April

Illinois Correctional Facility

Ignoring the pain that radiated from under his walking cast, Elton limped along after the stony-faced guard; he hated the nasty prison jumpsuit that he had to wear despite being allowed to shower.

They entered a large area where several other men of various shape, size, and color were gathered, all of them dressed in identical prison garb. The guard smirked at Elton and Elton limped forward.

"Sit in here until someone comes to take you to your cell," the guard said in a gruff voice.

Giving Elton another smirk, the guard left. Elton swore under his breath and limped into the mess of people; silently, he found a corner bench to sit on and elevated his aching leg above the floor.

For several minutes, Elton listened to the incoherent chatter of the other prisoners and reflected on how if it weren't for Malucci and his buddies, he wouldn't have ended back up in prison.

"Hey bud, is there room on that bench for me?" a gruff voice suddenly asked from nearby.

Elton looked up and saw a ragged looking man standing over him in prison garb, "The name's Steve," the man said as he sat down next to Elton. "I'm here for beating up my ex-wife…what are you here for?"

"I kidnapped my ex-wife's daughter and nearly killed her eldest son," Elton replied, not wanting to ever claim Amy's spawn as his biological children despite him definitely being the father of them.

Steve gaped at him, "Wow, I thought I was rough," he said, his voice full of near awe.

There was a silence between them and then a guard came strolling over to them, "Elton Douglas, I've been assigned to show you to your cell," the guard said cooly. "You get one phone call before you are locked up if you want one."

Letting out an aggravated sigh, Elton rose from the bench, "Nice talking to you, Steve," he said before gazing at the guard. "I would like my phone call now, please...See you around, Steve."

Steve nodded and watched as Elton limped after the guard; it was just another day in prison.


Cook County ER

"….You don't know how much I miss you," Dave said into the phone as he sat on the couch in the lounge with the phone pressed against his ear. "….I know…..How's the clinic in Kinshasa going?…Mhm…"

The door opened and Amy came into the room with an arm around a disgruntled looking Nathan whose arm was still in a cast and sling, "…Oh, now, Magdalynn…," Dave said, an amused chuckle in his voice.

"Just sit down on the couch for a moment and I'll put my coat somewhere," Amy said, gently patting Nathan's arm. "Just take it slow…You don't have to be upstairs for half an hour yet."

As Nathan moved to the couch and sat down, Amy walked over to the coat rack in the corner of the room and removed her coat; she was sporting a small baby bump under a scrub shirt and overalls.

A sudden click on the other end of the line caused Dave to sigh, "Connection's really bad from Kinshasa to here," he said, gazing at Amy as he hung up the phone. "You're looking a lot better, sis."

Amy smiled and moved back over to the couch, "Since the first trimester is going to be over soon, bed rest isn't necessary any longer," she said in a kind tone. "Nathan's takedown is today and he has to be upstairs for check-in in about half an hour. Luka's off today, so he's at home with Joe and Katie."

"Luka wanted to come with me, but I told him no," Nathan said in a groggy voice. "Ever since he got back from Africa, he's been trying to treat me as if he wants to be my dad…like he really wants to."

Amy sighed, "Nathan, we should probably head upstairs now and get you checked in," she said in a gentle, yet very strained voice. "Sorry about Nathan's mood, Dave, he's just very tired."

Dave nodded and silently watched as Nathan stood up and allowed Amy to lead him from the room.

For a moment, there was silence as Dave contemplated the day ahead of him; suddenly, just as he had decided to go out into the ER and begin work, the phone rang. With a sigh, Dave grabbed the receiver.

"Doctor Malucci speaking," Dave said, wondering who would call the lounge at this time of day.

An amused chuckle from the other end of the line caused Dave's blood to run cold, "Well, good morning, Doctor Malucci," the evil voice of Elton said from the other end. "How are you?"

"You're supposed to be in prison," Dave said in an anxious tone. "What do you want?"

Elton chuckled, "Oh, I AM in prison," he replied smoothly. "I just wanted to let you know that even though I am behind bars, I still haven't forgotten about you…I'll still be watching you very closely."

