Life After Dark

Chapter 105

~ Christmas Eve: Revelations ~

"So, it's just you and Tommy?"

"Yeah. Why do you ask?" Nikolas questioned, teasing Dawn as she narrowed her eyes at him. "Don't you trust me?"

"Of course," she shrugged. She looked down at their tightly clasped hands. A faint smile touched her lips as Nikolas made a show of walking around a patch of ice and making sure that she did the same. As Kelley's came into view, she answered his first question. "I was just wondering. No biggie."

"Of course," he replied, unable to prevent the grin from coming to his handsome face.

"What's that for?" she said, lightly punching him in his arm.

"Hey!" he said, deflecting her blows. "Nothing…unless…"

"Okay. Out with it, buster," she said, folding her arms across her chest. She stared into his laughing brown eyes and she forgot about the two bodyguards who held them in their sights. She forgot about the loneliness that she'd felt since she'd become excluded from her girlfriends' activities. She forgot about the shift in her relationship with Lucky. She forgot about her ripening figure and how the changes, although thrilling, scared her a little. Instead, she remembered just how much she adored the man before her.

"Buster? Hmm…I don't know if I like that name-"


"Now, that one, I like." He grinned as she narrowed her eyes and advanced towards him. He opened his arms and waited for her assault. None came. She wrapped her arms around him and held him close to her. The heavy overcoats they wore were ignored as they clung to each other. His grin faded into a smile as he said, "Now this, I really like."

"Me, too." She snuggled against him as they embraced. Closing her eyes, she reveled in the security that she only found in his arms. "Tell me."

"Yes, we're going shopping," he conceded.

"I knew that. Where are you going?"

"I can't divulge that information," he told her, stroking her back.

"You can divulge whatever you want," she reassured him.

"No," he said, drawing the words out, "I can't because anything I say could be held against me."

"Oh!" she grumbled. "Well, give me a teeny, tiny hint. Please!"

The sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face made Nikolas powerless. He would give her one hint, but only one. "Okay."

"Are you getting something for me or…?" she asked.

He frowned. He feigned contemplation. Her question was worded so perfectly. He could answer and she would be none the wiser. Well, not until they exchanged their presents the following morning. Making his expression as blank as possible, he said, "Yes."

"Yes? To what?" she asked, confused.

"To your question," he replied. As her eyes narrowed at him and he sensed that an attack was imminent, he lowered his lips to hers. She surrendered to his gentle caress with a promise of more passion to come.

After the kiss ended, Dawn stepped away from him. "You're good, but I'm on to you, Luscious Lips."

"Luscious Lips???" he asked, holding his hand over his heart. "Should I feel offended or complimented?"

"Complimented, of course," she giggled. "I'll see you later, LL. Have fun with Tommy and tell him 'hi' for me."

"Will do. Have fun shopping, and please give everyone my regards." He smiled as she walked away from him. His eyes blocked out Serguei and Armin who stood on either side of her. With his eyes only on her, he called out, "Dawn!"

"Yeah?" she asked, turning around.

"Notice how I didn't interrogate you about your last minute shopping?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." She smiled and blew him a kiss. Her heart melted when he caught it and gave it to his heart. "Ti amo. (I love you.)"

"Ti amo. (I love you.)"

Nikolas watched Dawn as she and her two protectors went to the limousine, entered it and drove away. He didn't turn away until the car was far out of sight. He chuckled softly as he remembered the many ways that she'd try to interrogate him about her Christmas gifts. She had used threats, promises and all sorts of neat little tricks, but he had remained firm. He hadn't uttered a word. Proud of himself, he entered Kelley's with a smile.

"Merry Christmas!" he said to Emily, who was sitting alone at a window table.

"Bah, humbug," she mumbled.

"What's wrong?" he asked, sliding into a seat across from her. "'Tis the season to be jolly."

"Yeah, and peace on earth and goodwill towards men. I know all about it," she told him with a sour expression on her face. She looked at his happy face and unable to bear so much good cheer, she looked back down at her steaming mug of hot chocolate again.

"Em?" Nikolas reached for her hand and covered it with his own. "What's going on? Did you and Jordan have an argument?"

She shrugged. "You could say that."

"Care to talk about it?" he offered.

"I'm sure you don't want to hear all the gory details."

"Sure I do…every last one of them." When she hesitated, he continued, "You know you can talk to me about anything. We're friends. I'm here for you. So spill it! Unless you'd rather I go and beat the crap out of Jordan. I mean, if that's what you'd prefer…"

She gave him a small smile. "No, I don't want you to beat him up. Fighting with him won't change how he feels."

"And how does he feel?"

