***Home to Roost***
They assembled in a conference room on one of the middle floors of the hotel. Stefan couldn't be certain, but he believed that Ned Ashton anticipated his request and alerted the hotel's staff ahead of time. He supposed that despite Ned's failed relationship with Alexis, the man felt a strange kind of loyalty to her family. Stefan was, indeed, surprised by it, but at such a dire time in his family's history, he had no cause to question it. He accepted the act and collected his thoughts as the solemn faces of Nikolas, Andrèsj, Zarek and Zander stared back at him.
"Father, I can't just stand around and do nothing!" Andrèsj's cry startled the others in the room, but soon Nikolas joined him.
"Neither can I. I feel like I've just got my family back. If Sabrina is still alive-"
"There is no 'if'," Stefan interjected in a deadly calm voice. "She is alive."
"What did the police say?" Zander asked. "I heard there was blood all over the place."
"There was," Stefan replied.
His son's gasped. Zander's mouth dropped open and Zarek's face turned ghostly white.
"Blood?" Zarek repeated. "And you're telling us she's not dead? Stefan, giving them false hope is cruel."
"I do not speak with sentiments of false hope. Sabrina is my sister, and as whimsical as this may sound, if she were dead, I would know!" Composure, he silently reminded himself. Remain calm and focused. By doing this, he could guide his family and return his beloved sibling back to them. "The blood that was found in her home was not of human origin."
"What was it?" Nikolas asked.
"That of pigs and cows," Stefan answered.
"Who?" Andrèsj gasped. "What… Why was her home defiled with the blood of swine? Father, did an enemy do this?"
"I cannot think of one who would be so bold," Stefan answered truthfully. "Zarek, can you?"
His cousin's face still had not returned to a healthy shade. The younger man didn't respond with words. He simply shook his head.
"Maybe it wasn't an attack against you," Zander said when the room became silent. "Maybe it's just some sick bastard out there. Some kind of serial thing."
"We can go to the WSB again," Nikolas said. "Dawn or Steve…"
"It's taken care of," Stefan said.
"And there is nothing more we can do?" Andrèsj persisted. "Ourselves? Please forgive my rudeness, Father, but why assemble us here? We are not helping Sabrina hiding in a hotel room!"
"Patience," Stefan said. He went to his youngest son and gently grasped his upper arms. "The word must seem cruel in light of Sabrina's disappearance, but it is one we must adhere to. There are too many unanswered questions and to plan for an attack when we do not know the name of our enemy is foolish.
"Be advised that we must now show great caution. Each of you, including your loved ones, has an armed guard assigned to you." He looked each of the young men in the eye. "There will be no arguments about this. Zander, I wish that you would reconsider your accommodations. There is plenty of room here, and the security is state of the art. Will you join us here?"
Zander hesitated for a moment before nodding his agreement.
Doubting that Zander would appreciate an outward display of relief, Stefan nodded. He released Andrèsj and said, "Once more information is gathered, we will assemble again. Make no mistake any of you, we will find Sabrina and we will bring her home."
* * *
"Mom, are you sure about this?" Lesley Lu asked as she and Laura neared the suite of rooms occupied by the Cassadines.
"What's wrong, Lu?" Laura asked as their footsteps came to a halt just a few feet away from the suite. "Sabrina is your brother's aunt. Of course, I'm sure we should be here for your brother."
Laura released a harsh breath. "I don't want you to do anything that will put a wedge between you and your father. If you'd rather go home, I understand."
"It's not like that," Lu explained. She frowned. How could she tell her mom that she was afraid to go in because she stood up Andrèsj? The unexpected meeting with her father messed her up so badly that she completely forgot.
"Lu, we're right here." Laura pointed at the door. "You can come with me or not. I've made mistakes with Nikolas in the past. I won't make any more."
"I know, Mom." She sighed. "Okay, I'm coming, but give me a minute. You go ahead."
Laura squeezed the girl's hands. "This isn't about your father's war, sweetie. Don't forget that your brother loves you very much. When he looks at you, he doesn't see a Spencer. He sees his little sister. Okay?"
"Okay, Mom." Lesley Lu gave her mother a faint smile and watched as Laura first knocked and then entered the suite.
Nothing ever made any sense between the two families. Nothing was ever normal. Now, this. Her father would say that Dr. DeLane's disappearance was well deserved just because of whom her father was. Lesley Lu knew that wasn't fair. He just couldn't seem to let go of the past. And now, her mother thought her reluctance was do to Luke's antiquated vendetta. But that wasn't true. Her hesitation was based on fear. Ice-cold, cowardly fear.
Lesley Lu started at the sound of the masculine voice. When she realized it was Justus, she offered him a weak smile. "Hi, Justus."
"Are you lost?" he asked, wrapping his arm around her shoulders as he joined her. "Or trying to make up your mind?"
"I'm just taking my time, I guess," she admitted. "Mom just went inside. Have you heard anything? Dr. DeLane isn't dead or anything, is she?"
