December 24, 2001
San Francisco, CA

Dr. Ellen Burgess made the rounds of the Emergency unit at San Francisco Memorial Hospital once again. Most of the staff looked at her as if she was crazy. No doubt they all wondered why she was at work on Christmas Eve. Since her transfer from General Hospital in Port Charles, NY, she had put more than her fair share of time in. There was no question that she could take some time off without anyone complaining. Why would she chose one of the worst shifts of the year if she didn't have to?

Ellen read all the questions in their eyes and shrugged them off. This was where she wanted to be so there she was. Working and helping the sick and less fortunate. That was more important than traveling across country to celebrate one day. And with the way things had been going with her family, she was better off as far away from them as possible.

Winston and Julie Devlin engaged to be married! Ellen shook her head at that thought. What was her brother thinking about? And if that wasn't bad enough, her mother had mentioned something about dating Ned Ashton. Ellen couldn't wrap her brain around that one at all. There had been some rumors about Monica having an affair with her nephew years ago, but Ellen had pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind. After all, it wasn't any of her business what her boss did in her spare time. But her mother? And Ned? Ellen nearly gagged. Ned was Ellen's age for goodness sakes!

What was in Port Charles drinking water? Ellen wondered. Maybe she should have gone back home, but to witness all of that up close and personal...? Nah, it was better that she stayed in San Francisco and worked. Besides, she might have run into Matt and Grace. That sight would have been too much to bear. This way, she could ponder what might have been all those years ago than face the reality of what actually happened.

Ellen ended her rounds and headed back to her office. To her surprise, she found two guests looking quite pleased with themselves and very comfortable waiting for her.

She pointed a finger at one curly-haired surgeon who lounged behind her desk. "Up, Gonzo."

He grinned, but willingly obliged. After she sat, she wagged another accusing finger at the other bespectacled surgeon. "Whatever you're into, Jackpot, I'm not having it. Just count me out."

"Come on, Ellen," the men complained in unison.

"This is easy pickings," Jackpot aka Dr. Jackson said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Just a fun little wager. No harm in participating in it at all."

Ellen smirked, but held her ground. The two men who stood before her were excellent surgeons, but could be two of the biggest goofs she'd ever met. Their friendship meant a lot to her, but she didn't believe in playing any of their silly games.

"You're being unnecessarily difficult," Gonzo aka Dr. Gates complained. "We have the crappiest shift known to all the medical field. The least we can do tonight is have fun."

"By betting?" she asked, arching an eyebrow with disdain.

"Betting?" Jackpot mimicked. "You make it sound so common."

"Gambling," she countered.

He shrugged and smiled. "That's a little better." She rolled her eyes and he laughed out loud. "Burgess! You're turning into Scrooge."

"Does Dr. McIntyre know you're down here harassing me?" she asked.

"He would have been here himself if he wasn't out with Shoop getting the last minute goodies for the Christmas Eve bash," Gonzo answered.

Ellen shook her head. Absently, she fingered her dredlocks. "I don't believe either of you, but go ahead. I know you won't leave until you tell me. What's the game tonight?"

"It's not a game," Jackpot corrected. "It's a wager about tonight's festivities."

"Yeah," Gonzo said, sitting on the edge of her desk. "Who do you think will get sauced first and how badly will he or she misbehave?"

She chuckled. She should have known it was something totally outrageous and silly. "I have no idea."

"Okay." Jackpot raised his hands in mock defense. "I know when I'm fighting a losing battle."

"But you will be at the Christmas party," Gonzo said.

Both men's expressions became dead serious. They gave her looks that said they wouldn’t take her usual 'no' for an answer.

Grudgingly, Ellen nodded. "Yeah, I'll be there."

 

THE SAN FRANCISCO skyline was gorgeous, Dr. Matt Harmon thought as his plane made its final descent. The pilot had pointed out the usual landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Presidio. But in the dark of night, the landmarks were impossible to see. During the coming days he, he hoped to take in all the sights. Provided that he wasn't already too busy with something...or someone else.

