Doctor Ellen Burgess swallowed the last sip of her champagne.  She had nursed the single glass of vintage brut for over an hour while she awaited the arrival of her date for that evening.

“Refill, Doctor Burgess?”

“Not right now, thanks.”  Ellen smiled at the young resident so unfamiliarly garbed in a somber waiter’s outfit.  Nikolas Cassadine had arranged for many of General Hospital’s medical students to serve as waiters for his private pre-wedding celebration.  They had, of course, been intensively investigated and researched.  Those who passed Stefan Cassadine’s rigorous criteria were given a crash two-week course in food service.  The pay would be handsome and the opportunity to ogle some of the world’s most famous, most beautiful and most wealthy people was just icing on the cake.  “I think I’ll just get a bit of fresh air.”

Ellen pulled up short at the entrance.  Strong arms shot out to steady her and she found herself eye-to-eye with Doctor Matt Harmon.  “Matt?”  Confusion gave way to awareness.  Ellen curiously eyed the upright wheelchair that gave Matt the misleading appearance of being on his feet.

Ellen, Matt

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he smiled.  “Getting through security took me a bit longer than I had expected.”  He patted the control panel of his wheelchair.  “Detective Taggert and his partner basically took this thing apart.”

Ellen shrugged.  “This is a pretty high profile gathering.  A little paranoia is understandable.”  She turned back toward the party.  “We can go in.  I’ve saved us a table.”

“I’d rather just stay here and talk for awhile, if that’s alright with you?”

“Of course,” Ellen agreed.

Matt led them to a quiet corner.  The stern Cassadine sentry on duty eyed their movements but did not impede them – due, no doubt, to Ellen’s close personal relationship with Nikolas Cassadine’s aunt Sabrina.  “You look beautiful, by the way,” Matt observed quietly.

“Thank you.  You look…” Ellen sought the right word, “amazing.  I don’t mean the chair,” she added.  “There is something different about you, Matt.  You seem-”

“Content?”  Matt supplied the answer.  “I am.  Finally.”  He straightened his shoulders.  Ellen recognized the gesture as a sign that Matt was about to venture into dangerous territory.  “When the procedure failed, something happened to me.”

The ‘procedure’ was an untested, wildly experimental and highly controversial surgery that claimed to restore limited use of severed spinal cords.  Despite all Ellen’s protests and the very actual threat of dying on the table, Matt had insisted on becoming the unorthodox surgeon’s first human patient.  No amount of persuasion had been able to change his mind.  Matt’s decision to have the surgery had severed their relationship as surely as his accident had severed his spinal cord.

“I don’t mean something happened to me medically,” he explained to Ellen.  He did not know that she had used her connection to the Cassadine family to have a trusted set of eyes there in the room during Matt’s surgery.  At Ellen’s request, Stefan Cassadine had enlisted one of Europe’s finest surgeons to be on hand in case of an unexpected occurrence during surgery.  “When the doctor told me the procedure had failed, I wasn’t devastated.   It was like I knew in my heart that I’d given myself that one chance to be whole again and I could live with the outcome – no matter what.”

“Ellen, I needed to do it.  I needed to risk it all for the chance at something amazing.”  Matt reached out and took Ellen’s hand.  “Now, I am hoping that you’ll do the same.  Will you?”  He gazed deeply into Ellen’s eyes.  “Will you risk it all for another chance at us?”

~ The Party, Several Hours Later ~