Life After Dark

Chapter 106>

~ Christmas Eve: Discourse ~

"She's not here," Jason said, smirking to himself as he turned away from his guest. He busied himself with the remainder of the holly as he wrapped it around the banister.

Standing just in front of the closed front door, Sonny stared at Jason. Wise ass, he thought, as he could have sworn that he saw Jason's shoulders shake in laughter. Shrugging out of his overcoat, he asked, "Who?"

Jason glanced at him over his shoulder. Cocking an eyebrow, he said, "As if you didn't know."

"I don't know. Who is this *she* person?" Sonny asked in all seriousness. "Keesha? Is she the woman in question?"

"Man, you're unbelievable," Jason laughed, turning back to his task. He gave the holly one last pat and then he grabbed the box of remaining decorations. He headed towards the living room. Knowing that Sonny was right behind him, he called over his shoulder, "So, what's up?"

"Does anything have to be up?" Sonny asked, looking around the very decorated room. He laughed softly to himself as he took in the many Christmas cards, the matching pair of Christmas stockings, and the huge Christmas tree. And, there was his best friend…former mob boss and now extremely domesticated husband… Jason, sitting there in the thick of it with a dopey grin on his face as he sorted out the contents of the box. Sonny laughed out loud.

Jason shook his head as Sonny wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes. He pulled out the Christmas lights and grimaced as he encountered the tangled wires. Carefully unraveling the cords, he said, "Nothing has to be up. You're welcome here any time, you know that, but if you're here to peep out Simone, she's not here."

"Peep out?" Sonny asked, frowning. "What's that? Besides, what makes you think I'm here to see Simone? Unless my invite to dinner was-"

"Oh, cut it out," Jason grumbled with a little impatience and a little humor. The tangled lights were bothersome and Sonny's sorry state of denial was a joke. "You know damn full well what 'peep out' means 'cause you've been doing it every since Simone started working here. You're not fooling anybody, man."

"What?!" Sonny asked, incredulous. "I stop by on occasion, but it's not to see her. She hates my guts!"

"Which is exactly why you can't stay away," Jason told him. Frustrated with the lights, he abruptly stood and flung the lights into the nearest trashcan.

"What?!" Sonny repeated. "I'm not interested in that woman!"

"Yeah, Sonny. Sure," Jason smirked. He reached inside his jeans for his keys, but they weren't there. "Are my keys over there?" he asked, indicating on top of the mantle.

"Yeah." Sonny grabbed the keys and tossed them to Jason. "You going somewhere?"

"Yeah, to the store. I have to get this place fixed up and I'm running out of time," Jason said, grabbing the box of decorations and heading for the hallway.

Taking the opportunity to tease, Sonny followed him and said, "So, what? The little woman will put you out for not having it all Christmasy when she comes home?"

"Nope, but I told her I'd do it and I'm gonna. Besides, it won't be just the two of us come Christmas morning. We’re having our first over-nighters. Keesha and Gina are picking them up and taking them shopping now," Jason called out from the hall closet.

"Oh, so what's the story?" Sonny asked, all traces of teasing gone.

Carrying his leather jacket, Jason exited the closet. As he pulled his jacket on, he said, "They're twins, Gracie and George Lee. Four-years-old and their parents abandoned them, just left them at a shelter and took off. Social Services called us and the Ward House is ready and waiting for them."

"Are you ready for this? I mean, with Michael…and…everything…" Sonny said with concern.

Jason drew a long breath. "I miss him, but he's gone from me. Besides, Keesha and I are here to help the kids. This isn't about us. It's about them."

"Okay," Sonny said, raising his hands in mock defense.

Jason shook his head as he moved towards the door. A teasing light began to shine in his eyes as a thought occurred to him. "Well, since you are kinda early for dinner and all, how about doing me a favor?"

"Sure, no problem. Whatcha need?" Sonny asked, shrugging off his black Armani button down jacket.

"The kids' bedroom could use some linen. Would you do it up for me?" Jason asked, grinning as he paused to stand in the doorway, waiting for Sonny's response.

Sonny knew a challenge when one was being thrown down. He wasn't one to turn his back on one. He shrugged and nonchalantly said, "Sure. No problem."

"Great," his friend replied. "The linen is in the hall closet upstairs. There are Tele-Tubby, Barbie, and Power Rangers sheets in there. I'll let you choose which ones to use."

"Gee, thanks."

"No problem," Jason smirked. "See ya in a few."


