Darkest Before the Dawn

FLASHBACK 3


Greece
Five years earlier...

"And I can ride on the camel?"

The earnest expression on Dominik's face tugged on Dawn's heartstrings. She brushed aside a lock of dark brown hair that rested on his forehead. Her hands moved down to adjust his sheet and blanket closer around him. Smiling, she said, "Maybe. We'll have to see."

"Maybe you, me and Papa can ride on one together. Uncle Sly said that camels are strong. And, Uncle Jordan said that they're really tall. Taller than Papa, Grandpapa and Uncle Alex, too!"

"Oh, is that what your uncles have been telling you?" she asked. "Did they say anything else?"

Dominik frowned. As he thought, he tapped his index finger against his mouth. His mother rose from her seated position on his twin-size bed. The small gesture was so like his grandfather, Stefan. She couldn't help but smile whenever her son imitated the older man.

The silence in the room became longer as the little boy closed his eyes. Thinking Dominik had fallen asleep, Dawn kissed his forehead.

"Mommy, I'm not asleep. I'm thinking," the boy said as he opened his eyes.

"Oh, well, don't think too much. You'll have to be rested for the trip tomorrow," Dawn gently reminded him. After her words were spoken, she moved away from the bed. She went to his dresser and began removing the clothes he would wear on the next day.

"I wanted to answer your question," he said, rolling over onto his side to watch her. "I can't remember what else Uncle Sly and Uncle Jordan said. They were pretty busy so I didn't bother them much."

"Thanks, sweetie," Dawn said, smiling at him over her shoulder.

"You're welcome, Mommy," he said, smiling back at her. "Uncle and me practiced on the piano for a little while. Uncle says that while we're in the desert, he'll teach me the guitar."

"I know. He told me about it," she said. After placing his clothes on the opposite, empty twin bed, she went to her son again. "Would you like a story tonight?"

Dominik shook his head. "Mommy?"

Dawn paused as she moved to turn off his bedside light. She was surprised by the serious look on her little boy's face. "What's wrong, Dominik? Are you excited about the trip?"

He shrugged. "A little, but that's not it."

"What is it?" she asked. Leaning over him, she placed her hand against his forehead. "You don't feel hot."

"I'm not," he said, giggling.

Dawn placed her hands on her hips. An eyebrow lifted to convey that she meant business. "Okay. Out with it, buster!"

"Uncle Tommy let me talk to the babies," Dominik confessed.

"Oh, yeah?" she said, moving to sit down beside him on the bed again. "When did you talk to him?"

"Today. I was in Papa's study and Papa let me talk to him. The babies are one now and they could say, 'Hi'!" he said, becoming excited.

"Yeah, the twins are getting bigger. When we come back from making the video, maybe we can convince your Uncle Tommy and Aunt Gina to come for a visit."

"Are the babies my cousins?" Dominik asked quietly.

Dawn shook her head. "They're not your cousins the regular way, but if you want to think of them as your cousins, you can."

"Okay," he said. "Mommy? Would it be okay if I had a sister or a brother? I promise I'll take good care of them."

Tears shone in her son's eyes and Dawn pulled him into her arms. "Sweetie, if your Papa and I gave you a brother or a sister, you wouldn't have to take care of him or her. You'd just have to be the big brother."

"But I'd be a good big brother," Dominik promised, sniffling away his unshed tears. "I'm not too sure where babies come from, but I know that you and Papa have to do something. If you're not doing it because of me, I promised to be a good boy."

"Love, you are a good boy. You're the best little boy, your Papa and I could have asked for." She released him and waited as he lay back down again. "Listen, I'm not too sure if you'll have a brother or a sister, but if we don't... Dominik, your father and I love you... And, well... I think you should get some rest now. We have a big day tomorrow."

"Okay, Mommy. I love you, too."

Dawn rose from the bed and kissed his forehead again. She crossed the room and flicked the switch on the wall to turn off the lights. "I'll tell your Papa that you're in bed now. He'll come in and kiss you goodnight, too. Okay?"

"Okay, Mommy. Goodnight."

~*~

"Would you believe he's asleep already?" Nikolas asked as he entered the bedroom that he shared with his wife. "He's excited about tomorrow."

"Yeah," Dawn replied. She sat on a cushioned stool before her wide mirror. She smiled as Nikolas sat beside her. He took her brush from the vanity and began to brush her hair. Their eyes connected in the mirror, and he winked at her. "He told me that he talked to the babies today."

