Chapter 52
~ Reconciliation ~

"We're almost there," Lorenzo announced to the other passengers of the fast moving black Chevy Suburban. He shifted noisily on the seat as he twisted to look at Tommy who was driving with extreme caution and high speed. "Are you sure you know where this place is?"

"Yeah," Tommy answered, his eyes never leaving the open road of US-4. "I came up here with Lizabeth after the wedding was called off. Sarah sent her the keys, but she didn't want to go alone."

Lorenzo murmured a non-committal response and became quiet again. Dawn had listened to their conversation with half an ear. Sitting in the backseat with Nikolas, her attention had been focused on him and his silence. She thought he'd be more animated, but his behavior had been more subdued than anything. After Tommy banged on the door to the suite and alerted she and Lorenzo that he and Nikolas knew of Dominik's whereabouts, the three of them made a beeline for the parking garage.

When they arrived at the Suburban, Nikolas had been in the backseat. As Dawn left Tommy and Lorenzo to run towards the vehicle, he left the dark confines to stand with his arms wide open for her. Their arms wrapped around each other in a fierce, iron grip. She noticed then that he trembled when he held her, but she said nothing. Now even as his fingers laced tightly with hers and his fingertips dug into the back of her hand, she still didn't question him. His elation at finding their son warred at whatever he had to do to get the information from Sarah. She knew him well enough to know that. She also knew that asking for specifics was not what he needed from her. He needed her love and she hoped that he remembered that he'd always have her heart.

"You should stay in the car and wait for us," Nikolas said softly, speaking for the first time in over an hour. He didn't look at her, but his hand continued to clutch hers. "It will be safer that way."

"I can't wait in the car," Dawn said. She stroked the back of his hand with soothing caresses. "I have to be there with you when we find Dominik. Waiting isn't an option."

"I don't want to argue," he ripped out the words with impatience.

"Then don't," she said, attempting to placate him with her tone. "I know we're walking into an unknown situation. I'm prepared for that."

His jaw tightened. "We have no idea what we'll find inside that house. I won't have your life endangered."


"Dawn," Tommy interrupted, glancing in the rearview mirror to make eye contact with her, "he has a point. This SUV is bulletproof and you'll be safe here. As soon as we find Dom, we'll bring him right out."

"I know you mean well, T-bird, but trust me...and listen up, Nikky, I can take care of myself."

"Tai Chi will only get you so far," Nikolas quipped.

"She knows more than Tai Chi," Lorenzo commented without turning around. "Now, would be a good time to show him the heat you're packing, Greedy." As Dawn pulled out the automatic weapon she had shoved into the top of her boots, he continued, "She knows how to handle it. I saw to it."

"Forgive me if I don't jump up and down with joy," Nikolas muttered with a hint of sarcasm. He turned his dark gaze to Dawn. His expression unreadable, he looked at the compact firearm and then at her. "Answer me honestly. Could you take a life?"

She drew in a harsh breath. In over ten years of marriage, Dawn had seen many sides of Nikolas' personality but she had never seen the cold man who sat beside her and held on tightly to her hand. Not even when he believed she had committed adultery with Lorenzo had she felt so distant from him. Instinctively, she knew that his actions were beyond his control. He was too tense to be cognizant of his tone of voice or choice in words.

She slipped the gun back inside her boot. Twisting on the seat to better face him, she raised her free hand to gently cup his face. Stubble, small and hard, pressed against her soft palm. Rubbing his face in tender strokes, she stared into his dark brown eyes. "I would do whatever's necessary to protect the four of us here and our children. If it comes down to you or Dominik, I could take a life. I understand how scared you are right now and I feel it, too. Trying to protect me... Going in with four is a lot better than going in with three. I'm not staying in the car."

His bottom lip trembled. A single tear fell from his eyes and landed on her hand. Swallowing hard, he closed his eyes for a brief moment. When his eyelids fluttered open, his eyes shone with the depth of his love for her and their family. "I can't bear the thought of anything else happening. I can't bear the thought of losing you."

"Oh, Nikky," she murmured, drawing him into her arms. "That won't ever happen again. I'm yours for life."

He squeezed her against him and when she thought he had completely taken her breath away, he ended the embrace. His hand still held hers and he pulled it into his lap. "You're with me. You're not to leave my side. Understand?"


Lorenzo coughed first and then said, "We need a plan."