Dave remained silent even though he was dying inside, "Ta ta, my dearly devoted emergency room doctor," Elton said in a smug voice. "Just remember that we'll someday meet again….very soon."

There was a click, indicating that Elton had hung up. Dave swallowed hard and sighed deeply.

Realizing that he couldn't let a psychotic monster like Elton mess up his life via constant physical and psychological torture, Dave smoothed down his white coat and silently left the quiet lounge.

"Dave, glad you're in early," Mark said, smiling as Dave walked over to the desk. "Need to talk to you."

Dave nodded and stopped just short of the chart rack, "Ray Barnett will be returning to County in the summer to begin an early internship in emergency medicine," Mark explained in a low voice so not to attract the attention of Jerry or any of the other staff. "Do you mind being his supervisor again?"

"No, I don't mind," Dave replied in a kind tone; he didn't really mind working with Ray in the past.

Mark nodded, but before he could reply, a blonde haired woman in purple scrubs hurried into the ER with a worn backpack slung over her right shoulder, "Sorry I'm late," she said in a distressed tone.

"Doctor Malucci, this is Sam Taggart, the new ER Nurse Manager," Mark said in a neutral tone. "Sam, this is Doctor Dave Malucci, one of our highly respected attending physicians…"

Dave looked at Mark in shock at the compliment, but loud ambulance sirens drowned out any opportunity to give thanks for the praise. A moment later, Pickman and Zadro burst through the double doors rolling a gurney holding a bleeding and badly bruised young man who was finely dressed.

"Victor Clemente, victim of a random mugging and subsequent attack," Zadro said, continuing to push the gurney along as Dave, Sam, and Mark followed after it. "LOC at the scene, but woke up in the rig."

Dave nodded as they rolled Victor into the Trauma Room, "I'm Doctor Malucci," Dave said as they moved the gurney under the lights. "Nurse Taggart and Doctor Greene are going to help me help you."

With a shaking hand, Victor moved the mask that was on his face, "I'm a medical dean/psychiatric director over at Northwestern," he lied, faking a tired tone. "Please don't tell my supervisor about me being attacked. He's already stressed enough about dealing with a med-student named Ray Barnett…"

Sam carefully placed the mask back over Victor's face; "Just rest easy," Dave said in a reassuring tone as two more nurses entered the room. "We'll do our best to help you feel better and take it from there."

Knowing that he had to keep up the façade, Victor went quiet and stared at the ceiling; it wasn't easy to spy on the ER as a patient, but it was the only way to do it without arousing suspicion or trouble.


Patient Room – Pediatrics Floor

The door opened and Nathan moved out of the bathroom now wearing an oversized hospital gown; his casted arm was out of its sling and his clothes were on the bathroom counter. He looked very frustrated.

Amy smiled, "Here, lie down, and I'll put your socks and slippers on your feet," she said, showing him a pair of gray footies and a pair of blue hospital slippers. "You don't need to be so nervous."

As Nathan sat on the bed, the gown slipped off his upper body, "Crap, I guess I didn't tie it in the back very well," he muttered; he gazed down at the colostomy bag and stared at the scars around it.

"So many scars," Nathan whispered as he placed his good hand on the bandages. "Makes me feel…"

Amy sighed and carefully pulled the gown over Nathan's bare shoulders, "I almost died," he said, biting his lip as he felt his gown being re-tied in the back. "I-I don't know what to make of life anymore."

"Sweetie, relax," Amy said in a gentle tone as she placed her arms around Nathan. "Elton Douglas is in jail now and we can all begin healing. We can all learn to be a family with Luka and Joe now…"

Nathan let out a deep breath, "I want to trust Luka very much, Mom," he confessed. "I am very scared to, though...He sees me as good as his son, but I don't know if I can live up to his expectations of me…"

"I don't want you getting worked up right now," Amy replied in a firm tone. "Let's get you into bed."

Letting out a distressed sigh, Nathan obediently got into bed, "You know, when I was in Africa, all I was able to think about was all of my wonderful children," Amy confessed as she covered Nathan with the blanket that had been left at the edge of the gurney. "I didn't think Luka would come back from Africa alive and I was trying to figure out how I would be able to look after all five of you and the baby."

