~...a train wreck waiting to happen...~
Reaching Ellen and Matt proved to be extremely difficult. The failed attempt frustrated Nikolas to no end. He hated feeling useless, especially when it came to his family. Dear God, Dominik could dieó
No, he thought vigorously shaking his head. He wouldn't think like that. Surrender was not an option. Whatever was wrong with Dominik would not win. Nikolas refused to let it.
He called his best friend.
"Hey, Nikolas," Tommy said. "Has there been any change?"
"Nothing," Nikolas said, his voice hoarse with fear. "When was the last time you heard from Ellen and Matt?"
"It's been awhile. You can't find them?"
"Either the phones are down or I don't know what the hell I'm doing," Nikolas said. "I hate to ask for more, but can you help?"
"You don't have to ask. I'm already on it." Tommy's voice softened. "Listen, hang in there. Dominik's a strong kid. We're all praying for him and will do whatever to help. Don't hesitate to call and don't run yourself into the ground. Get some rest."
They ended the call. Nikolas felt a little better having spoken to Tommy. His best friend had connections that Nikolas couldn't begin to fathom. He knew Tommy would stop at nothing to track the gifted doctors down.
With that task in hands far capable than his own, Nikolas left his father's office and headed to ICU. Dawn urged him to find a private spot while he tried to reach Ellen and Matt. She looked on the brink of a meltdown and he sensed she didn't want him around when that happened. Dammit. He remembered not so long ago when she melted in his arms. Getting caught up with Gilly Spaulding had been a gross error in judgment. What was he thinking to put his marriage at risk like that?
He rounded the corner. The site of Dawn in Lorenzo's arms stopped him in his tracks.
Why was it always his brother?
Rage boiled inside him. He hated the sensation of envy that filled him, but he couldn't shake it. Would he ever stop comparing himself to Lorenzo? First Laura and now, Dawn. Always Dawn.
Their hug ended as he stepped forward. Compassion filled his brother's blue eyes. He drew Nikolas into an embrace. Nikolas accepted the show of brotherly love, but he didn't return it. When Lorenzo released him, Nikolas wrapped his arm around Dawn's waist. She only stiffened for a moment. Then, she relaxed and leaned against him.
"Did you talk to Ellen and Matt?" she asked quietly.
"No. Tommy is looking for them."
"How hard can it be to find them?" Lorenzo asked. "They're doctors, for goodness sakes."
"They do research and it takes them around the world," Dawn said. She rubbed her hands over her face. "I don't know why I thought this would be easy. Who's to say they'll work another miracle if we do find them?"
Lorenzo took her hand. "Don't think like that."
Nikolas deftly removed her hand from his brother's grasp. "We'll get through this."
He locked eyes with his brother. A silent exchange passed between them. Lorenzo glanced at Dawn and then looked toward Dominik's room. Taking a step back, he gave them both a half smile. "I'm leaving. If you need me, you know where to find me."
After he left, Dawn turned toward the observation window. Nikolas moved to stand beside her. Nurses dressed from head to toe in protective clothing administered to Dominik inside the room. He looked so fragile and pale. Not since infancy had their son ever looked so helpless.
"I don't understand this," she said. "He has his whole life in front of him. This isn't fair. He's paying for our sins."
He stiffened. "What sins?"
"I saw the look you gave Lorenzo. After all these years, the three of us should be able to lean on each other for support. But the suspicion is always there, isn't it? Even with his pregnant wife at home waiting for him... I can't reassure you that there's nothing between us. Right now, I don't care what you think about that. Hell, I don't even care if you're still thinking about Gilly. None of that matters to me right now. All I want is for my baby to be well."
"That's what I want, too."
She nodded and remained quiet. He reached for her hand. "We'll focus on Dominik," he said, "and we'll get through this together."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Will you stop staring at me?"
Ben inhaled a sharp breath. Since picking Ciarda up at the train station, he sensed something was wrong. Ciarda was never one to divulge her deepest worries. She kept her sorrows to herself. But somehow, he was usually able to reach her and let her know he cared. The wariness that wrapped around her like a cloak surprised him. Why would she protect herself against him?
