He didn't have any particular destination in mind. Even though Dawn didn't linger at death's door, he couldn't go very far. His heart wouldn't let him. Gusts of cold air blew against his face and he wrapped his coat closer around him. Following the path of the sidewalk, his footsteps took him around the hospital to the back where a small park-like area had been set up. His mind miles away, he walked past the wooden benches and stone sculptures of various elements of nature. When his feet became tired, he sat down on a larger than life-size statue of a swan and sighed.
His thoughts took him back to Dyrkenshire Castle. Ending their engagement had been the right thing to do. The final decision had ripped at him, but he really had no choice at the time. His attraction to Sarah had compromised his and Dawn's betrothal. Although outside relationships were acceptable in their social circle, Nikolas found the notion deplorable. He couldn't do that to someone who meant so much to him. At that point he wasn't sure if he still loved Dawn, but he was certain that he cared enough about her to not betray her trust in him. His heart nearly broke when she offered herself to him and later when she cried, he wanted to cry with her.
He guessed he should have known that she wouldn't stop loving him so easily. If he hadn't been so withdrawn about his inability to speak properly, he would have noticed the sadness in her eyes when she looked at him. And the longing. Maybe he would have realized that she still yearned for him. Maybe he would have remembered the promise they made to each other as children to protect each other at all costs. No matter the situation. No matter the consequences.
"How is she?"
Terranova, with ashen face and red eyes, stared down at him. Nikolas gulped. The man's weariness was so like his own that any animosity he might have felt at Vinnie's inability to protect her evaporated. His voice was rough with emotion when he said, "She made it through surgery. She's in ICU. They're allowing us to see her one at a time."
Vinnie nodded. He released a deep sigh and nodded again. "That's good. She's a tigress. I knew she'd make it through. Have you seen her?"
Nikolas shook his head. "Not yet. I needed to change clothes first...and then... Well, I needed to think."
"Wanna talk about it?" Vinnie sat down on a nearby bench that faced Nikolas and his swan. Clouds of air floated in front of Vinnie's face as he breathed and spoke. "Maybe it will help."
"Nothing will help now," Nikolas disagreed.
Vinnie shrugged. "Well, what is there to think about? Go up there and see her. Talk to her."
Annoyance flickered across the older man's face and his eyebrows knitted together to form one line. "If anyone should visit her, it should be you."
"I know," Nikolas said quietly. "I know what she did for me. I don't want to believe it, but I know it's true. How do you face someone who loves you so much that she'd risk everything for you?"
"Who told you?" Vinnie asked.
"Keesha. She wanted to know if Stefan or I knew what she was up to. Neither of us did."
Vinnie nodded. "I figured she'd say something to one of you."
"Were you aware of what Dawn was doing with Jason Morgan?" Nikolas asked. "I guess you were since you were with her today. Didn't you try to stop her?"
"When a person loves another person so deeply that she's willing to risk everything for him, there's no stopping her," Vinnie answered. "The best you can do is be there for her and guide her the best you can. That is, if she's not too pigheaded. I thank God she had the piece with her. I didn't move fast enough, but I'm glad she did."
"You gave her that gun?" Nikolas asked.
"Yeah. I gave it to her."
"What did you do with it? Keesha asked us about it. I wasn't even sure if Dawn had fired that shot. I thought it came from one of Morgan's men."
Vinnie frowned. "I didn't do anything with it. After she was hurt, I didn't even think about that damned gun. The cops didn't grab it?"
"No. Not according to Keesha."
Rising from the bench, Vinnie said, "That doesn't sound good. I'm gonna go check it out. I'll let you know if I find it."
Nikolas rose, too. "Does it matter? The man who attacked her is dead. It was clearly self-defense. She wouldn't be arrested over this, would she?"
"Don't worry," Vinnie advised as he patted Nikolas' shoulder. "They can't arrest her for protecting herself. I just don't like the idea of a loose gun being out there."
"Oh, okay. Be careful. I think they sealed off that part of the docks."
Vinnie smiled. "I'm not worried about it. Sealed or not, if the gun's still there, I'll find it."
The two men moved in silence towards the front entrance of the hospital. As they reached the double automatic doors, they prepared to part ways. Before they did so, Vinnie stopped Nikolas.
"When someone loves you as much as Dawn does, you face her with the truth," he advised, answering Nikolas' earlier question. "That's the only thing you can do."
