~

The Jensen-Collins family reunion had been a warm one. Tears of happiness and love flowed freely down the cheeks of all three women. Carrie was happy to be alive and her children were happy to have their mother back again.

Dara, Dawn and Kevin took turns gently chiding Carrie for not telling them about her suspicions regarding Rachel. She listened to them without offering a defense, simply smiling at their heartfelt scolding. When they paused to look at her, she said, "I love you, too. You're all right. Next time, I'll call my backup team for support."

"You'd better," Dawn told her mother. She rose from her perch on the edge of Carrie's bed. She placed a tender kiss on her mother's cheek. Squeezing Carrie's hand, she said, "We warned against tiring you out, so I'm gonna let Dara and Kevin have first dibs on pampering you. I'll come back in an hour for my turn."

"Okay, sweetie, and when you come back, you'd better tell me why you're glowing," Carrie said, smiling.

Dawn blushed. "Mama!"

"Hey, a mother knows these things." Carrie squeezed Dawn's hand. "I'm clocking you. In one hour, I expect to see you right here."

"I will be."

Dawn waved at Dara and Kevin as she left the room. She knew that they were as anxious so spend time alone with Carrie as she was. Now that their mother had survived a maniac's attack, Dawn knew that she and Dara would never take her for granted again. Carrie was about to realize just how much her children love her. Smiling to herself, Dawn stepped into the hallway and into one of her dearest friend's arms.

"Sorry," she said, steadying herself by placing her hands on John's forearms. "I didn't see you there."

"That's quite all right," he reassured her. John placed his arm around her shoulder and walked with her down the hallway. "You had an incredible smile on your face. I take it Carrie is doing well."

"She's better than that," Dawn beamed. "It's almost like she was never in a coma. I'm just so happy and relieved to have her back again."

"I know, sweetheart," John said, pulling her into a warm embrace. "When you called me, I was so scared, too. I'm glad that your doctors knew what they were doing."

"Me, too." Dawn rested her head on John's chest. She felt him tremble as he spoke of his fear. She wondered if his fright went beyond that of a good friend. She wondered if he still cared a great deal for her mother. Maybe even loved her. "Thank you for coming and bringing the disks-"

"Ssh," he said as he ended the embrace and took her hand. "You don't have to thank me for anything. I'd do anything for your mother, you and even Dara, too." He and Dawn both laughed at the mention of Dara. During their vigil, she had softened towards John. Both Dawn and John had been surprised while Kevin had merely smiled at his wife. "I think motherhood has made a remarkable change in your sister, and if you tell her I said that, I'll deny every word."

Dawn laughed. "I'll never tell. I'm glad that she's finally seen the light with you. I came out to give her and Kevin time to be with Mama. I'm supposed to go back in an hour. I'd like for you to come in with me."

"And, what about your sweetheart?" John asked, pointing towards Lucky who lay curled up on one of the sofas in the waiting room. "I thought you'd take him in there with you."

"I'm not sure he'll want to go," Dawn answered honestly. "He's been through a lot."

"I can tell," John responded. "He has a wariness about him that reminds me of me. I can see that he cares about you a great deal and you about him, but are you sure about this?"

"John," Dawn groaned softly. "I'm a big girl now."

"No, you're a woman now," he corrected her. "I didn't make it as your dad, but I can't help acting like I am anyway. My nephew broke your heart and I'm sorry about that. I just want to make sure that you're not rushing into anything. That you're okay now."

"When I'm with Lucky, Nicholas Alemaine is the furthest thing from my mind. It took a while, but I'm over him," Dawn confessed. "Really, I am. Don't worry about me. Lucky is... He's everything that Nicholas never was. He makes me feel cherished. I love him and I know that he feels the same."

"Whoa," John breathed. He pulled her into his arms again. "I'm so happy for you. I was scared there for a while, but I see that you're gonna be all right."

"Thanks, Dad," she whispered. "I'm gonna be just fine, and soon as you see my Mama, you will be, too."