"We need one quick," Tommy added. "The house is about a mile down the road."

"Could we get any more rural than this?" Lorenzo asked. "This road is kinda tight. Please, tell me there's another way out of here just in case."

"A noticed a back road the last time I was here, but I didn't check it out," Tommy said. "There's a map in the glove compartment. Check it out."

Lorenzo pulled out the map and flipped on the small flashlight attached to his key chain. "It looks like it leads to a stream. Other than that, I don't see another way out."

"The Suburban is big enough to make a road if it comes to that," Tommy commented with confidence.

"I'll say it's big enough," Dawn said. "Maybe we shouldn't pull up to the house in it. If the place is heavily guarded, we don't want to give them a fair warning."

"I should have asked her," Nikolas muttered. "Why didn't I ask her about the guards for this place?"

"It's okay," she told him, squeezing his hand. "We still have the advantage."

"Dawn's right," Tommy agreed. "The place isn't big enough to need guards. It's pretty basic with two bedrooms and bathrooms, living room, kitchen and den."

"What about dogs?" Lorenzo asked.

"When I was here, she wasn't hiding Dominik," Tommy replied. "But there were no dogs. Besides, Sarah is afraid of them. I doubt if she'd have any here even. Remember, she doesn't think we'd suspect her. That's probably why she has him here. It's close enough to Port Charles that she can go back and forth without too many problems. My gut is telling me that this will be a piece of cake."

"I hope your gut is right," Lorenzo said.

Tommy smiled. "It hasn't failed me, yet."

A small frame single story house appeared up ahead in the clearing. Tommy turned off the headlights as he swung the Suburban into the gravel driveway that led to the structure. A few feet from the house stood a row of tall, sturdy trees. Tommy steered the SUV towards the trees and positioned the vehicle so that it would be ready to roll when they needed it. He then switched off the ignition and turned to look at his three close friends. "What's the plan?"

"We get my son," Nikolas said quietly.

"It works for me," Lorenzo said in a voice that was as quiet as his brother's.

"The car stopped and we need help," Dawn suggested.

"All four of us?" Lorenzo questioned. "Whoever's on the other side of the door is not gonna go for all four of us. Besides, you and I are too recognizable. It's gotta be Tommy or Nikolas."

Tommy glanced at Nikolas' ashen face. "I'll do it. Lorenzo, you be my back up. Dawn and Nikolas, I think you two should circle around the back. That way we can cover both the entrance and exit. I don't see any cars out here so that can be good news or bad."

"How so?" Dawn asked.

"The good would be that the number of people keeping Dominik is small."

"The bad is that they're not here anymore," Nikolas added. "But she said that he's here. The serum worked, didn't it?" he questioned Tommy.

"Yeah," Tommy said, "it worked, but it's always best to look at things from as many angles as possible. Overconfidence can hurt us just as surely as cowardice. We gotta be cautious, but pushy, too. Dawn, do you really know how to work that thing?"


He reached underneath his seat and pulled out a metal box. He unlocked it and handed out weapons to the two other men. While Lorenzo and Nikolas double-checked their firearms, Tommy did the same for the one he grabbed for himself. Dawn removed her gun from her boot again and checked the clip. The magazine was loaded and ready. When he was done, Tommy slipped his in the waistband of his jeans at the small of his back. The others kept theirs in their hands. "Are we ready?" he asked.

The other three nodded.

"Okay, Lorenzo and I will wait until you're at the back of the house. We'll count to fifteen. By then, you should be there. I'll then knock on the door. No matter what happens at the front, slip inside. I'll try to distract them as best I can until I think you're in," Tommy said. "The layout of the house is very basic. The back door opens into the kitchen, which has an open dining area. A hall runs from the center of the house to the kitchen. The living room is on the West side of the house. The bedrooms are on the East."

"We'll start in the bedrooms," Nikolas said.

"Let's get to it," Lorenzo said.

Nikolas took the lead while continuing to hold onto Dawn's hand. They reached the rear of the house in the fifteen seconds that had been allotted to them. The size of the house was just as Tommy had described. From their position on the back porch, they could see clear to the front door. Tommy's shadow darkened the front doorway and just as a plump, older woman answered it, Nikolas grabbed the doorknob and pulled.