Jordan couldn't move. He couldn't turn back, and he couldn't go forward. Emily was probably on the other side of that door and although he longed to go to her, his finger wouldn't push the doorbell and his feet wouldn't budge to take him away. What was wrong with him, he wondered. Why was he so confused? Why he couldn't he just make the first move? It wasn't like he was still upset with her…well, he was, but not as upset as he had been. He wanted them to move past it and somehow work through it. He cared about her too much to let 'get over yourself' be the last thing she heard him say to her.

He could do it. He would do it. He would make that first step.

Removing his leather glove from his right hand, he extended his index finger and pushed the doorbell. In the quiet December afternoon, he could hear the melodious sound reverberate throughout the quiet mansion. Quiet…mansion? The Q mansion was never quiet. As the seconds passed and no one answered his call, Jordan began to wonder if anyone was there. He shuffled his feet, preparing his feet to take a step back when on cue, the door swung open.

Reginald smirked at Jordan as he ushered the younger man inside. "It's about time you showed up, don't you think?"

"Excuse me?" Jordan asked. There was no love lost between the two and Jordan relished the opportunity to tell him a thing or two.

Reginald, sensing that he was about a second away from a tongue-lashing that he might or might not have deserved, closed the door behind Jordan and stepped aside. He pointed towards the double doors, which led to the den. "She's in there. It's none of my business-"

"You got that right-"

"-but I care about her. Talk to her. You'd be surprised to find what a few days without you has done to her," Reginald replied softly.

Jordan frowned as he considered what Reginald meant. Slowly, he turned away from Reginald and went towards the den. He took a deep breath and then he went inside. Pulling the door closed behind him, he simply stood there for a moment. Her back was to him as she sat curled up on the sofa. Her long brown hair fell down in waves onto her back and it reminded him of the times he had run his fingers through it. He'd missed that. He'd missed her.

Moving closer to her, he cleared his throat as a way to signal his presence.

"Reginald, I told you before. Leave me alone," she mumbled against the pillow she held to her chest.

"Emmie, it's me," Jordan said softly, taking steps to reach her.

"Jordan," she said, turning her head to look at him.

Jordan swallowed hard. She was so beautiful, he thought. Her eyes were red from crying and her cheeks were a little splotchy, but neither diminished how she appeared to him. He felt awful knowing that it were his words, which had probably caused her to cry. He immediately wished that he had been there to dry her tears and hold her in his arms. He moved to sit beside her on the sofa and without another word passing between them, he pulled her into his arms. She went willingly.

"I'm sorry about what happened," she murmured as he rocked her in his arms. "I shouldn't have lashed out at you. It wasn't fair and I didn’t mean it."

"Ssh," he cooed. "I shouldn't have said what I said either. I'm sorry for hurting you."

"You didn't hurt me," she said, raising her head from his chest to look into his caring brown eyes. "You were being honest, and I should have appreciated it. I didn’t and I'm sorry. Will you forgive me for being such a witch?"

"Yeah," he said, smiling. "I forgive you for being such a witch. Forgive me for yelling at you?"

"I forgive you," she said, "but you really didn't have to apologize for that. That's all they ever do around here. I consider it as a sign of affection."

Jordan's laugh was like music to her ears. "Your family is too much. Don't you guys realize that there are better ways to show affection?" he asked softly, his fingers losing themselves in her hair.

"There are?" she asked, gently cupping his face.

Jordan nodded. He lowered his face to hers and brushed his full, sensual lips against hers until she parted her lips for him. His show of affection thrilled her and as he raised his lips from hers, Emily felt herself wanting him to show her more.

"Emmie," he breathed, resting his forehead against hers. He closed his eyes as he waited for the pounding in his chest to subside. They'd been apart for only two days, but with one kiss… They had to take it slowly, he reminded himself. He wanted her and after kisses like those, he was left aching for her, but… He didn't want his life to mirror that of the young Cassadines. He wasn't ready for that, which meant he wasn't ready for them to take their relationship further, but damn, at some times, it was so very tempting.

"Jordan?" Emily asked, covering his hands with hers. "Everything is okay between us now, right? Are you still mad at me about AJ?"

"We're fine," he reassured her, lifting his head to look down into her eyes. "I'm not mad anymore, but I'm still confused. Is Jason still up on that pedestal while AJ is in the doghouse?"

She shrugged. "I didn't know Jason was on a pedestal. I didn't mean to put him there. It's just that…"

"What?" he asked, as her words drifted and she stopped speaking.

"He never lies and in a house full of liars, it's good to know that there's one person who doesn't do that," she said quietly.

