Chapter 25

Ellen was able to admit Matt as a John Doe and give him a private room without any problems. With Grace's assistance and the necessary treatment administered, Matt was soon on the road to recovery. His vitals were stable and Ellen breathed a sigh of relief. Lowering her cool, professional shell, she smiled down at his resting face. Lightly touching his hand, she said, "You're safe now and most importantly, you're gonna live."

"How is he doing?" Grace asked as she entered the room. "I've cleared up my schedule. I can stay with him tonight without any problems."

She pulled her hand away from Matt and reached for her clipboard. When she turned to face Grace, her professional bearing was back in place again. "He should be fine. When he wakes up, make sure that he has something to drink."

Grace pulled a chair closer to Matt's bed and sat down. "Of course. He's in good hands now, Ellen. Thank you for your help."

Grace's possessive attitude with Matt was hard to ignore. Ellen knew she shouldn't care, but it bothered her. She tried to shrug it off, but wasn't successful. Her blood began to boil when Grace reached for his hand and then she knew that she needed some air. "I have to pick up Matt's x-rays from Radiology and then I'm going on call. If he needs me, you know how to reach me."

She didn't wait for Grace's response. Turning on her heel, she left the room. Pain pressed against her temples and she stopped at the Nurse's Station to get aspirin. Her reaction to Grace surprised her. She knew that the other woman was attracted to Matt, as Grace had made no attempts to hide it. A few times, Ellen had felt a twinge of unease while in their company, but nothing as intense as what she felt now. Hell, she was so worked up that she swallowed both pills dry!

"Ellen? Is everything okay?"

Kevin's voice caught her unawares and Ellen jumped. He reached to steady her with his hands on her shoulders. Embarrassed, she gave him a sheepish smile. "I'm fine, Kevin. My mind was a million miles away. Thanks for asking."

"Are you sure that's all it is?" he asked her with concern. "You look tired and you seem edgy. Maybe it's time for you to go home."

"Gee, thanks!" Ellen laughed. "You make me afraid to look at my reflection. Do I really look that bad?" She tried to ask the question with humor, but the doubt still came through in her voice. Biting her lip, she moved from Kevin's grasp and began to head down the hall to Radiology.

"Wait!" He called as he went to her. Walking beside her, he quickly apologized. "You could never look bad, Ellen Burgess and you know that. I'm sorry if I offended you. I just meant that you look like you could use some rest."

"Most doctors can," she replied with a shrug, "but we get used to it. Honestly, Kevin, I'm fine. I just have a slight headache that's all."

"Oh, let me guess. Is it someone on staff?"

Laughing, Ellen nudged his side. "I know I'm not that transparent."

Kevin shook his head. "No, not to everyone, but I'm special. I can read all the signs."

"I guess that's what makes you so good at what you do," she complimented him.

When they reached the lab, she stopped to look at him. She had a rule about keeping her personal life separate from her professional one, but there were exceptions. One of them stood before her, looking at her with so much concern and compassion that she found herself suddenly wanting to pour her heart out to him. When it came to good, close friends, they didn't come any better than Dr. Kevin Collins.

"You're right about my headache," she admitted. "I'm a little confused about some things."

"Want to talk about them?" Kevin asked. Since his break up with Lucy, he had a good deal of time on his hands. He had time to listen to Ellen if that was what she needed.

"If you don't mind. I feel bad about unloading on you-"

"Hey," he stopped her hedging with a single word. "I offered. Unload away. Come on. Let's go over here unless you'd like to go somewhere private."

"No, this is fine," she said, following Kevin as he went to the group of sofas and chairs that occupied the open lobby near the Radiology lab. As usual, this part of the hospital was quiet and rarely used by the staff. Most were in a hurry when retrieving items from the lab and didn't stop to chat. She and Kevin would have all of the privacy they'd need.

"So, what's going on?" he asked after they were seated. "Who's got you on fire today? Is it Ramsey or Harmon?"

Kevin's second choice shocked her. Sputtering, she asked, "Excuse me? Why are they the only choices?"