Using a wheelchair could be a real pain in the ass, but when it came to traveling, the chair made some things easier. Matt was able to board and leave the plane before everyone else. He also got preferential treatment when it came to baggage. Less than thirty minutes after rolling off the plane, he was sitting in the back of a taxi and on his way out of the busy airport terminal.

"Where to?" the cabbie asked.

"San Francisco Memorial," Matt said. He fastened his seat belt and stared out the window at the passing scenery. So much rested on this impromptu trip and he could barely wait to see if his instincts had paid off.

"Somebody sick?" the driver wanted to know.

"No, a friend of mine works there."

"Oh, is he a doctor or something?"

Matt coughed to stifle a chuckle. This guy was a talker. That was okay. It would help to get some stuff off his chest before he got to the hospital. "Yes and no. My friend is a she, and yes, she is a doctor."

"Oh, yeah?" The cabbie chuckled. "Sounds serious. Is the lady doctor someone special?"

"Very," Matt answered honestly. "She's a remarkable woman."

"She your girl?"

Matt inhaled a harsh breath. His voice was filled with regret as he answered, "No."

"She's not interested?" the driver questioned, "or is she clueless about how you feel?"

"She's not clueless," Matt said, "but it's been a long time. She's the one who got away."

"Now, you're going to reclaim her?"

Matt sighed and looked away from the scenery to stare at the back of the driver's head. "I'm gonna try."

"Well, this is the time for miracles," the driver said good-naturedly. "Good luck to you."

Matt's mouth curved to a half smile. "Thanks."

 

DR. TRAPPER JOHN McIntyre finished his reading of the Christmas story to the hospital's youngest patients. Ellen joined in with the applause. A stray tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away. She didn't like showing the sentimentality, but this story got to her. It always did. A divine night, a lowly manger and a tiny baby. It was a night that changed the world. Who couldn't be touched by that?

The nurses ushered the children back to their rooms and Ellen headed toward the elevator. A hand closed around her shoulder and gently turned her around.

"Where are you running off to?" Trapper John asked. "The party is due to start any minute."

"I won't flake," Ellen promised. "I just have a little more paperwork to finish."

"It can wait."

Ellen respected the Chief of Surgery. He was one of the nicest and smartest men she'd ever met. But, he wasn't her boss. She shook her head. "It can't."

He released a dramatic sigh. She found his performance Academy-worthy. Yet, she didn't budge.

"I'll see you all in a little while." She reached out and patted his arm. "Amazing job with the story. I loved it."

He smiled. "Thanks, Ellen. I'll be looking for you. You have an hour. See you soon."

Relentless, she thought. Just like Jackpot and Gonzo. As she stepped into the elevator car, she smiled. It was nice to know they cared.

Keeping an eye out for her hour deadline, Ellen worked diligently on next week's schedule. She was almost finished when there was a light tap on her door. Forcing herself not to grumble at the interruption, she called out, "Come in!"

"Merry Christmas, Ellen."

The voice... Ellen's heart skipped a beat. It couldn't be, but when she looked up from her paperwork, she saw that it was.

"Matt."

He rolled into her office and pushed her door closed behind him. He placed a bag on the floor near the door and then moved further into the room. Stopping just a few feet from her, he looked at her and smiled. "Surprise."

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

She tried to go for calm assurance as she looked at him. Inside, she felt anything but. God, he looked so good. His hair was cropped short like she remembered and the sexy shadow of stubble darkened his jawline. His brown eyes still danced, but she wasn't sure what she read in them. And his smile... That mega-watt smile turned her legs to jelly. She could hardly believe it, but she still remembered how his lips tasted on hers. Years of separation should have erased the memory. But it hadn't.

"I had a few days off, so I decided to use my time wisely," Matt said. "I wanted to see you."

"You should have called first."

"I know," he said quietly, "but it wouldn't have been a surprise. How are you? Still working too much, I see."

"It doesn't feel like it's too much to me." Her hands shook, so she clenched them together. How was it possible that he could have this effect on her after all these years?