"I'm wrong and he's right. He feels like he can't talk to me, and he feels like he won't be able to talk to me until I get over myself."

Nikolas stared at her in disbelief. "Jordan said that?"

"Yeah," she said, taking a deep breath. She didn't want to cry and she wouldn't. Her eyes rested on Nikolas as she said, "It's because he doesn't understand. He doesn't know and no matter how many times I've tried to explain it to him, he just doesn't get it."

"Get what?" Nikolas asked, giving her hand a gentle breeze to encourage her to continue.

"What's going on with my family…with Michael."

"Did something new happen? He's with AJ now, right?" Nikolas asked.

"Yeah, he's with AJ."

"You say that like you'd rather he not be," Nikolas said, watching her closely.

"I would rather he not be. AJ doesn't know the first thing about being a father to Michael. He only wants him as a trophy to prove that he can do something better than Jason," she said with conviction.

"But they made up," he said, confused. "He and Jason cleared the air. From what Tommy tells me, Jason supports AJ's decision to raise his child."

"Jason may say that, but he misses Michael. We all miss Michael, but AJ won't let any of us near him. Carly can only see him with supervised visits not that that's a bad thing, but the rest of us can't see him at all. AJ's only doing it to punish us. I told Jordan that, but he didn't believe me."

"Well, why would you say that? Why would AJ want to punish you by withholding Michael? I don't understand."

"Because we told him the truth," she replied. Her eyes drifted down to where their hands rested on the table, her eyes resting on his gold wedding band.

"You told AJ the truth? What truth?" Nikolas asked.

"That Michael should be with Jason. They love each other and Jason is the only father he's ever known. Can you imagine how awful it must be for him to be taken so completely away from Jason? AJ will not be as a good father to him as Jason. I just know it," Emily said. "You understand, don't you? Jordan doesn't. He thinks that AJ should be given a chance. I think that Michael deserves better than a *chance*."

Nikolas, removing his hand from Emily's hand, sat up straight. He shook his head a she answered her. "No, I don't understand, Em. How can you know that AJ wouldn't be a good father unless he's given the opportunity?"

"Because I know AJ."

"And?" he asked with a tiny trace of sarcasm. "I don't know AJ *that* well, but I know what I saw when he held Michael in his arms after learning that he was his father. I know that I saw love. Em, whether you want to admit this to yourself or not, AJ has a right to know his son-"


Nikolas held up his hand. "Wait, Em, let me finish. Here me out, okay?" After she nodded, he spoke again. "For almost a year, AJ's son was kept away from him. Have you imagined how he must feel? When I learned the full story, I did, and I have to tell you that I didn't like the feeling very much. I'll be a father soon, Em, and the thought of missing a minute not to mention months of our child's life frightens and infuriates me. In the past month since all of this was revealed, have you paused to think of that?"

"You sound like Jordan. This goes beyond what AJ feels. What about how Michael feels? What about Jason?" she asked, grasping.

"Em, are you listening to yourself?" Nikolas asked, leaning towards her. "Why is AJ last if anything? Doesn't he matter? And Michael? Sure, he's upset now, but he is a baby. What about how he'll feel years from now? His entire life would have been a lie. Do you think he would be grateful to AJ for turning his back on him? That is what you would rather he do, right? Turn his back on his child and give him to Jason to raise? Em, have you thought any of this through or does the pedestal you have Jason on cloud your line of reasoning?"

"I don't have Jason on a pedestal," she denied, looking away from Nikolas to stare out of the window. Someone had built a snow-woman that bore a remarkable resemblance to Ruby. If she had been in a better mood, she would have laughed or at the very least smiled, but she didn't. She frowned instead. Jordan had accused her of the same the last time they had seen each other. To be fair, she knew that he had held his opinions about Michael's custody to himself. For weeks, he had only listened to her when she told him how miserable everyone was Michael included. He had been patient with her, holding her hand and holding her close to him. He didn't voice his opposing views until she came out and asked him how he felt. From the concentration on his face, she knew that he had chosen his words carefully, but it didn't matter to her. She had lashed out her disagreement and he had thrown up his hands and walked away.

"Em? You do," Nikolas said softly. He reached for her hand again and gently held it. "You always have. I won't presume to know anything about your family structure. Mine is odd enough without me trying to compare it to another's. The only thing I know is what I've seen and I saw love on AJ's face when he held Michael."

"I'm not saying that he doesn't love Michael, but-"

"Hey, I'm sorry I'm late," Tommy said as he approached them. He looked at both of their faces and immediately knew that he had interrupted an important conversation. "I'm sorry. I can just wait over there."