"Yeah, Tommy called while he was in the study with me. They discussed lifting fingerprints," Nikolas said with a chuckle. "You know sometimes, I think Dominik will be a musician like you and then there are times when I think he'll become a scientist."

"The two sides of his brain are at war," she mumbled. She tapped his thigh when he chuckled again. "And, I'm not taking sides! Dominik will do whatever his heart tells him to do. And, I'll support him no matter what he does."

Nikolas kissed her soundly on her cheek. "I never thought you'd do any less."

She raised his free hand to her lips. She kissed his fingertips and told him, "You'd better not!" Nikolas flexed his fingers and she kissed each one again. "Nikky, he also spoke to the babies."

"Yeah, I did, too," Nikolas replied. "They're cute. They can say 'Hi.' Tommy e-mailed us new pictures. I printed them out. Do you want to see them?" He moved to rise. She stilled him with her hand.

"Maybe later. Nikky..."

"Yeah?" he asked, continuing to brush her hair.

"Dominik wants us to have a baby."

Nikolas stopped brushing her hair. He placed the brush on the vanity. His brown eyes darkened and he shook his head. "Dawn..."

"Sweetie, I want one, too," Dawn rushed in before he could say more. "I know I was sick after Dominik's birth, but come on... That was so long ago and there were extenuating circumstances-"

"You had been abducted, drugged and nearly terrified," he said, his voice hard. "You don't have to remind me of the extenuating circumstances, but perhaps I should remind you of what Dr. Mylonas said."

"Nikolas-" she began.

"He said," Nikolas recited, as he rose from the stool and began to pace, "that another pregnancy might result in a miscarriage-"

"He said 'might'. That doesn't mean it will," she said, rising from the stool to stand in front of him.

Nikolas shook his head. "Might is too much of a possibility. Keesha lost a baby recently. Remember how devastated Gina said she was? I don't want you to go through that. Sweetheart, I don't want to go through that-"

"But, Nikolas-"

"He also said," he continued, refusing to give her an inch, "that it could be harmful for you. I won't lose you, Dawn. I've been there too many times, and I'll be damned before I'm put there again. We can adopt a baby...as many as you and Dom would like, but you becoming pregnant is out of the question."

"So that's it?" she asked, planting her hands on her hips. "You just decide and that's the end of it? When did you become Lord over my body, Cassadine?"

"When I became your husband!" he said, roughly pulling her into his arms. He leaned his head forward to kiss her, but she abruptly turned her head. He kissed her cheek, her neck and other parts that she couldn't move away fast enough. His arms closed around her and he pulled her close against him. She was stiff in his arms, but he didn't let that deter him. His voice became soft and husky as he spoke to her again. "My Lordship isn't meant to piss you off-"

"Yeah, right," she grumbled.

"I love you," he said, softly. "I know you know that. I'm sorry that you're angry, but you have to consider your health first. Dominik and I need you!"

"I know that," she said after taking a deep breath. "I need you two, too. Nikky, I know that you're afraid that the worse will happen, but maybe that's over. Maybe all of the bad luck we had in the beginning is really a thing of the past. What better way to rejoice than by creating another child from our love and in celebration of our commitment to each other?"

"Dawn-"

"A second opinion, Nikky. Baby, come on! When Dr. Mylonas saw me, I had just had a baby in a cave! I was sick and tired and emotionally drained. I'm older and better now. Besides, that was five years ago. Things can change. Our bodies change."

"What did your gynecologist say at your last check-up?" Nikolas asked, leaning back a little so that he could see her eyes.

"She said that I was okay."

"To have a child?" he asked, demanding clarification.

"I didn't ask."

"I see." Nikolas slowly nodded his head.

"Don't give me that!" she said, pushing away from him. She stood her ground and shook her finger at him. "My last check-up was a year ago and when I saw her a few weeks ago, it was to get shots for our trip! When we come back from the Sahara, I'm going straight to her and I'm asking her!" She moved closer to him and poked his chest with her finger. "And, when she gives me the go ahead, you'd better be ready!"

"Oh, I'll be ready, alright!" he told her, his brown eyes narrowing at her challenge.

"Oh, yeah?!" she said, poking his chest again.

