Chapter Ten

***Connections***

The dock gave them privacy with the added benefit of fresh air. Keesha sat on a bench and watched Stefan closely as he reviewed the dossier. The WSB had been collecting information on bizarre abductions for quite awhile. The home office in Europe worked day and night, searching for a break in the case.

The head agent in charge at the London office, Ross O'Malley, believed the groups' headquarters were on the European continent. His top profiler compiled a list of traits she believed the abductors possessed. That information was also in the file. Keesha wanted Stefan's opinion on what had been gathered so far. Once she had it, she and Jagger would join O'Malley's team in London.

"This is quite extensive," Stefan commented. He handed the file to her and stood. "The WSB believes these miscreants are behind Sabrina's abduction?"

Keesha slipped the folder inside her briefcase. "Yes, they do."

"Do you?" A slight frown marred his brow.

"Yes." She rose from the bench and took his hands. "Maybe it would be more comforting to believe that what happened to her is an attack against your family instead of some random act of violence."

"It would be," he agreed. "The enemies we have are ones that I know well. I know how to counteract their assaults and how to retaliate in return. An unseen enemy is dangerous. I don't know what to do."

His voice cracked. His emerald eyes became bright with unshed tears. Keesha released his hands to wrap her arms around him. "Would you like for me to stay with you? I asked Frisco for this assignment because I wanted to help, but if you need me here…"

"I need you to find my sister and bring her home." He cupped her face and held her gaze with an intense stare. "I will be fine as long as I know that you are safe."

"I will be. Jagger and I look out for each other."

That seemed to offer him little comfort. "I should accompany you."

Keesha shook her head. "Your sons need you here. It's best that you stay. We'll find her and we'll do it soon."

"What time is your flight?"

"Jagger is waiting for me. I wanted to see you first. We'll lift off almost as soon as I get there."

"I'll see you off," he said.

"I'd rather you didn't. Saying farewell to you is always hard. Jagger's nice, but I'd rather he didn't see how leaving you shakes me up."

He smiled. "Saying goodbye tears at my soul, too. Do return safely and in one piece, my dear Keesha."

"I will," she promised.

Stefan bent forward. His lips claimed Keesha in a kiss that overpowered her senses. A low moan sounded deep in her throat. When he raised his head, her mouth tingled and so did the rest of her.

She rode with him to the Port Charles Hotel. He got out and instructed his driver to deliver her to the airport. They shared another kiss and then, she was alone again.

The ride from the hotel to the airport was long enough for Keesha to cry and dry her tears. Leaving Stefan to pursue her assignments became increasingly difficult. He was protective and loving, but very encouraging about her career. Never once did he suggest that she slow down or consider a desk job. Of course, their relationship was still in the honeymoon phase. However, considering he was older and worldlier, Keesha expected him to make demands no matter how minor. Thus far, he hadn't.

Sometimes, Keesha wondered where they were headed. Long term or a short fling? Maybe it would be better if she didn't analyze it and just accept that they were happy together. It had been such a long time since she was happy with someone. Truly happy.

The driver dropped her off at the private hangar where the WSB's jet waited. She thanked him and exited the car. Through the glass windows, she saw Jagger and waved. He held up her bag, letting her know that he picked it up for her. He pointed toward the plane, silently telling her to meet him on board. She turned to go toward the plane. Suddenly, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She stood still and muttered, "What are you doing here? Did you follow me?"

"Yes," Jason's voice was just behind her. "You're leaving. We need to talk first."

She whipped around. "We don't need to do anything. I told you that I can't help you on your quest for vengeance."

"You'd rather help your lover."

Keesha's eyes narrowed. "My personal life is none of your business. Nothing about me is any of your business! Those are words you should be familiar with."

Dots of crimson colored his cheeks. His jaw tightened. "Don't make this personal, Keesha."

She almost cursed. "You're making this personal by hounding me! Face it, Jason. I have no intentions of helping you. You want Sonny and Michael's killers. Find them and good luck to you!"