"From your mouth to God's ears, sweetheart," he murmured.

"Of course," Dawn said, smiling at him. "I already put in a good word for you. We are all gonna work out just fine."

~*~

A deep sigh escaped from Ellen's lips and smile came to her face. Matt found it impossible to tear his eyes away from her. They had just left the Port Charles jail and had taken a short detour through the park as they headed towards General Hospital. Ellen sat on a bench and Matt sat beside her. His wheelchair was not far from his reach.

Matt squeezed Ellen's hand. "It's a relief to see her behind bars."

"Finally," Ellen said, turning to look at him. "The uniform was definitely her color. She should wear for a long time."

"Dara's the DA. Do you expect anything less?" he asked with a teasing smile. "She will not let that woman get away with hurting you or her mother. The Lakes will find that their money won't save their daughter from herself. They should have gotten her help when they had the chance."

Ellen frowned. "Do you think her actions were a result from a mental defect? I find it so hard to let her off that easily. I believe that she knew what she was doing and that was part of the fun."

"And you don't see that as being a form of mental illness?" he asked, gently. "I agree that she seemed to delight in her cruelty, but maybe she has a few problems, too."

"Maybe," Ellen said, her voice low. "To be honest I don't care just as long as she doesn't get away with what she's done. I'm telling you, baby, if she gets off... I may have a lapse in memory and forget about my oath to 'first do no harm.' That wretch has hurt too many people, myself included. If she walks, she won't be walking for long."

"My, my, my," Matt murmured. "You almost sound like a Mancusi."

Giving him a tender smile, she cupped his face with her hand. Her thumb brushed across his full lips. She leaned close to him and whispered, "I don't see that as a bad thing. I love you. All of you, the man you were before and the man you are now. Thank you for saying that I sound like I'm a part of you."

Touched by her words, Matt sat in silence. Staring into her eyes that were filled with love for him warmed him and gave him the encouragement he needed to do voice the thoughts that had been on his mind. "I'm happy that you told me that. There's something that I wanted to talk to you about."

"I'm listening." Ellen shifted on the bench. Matt had her full attention.

Clasping her hands tightly, Matt began to tremble. He looked down at their hands. They fit so perfectly together. They were perfect together. Preparing himself to speak, he hoped that she truly felt the same, too. "Ellen, I know that I said that I wanted to take this all slowly. I was still hurt and angry when you first came back. I didn't know what to think or how to react to you."

"And you had every right to feel that way. I had hurt you once. You couldn't have known what had happened to me. I am so grateful that you did listen to me."

"Oh, Ellen," he said, hoarsely. "You don't have to be grateful. Not to me. I'm grateful that I finally listened to you and what you were telling me. I'll be forever thankful that you trusted me enough to come to me."

"There's no one else that I trust more than you," she whispered. "Thinking of you and remembering how good we used to be... I remained sane because of you. I stayed strong because of you."

Matt laughed softly. "You've always been a strong woman. I wish that I could take credit for that, but I can't. You stayed strong because that's who you are and that's what makes you the woman I love. And the woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with..."

"Oh, Matt," she said as sudden tears sprang to her eyes.

He released her hands to reach inside his wool jacket. Afraid that he might lose his nerve, Matt dug inside his jacket and pulled out a small black, velvet box. Holding the box in the palm of his hand, he pulled back the lid. Inside the box lay a beautiful diamond ring that glittered brightly in the afternoon sun. Matt took the ring from the box and held it between his thumb and forefinger. Extending the ring toward Ellen, he said, "I don't want to take our reunion slowly anymore. Time is precious and shouldn't be wasted. I don't want to wait anymore. I want to be your husband, and I want you to be my wife. I'm hoping that you want the same. Ellen, my love, will you marry me?"

Holding his breath, Matt waited for her answer. She screamed it loudly for all the world to hear and all his hopes and dreams were realized with a single word.

"YES!"

Chapter 12

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