"Where is this conference anyway?" Dave Malucci asked, sliding in the booth next to Elizabeth Corday. Elizabeth was already becoming annoyed, sitting in Doc Magooís for an hour now waiting for Robert Romano, of all people, to arrive with their travel plans to New York. On top of that, Dave had obviously not been paying attention the past week, and expected her to fill him in. Mark Greene sensed his wifeís tension.
"Port Charles, Dave. The conference is in Port Charles," Mark replied, taking a bite of his greasy burger. John Carter sat with Abby Lockhart and Luka Kovac in the booth behind them. Tapping his fingers on the table-top, he anxiously gazed out the window of the diner.
"Is Romano ever going to get here or what?" he said to no one in particular. He glanced over at Abby who was lighting up a cigarette. "Something wrong?" he asked, knowing she only smoked when she was under stress.
"No," she said quietly, breathing out a fog of smoke and pushing back a loose strand of her brown hair.
"Then why are you smoking?" Luka asked in his thick Croatian accent. Abby sighed, annoyed that two people could know her so well.
"Iím just not too thrilled about getting on a plane thatís all," she finally confessed, snuffing out her cigarette in the empty ash-tray. Before either of them could answer her, Dave poked his head above their booth.
"Donít worry, Abby. If the plane crashes, Iím sure youíll survive," he grinned.
"Thanks a lot, Dave," she told him sarcastically.
"Must you be so immature? Itís amazing you ever finished medical school," Elizabethís British accent floated over. Dave returned to his previous position, arms crossed, pouting like a child who had just been scolded.
"Thereís Dr. Weaver," Luke said quietly, and pointed to Kerry who was emerging from the ambulance bay of County General.
"Whoa, she looks pissed!" Dave observed. They all watched as Kerry angrily stormed over to Doc Magooís.
"Where the hell is Romano?" she yelled as she entered the less-than-crowded diner, smacking her cane of the linoleum floor.
"Howís it goiní, Chief?" Dave grinned broadly.
"Shut up, Malucci!" Kerry snapped at him.
"Havenít seen Romano yet, Kerry," Mark told her, pushing away his plate as the grease from the meal settled uncomfortably in his stomach. Kerry positioned herself in the booth next to Mark.
"He isnít at the hospital, either," her voice was surprisingly calmed.
"I swear that man drives me mad," Elizabeth fumed, tugging at one of her red curls. The door swished open again, and this time Peter Benton, Cleo Finch, and Jing-Mei Chen entered.
"Sorry weíre late," Jing-Mei apologized to the group, setting down a large bag.
"Youíre not the only ones," Kerry added, glancing at her watch.
"An MVA came in as we were leaving," Cleo explained in her always-serious tone.
"Romanoís not here yet?" Peter asked just as seriously, leaning up against the bar. Everyone shot him a glance, but didnít reply. Just then, Carter started to laugh.
"Look at that hunk of junk!" he gestured to the large, practically windowless, blue van that pulled up outside. Abby leaned over Carterís shoulder for a better look and burst out laughing when a short bald man hopped out of the driverís seat. Even Peter and Cleo had to conceal their laughter as Robert Romano strutted over to Doc Magooís.
"So, letís get this show on the road," he clapped his hands together as he entered.
"You want us to go to the airport in that?" Mark questioned.
"Who said anything about an airport?"
"You canít meanÖ" Luka began, sharing everyone elseís dread.
"Oh, thatís right. We are all piling in that van for a fun-filled trip to Port Charles, New York. Like one big happy family," he replied, stressing the last sentence sarcastically.
"Robert, you canít be serious!" Kerryís voice was rising again, as the rest of the group groaned in dread.
"Oh, come on Kerry it will beÖ.an experience. Not to mention cheaper," he added in his snobbish way, turning around. Everyone rose slowly from their booths, not the least bit anxious to follow Romano. Dave walked beside Abby, throwing an arm around her.
"Look at it this way, Abby. At least now you donít have to worry about the plane," Abby threw Daveís arm off her shoulder. Romano stopped in his tracks and turned around.
"Hey youÖMalatucciÖ" he began.
"Malucci," Dave corrected.
"Yeah, whatever. Carry this," Romano tossed his bag in Daveís arms. The rest of the group followed his lead and piled their luggage on Dave.
"Hey!" he yelled in protest.
"Come on, Dave," Carter slapped his arm. "Do something for your fellow man!"
"What do you call being a doctor?" he yelled, almost stumbling as Jing-Mei hung her bag over his arm. He sighed, dropping one of the bags and kicking it out the rest of the way. Once they reached the van, he let everything drop to the ground.
"Well, this is all fine and dandy, Robert, but just where are we supposed to put our luggage?" Elizabeth demanded, pointing to the large pile of suitcases and carry-ons.
"Iím glad you asked that, Lizzie," he said, gesturing behind them. "Iíve recruited Randi here to drive the car with the luggage," he continued.
"Oh no, Iím not trusting Randi with my luggage," Cleo protested, snatching her suitcase off the ground. Randi rolled her eyes, snapping her gum, and held her hand out for the keys. Romano tossed them to her.
"Malatucci, load up the car," he ordered.
"Itís Malucci," Dave muttered as he once again gathered the luggage.
"Wipe those sad looks off your little faces, if things go well at this conference, we could be driving home in style," Romano told them, hopping up in the drivers seat. "Weíre talking Quartermaines and Cassadines," he added.