He stepped from the shadows of the hangar. He came close enough to loom over her. "I can't find them. That's why I'm coming to you for help. I can help you and you can help me."

"Jason, you can't help me do anything," she said. She glanced past him and saw Jagger approach. Jagger's hatred for Jason Morgan ran deep. She didn't want there to be a scene between the two men. "Jagger's coming. It's time for you to go now."

"I'm not afraid of him."

"You should be," she countered.

His eyes searched hers. His expression softened. "I'll leave if you agree."

"Agree to what?!"

"I help you look for that missing doctor. You help me find the bomber. I won't leave until you agree."

"That doesn't come as a surprise," Keesha muttered. "Okay, fine. Agreed. Now, go."

*/*

Sly hated his crutches. They got in the way and far too many times, he'd tripped over them. But there was nothing he could do. The wooden planks of torture were needed for getting around. And he had to get around even if it was just within the confines of the apartment.

With a few curses and some sweat, he made it to the fridge. Just as he grabbed his snack of cold pepperoni pizza, the door opened and slammed. He called out, "Tommy?"

"Yeah," came the gruff reply.

Sly closed the fridge and limped out with the pizza box in his hand. As he looked at his friend, the first thing he noticed was how tired his friend looked. Tired, scared and sad. "You okay?"

Tommy gave him a hard look. "What do you think?"

Sly flushed. "You know what I mean. I didn't hear you come home last night. Did you get any sleep?"

"That's why I'm here now. I've been ordered to come home and rest," Tommy muttered. "They don't want my help. They think I'm in the way."

Sly tossed the box onto the coffee table and eased himself onto the sofa. He gazed thoughtfully at his friend. "What if they're right?"

"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence. It's not like you'd get it. You weren't dating Sabrina."

"Nope," Sly agreed, "but I liked her. She's cool and I liked her for you."

"But you don't think I'm good enough to look for her?"

Sly shook his head. Getting through that thick skull wouldn't be easy. But Tommy was his friend and he owed it to him try. "Sit down, man."

Tommy plopped onto the recliner. "What are you doing home? I should be here in peace."

"Lucky for you, I took the day off," Sly quipped. "Want some pizza?"

"How long ago did you get it?" Tommy asked, eyeing the container with suspicion.

"Just last night. There's no green fuzz on it, yet." Sly held up two fingers. "Scout's honor."

Tommy snorted. "You were never a scout." He reached for the box and pulled out a slice. Sly took the other one. "I don't mean to be such an asshole. They kicked me off the case. I don't know what to do now."

"Sleep and shower," Sly advised. "Not necessarily in that order."

"You're not helping."

"You're not thinking straight," Sly said. "Somewhere in there you're blaming yourself for what happened. Don't give me that look. I know you well enough to know what you're thinking. Get over it. It's not your fault. Do what the boss says and get some rest. Then go back refreshed and ready to work with a clear conscience. Really, man. It's not your fault. Sometimes, shit happens for no good reason."

"Eckertt's Words of Wisdom." Tommy rolled his eyes. "What makes you think you're so smart."

Sly shrugged. "Sometimes when you hang out with smart people it rubs off. It did with you, didn't it?"

Tommy didn't answer. He finished his pizza and stood. "Thanks, man."

"No prob."

*/*

"I only plan to tell you this once," Laura said, staring straight into Luke's eyes. "Stop playing mind games with my kids!"

"What?!" He came around the bar of his club with more speed than Laura thought he was capable of. "I am not the master of mind games. That honor belongs to the bat in black!"

Laura yawned and rolled her eyes. "Bat in black? After all this time, that's still all you see, isn't it? God knows what has happened to his sister! Where is your compassion? Your empathy?"

"For that bloodsucker?"

"Luke please!" she fired back.