Mac left the hours after Jason had been released. The younger man's cold, emotionless stare had affected him and left him with an overwhelming need to rid Port Charles of organized crime once and for all. A young woman was hurt simply because of her association with him. It was bad enough when the Scorpio living room was shot up because Robin was dating Jason, but this seemed so much worse. It reminded him of woman with child and an exploding limousine. Lily hadn't deserved to die like that. The senseless cycle of it all left a sour taste in his mouth and disgusted him.
He drove away from the precinct towards his two-story home overcome with relief that Robin ended her relationship with Morgan before anything truly awful had happened to her. Mac had woken up many nights drenched in sweat. Dreams of being called in to identify Robin's body as it lay cold, pale and lifeless on a slab in the morgue had possessed his subconscious. He was fortunate that his nightmares had never become a reality, but Miss Hunter's parents had come close to experiencing that gut-wrenching pain. And all Morgan could do was stare...
Mac pounded his fist on the steering wheel. How could the imbecile not feel anything? He was romantically involved with the girl for goodness' sakes! Mac saw the pictures of Jason with his arms locked around the Hunter girl. Despite the black and white captures, the look in Jason's eyes were unmistakable. He cared about her. But what happened? Where was the emotion...the empathy for her condition? Magic Fingers knifed her to get to him! Didn't it get through to Jason? Mac never wanted to believe Tony when he said that Jason's emotional ability had been impaired, but now, he began to wonder if Tony had been right.
The ice from the previous day's storm had left a glossy sheen to the roads as it slowly melted. Mac maneuvered his Ford Taurus down the slick streets with the patience and skill of an observant driver. When he turned down his street, the calm silence of the neighborhood soothed him. He passed a cursory glance at a parked silver Porsche that was parked near the intersection before his eyes settled on the Acura parked in his driveway. Dara was inside waiting for him. The anguish of the day's earlier happenings dimmed in comparison to the anticipation of spending time with his unexpected guest. He hurriedly parked the Ford beside her car and raced inside the house to be with her.
The scent of roses greeted him as he opened the front door. A trail of pink and red petals led from the door to the staircase, on the stairs and beyond. Without conscious thought, Mac closed and locked the door, shrugged out of his jacket, leaving his briefcase on the floor beside it and happily followed the trail.
The flowery path led him straight to her. Dressed in a short, red silk kimono, she lay draped across his king sized bed. Her berry colored lips parted into a smile as he entered the room. She beckoned to him with her index finger. "Come."
And he came.
Shrugging out of his clothes, Mac quickly joined her on the bed. Her arms locked around him as her mouth descended on his. Amid many sighs and moans of pleasure, they came together in a powerful explosion of love and desire. Later as he encircled her nude form inside his arms and held her close to him, he couldn't imagine what his life would be like without her and he hoped with all of his heart that she had made a decision.
"I wasn't expecting this," he admitted softly. His hands drew large, lazy circles on her back. He shuddered when she pressed a kiss to his chest and looked up at him with shining, brown eyes. "Dara?" he croaked. "I wasn't expecting anything like this."
"Are you complaining?" she asked softly.
"No! Of course not. I'm just surprised is all."
"Surprises are good, right?" she asked. When he nodded, she continued. "After what happened today, I knew you'd work yourself too hard and you'd be too wired to relax properly. I came over to make sure that you took care of yourself."
A wolfish grin spread across his face. "I like the way you handled the situation, Miss Jensen, but...um...I thought we had a silent, mutual agreement about this sort of thing happening."
She nodded. "We do. This doesn't breech that agreement."
Could this mean...? His stomach lurched in nervous anticipation. "Does this mean you have an answer for me?"
Dara nodded again. "Yes, Commissioner, it does."
Mac sucked in air. He couldn't speak. All he could do was wait. His eyes stared at her, silently encouraging her to continue.
"Mac Scorpio, I would love for nothing more in this world than to be your wife. Yes. I will marry you."
His shout of triumph, love and happiness shook the walls.
"And don't you worry about a thing, baby girl," Quentin spoke softly as he brushed his fingertips across Dawn's forehead. Tears clung to his eyelashes and threatened to blur his vision. He blinked them away and kept his attention directed on his daughter. "Daddy's here and he will take care of everything now. You just focus on getting well. Do that for Daddy and your mother okay, sweetheart?"
