Chapter 30

Clutching Mac's hand tightly as they walked together to the house, the word 'set-up' repeatedly ran through Dara's mind. Under normal circumstances, she would have been pleased to meet Mac's niece. In fact, Mac had spoken a few nights earlier of taking Dara to France in the spring and at that time telling Robin about their relationship. It was obvious that Robin's visit took Mac by complete surprise and she wondered if Felicia was involved in getting Robin to come home. Dara didn't underestimate Felicia's ability to use anyone or anything at her disposal to stop Mac from divorcing her, but she fervently hoped that Robin wouldn't be dragged into this battle.

"We'll only be here for a few minutes," Mac repeated again, interrupting Dara's silent musings. "I don't want to talk to Robin now with Felicia and the girls there, but I do want to welcome her home."

Upon Mac opening the door, both Maxie and Georgie ran with arms spread wide open to embrace him.

"Come on in and sit down. Robin will be downstairs in a few minutes," Felicia said, relieving Mac and Dara of their winter coats. Felicia was being the perfect hostess for the impromptu gathering. A tray of sugar cookies were on the living room coffee table and the lighted fireplace gave the room a warm, welcoming ambience. With a grudging smirk on her face, Dara expected Felicia to be dressed as a 50s sitcom mother in pearls and an apron and high heels when she returned from the kitchen. She was certainly adroit at presenting the picture of a perfect home. Maxie and Georgie joined Mac and Dara on the living room couch and they talked excitedly of greeting Robin's flight that afternoon at the airport.

Standing to help Felicia with the tray of coffee and tea she was bringing from the kitchen, Mac inquired, "How long have you known that Robin was going to be here today?"

"Robin called me last night and told me that she was on her way home," replied Felicia as she poured the coffee. Her response wasn't an actual lie, she reasoned. Robin did call the previous night to say that she had finally arranged with her professors to work on her college assignments for a few weeks from the States and that she would be on the next flight from Paris. "The girls are thrilled that she's here," and she silently added, "and so am I."

Mac and Dara exchanged a brief glance. It was obvious that neither one of them believed that Felicia was completely surprised by Robin's visit but they said nothing because at that moment Robin herself came down the stairs.

"Hi Uncle Mac," Robin said warmly as she kissed Mac on the cheek and hugged him. Robin wasn't surprised to see Dara, in fact Felicia had cattily stated that Mac couldn't seem to make a move these days without Dara's approval, and she cordially said hello. Robin found it hard to believe that her uncle Mac would abandon Felicia and the girls for a fling with a co-worker and she came back home to see the situation for herself. During their brief telephone conversations Mac had only said that he and Felicia were getting divorced and he hadn't wanted to give any details on the telephone. After everyone was seated Mac asked Robin what prompted her sudden visit.

Robin didn't look directly at Mac when she responded to his question but instead reached for a sugar cookie from the platter. "I wanted to surprise everyone Uncle Mac. I know that everyone was disappointed when I didn't come home for Christmas, and to be honest I was feeling a little homesick myself. Once my classes started I saw that I could easily take a week or two in February to come home and visit, so that's what I decided to do."

Mac gave Robin a somewhat disappointed smile. "Well, it's wonderful to have you home Robin but I wish that you had let me know earlier. I've made plans to be out of town for several days starting Thursday so we may not be able to see much of each other during your visit."

Biting back an unusually scathing comment, Felicia widened her eyes in mock surprise and slyly murmured, "Oh Mac, surely you can change whatever your plans were. What could be more important than visiting with Robin during her short visit here?"

Dara willed herself to remain silent and let Mac handle the situation. She wanted to volunteer that they could cancel their planned trip to Buffalo but somehow she didn't feel comfortable doing it in front of Felicia and Robin. In a way, she felt that is what Felicia expected her to do and she didn't want to give her that particular satisfaction. Instead, she decided to wait until they left and tell Mac that it was O.K. for them to reschedule the trip for a later date. But Mac had no intention of changing his upcoming travel plans.