"No, Tommy, it's okay. We're done now," Emily told him with a faint smile.

"Em?" Nikolas asked.

"No, really. I'm better now. Go." She pushed herself away from the table and stood.

"Will you think about what I said?" he asked softly, helping her into her coat.

"Yeah," she nodded. "Thanks, Nikolas." She gave him a kiss on the cheek and smiled when he pulled her into a brief hug. As she moved towards the door, she said, "Merry Christmas to you both."

"You, too," Tommy said with a wave as Nikolas smiled at her. Emily left and soon after, they followed her.

Part 2

"Do you think she'll be surprised?" Tommy asked as he and Nikolas ended their shopping expedition. Both of the young men were a little tired. Pushing through the mob of last minute shoppers for the last few hours had taught them a valuable lesson. They would never wait until Christmas Eve to get that last 'must-have' gift. From that moment on, they pledged to complete their shopping six months in advance…no matter what.

"She'll be speechless," Nikolas grinned. "She's been all over Wyndemere, looking in closets and drawers for a teeny, tiny hint or peek. I'm certain she's bribed the household staff and maybe even Uncle."

Tommy laughed. "She's something else."

"Yeah, she is," Nikolas agreed. "What about you? How do you think Gina will feel about your gift?"

"I guess she'll like it. It's hard to say. On the one hand, she told me she didn't want anything, but on the other hand, I know she's lying."

"That's because they want us to figure it out," Nikolas told him. "Dawn's been like that, too. Weeks ago, I came right out and asked her if she wanted anything in particular. And, do you believe that she actually told me that she didn't want anything?"

"No," Tommy laughed. "She's been talking about the baby shower for weeks and that we had all better give your baby something good. I can't even tell you how many of my calendars has her birthday circled, and the weird thing is that I don't even know when she did it."

"She does that to you, too?" Nikolas laughed, shaking his head.

"Yeah, but I don't mind." Tommy shrugged with a smile. "It's cute. I can only imagine what would happen if I forgot."

"You won't forget. You can't. I'm gonna need help to pull off her surprise, so don't even think I'm letting you get out of it so easily."

"I know, I know. Two months from now, right?" Tommy asked.

"Yep. Two months from now she'll finally be a legal adult and two months from then we'll be parents," Nikolas said, wistfully.

"I'm looking forward to it." Tommy smiled. As their footsteps brought them to a coffee shop, he pointed inside. Nikolas shrugged his acceptance and the two went inside. After they had placed their orders for two grande Café Mochas and two rich, fattening pastries, they took a seat. Once settled, Tommy asked, "Do you know what sex the baby will be?"

Nikolas shook his head. "No and we don't want to know. Besides, it doesn't matter anyway."

"No, I guess not. What about names?" Tommy asked, fascinated by the idea of a new life coming into their fold.

"If we have a boy, she wants to name the baby after me. The way I was named after my father. If we have a girl, she wants to do the same somehow."

"That should be interesting," Tommy chuckled. "Nicolette Cassadine, perhaps?"

"Perhaps," Nikolas shrugged. The petite blonde waitress appeared with their orders. She smiled at Nikolas as she placed his coffee and pastry before him, but her smile disappeared when she attended to Tommy. Nikolas watched her behind narrowed eyes. Her manner was brusque and hurried with Tommy, and Nikolas was about to comment on her ill treatment of him when Tommy stopped him with a shake of his head. After she left, Nikolas asked, "Why did you stop me?"

"Because she's not worth it," Tommy shrugged.

"Didn't it bother you? It bothered me," Nikolas said, rising from his seat, "and I intend to inform management of her rudeness-"

"Nikolas, man, wait," Tommy said. He waited until Nikolas sat back down and then he continued. "It bothered me, but since it's Christmas, I plan to let it go."

"Do you always let it go?" Nikolas asked. Having lost his appetite, he pushed the pastry aside and concentrated on his coffee.

"No," Tommy told him. "It doesn't happen often, but when I does, I deal with it…unless Gina deals with it first. And, let me tell you, after Gina's done with them, they'll think twice about indulging their ignorance the next time."

"I don't understand it," Nikolas said, shaking his head.

"Neither do I," Tommy said, taking a sip of his coffee. After he placed it back down on the table, he continued, "It wasn't like this below, you know. There was no separation based on skin color or anything. We were all treated like crap. If anything, it was more sexist, considering that most of the workers were women and all of the guards were men."