He stood up. Bending over her, he kissed her cheek before he left the room. She hadn't regained consciousness during his visit, but he knew she had felt his presence. Their connection had always been so strong that oftentimes words didn't need to be spoken. After all, he had known that she needed him and he was there.
"Did she wake up?" Carlotta asked him when he joined her outside of Dawn's room. Stefan's arm was around her waist and she leaned on him for support.
"No, but she'll be okay," Quentin replied. He lightly caressed Carlotta's drawn face. He'd never seen her so worried and scared. He was glad that Cassadine was there to comfort her. He guessed that it was only a matter of time before the other man assumed the responsibility on a permanent basis. Lowering his hand to his side, he added, "You look tired. Go, get some rest. I'll stay here with her tonight."
"I should stay, too," Carlotta said hoarsely. "I don't want her waking up and I'm not here for her."
"Carlotta, she was given some heavy anesthesia," he said. "Dawn won't wake up tonight. When she does wake up, she should see her mother's beautiful rested face and not one that could scare witches. Go home and get some sleep."
She released a small laugh that belied the frown on her face. "You certainly have a way with words."
He shrugged. "I use whatever works." He drew her into a hug and spoke softly against her ear. "Your eyes are filled with guilt and sadness. You gotta erase that before she sees you standing over her. Please, just go home with Stefan."
He released her and smiled at Stefan. "Please, take her with you."
Stefan took Carlotta's hand and drew her to his side. "Quentin does have a point. None of us will be of any use to Dawn without rest. Quentin, you and your friends are more than welcome to join us at Wyndemere."
"Thanks, but we've already reserved a room at the Port Charles Hotel." Quentin looked around the floor. "Has Nikolas returned? I wanted to thank him for looking out and being fast on his feet."
Stefan shook his head and Carlotta asked, "Where did Spenser and Hawk go? I wanted to thank them for the flowers and the stuffed animals. Dawn will be so excited to see them again."
"Spenser has a friend here and he went to see her. He's working on a case with her or something," Quentin answered.
"I hope that he won't involve himself in what happened to Dawn," Carlotta stated. "The authorities should handle this."
"They should," he replied, "but they won't. Not the right way...not the way it should be handled. The reason our daughter is in here now is because of them and their incompetence. If they had done something about Nikolas' shooting, we wouldn't be here now."
Carlotta's brow creased into a frown. "Dawn shouldn't have attempted this masquerade in the first place. I'm not placing blame here, but this type of behavior shouldn't be encouraged."
"And you're implying that I have encouraged her?" Quentin asked, folding his arm across his chest.
"No, but you have lauded Spenser's and Hawk's exploits on numerous occasions," she answered. "Instead of reading her bedtime stories, you read her letters from Spenser that detailed how he and Hawk took matters into their own hands when the police were found lacking. The groundwork was laid a long time ago, Quentin, and you know it."
He stiffened. "Well, it's a lot better than reading her fairy tales with happily ever after endings that don't exist. I am proud of her for being smart enough to know that what happened to Nikolas wasn't right and for being strong enough to follow her gut."
"Even if it almost cost her life."
"Never," he denied. "I do agree with you, Carlotta. She shouldn't have put herself in this situation, but I do understand why she did it. I am proud of her convictions, but I not her methods. You should know that."
An uneasy silence settled between the parents. Stefan interrupted with advice. "Nothing will be resolved by arguments between the two of you. You both love her and want what's best for her. So do I, and so does Nikolas. Like Quentin, I greatly admire Dawn's reasons, but not her actions. I also agree with him that we cannot leave this matter to the authorities. This is something which must be settled without restrictive rules and regulations."
"I appreciate your offer," Quentin said, "but I have this covered."
Stefan inhaled sharply. "Although I am well aware of your friends' abilities, I must insist. Whether you are in agreement or not, I am involved and my resources as well as my time will be made available to assist you. Do not forget that Nikolas was nearly killed. I cannot ignore that any more than you can ignore what almost happened to that brave young woman in there." He extended his hand to Quentin. "Agreed? We've had disagreements before but never when it comes to the children. Let's not start now."
Quentin hesitated for only a moment before he shook Stefan's hand. The man had a good point. Excluding him wouldn't be the right. "Agreed."