Worry darkened Justus's eyes. He sadly shook his head. "I haven't heard anything else. I'm hoping for the best."
Tears suddenly stung her eyes. "So am I. Nikolas and Andrèsj love her very much. I couldn't imagine what I'd do without Aunt Bobbie or Aunt Amy. I wish there was something I could do."
"I think you'll do enough just to be here with them now," Justus said. "Ready to go in?"
Justus was right. Whatever was or wasn't happening between her and Andrèsj could wait. Right now, he and her brother needed comfort and support. Nothing else mattered.
She nodded. "Yeah, I'm ready."
* * *
Lucky spent most of the day roaming Port Charles on the back of his bike. The open countryside did wonders for him. The freedom of the open land reminded him of the freedom that was taken away from him when Faison kidnapped him.
Being locked up in that concrete cave was torture only because he was away from everything and everyone he loved and cared about. His family, Liz, Emily and Nikolas… He and Nikolas had just come to terms with being brothers. He used to lie awake at night, thinking about all the time he'd wasted with hating Nikolas. His brother wasn't any more responsible for his birth than Lucky was. Blaming Nikolas for breaking up his family had been so stupid. If there hadn't been a Nikolas, Lesley Lu could have died. It was that realization that really got to him. From that moment, he decided that when he returned, he and Nikolas would be brothers again. Spencer or Cassadine, blood mattered. And Nikolas was blood and he loved him.
All that worked. He and Nikolas became close. He didn't trust his brother's choice in girlfriend, Gia, the blackmailing scam artist, but he learned to deal with her. And then, the worst kind of upset happened. The real Nikolas returned and all that time spent rebuilding a relationship with his brother had been for nothing. The grinning bastard had been a fake!
Lucky felt like a moron. No, worse than a moron. He felt like a fool. He couldn't get past it. Some of the old feelings about the Cassadines resurfaced and the dislike he once felt for Nikolas threatened to return.
Until the dinner.
Luke's appearance brought too much of the past back. The stupid things Lucky did to make his father happy. The hateful things he'd said and done to Nikolas. Pretending that Laura was dead and then looking Nikolas in the eyes while knowing her death was a lie. That was the worst. But for some reason, Nikolas forgave him. It seemed like it was only the least Lucky could do was to forgive Nikolas now for being the real deal.
As the sun began to set, he turned the bike around and headed up the highway back towards town. Later, he would have a long talk with his brother. But first, he wanted to see Emily. This new lease on life was making him see things a lot more clearly than he had before. Something was happening between them. It was time for them to deal with that, too.
* * *
It was after midnight and Dawn held Nikolas tightly in her arms. They lay on his bed in the hotel suite. Andrèsj, Stefan and Zander were in their own rooms down the hall, and this was their private sanctuary. Dawn felt a little funny about staying in Nikolas' room. Sure, Keesha was with Stefan, but they were older. Okay, Keesha wasn't that much older, but it was different for them. Dawn sensed it whenever she was around them. Keesha and Stefan were lovers. Although she and Nikolas hadn't made that next step in their relationship, sexual tension was high between them. And knowing that his father was just a few doors down wigged her out.
"You can relax," he said, easing out of her death grip. "Would you rather go back to the loft?"
"Do you want me to leave?"
"No," he answered. He rolled onto his side and rested his hand on her thigh. "But I can sense you're uncomfortable here." He glanced at the door and then back at her. "I can assure you that my Father is not concerned by what is happening within these four walls. Andrèsj may harbor his share of curiosity, but even he is more consumed by worry than us."
Oh, boy. Now, she really felt bad. "Nikolas, I'm sorry. I should go. I'm not helping. Whatever is going on with me isn't half as important as your aunt. I'll leave—"
"No, you won't," he said, shifting around on the bed to face her. "You're not insensitive to me any more than I am to you. I fear for Sabrina, and I am aware that I could use that to my advantage with you."
She swallowed hard. "I guess that is what I'm really afraid of. See. I'm not helping."
"Yes, you are," he said with a faint smile. "This discussion prevents me from thinking about what Sabrina is possibly going through."
Dawn pulled him back within the circle of her arms. His head rested on her breast. Tiny stubble pushed through the cotton fabric of the pajama top she wore and pricked her skin. Her pulse quickened, but she did her best to ignore it.
"Frisco called me back. Jagger and Keesha have been assigned to look for Sabrina. I told him I wanted to help."
"What did he say?"
The hardened tone of his voice didn't go unnoticed. "He said," she began gently, "that a trainee can't help in a case like this."
"Good." Nikolas' arms tightened around her waist. He tilted his head back to look at her.
"What?" she asked, when he didn't say anything.
"Looking at you gives me peace," he said softly. "Come."
They moved under the covers. She rested comfortably on the pillow and Nikolas rest on his, his eyes never leaving her face.
"You should sleep."
"I will," he said. He leaned forward and brushed his lips across hers.
Dawn stayed awake as long as her body would let her. Later, she dreamt that he watched her all night and when she awoke the next morning, she discovered that her dreams had been true.