"I don't understand that one, either," Nikolas told him. He looked at Tommy as his friend took another sip of his coffee. He took note of Tommy's green eyes, his caramel skin tone and his wavy brown hair. He noticed in ways that he never had before, just how much Tommy resembled his grandmother, Audrey. Nikolas never considered Tommy's father, Tom, or his mother, Simone whenever he looked at his friend, but now as the discussion of race came up, he noticed that Tommy had the features of both of his parents. And, Nikolas began to think of his own unborn child. Without thinking he blurted out, "Do you consider yourself black or white?"

Tommy sat up straight in his chair. He shook his head as he answered, "I've never thought about it. Well, not really. Whenever I'm with Gina or maybe Lizabeth or my grandmother, ignorant people find a way to bring it to my attention and judging by their reaction, I'm black, I guess."

"But, you, what do you consider yourself?" Nikolas persisted.

"I don't know," Tommy told him, perplexed. "My mother is black and my dad is white. I'm a part of both of them. To me, I'm not either one or the other. I can't be because both of them created me. Just like both you and Dawn created your baby. That is why you're asking me, right? You're thinking about how to deal with it when the time comes?"

"Yeah," Nikolas admitted. "Dawn and I haven't really discussed it. She's been more focused on making the sure the baby has as much of a normal life as possible as a Cassadine, and to be honest, I never really considered it until right now."

"And why not?" Tommy asked.

"Because…well, I'm not sure," Nikolas said, his brown eyes marred by confusion.

"Yeah, well, I don't think about it much either," Tommy said. "I don't go around thinking that I'm black or white. I'm me."

"But, don’t you feel a need to identify yourself…or something?"

"Nikolas, do you go around telling yourself that you're white all day?" Tommy asked.

"No, of course not."

"Well, I don't go around thinking about my race all day either and I'm pretty sure your child won't either. Whether I consider myself black, white, biracial, mulatto, whatever…the most important thing that's ever mattered to me has been love. From what I can remember about my dad, he loved me, and I know my mom and the rest of my family does, too. Grandmother doesn't love Lizabeth more because she's white or me half as much because I'm half-white. She loves us both the same. That's the important thing."

"So, do you think I'm worrying for nothing?" Nikolas asked after sipping his coffee.

"No," his friend told him, shaking his head. "It's not for nothing. Your child should know who he or she is. Having an identity and knowing that I was more than just some damn captive who was forced to do those bastards bidding is what kept me alive all those years. And my identity came from my mom. She reminded me each and every day that I was a person, worthy and deserving of love. I think if you and Dawn do that for your baby, you'll do okay."

Nikolas stared at Tommy in silence. The wisdom of the younger man never ceased to amaze him. They weren't even two years apart in age, yet, there were times when Tommy seemed centuries older. A faint smile turned his mouth upwards. "Thanks, Tommy."

Tommy smiled and said, "No problem. My mom always reminded me that it's the sense of self that makes a person. You and Dawn know who you are, and I know you'll both guide your baby in the right way, too."


Stefan was deep in thought as his feet left the launch and landed on the dock. Pulling his wool coat close around his shoulders, he moved briskly up the platform. His meeting with Jerry Jacks a few nights ago weighed heavily on his mind. Stefan prided himself in thinking ahead and he was certain that having Jacks 'embezzle' a majority of Nikolas' assets to various Swiss accounts had been performed in a timely manner. Yet, the doubts remained as well as uneasiness. He felt as if something was amiss, almost as if he had overlooked one fine detail. The *one* detail which, if ignored, could ruin everything.

Securing his son's legacy meant everything to him. He had sacrificed so much…remaining tied to the Cassadine fortune instead of pursuing his poetry…living with the knowledge that his only child loved him, but only as his uncle… Oh, they were all sacrifices made willingly, but now as his future lay before him surrounded by a golden halo of happiness, he began to believe that the time of sacrifice was nearing its end. A deep sigh escaped him as a flash of Carlotta's warm smile and the vision of a tiny grandchild crossed his mind. He smiled to himself. The future promised to be stupendous.


A frown creased his brow as he turned to face the owner of the voice. "Laura." He was a little more than surprised that she would accost him on the docks. However, as surprised as he was, his expression did not change. He stood still as she stormed down the steps to reach him.

"You don’t seem surprised to see me, but I guess you shouldn't be! Why haven't you returned my calls?" she asked, her blue eyes flashing and daring him to ignore her.

"I have been busy," he simply said.

"Please!" she bit out. "Doing what? Besides, ignoring me, that is."

"Laura, please." Stefan spoke quietly. His eyes remained on her as he closed the distance between them. "What is it that you wish from me?"

"Don't play games with me, Stefan!" The force of her words caused her toss her head back. "You know exactly what I wish from you! Nikolas-"

"But you already have him. You've made inroads in your relationship-"

"Stefan, cut it out," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Nikolas deserves to know the truth! The entire truth. We agreed that we would tell him-"

"And we will," he reassured her.