"Ramsey gives everyone a headache," Kevin said with shrug, "and Harmon affects you like none of the others." He smiled as he patted her hand. "But that secret's safe with me and now, I think I have my answer. It's Matt, isn't it?"

She wanted to turn tail and run. How could Kevin read her so easily? And how long had he realized something she had tried to push aside and ignore? "You are too observant for your own good sometimes, and yes, it's Matt. I don't know what I should do."

"I think you should follow your heart," Kevin gently advised. "It's about time that you've acknowledged that you have one."

Ellen shook her head. "I haven't been that cold."

"No, but you work very hard to protect yourself," he told her. "When a person does that, she often forgets that she needs companionship from a special someone. Matt hasn't said anything to me, but I've seen you together. I know that he wants to be your special someone and I also know that you know it, too."

"I'm his supervisor, Kevin. This is dangerous ground," Ellen said. "I have to make sure that I remember that and here you are encouraging me to forget it. The Board has a strict policy about that."

"Oh, really?" Kevin arched an eyebrow. "If so, they haven't enforced it. Look at the Alan and Monica, and before them, Steve and Audrey. "

"But then there's the Quartermaine Fellowship decision..."

"Remove yourself from the selection process, or refrain from giving an opinion about Matt if you feel that it can be misconstrued later." Smiling at her, he patted her hand. "Those are all excuses. Don't let excuses keep you from testing the waters and missing out on something that could be wonderful."

"That's good sound advice," Ellen admitted as she squeezed his hand before releasing it. "Now, tell me how you're holding up. What happened with Lucy must have been painful? Are you okay?"

"It's never easy learning that someone you loved has lied to you," Kevin said, "but I'm surviving each day. I'll be fine."

"Okay." Ellen accepted his answer. She stood up and he followed suit. As they left the lobby and stood in the middle of the hallway, she said, "If you ever need me, let me know. Some night soon, we should get together for dinner or something. I'll call you."

"I'll be looking forward to it." Kevin patted her shoulder and went towards the elevator.

Ellen watched him for a moment before heading to the Radiology lab. She retrieved Matt's x-rays and headed back to the Staff Lounge. She wanted to put the x-rays in her locker before she officially began her shift. While on her way back, she opened the folder that contained the x-rays. A bullet was clearly lodged near his spine, confirming Matt's story.

To think that his own brother had done that to him at their father's orders saddened her. Most people would have regarded the world with bitterness after such a heartless betrayal, but not Matt. He looked at the world behind a pair of mischievous, laughing brown eyes. In a world filled with so many rough edges, he was truly a polished jewel. Ellen wouldn't ignore her feelings for him anymore, she decided. As soon as he was well enough, she intended to tell him out she felt.

Looking around to make sure that she was alone, Ellen opened her locker and slipped the folder inside. A call went out over the loudspeaker about gunshot and stabbing victims. Hurrying, she closed the door, checking that it was locked and then she rushed out of the lounge. She didn't know that someone who wondered why she secured a folder with the word 'Radiology' inside her locker had witnessed her actions. Nor did she know that as soon as she was gone, that same person—Chris Ramsey—picked the lock and took a long look at the x-rays and made an accurate guess as to John Doe's real identity.


When Stefan first assumed leadership of General Hospital, he made certain that his onsite office would be equipped with all the necessary amenities. A van Gogh hung on the wall facing his desk for visual stimulation. A first edition print of Tolstoy's War and Peace rested on the shelf for mental invigoration, and the CD player that he had installed always contained the works of the greats—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra for spiritual rejuvenation. Even though logic was always his guide, Stefan relied on his senses for balance. They stabilized him. Even now with the only obstacle in obtaining his true destiny was Carlotta's stubborn suspicious nature, Billie's rendition of "God Bless the Child" stirred his soul and heightened his perception. In time, Carlotta would accept the truth and come to him.

Using the remote control, Stefan adjusted the volume and programmed the CD player so that "God Bless the Child" would repeat. AJ Quartermaine's proposal needed additional editing before it could be presented to the Board. With his black frame glasses perched on the end of his nose, Stefan picked up the documentation and positioned his chair so that he now faced the open view of the large glass windows instead of the front door.