"Those people kidnap you, kidnap our son and you expect me to feel compassion? Empathy? Are you sure you haven't been brainwashed, too?"

She shook her head. "You forget that one of those people also saved our daughter's life."

"I could never forget that, Lasha," he muttered. "You won't let me."

"That's a horrible thing to say," she said quietly. Laura rubbed her temple. She thought that they could talk about Lesley Lu and Lucky. Discuss their children in a calm, reasonable fashion. She should have known better. With the nude portrait of Helena hanging so happily in his club, there was no way he could let the past go. He seemed to thrive on it.

"I'm glad she's alive," he answered. "Don't twist my words."

"I'm not," she replied. She drew in a deep breath and tried again. "Luke, our kids are in a weird place right now. They don't need you shoving your hatred of the Cassadines in their faces. Nikolas is their brother—"

"Through no fault of mine."

"I love my son! I will not apologize for him!"

"And I won't apologize for hating his conception," Luke snarled. "You want your children to believe in a fairy tale. I won't lie to them. I won't lie for you."

"I don't want you to do either," she said, gradually regaining control over her emotions. "I just want you to love them more than you hate me. Don't do it for me. Do it for you and for them. Because I guarantee you, if you keep this crap up, you'll lose them and the fault will be all yours to claim."

*/*

It nearly took an hour, but Lucky finally found Nikolas in the Hotel's gym. Andrèsj thought their older brother was at the cottage. Zander said Nikolas was taking a nap. Lucky checked the bedroom and was about to head to the cottage when he saw Mrs. Landsbury. She gave it to him straight and now, he was holding the punching bag that Nikolas was beating the shit out of.

Woof!

Another pounding blow into the bag almost made Lucky lose his footing. His grip tightened. "Anytime you wanna talk about what's going on, I'm ready to listen."

"I didn't ask you to hold the bag," Nikolas said, panting as sweat poured from him. "You volunteered. Anytime you wish to leave, do so."

"I came to apologize!" Lucky said, preparing himself for another crushing blow from Nikolas' fist to the bag. "Why can't you just accept it?"

"Your apology is unnecessary." Nikolas paused in his attack on the punching bag. "I understand."

"And you forgive me for being an asshole?"

"I have no reason to forgive you," Nikolas replied. "You were fed lies. Oftentimes, the truth is hard to swallow. It's to be expected. I don't blame you for being upset with me. Perhaps, it is I who should ask for your forgiveness."

Impressed, Lucky bit back a smile and cocked an eyebrow. "Will you?"

"I am not in a charitable mood at this time." He reared back to hit the bag.

Lucky called out, "STOP!"

Nikolas gave him a cold look.

 

"I know," Lucky said. "If I don't want to hold the bag, I can leave. We've been over it. Just let me get this straight. You're beating the shit out of this thing. Who are you really hitting?"

The coldness left Nikolas' eyes. He averted his gaze and stared down at the floor. In a quiet voice, he mumbled, "Myself."

That's not the answer Lucky expected. He hoped for something good like maybe Zander or something expected like Luke. He moved from behind the bag. He pushed his brother onto the mat and joined him. As he spoke, he untied Nikolas' gloves. "What's going on, bro? Why are you trying to kill yourself?"

"It's not death I seek," Nikolas said, flexing one hand as it's freed from the glove. "It's complicated."

Lucky tossed the second glove onto the mat. "You don't think I'm smart enough to get it? What? I'm too low class or is it because my last name is Spencer?"

Nikolas shook his head and rubbed his face with his hands. "It's none of that. It would be better said that I am not ready to discuss it." He lowered his hands and gave his brother a faint smile. "But when I am, I suppose you are smart enough to understand."

"You suppose?" Lucky repeated, sarcasm evident.

Nikolas' smile widened. "Sorry little brother. Suppose is the best I can do."

Lucky laughed. Their brotherly connection was still there. Soon, they would be better than they were before. And Lucky couldn't help but feel that was a very good thing.

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