"But he did come back alive," Nathan replied. "How were you sure that Katie would survive there?"

Amy sighed, "Katie has always been very determined," she admitted. "I knew that God would look out for her and return her to us. I was unsure about Luka, however, because he can be impulsive…"

There was a knock at the door and a nurse entered the room with a supply cart, "Hi, Nathan?" she said, smiling as she came over to the bed. "I've come to get an IV started and get you moved to pre-op."

"I'm Doctor Amy Romano-Kovac, Nathan's mother," Amy said in a kind tone as she watched the nurse wrap a plastic tie around Nathan's arm. "Nathan, honey, don't look at your arm…look at me."

Nathan looked at Amy and was quiet, only wincing when he felt the needle go into his arm, "There you go, it's hooked up," the nurse said cheerfully as she raised the guard rails. "Time to go to pre-op."

Amy raised the other guard rail, "I'm coming with him," she said in a firm tone. "At least to pre-op."

The journey down the hall, into the elevator, and up to the surgical floor was quiet, "Mom, go and relax," Nathan said in a tired tone as they got off the elevator. "I'll be okay, I promise."

Not wanting to be overprotective, Amy nodded and gently kissed Nathan's forehead; she watched as the nurse moved the gurney into the pre-op room and put it in the far corner of the semi-crowded room.

Swallowing hard, Amy moved down the hallway to the desk; there, she saw Peter on the phone, "…I know that it's tough finding a kidney, but this is important," Peter snapped, unaware that Amy was lingering behind him. "I understand….can you at least move him up the transplant list?"

There was muffled talking on the other end of the line and a click, "Great," Peter scoffed as he hung up the phone and sighed. "…What I wouldn't give for a miracle right now."

"I take it that the kidney search isn't going so well, Peter?" Amy asked, concerned for Carter's health.

Turning around to face Amy, Peter shook his head, "We removed the dead kidney and Carter's responding to the dialysis so far," he explained in a solemn tone. "How are you feeling, Amy?"

"Well, I'm feeling a lot better now that the first trimester is almost done," Amy replied gently. "Now that my family is back together, I'm feeling like I can handle almost everything. I'm anxious for the future."

There was a momentary silence, "I'm scheduled to do Nathan's takedown surgery," Peter said in a gentler tone. "Elizabeth was supposed to do it, but she's at some career day thing at Ella's school."

"Dave mentioned that yesterday," Amy replied, smiling. "He says that Daniel is excited for it today."

Peter nodded, understanding that Dave was doing his best as a single parent to try and provide Daniel with every educational opportunity possible, "Anyway, after the surgery, Nathan will need to stay in the hospital at least overnight to make sure there's good internal function and no post-op infections."

"Nathan kicked me out of pre-op, he said he could handle things," Amy commented gently. "Maybe I'll go visit Jeanie while he's in surgery. She just got back from a trip to New York City two days ago."

There was a hint of curiosity in Peter's eyes, "Oh yeah?" he asked. "How's Jeanie doing?"

"Since the clinic was destroyed, Jeanie spends a lot of time volunteering in drop-in-centers as a physician's assistant and spending a lot of time with Chase," Amy explained, remembering the fun that she, Jeanie, and Chase had the day before during their walk in the park. "Dave helps with Chase too."

Again, Peter nodded, "Ever since I saw her last Christmas, I've been missing Jeanie," he admitted, a tone of sheepishness in his voice. "If you do meet up with her today, could you tell her that I said hello?"

"I will," Amy promised, giving Peter an understanding look. "Do you have rounds before the surgery?"

Peter sighed, "Yeah, I'd better get going," he said in a resigned tone. "Take care of yourself."

As Peter walked off, Amy turned and, pulling her cell-phone from her pocket, she dialed a familiar number, "…Jeanie, hi, it's Amy," she said as she walked back towards the elevator. "What's up?"


North Winds Elementary School, Chicago

"Daniel?"

Ignoring the pain in his gut, Daniel gazed at Ella, who was sitting on the swing next to him; his stomach had been hurting ever since he got up, but he hadn't wanted to tell his dad that he wasn't feeling well.