To their surprise, the door wasn't locked. Nikolas opened it, slipped inside and waited for Dawn to follow him. Both held their guns ready in a firm grip as they eased down the hallway. Tommy's pleading voice carried to them and from the woman's tone, it seemed that she would let him in. They didn't wait to see the outcome as they veered East to the bedrooms.

The first bedroom was open. A desk was near the far wall and a small cot was adjacent to the desk. They passed a bathroom and moved on to the second bedroom. Nikolas tried the doorknob and found that the room was locked. His eyes widened as he looked at Dawn and an excited blush flooded his cheeks. She nodded emphatically in response. Dominik was on the other side of that door. They could feel him.

"We need the key," Nikolas whispered. "She appears to be alone..."

Dawn shook her head. "I don't think we should approach her. Maybe we can pick the lock. I have a penknife. Hold on."

She dug inside the front pocket of her jeans and pulled out the small device. Nikolas stuck his gun inside the waistband of his pants and took the penknife from her. Kneeling in front of the doorknob, he quickly went to work. Dawn's heart hammered in her chest. Silently, she prayed that he knew what he was doing.

He did.

With another twist, the lock gave with a soft sigh of release. He closed the penknife and shoved it inside his pocket. With hand movements, he instructed Dawn to stand to the side and he opened the door. No sound or movements greeted him so he gestured for her to follow him. She did.

This room was larger than the first one and an exact replica of Dominik's room at Wyndemere. The furnishings, the toys, everything was the same. There was even a bed designed in the shape of Hot Wheels racer. A small form lay in the bed and both rushed to see if it was Dominik.

Dawn's breath caught in her throat as Nikolas pulled the comforter and sheet back. First a head of dark brown hair appeared and then there was the body dressed in matching Hot Wheels pajamas, moving slightly with deep breaths from slumber. Nikolas tossed the rest of the bedclothes to the floor before he gently turned the sleeping child over onto his back. Both parents nearly cried when Dominik's face was illuminated by the moonlight that streamed into the otherwise dark room. Just then, the boy's eyes fluttered opened and his mouth parted to speak. As tears spilled down her cheeks, Dawn pressed her finger to his mouth. He nodded and threw himself into their arms.

The reunion ended abruptly as Nikolas set Dominik on the floor. "Put on your shoes," he told his son. "Get his jacket," he instructed Dawn. He then went back to the door and peered down the hall.

Dominik's eyes kept moving back forth between his parents as he thrust his feet inside the shoes. He accepted Dawn's help with his jacket and once he had it on, he grabbed her hand, pulling her towards his father.

"Tommy's still talking to her," Nikolas whispered. "I think they're both still at the front door. I'll lead. Be very quiet, Dom, and don't let go of your mother's hand."

"I won't, Papa," Dominik promised in a hoarse whisper.

A smile touched Nikolas' lips as he looked down at his son. He shared a smile with Dawn and then he edged into the hallway. The trio moved quietly back towards the rear of the house. Behind them, Tommy continued to keep the woman at the front door and soon Dawn, Nikolas and Dominik were safely outside.

Nikolas grabbed Dominik's other hand and together, the family ran to the Suburban. Dawn and Dominik slipped into the backseat while Nikolas stood outside and whistled. When Lorenzo looked at him, he gave his brother the thumbs up which Lorenzo mirrored. Nikolas then joined his wife and his son.

"I knew you would come. I knew it!" The excited boy cried as he took turns hugging his parents.

"Are you okay?" Dawn asked, inspecting as thoroughly as she could in the dim lighting. "You weren't hurt?"

"No, Mama," he answered. "She didn't hurt me."

"The woman was kind to you?" Nikolas asked as he pressed a kiss to Dominik's temple. "She took good care of you?"

"She was nice," the boy answered. "She wanted me to eat, but I didn't want to. I wanted to go back home. I told her so, but she said I couldn't leave."

"Did you see who took you?" Dawn asked, her voice trembled slightly. "It's okay if you don't remember."

"I remember," he said with a solemn nod. "It was Sarah. She told me that Papa needed me. Why did she lie to me?"

"It doesn't matter," Dawn answered quickly. "What matters is that we're all together again. We love you, Dominik."

He held on tightly to both of his parents' hands. "I know."

Soon after, Tommy and Lorenzo returned to the SUV. While they all welcomed Dominik's return to their fold, Tommy fired the ignition and the Suburban left Hudson Falls.

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Darkest Before the Dawn (and all original characters) © 1998-2001 niklovr
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