Instead, after taking a sip of his coffee he offered, "Well, what I can do instead is take off even more time from work this week and spend more time with Robin in the daytime and the girls in the evening. That will give us plenty of time together before I leave on Thursday."

Not able to restrain herself any longer, Felicia quickly disposed of her happy homemaker fašade as she listened to Mac's suggestion. "Maxie, Georgie - go upstairs now," she ordered with a somewhat shaky voice. "I need to talk to Mac alone for a few moments." As soon as the girl's bedroom door closed, Felicia cut loose, sarcastically advising, "You'd better not take off so much time from work now Mac since you're trying to force me into this divorce. You'll need the income for alimony and child support payments."

Dara felt that this visit had gone on more than long enough and calmly suggested, "Mac, we really have to go ..."

"And you," interrupting and turning the full force of her fury on Dara, Felicia bitterly remarked, "When Mac lived in our home with us his work always came first and his family and marriage were a distant second. Now he's willing to ignore his work, his niece, and the rest of his family for an out-of-town rendezvous with you. If you had any decency you would tell Mac to act more responsibly, but you're too selfish to do that."

"Felicia, stop it!" Mac barked fiercely to cut short Felicia's diatribe. Seeing that his sharp rebuke had stunned Felicia momentarily into silence, he turned to Robin. "Robin, do you plan to stay here, or do you want to come stay at my apartment?"

"Robin, you should stay here with me and the girls, especially if you don't want to be alone in Mac's apartment all of the time. 'We' want to see you," Felicia said with the emphasis on we, implying that Mac didn't care about seeing Robin.

"Uncle Mac, I'll stay here, especially since you'll be leaving on Thursday." Robin understood that she was at fault for not giving Mac advance notice of her visit, but she felt somewhat slighted that he didn't even consider changing his travel plans. There are two sides to every story Robin reasoned and she hadn't heard Mac's side yet, but Robin could understand how Mac's new relationship with Dara Jensen could hurt Felicia so deeply.

Mac could sense that Robin was siding with Felicia based on her last response, but he planned to explain things to her as soon as possible when they were alone. "Can you come by my office tomorrow afternoon? That will give me the morning to take care of some business and then we'll have time to talk." Upon receiving Robin's acceptance of his suggestion, Mac rose from the couch and took Dara's hand as she stood also. He reminded Felicia that he was to visit the girls tomorrow on Monday night and quickly departed with Dara.

"Mac," began Dara, but she was silenced as Mac captured her lips in a sweet, yet passion-filled kiss.

Upon breaking the kiss Mac looked at Dara and assured her, "Don't worry. I'll talk to Robin. But we're leaving Thursday so that I can meet your friends and so we can have a weekend away from this madness, O.K.?"