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "You seem different. Is everything okay?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"You tell me." He found a parking space on the third level and cut the engine. "I'm here for you, Ciarda. You don't have to do that tough girl act."
"Ben..." she sighed. "I'm worried about Dom. That's all it is."
"You've never lied to me beforeó"
"I'm not lying now," she snapped. She opened the door and stepped out. It slammed shut in face.
He moved quickly to catch up to her. She stalked with determination toward the elevator, but he couldn't help but notice her limp.
The elevator opened and they stepped inside. A terse silence filled the car as it lifted them to the hospital lobby. When the doors opened, she left him without a backward glance. Ben swallowed his concerns and followed her to the elevators that would take them to ICU. Once there, they ran into Dominik's parents. Dawn and Nikolas looked like a train wreck had devastated them. He knew a little about their marriage problems. It was no secret that Dawn moved herself and the younger kids to Wyndemere. Dominik hated the discord in his family, but he maintained a positive outlook. Ben wondered if his parents knew the faith their son had in them.
Ciarda went straight into their arms. Her comfort with the Cassadines was obvious. They were like her second family and had always treated Ben the same. Yet, he was surprised when both Dawn and Nikolas hugged him and thanked him for coming.
"Has there been any change?" he asked.
Dawn swallowed hard and looked away. Nikolas's jaw clenched. "He hasn't regained consciousness and his immune system is weakening."
"What can we do?" Ciarda asked. She moved to the observation window. Her mouth dropped as she looked inside. "Oh, my God. I just saw him a little while ago. He was fine. How did this happen?"
"I don't know," Dawn said. "No one does."
"I feel like I should," Ben confessed. "We're roommates. He seemed tired, but I didn't think he was sick. With all the doctors in my family, I should know the signs. I'm sorry."
"Don't blame yourself," Nikolas said. "These things happen."
"Not without a reason," Ciarda murmured. "Everything happens for a reason. I don't understand why life is so unfair."
"Neither do I," Dawn said.
A little while later, Alanna arrived with her grandparents. Her parents left together in search of the miracle doctors who saved Dominik's aunt's life years ago. Everyone was praying that they'd perform a similar miracle. Alanna cornered Ben near the snack machine.
"What's going on with you and Ciarda?"
He cocked an eyebrow. "Nothing. She's mad at me."
"Why is she limping?"
"So you noticed, too. Why don't you ask her?"
Alanna's mouth tightened. "I did. She ignored me. Now, she's with Grandma. They're donating blood."
Ben frowned. "Does she have the same type as Dom?"
"No, but it was a clean getaway. I don't think she likes seeing Dom like that."
"No one does," he said quietly. "How are you holding up? You were talking to him when he collapsed. How did he sound?"
"Awful." Her voice caught. She coughed once to clear her throat and shook her head. "I don't want to think about that right now. Every time I do, I start crying. Aunt Dawn and Uncle Nik don't need to see me cry, you know?"
He nodded. "I know."
She put change into the machine and chose a package of M&Ms. The brown packet dropped. She just stared at it, so Ben reached in and pulled out the candy. "Here."
"I'm not even hungry. You can have it."
"I'm not hungry either." He placed inside the breast pocket of his t-shirt. "I'll save it. You may want it later."
They moved to the waiting area and sat. Friends and family milled around. Everyone seemed lost and dazed. As if they didn't know what to do or say, but leaving felt wrong. Ben sat quietly until he felt Alanna staring at him.
"I don't know," he answered. "Ciarda took the train. I think they had a fight." He waited a moment before adding, "I don't like him. I think something major happened between them."
"Like what?" Sonny asked. He stood behind them and Ben didn't know how long the former mob boss had been there.
"I don't know, sir," he answered. "She won't tell me."
Sonny nodded once. His dark eyes got a steely glint. "I'll look into it."
"If you need any help," Ben said, "let me know."
Alanna looked from her friend to her grandfather. "Ciarda won't like this."
Sonny reached out to brush hair from her eyes. "Then you shouldn't tell her."