"But, Emmie, he did lie. He lied about Michael. Don't you see that?" Jordan asked, softly.

"Not really. None of us came out and asked him if he was Michael's father. We assumed he was and he didn't say anything," she mumbled, her eyes downcast. Her fingers played with the buttons of his blue denim shirt as she avoided his eyes.

"Emily. C'mon. Please tell me that you're not falling for that. He lied to you, and he kept a baby away from his father. Jason is a cool guy, but what he did was wrong. Don’t you see that?" he asked her gently.

"But, he must have had a good reason," she said, plaintively. "Right?" Her voice was uncertain as she asked him.

"I can't think of one," he answered her. "Emmie?"

"Yeah?" she asked, sliding a finger between the space in his shirt. Her finger encountered his cotton T-shirt and she felt him take in a deep breath as she lightly caressed his muscled chest.

Jordan swallowed hard as her finger innocently touched him. He thought about removing her hand, but it felt good, so he didn't. He focused on their conversation as she continued to torment him. "Why is AJ wanting to raise his son wrong?"

"Be-because AJ is an alcoholic," she stammered, swallowing back a sob as her eyes brimmed with tears. She removed her hand from his shirt as she rested her head on his chest.

"But he doesn't drink anymore," Jordan said, stroking her back as she rested against him.

"But he could start back and Michael could see… Alcoholism is a disease and it's common in this family. AJ drinks. Dad's a junkie and so was I. Jason's not weak like the rest of us, and if Mikey was with Jason, he'd be strong, too."

"Oh, Emmie," Jordan sighed, holding her close to him. "You're strong. Everyone has weaknesses, including Jason. Besides, you *were* a junkie. You're not anymore. The same goes for your dad and AJ. Maybe what happened to AJ will make him a better father. He can teach Michael how to deal with his weaknesses and be strong like his beautiful Aunt Emily."

"Jordan, you're sweet, but you don't understand," she said, brushing her tears away. She sat up to look at him. "It's so easy to fall. This family…it's so loud and crazy and hungry for everything… Sometimes you can get lost… I don't want Michael to get lost, and I'm so afraid that AJ will fail. Something will happen and he'll fall and he'll never get back up again."

"Maybe you should tell him," Jordan suggested. "Right now he thinks you hate him. Maybe if you told him that you loved him, you'd all be able to figure this thing out. Besides, I'd like to see the little guy. I miss him.

"Would you go with me?" she asked.

"Emmie, haven't you figured it out, yet?" he asked softly. "I'd go with you anywhere. Yes, sweetheart, I'll go with you."

I love you, their eyes whispered to the other. In time, they'd be ready to say the words, but for that moment, they were content just knowing that the unspoken sentiment was mutual.

Part 2

"Excuse me?" the timid pre-pubescent voice asked.

"Yeah?" Dawn said, looking down into gray eyes that stared at her in awe.

"You're Dawn from DJLS, right? You're in that new video with Miguel Morez…'Living La Vida Loca', right?" the young boy asked, vigorously nodding his head as he willed her to say yes.

Blushing, Dawn laughed softly. "Yeah, that's me."

"Wow!" her young admirer gushed. "Can I get your autograph?"

"Sure," she shrugged. She blushed as her mother and sister beamed at her with pride. The boy handed her his shopping bag and a pen. "You want me to sign this?" she asked.

"Yeah." He grinned sheepishly as he added, "I don't have anything else, and who knows if I'll ever get to talk to you again."

"Oh…okay," she shrugged again. "I can't do this standing up. Let's go out there to one of the tables and you can tell me what you'd like for me to write."

"Wow!" he gushed. "Sure, let's go!"

"We'll be here," Carrie called out to her youngest daughter as she walked away with her fan.

"Can you believe that?" Dara asked, linking her arm through Carrie's as they entered the boutique.

"I can," Simone told the Jensen women. "She's a sweetheart. Her fans will figure it out and follow her everywhere."

"Not if Laverne and Shirley have anything to do with it," Dara said, dryly, referring to Serguei and Arman, whose presence had loomed over the quartet the entire afternoon.

"Dara, you are wrong," Carrie commented, laughing softly at her daughter's description of the two bodyguards.

Dara chuckled softly. "So, while we're waiting for the star to return, who's left on our lists. I'm done and I don't have to buy another thing until somebody's birthday in two months. What about you, Simone, are you done? Mama?"

"I'm done with my list," Simone said, "but there is one more thing I need…"

"I'm almost done," Carrie said. "Lisa's the last one on my list. So, Miss Simone, what's that one last thing you need?"