"Yeah!" Nikolas replied, swinging her into his arms. "And, if there's any more doubt, I'll prove it to you!"

"Nikky!" she squealed as he lived up to his word.

~*~

Nikolas watched over Dawn as she slept peacefully in his arms. Her head rested on his bare chest and each time she drew breath, his flesh tingled. His body shivered as she snuggled closer against him. He closed his eyes to the thought of ever losing her. She wanted a baby. Dominik wanted a baby. All Nikolas wanted was for his family to be whole, complete and happy. He knew that having another child would please his wife and son, but what about him?

He had smiled and laughed when he had spoken to his twin goddaughters. He could not help but fall in love with them all over again when their photos appeared on his computer screen. They were perfect angels. They were babies and their innocence called to him. Sure, he would love to have another baby. The soft, cuddly body...the smiles...and the unique baby smell... He loved taking care of Dominik when he was an infant and watching his son grow and become a person was an incredible experience. Sure, he'd love to do it again! But not at Dawn's expense, he thought, threading his fingers through her hair. Never at her expense.

"Nikky?" she sleepily murmured.

"Ssh," he whispered. "Go back to sleep."

"I meant to ask you before-" She stopped speaking when a yawn overtook her.

"See there. Go back to sleep, sweetheart. You can ask me in the morning," he gently told her.

"Uh uh," she said with a yawn. She rested on her forearms to look at him with the help of the pale Grecian moonlight. "You talked to Tommy today."

"Yeah," he nodded.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, resting her hand on his chest. She lightly ran her fingers across his flesh as her eyes bored into his. "It wasn't a social call, was it?"

Nikolas shifted on the bed until their eyes were level. "It was nothing to worry about. We were just touching base."

"Give me more credit than that."

"What did I say?" he asked with a smile. She gave him a hard look and he immediately sobered. "Okay, there was a bit of a problem, so I called him. He and I discussed it and all's well."

"Did PK alert you to the problem or was it Father?" she questioned.

"Neither!" he said, laughing softly. "Sweetheart, it wasn't a big problem. Just a small one. Tommy and I talked it over. We decided that it'll keep until after your video shoot."

"Good. It's only a week. Two, at the most. I need you there."

"I'll be there," he promised. "I always come, don't I?"

She grinned wickedly as her mind thought of something else. Nikolas leered at her in response and rolled them both until he was on top of her. "What are you doing?" she questioned. Her grin grew as she wrapped her legs around his waist.

"If you have to ask..." he murmured her before he claimed her lips in a wet kiss.

~*~

"And, he loves me both day and night
And, you know that I don't care
I just want him to love me anywhere
But, my man, he has a deal
He just won't love me in a field..."

Nikolas shook his head as his Dawn's voice serenaded him above the streaming shower. He finished shaving and when he was done, he slapped after-shave on his cheeks and throat. He grabbed his towel from the rack and wrapped it around his waist. Unable to resist, he opened the shower door and said, "When are you gonna learn a new song, woman?"

"Nikky!" Dawn squealed, reaching for the shower door. "The air's cold!"

"I can see that," he told her, looking her lather covered body up and down.

"Nikky! The door!" she said, reaching for it.

"Okay, spoilsport!" he said. He blew her a kiss as he closed the door. He laughed as she began to sing her song again.

Nikolas left the bathroom and went back inside their bedroom. He began to dress. His black jeans rested low on his hips and his gray T-shirt clung to his slightly damp back. He had just sat down on the bed to pull on his matching socks when his private line rang.

"Who's this?" Nikolas asked, using Dawn's preferred greeting when answering their private line.

"Nikolas, it's Tommy," his friend replied.

"What's up? You just barely caught us. We're this close to boarding the plane."

"I know," Tommy replied with a sigh. "I hate to do this, but I just hung up with PK. The problem just got bigger."

"No," Nikolas said, shaking his head. "How big?"

"Big enough to hack onto the mainframe and download some seriously confidential info," Tommy relayed.

"Shit!" Nikolas rubbed his hand through his hair. "So, they got everything?"

"No, man, but they got a lot. PK called me and I was able to cancel the download."

"Do you know what they got? Do you have any idea who it was? Where they are? Anything?" Nikolas asked. Rising from the bed, he began to pace. "I know what they got. I have no idea who the culprit is, but I know where the download was called in. Somewhere in London is all that I have now. PK is working on getting a more accurate location. I sent you what they downloaded. And, just as a warning, you might want to sit down as you check it out."