"When?" she asked. Her arms folded across her chest as she took a step closer to him. Breathing heavily in her agitation, she unwittingly inhaled his scent. He smelled spicy and sweet, just like she remembered. Her thoughts must have shown briefly in her eyes because Stefan's expression changed. She immediately berated herself, and of course, she shifted the attention back to the matter at hand. "It's been over a month! If you refuse to tell him with me, I will tell him by myself!"

"You will do no such thing. We agreed-"

"*We* agreed," she repeated, mocking him, "to tell him. *We* have not done so. *We* have always found an excuse or a reason why the time wasn't right. Well, *we* no longer have to tell him because *I* will!"


Identity…sense of self… Tommy's words lingered in Nikolas' mind as he left his Jaguar and with packages in hand, headed towards the dock. His friend was right. Those were the attributes, which made a person. His uncle had always told him that. 'This above all, to thine own self be true,' had been Stefan's opening phrase whenever he thought his nephew was in need of a lecture. He took great pains to remind him of his lineage, his legacy. Nikolas had a responsibility to the family and to himself. And although he didn't dwell on it, his birthright and the ridiculous title of prince was as ingrained upon him as anything. He was the firstborn son of the firstborn son, and he had a duty as such.

He was *the* heir, Nikolas had been reminded countless times, but he knew that he was much more than that. His uncle had told him to be true to himself, but he had neglected to tell him that he had to know himself first. And for the longest time, who he was, the sense of self that Tommy had spoken of, had alluded him. He was the future leader of the Cassadine clan and keeper of the Cassadine fortune…but *who* was he? He hadn't the faintest idea…until…just a few moments before.

His questions and concerns about his unborn child had helped him in ways that he was only beginning to realize. He was a father, or rather, he would be one soon. Above anything else, his responsibilities to his wife and child were the most important. True, he was the prince, whatever the hell that meant, but he was also a friend, a brother, a nephew, a son, a husband and soon to be a father. He was many things to many people and with all of the many different roles, he would have to find a way to stay grounded. He had to be true to himself, of course, and never lose sight of that.

A feeling of relief washed over him as he neared the steps, which lead down to the dock. Pleased with his self-discovery, he was so caught up in his revelation to notice the arguing man and woman. An anguished cry broke him from his reverie and he blinked back to reality. A frown replaced his smile as he recognized the pair. Stefan and Laura were involved in a heated exchange and his sixth sense told him that he was the topic of their discussion. He had half a mind to break it up, but at the last moment, he changed his mind. Instead, he backed into the shadows, listening to their verbal battle.

"You will not say one word without me!" Stefan said through gritted teeth.

"Oh, yes, I will!" Laura shot back at him. "I've waited long enough! Nikolas has waited long enough-"

"He doesn't even know-"

"And, you've waited long enough," she said, continuing as if he hadn't even spoken. "Don't you think you've waited long enough? Isn't this what you've waited your entire life to say to him?"

"Lasha, I-I…" Stefan stammered. He turned away from her and strode towards the bottom of the wooden steps. His feet refused to move and he simply stood there. He had no idea that only a few feet away, his son stood above him, watching and listening.

Laura went to him. She reached out a hand to comfort him, but she quickly drew it back. She wasn't sure if touching him was the right thing to do. She wanted to touch him and the realization surprised her. So, in retaliation she kept her hands to herself. She wasn't sure where the sudden need to comfort him…after he had taken such relish in tormenting her…had come from and she sure wasn't about to decipher it now. Instead, she used a softer tone to soothe him. "Stefan," she began slowly, her voice just audible enough to carry a short distance, "I know you've waited for Nikolas to know the truth. You don't have to wait anymore. We can tell him together. For the first time in his life, he can share a Christmas Eve with both of his parents. Stefan, the time has come for us to tell him that his father is alive."

*What?* Nikolas' mind screamed. My father?? Who?

"It's time that he knew that his father was there with him all along and that he doesn't have to mourn him. He can love him. Stefan, aren't you ready for your son's love?" Laura asked softly.

*Uncle was his father???*

Stefan turned away from the steps to face Laura. His voice was shaky, but the words were unmistakable. "Yes, Lasha, I'm ready. We'll tell him tonight. He will know that I am his father."

Stefan was Nikolas' father, and suddenly, everything he'd learned about himself shifted. He didn't know who he was anymore. His entire life had been a lie. Who was he now?

[Author's Note: 'This above all, to thine own self be true,' was from William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet.']

Chapter 106

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