"O.K." Dara replied. They held each other tightly and walked to the car.

~~~*~~~

Slowly stirring the vegetable tofu soup she was preparing for Matt, Ellen couldn't keep her mind from drifting back to a brief encounter earlier that afternoon. At 12:30 she was ending her shift in the emergency room of GH and had just changed clothes when someone knocked on her office door. Kevin Collins was standing there with a particularly attractive and infectious smile on his face. He was in an overcoat and obviously on his way out of the hospital.

"Hi," Kevin said warmly. "I came to pick up this file on a patient I'm seeing for the first time tomorrow, and I wondered if you were in today."

"I just finished my shift and I'm on my way out too. What has you so busy that you're working weekends these days?" Ellen inquired. She considered not having to work on Sundays as one of the nice benefits of being a psychologist on staff at GH.

"It's my own fault. I just got behind in my preparation work; I guess I have had other things on my mind lately," Kevin said with meaning, looking directly into Ellen's eyes.

Averting her eyes away from Kevin's, Ellen murmured, "Oh." As she removed her coat from the hanger, Kevin smoothly took it from her and held it open for her to put on. Against his better judgment, Kevin couldn't stop himself from letting his hands slide down Ellen's arms as she stood with her back to him and buttoned her coat. Hearing the sharp intake of breath from Ellen, Kevin quickly broke contact with her and stepped back a few paces in order to place some physical distance between them.

Fumbling with the pencils on Ellen's desk, Kevin worked to steady his voice. "I'm on my way to grab something for lunch. I would really love it if you'd join me for lunch today," Kevin asked, hoping that she'd say yes.

Slowly turning around, Ellen shook her head, "I would love that also, but I can't. Matt is coming back this evening and I'm leaving now for his apartment to prepare some homemade vegetable soup for him." For some reason, Ellen wanted to kick herself because she thought her reply sounded a little too disappointed, which was ridiculous. She and Kevin could have lunch anytime; why did she sound so disappointed?

Kevin shrugged and nodded. "Well, maybe we can get together later this week. Come on, I'll walk you to your car." As they exited the elevator for the parking garage, Kevin and Ellen encountered Mary Scanlon and Grace Sullivan. It was probably Ellen's imagination but something about the way Mary said, "Dr. Collins, Dr. Burgess," made Ellen face flush with embarrassment, and she swiftly continued walking to her car. Kevin was almost a full foot taller than Ellen yet he had to walk fast to keep pace with her. When she reached her car, nervousness and embarrassment made Ellen clumsy as she fumbled with the key trying to place it in the door lock. Her shaking hand actually chipped some of the car paint on the door with the key.

"Stop, let me." Kevin large hand enclosed Ellen's smaller one as he steadied her hand to unlock the door. Opening the door with one hand, Kevin released Ellen's hand but moved his other hand to gently rest at the small curve of her back and looked at her and waited. They stood there for several seconds, not more than an inch of space between them, watching and waiting for the other person to make a move, and barely breathing. Finally Kevin whispered hoarsely, "Do you really think that we can do this?"

Ellen closed her eyes and sharply turned her face away from Kevin's, her voice cracking as she said, "I don't know. I don't seem to know anything anymore. I have to go." Dropping quickly into the car seat, Ellen started the car and briefly locked gaze with Kevin again before she drove away. Ellen was still replaying these memories in her mind when the sound of the apartment door opening interrupted her thoughts.

"Ellen?" Matt called out. He had missed her terribly during the week. More than once he joked that she should hop on the next plane to New York City to join him and he was a little disappointed that she didn't take him up on the offer. But the week was finally over and he was ecstatic to be back home with his fiancÚ. Ellen promptly turned off the stove and rushed from the kitchen to welcome Matt home.

Mike, who met Matt at the airport, carried Matt's suitcase at they entered the apartment. "I am so glad that you are back home Matt," Ellen said as she hugged and kissed Matt. From the few occasions Mike had seen Ellen during the week, she seemed troubled and Mike was starting to worry about her. But seeing how happy she was that Matt was home, Mike's worries disappeared.

"Hey, I brought him home for you? Shouldn't I get something too?" Mike joked.

Ellen laughed and replied, "Your good deed hasn't gone unnoticed. Can you join us for dinner in an hour?"

Mike shook his head and smiled, "Oh no. I'm not going to intrude on your first night back together. I'll just put it on your tab." Mike deposited Matt's suitcase in the bedroom and left to give Matt and Ellen some much needed privacy.

For the rest of the evening Matt enjoyed the delicious dinner that Ellen had taken a lot of time to prepare and told her of his week in New York City. He mentioned some of the sightseeing he was able to do and the major speakers at the medical conference. Ellen filled Matt in on most of the new news from General Hospital. During their telephone conversations Matt thought Ellen had sounded somewhat distracted but tonight he only saw her joy at his being home. Ellen debated for several days whether she should tell Matt anything of her recent encounters with Kevin, but as soon as she heard Matt's voice tonight she didn't have to think about the issue anymore. She didn't want anything to take away from their reunion tonight. Maybe, one day in the future she might tell Matt about what happened with Kevin but tonight definitely was not the right time. Snuggling in Matt's arms on the sofa, she was just glad he was home and told herself as she drifted off for a brief nap that everything would turn out all right.

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