"Why?" Nikolas asked, quietly. The showered had stopped a few minutes before. He knew that Dawn would enter the bedroom at any moment. She'd want to know who was on the line, and then he'd have to tell her that he would have to stay behind. He was not looking forward to that part of the conversation.

Tommy's deep sigh was loud as it traveled to Nikolas on the other side of the world. After another pause, Tommy answered, "Because it's the personal stuff...about you, Dawn and little Dom. It's the stuff that comes up should anything happen to you."

"Their protection?" Nikolas asked, his pacing coming to a stop.

"And the money and the power structure," Tommy told him.

"This isn't what I expected. I thought they wanted the patent," Nikolas murmured. "This is worse. I can't let them go to the Sahara now."

"What's going on? Who are you talking to? And, why can't we go to the Sahara?" Dawn asked, upon entering the bedroom. She tightened her robe around her waist as she padded across the room.

"Hold on," Nikolas told Tommy. He lowered the phone to his side. "I'm talking to Tommy. Someone hacked into our system. They didn't go after the business; they went after our personal files. I can't let you and Dominik go anywhere unprotected-"

"We always have guards. They always protect us. Besides, you'll be there, too," she said.

Nikolas shook his head. He gently cupped her face with his free hand. "I can't go. Not now. Tommy and PK are investigating what happened and I need to double check things here. Sweetheart, please, don't go. Can't you talk to the guys and tell them to postpone it?"

Dawn shook her head. "I can't do that. I'm always asking them to postpone things or change things. It's not fair. We don't go on tour and that's because of me. I can't ask them to do this."

"Dawn, come on," he pleaded. "I know they'd understand."

She nodded her head. "You're right. They would understand, but that still doesn't make it fair." She took a deep breath as she closed her hand over Nikolas'. "You're right about Dominik. I think he should stay here with you. I'll be okay with the guards, but I don't want him to have to be watched over like that. Besides, I'd rather he be with you than them."

"Sweetheart-"

"Ssh," she said, placing her finger against his lips. She kissed him lightly. "Talk to Tommy. Tell him what I said, and see if he thinks it makes sense."

He held onto her hand as he put the phone against his ear again. "Tommy, I'm back. Do you think Dawn would be safe on the video shoot?" he asked, looking at her as he spoke.

"I was about to suggest that... Well, I think she'd be fine. Nikolas, maybe PK and I can figure this thing out and you won't have to cancel going with her. We know that you always go on the shoots with her. I think that PK and I can do it," Tommy said.

"Yeah, and maybe you can't. I can't leave you both with it. With the three of us working on it, we can figure it out faster."

"What about Dom?" Tommy asked, his concern stretched out to his close friends. "He's staying with me," Nikolas answered

"Good plan. Um, I'm sure you and Dawn have things you need to discuss now. Tell her to break a leg and that I'll talk to her later. I'll call you when I get anything new."

The dial tone sounded in his ear and Nikolas placed the cordless back onto the bedside table. While he and Tommy had ended their call, Dawn had moved away from him and had begun to dress. He plopped back down onto the bed and watched her as she moved around the room. He tried to gauge her mood by the way she moved. He found himself unable to read a thing. It scared him a little.

"Dawn, I'm sorry," he began.

"You don't have anything to be sorry about," she told him. She stepped into a pair of Nikes and instead of tying them, she went to her husband. She knelt down before him and placed her hands on his thighs. "I know that you'll do whatever it takes to take care of us. I don't expect anything less from you."

"I know that you're upset that I'm not coming-"

"Baby, let me finish," she told him. "I know that there's no safer place in this world than in your arms. Dominik knows it, too. He's our baby. It's our job to keep him safe and that's why he's staying here with you. But for me... I can't be shielded from everything anymore. I trust our guards to protect me and they will. Nikky, do you understand what I'm saying?"

For the first time, Nikolas lied to his wife. He nodded his head and told her, "Yes. I understand."

He wrapped her in his arms and hugged her to him. Before she left, they decided that they wouldn't wake Dominik. Nikolas would explain to his son that had to stay in Greece this time. The little boy would be disappointed, but he would be safe. Nikolas waved good-bye to Dawn while inside, he prayed that she would be kept safe, too.

Go to Chapter 7

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