"You okay?" Ella asked in a worried voice. "Do you want me to get my mom over here?"

Daniel sighed, "No, I'm okay," he replied in a quiet voice. "I don't want to be a bother to anyone."

As Ella and Daniel continued talking, Elizabeth and the yard teacher came into the playground; they were deep in conversation about what the morning would involve. Neither of them noticed a young boy dressed in oversized clothes enter the playground and throw his backpack on the bench.

The boy walked over to the swings, "I want to swing," he said, pointing to Ella's swing. "Get off."

"There's a swing on the other side of me," Daniel said pointing to the empty swing.

Scowling, the boy grabbed the chains of Ella's swing, "My name is Alex and this is my first day of school here," Alex said, a scowl on his face. "I want THIS swing right now!"

Unaware that Alex's shouting had attracted the attention of both Elizabeth and the yard teacher, Daniel got off his swing and pushed Alex away from Ella, "Get away from my friend," Daniel said angrily.

Before Alex could reply, Daniel suddenly winced and puked on the ground, "EW, THAT'S GROSS!" Alex yelled in a horrified tone as he inched away and moved behind Ella. "I want to swing somewhere else!"

"Who got sick over here?" the yard teacher asked, as she didn't see who had puked at the swing set.

Lucas, who had been nearby, suddenly wandered over and gave Ella a hard shove, causing her to fall on to the ground; there was a sickening pop as Ella used her left arm to break her fall. Alex glared at Lucas.

"Stupid kid," Lucas mumbled in an irritated tone as he moved away from the swing set just in time for the yard teacher and Elizabeth to turn their attention on him. "Hey, don't look at me, Daniel's the one who puked and Alex was bothering Ella for her swing…I have better things to do then listen to kids cry."

Elizabeth scowled at Lucas, but quickly turned her attention on Daniel, "Daniel, it's Doctor Corday," she said in a gentle voice. "Is there anything else wrong besides the puking?"

Embarrassed about puking in public, Daniel began crying and as Elizabeth pulled the scared child into a reassuring hug, "My dad doesn't know I'm not feeling good," Daniel said in a quiet voice. "He was worried, but I told him I was okay and left before he could stop me…I was excited for class today."

"Call the police!" the yard teacher yelled at Elizabeth as she dragged Lucas towards the front door of the school. "This behavior has gone on long enough, Lucas Romano! I warned you about it last week!"

Acting nothing like himself, Lucas swore, violently pulled out of the teacher's grip, and bolted off the school grounds before anyone could stop him; it was if he was on something that altered his behavior.

"Never mind the police, call an ambulance!" Elizabeth yelled, horrified that along with Daniel being sick, Ella had suffered a potential injury; both would require immediate medical attention at County.

The yard teacher nodded and hurried inside the school to use the phone; worried about if Daniel and Ella would be okay, Alex knelt down next to Daniel and held his hand as Elizabeth focused on Ella.


Chicago alleyway

Realizing that he was far enough away from the school to not get caught, Lucas quietly slipped into a nearby alleyway and sighed; ever since he had started taking those pills that he got from Sarah, he had felt weird and full of power at the same time; he had only been taking them once a day for a week.

Letting out a sigh, Lucas pulled the bottle of pills out of his coat pocket; the label read 'Speed', but Lucas didn't know what that meant. The pills had just helped him to feel better since the whole incident with Katie. Now that everything was okay, Lucas knew that he should throw the pills away, but he couldn't…

As he popped another pill, Lucas quickly put the bottle back in his pocket; if his grandfather, mother, or Luka ever found out that Sarah had unintentionally left drugs for him to take, he'd be in big trouble. Nathan would want to beat the crap out of him and Erinn would most likely cry about him taking drugs...Joe was too young to have a reaction.

Dry swallowing the pill, Lucas quickly left the alley and hurried down the street; if he was quick, he could get rid of the side-effects before the end of school that day…it had worked before.

Ever since he started taking the pills to help him not miss his mother, Luka, and Katie so much while they were in Africa, Lucas reasoned that he just needed to offset the stress a little longer…and then he'd throw the pills away for good, confess what he had done, and go back to being his innocent self…maybe.


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