"It never does," he commented. He looked around her office and examined each object as surely as if he'd held it to his face. When he was done, his gaze returned to her. "You've made a home here. I always hoped you wouldn't. I used to pray that you'd hate it here and come back to Port Charles. I've missed you, Ellen."

"Matt..." she began. "You shouldn't. Don't say that. I know about you and Grace. I know you married her."

He released a humorless laugh. "Then, you don't know squat. We were engaged, but we never made it to the altar. I couldn't marry her. Not when I was in love with someone else."

"You're not talking about me."

He leaned forward in his chair. His brown eyes bore into hers, firm and penetrating. "Oh, yes, I am. You were in my system since the first moment I saw you. You'll be in my system until the day I die. Face it, Ellen. I'm whipped and it's all because of you."

Ellen pushed away from her desk. Everything he said were the words she had been longing for. But the time wasn't right. Their time had passed. He shouldn't be here. It would never work out between them. She was too afraid to love again. Too afraid of the pain that always accompanied it.

"You shouldn't have come." Ellen glanced at her watch. "I have a party I'm supposed to go to. Actually, I'm late."

"That's fine. I'll go with you."

"Matt--"

"What?" he interrupted. "Are you ashamed to be seen with me?"

Irritation rippled through her suddenly. "Don't be silly."

"I'll escort you," he said. "Let's go."

 

MATT'S HEART POUNDED excitedly against his ribcage. He didn't think it could be possible, but Ellen looked ever more beautiful than the last time he'd seen her. Her dredlocks reached her shoulders and framed her beautiful face perfectly. Flashing dimples claimed his undivided attention and those lips... Her perfect full lips made him ache to kiss her again. No matter what, he was determined that she'd stop fighting him for once and give in to what they both felt. Running away from love was foolish and it went against the Christmas spirit.

They rode in the elevator in silence. Matt seized the opportunity to bask in her presence. He knew she wouldn't admit it, but he saw her seizing a few moments of her own. Oh, yeah, Dr. Burgess wasn't immune to him. Not at all.

Just as the cars pushed open, Matt said, "Ellen, there's something I should tell you--"

"Ellen!" A salt and pepper-haired man greeted exuberantly. "Dr. Harmon! I see you made it. Welcome, to our Christmas party."

Ellen left the elevator and waited for Matt to follow. As Trapper John continued to greet everyone, she asked, "How does he know your name?"

"Because I'm a part of his surgical unit," Matt said. "I begin at the first of the year."

Her mouth dropped open. "I don't believe this! Why didn't you just tell me that?"

"What?" Matt asked, biting back a smile. "And miss that look on your face? I suppose you're right, but I had to make some things clear first. I still want you, Ellen, and I'm not backing down anymore until I have you."

He took her hand. His thumb ran circles against the soft back of her hand. Electricity surged through Matt. He wanted to do more than just hold her hand, but he could settle for less. For now.

"B-But we'll be colleagues."

"San Francisco Memorial doesn't have a policy against surgical residents and the Chief Resident of Emergency Medicine falling in love and living happily ever after," Matt said. "I know because I checked."

"You checked huh?"

Nodding, he smiled. "The first thing I looked up. Everything else was a given after that. I'm serious, Ellen. Let's stop running and stop wasting time. Aren't you ready to receive the happiness you so richly deserve?"

Slowly, she nodded her head. "Yes, I think I am."

Matt released a loud sigh of relief and reached for her. She settled on his lap, and oblivious to everyone else around them, his mouth hungrily covered hers. Passion skyrocketed through them with promises of more to come later.

Merry, merry Christmas baby
Sure did treat me nice
I said merry Christmas baby
Sure did treat me nice
Gave me a diamond ring for Christmas
Now I'm living in paradise

Well I'm feeling might fine
Got good music on my radio
Well, I'm feeling might fine
Got good music on my radio
Well, I want to kiss you baby
While you're standing beneath the mistletoe

The End

('Merry Christmas, Baby' by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. Dr. John McIntyre, Dr. Gonzo Gates, and Dr. Jackpot Jackson all appear courtesy of CBS's Trapper John, MD.)

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