The door behind him opened with hardly a squeak, yet Stefan heard it. He gave no indication, however, except to say, "Good day, Mother. To what do I owe this displeasure."

Helena drew in a sharp breath and tried to hide it by laughing softly. "You were always a peculiar child. I suppose it would stand to reason that you have eyes in the back of your head."

"Yes," he agreed, "I suppose it would." He swiveled around in the chair to face her. He placed the papers on his desk and then pressed his fingers together to form a steeple. Peering over it, he asked, "All pleasantries aside, state your business and be done with it. My time cannot be squandered by indulging in trivialities with you."

Stains of scarlet appeared on her cheeks. Her emerald eyes glittered dangerously. "You were always one to use words as your primary defense instead of action. Your strategy is disa-"

"Disappointing," Stefan finished with a wave of his hand. "Yes, Mother, I know. If you are here to repeat your usual commentary, please consider it done. I have work to do."

Helena's mouth tightened into a fine line. "Very well then, Stefan. I shan't overstay my welcome as it were. Because I am in a benevolent mood, I am here to warn you. The time is drawing near."

Helena left soon after her pronouncement was made. Stefan reached for his calendar and marked the date and the time. Keeping record of her threats had become a source of amusement for him. At this point and with her limited power, the challenge was only in her own mind. He had nothing to fear from her, but like all enemies, he intended to watch her. Even with her twisted reality, he would do ill to ignore her.

"What did she say to you?"

Standing up quickly as his door opened and Alexis rushed inside, Stefan glared at his uninvited guest. "How dare you disobey my wishes? You are no longer a part of this family and are no longer privy to anything that concerns me and mine."

"Stefan, please!" Alexis closed the door behind her and went to him. Her large brown eyes were darkened with fear and shown starkly against her ashen face. She knew better than to touch him so she clutched her purse in her hands. "Please, stop with this banishment nonsense! You don't understand. You are in danger-"

"Alexis, please," he said through clenched teeth, "a guard is merely a telephone call away. Leave. Now."


His hand reached for the telephone and she quickly covered it with her own. Their gazes locked and the sound of their agitated breathing was loud in the large office.

Alexis shook her head. "I won't leave until you hear me out. You have to listen to me this time. Please."

"Very well."

She inhaled deeply, gathering her wits before she spoke again. "Did she threaten you?"

Stefan shrugged as he pulled his hand from beneath hers. Taking his time, he sat down and looked up at her. "No more so than usual. It is her habitual sport, as you know."

"You mustn't take her lightly, Stefan," Alexis warned. "You must take precautions against her."

Her words jarred him and her bearing unnerved him. She was truly frightened. He hadn't seen her so upset by Helena since their childhood when his mother often entertained herself by taking he and Alexis on tours of the poorer orphanages. She would tell them that unless they minded their manners, she would leave them there. Stefan had never taken her threats seriously, as he knew that Mikkos would search the earth for his son even if never bothered to pay much attention to him. Alexis, on the other hand, would cling to Stefan's hand in terror. She did not have a father to protect her and feared that one day Helena's threat would be realized.

Continuing to watch Alexis closely, he asked, "Why?"

"I'm not sure, but it's possible that she knows the truth about Natasha-"

The single word irritated him beyond measure. Alexis' antics would never rest. "Enough. You almost had my attention until you—"

"You don't understand!" Alexis grabbed his shoulders and shook him. "This isn't about Katherine Bell! I don't give a damn about her! This is about you! You are the true Natasha, Stefan! And if Helena knows that, your life is marked and she will stop at nothing to claim your last breath!"

"This game is not amusing," he said in a tight whisper. "Unhand me and leave my office immediately."

She released him but continued to stand her ground. "This isn't a game. I'm sorry about what I did before and if I could take it all back, I would. I know that it's hard for you to trust me, but you must. You have to prepare yourself for her attack. Too many people would be affected if you allowed her to win. You're irreplaceable, Stefan. Never forget that." She reached inside her coat, pulled out a manila envelope and placed it on his desk. "Here is the proof you need. Take heed, dear cousin."

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