"Who-termaines and What-adines?" Dave asked, grabbing the last piece of luggage and tossing it in the car.
"Money and more money!" Romano yelled back in response.
"Cheap little bastard," Elizabeth muttered as she boosted herself into the van.
"There are no seatbelts," Luke observed as he followed.
"How do you expect us to make it to Port Charles in this thing?" Mark yelled to Romano, helping Abby step up into the van.
"Oh ye of little faith!" Romano called, revving up the engine.
Once they were all packed in, everyone tried to catch one last glimpse of County General as they pulled away.
Robert slammed on the breaks, causing the van and itís sleeping occupants to lunge forward.
"Rise and shine my little kiddies!" he yelled, honking the horn, and smiling broadly as the group groaned in protest. A wadded up McDonaldís bag whizzed past his head.
"Lucky for me you schmucks donít have better aim. Of course the lower standards of trauma physiciansÖ." He stopped short as another hit him square in the back of the head, followed by a quick laugh from Dave.
"Thatís grounds for dismissal, Malatucci!" Romano glared at him through the rear-view mirror.
"What? I didnítÖ." Dave tried to defend himself, not even bothering to correct his last name.
"Oh, shut up you lowly trauma physician!" Mark joked, mocking Romano. They had all been behaving like junior-high students from being cooped up together for hours on end. Kerry had to conceal a smile, but tried to restore order as Romano was getting angry.
"Ok, settle down now. Itís been a long night but we made it," she turned around in the passenger seat to face the sleepy group of doctors.
"So, are we going to check in or what? I canít stay cramped up in here anymore," Peter said through a yawn.
"Weíre not exactly at the hotel. Robert decided it would be best to check on the times for the conferences first here at the hospital. You can all stay here while Robert and I go inside," Kerry explained.
"Oh, no, no, no, Kerry. We canít leave the children out here all by themselves," Robert protested, gaining back his usual charm.
"You canít expect us to go in there like this!" Elizabeth exclaimed, pointing at the bags she knew had formed under her eyes.
"Iím sure the wealthy heads of General Hospital would appreciate meeting a group of compassionate doctors who sacrifice sleep in order to better care for their patients. So, Lizzie, those sandbags under your eyes may come in handy," Robert smiled. Mark quickly grabbed Elizabethís wrist as it flew up to smack Romano in the back of the head.
"So thatís why you dragged us all on this trip?" Jing-Mei asked as Carter opened the door to let the rest out. Romano ignored her question and yanked the keys out of the ignition.
After stretching and trying to fix their appearances, the staff of Chicago doctors entered through the wide glass doors of General Hospital. For a well-known hospital, or any hospital at that, it looked surprisingly inactive. Romano immediately stranded them in the lobby, heading off with Kerry towards an elevator.
A redheaded nurse in green scrubs sauntered over to them from behind the desk, producing a clickety sound as she walked.
"Is she wearing heels?" Abby whispered to Cleo in amazement. Never had she seen a nurse maneuver a trauma with heels on her feet. Cleo just nodded in response.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked, her lips moving almost mechanically.
"Check out the rack on her," Dave whispered to Carter. Carter grinned as he poked his head over Elizabeth to get a better look. Jing-Mei smacked them both.
"Uh, weíre from County General in Chicago. Our Chief of Surgery and Chief Resident went to check on times for the conferences. If you could just show us to the loungeÖ." Mark stopped in midsentence. She was staring at him, lips pursed and eyes bugged out like a fish about to explode.
"Iím afraid we donít have a lounge," she said slowly. The doctors stared back at her blankly.
"You donít have a lounge?" Abby repeated in disbelief.
"Bobbie, of course we have a lounge," a blonde nurse, also clad in green scrubs, approached them. Bobbie glared at her, hands on her hips.
"Using these people to corner me about Roy is really a cheap tactic, Melissa. I have work to do!" she stormed off to the desk. Melissaís eyes widened to match the doctorís expressions.
"Youíll have to excuse her, sheís not here very often. Iím Nurse Bedford," she politely explained and introduced herself.
"Itís pretty slow here today, huh?" Mark gestured to the practically empty hospital.
"Slow? Weíve already had five patients and I wasnít even related to the last one!" Bobbie exclaimed from the desk. Mark eyed Elizabeth. Melissa was about to say something when the elevator doors opened. A dark-haired man in an expensive looking suit walked out, standing between Drs. Romano and Weaver. He showed a pleasant smile as they approached.
"Iím Dr. Alan Quartermaine, Chief of Staff here at General Hospital," he introduced himself and extended his hand to Mark. Mark shook it and introduced the crowd.
"It looks like thereís been some sort of mix-up," Kerry started, eyeing Romano.
"The conferences are next weekend, not this weekend. Somebody screwed up the schedule," Romano said, not wanting to admit that he had mixed up the days. "But, Dr. Quartermaine has been generous enough to pay for our stay at the Port Charles Hotel for the extra week," he continued, his voice in suck-up mode.
"Thatís very kind of you," Mark told the doctor. Alan smiled at the group.
"Itís really no problem. I hope you enjoy yourselves this week in Port Charles. Hopefully we can find ways to benefit your hospital before you head back," Alan waved as he headed back towards the elevator with Melissa in tow.
"An extra week in Port Charles? I hope thereís some excitement in this town," Dave murmured to Carter as they exited the hospital.