"A dress," Simone said, turning away to attack a rack of dresses which had caught her eye.

"Oh. 'A dress,'" Carrie repeated, teasing her friend. "So, what kind of a dress? A regular dress or a special dress for a special occasion?"

"A dress," Simone told her. "Just a dress."

"Well, if it's just a dress you want, how about this one?" Dara asked, holding up the dowdiest dress she could find. The dress screamed ugly from across the room and Carrie laughed as Simone turned up her nose.

"You Jensen women are so hilarious," Simone muttered with a smile. "I wouldn't be caught dead in a dress that ugly."

"Well, you said all you needed was a dress. Who cares if it's ugly, right?" Carrie asked, smiling as a faint blush appeared on Simone's cheeks.

"Okay, okay. I get it. You two aren't stopping until I 'fess up, right?" she asked looking from one grinning face to the other.

"Right," Dara answered.

"Well, if you must know, John and I are going to New York for New Year's Eve-"

"What?!" mother and daughter exclaimed in unison.

"Just over night and it's not what you two gutter rats are thinking," Simone told them as lecherous grins appeared on both of their faces. "He's going to a gallery showing and I'm going with him. And before your eyes pop out of your heads, Elizabeth is going, too."

"Lizzie is going where?" Dawn asked. Having returned from her fan encounter, she was hungry for any tidbit of information about her best friend.

"To New York with John and me next week," Simone said. "So, how did the autograph signing go?"

"It was okay," Dawn said quietly. "A few more kids showed up and I took a few pictures with them. So, what's going on in New York?"

"A gallery showing. She didn't tell you about it?" Simone gently asked. She sensed the sadness that Dawn was trying to hide and she was glad when Dara and Carrie left the two of them alone.

"She probably forgot to mention it," Dawn mumbled. "Well, maybe not. She and I haven't spoken as often as we did before. I think she's upset with me…is she?"

"Because of the video?" Simone asked. As Dawn nodded, she continued, "I don't think she's upset with you."

"Well, she's always busy whenever I call or if not that, she's not there. If she's giving me the brush off, you can tell me, Dr. Hardy. I won't say anything."

"She's not brushing you off. She really has been busy," Simone replied.

"Doing what?" Dawn asked. "We used to talk all the time, but since she broke up with Lucky, I hardly ever see her anymore. She is brushing me off."

When the younger woman's eyes began to water, Simone put her arms around her. Carrie gave her a questioning glance, but Simone shook her head, silently telling the mother that she would take care of her daughter for the moment. "I know for a fact that she's not brushing you off. She's dealing with some things, but she's not upset with you. I promise that you'll soon find out why she's been so busy. Trust me, okay?"

Sniffling, Dawn nodded. "Sure. Okay."

"Good, now help me find a dress. I would ask your mother and sister, but they're too much up in my business as it is."

Dawn laughed and said, "So that's why you didn't ask Mama to design one for you?"

"You got it. Carrie's Creations are hot, but they're a little too hot for me, if you get my meaning," Simone said, with a shy grin.

"Hey, I heard that," Carrie said, returning with several dresses in her arms. "My designs aren't *that* bad."

"Mama, Alex said that your dresses are…um…never mind," Dara stammered as she thought back to what her lover had said and how her mother probably shouldn't know, especially considering what had transpired after he had voiced his thoughts.

"Ooh…Dara and Alex got busy because of one of Mama's dresses. Ooh…" Dawn laughed as Dara scowled at her.

"Okay," Carrie said, interrupting her older daughter before she retaliated with a barb of her own. "That's more than I care to know. Here, Si, try these. Black and simple. You can't go wrong with these, right?"

"Thanks," Simone said, taking the dresses from Carrie. She held them up, admiring the simple cut of the dresses. They would reveal just enough, but not too much. She left her friends to try them on.

"So, how did it feel to greet your fans?" Dara asked, smiling at Dawn as her sister began to blush again.

"It was nice," she said.

"It was more than nice and you know it," Carrie said, prompting Dawn to admit to her true feelings.

"Yeah," Dawn smiled. "It was great! It was the first time it's ever happened when I've been away from the guys. I can't wait to tell them. I couldn't believe it when the other kids showed up. They said that they had the CD singles, loved the videos and couldn't wait for the CD to be released."

"That sounds great," Dara said, hugging her sister. "I'm so proud of you."

"Me, too, baby," Carrie smiled.

"I can't wait to tell Nikky. He's gonna be so surprised, especially when I tell him that one of them asked me to marry him," she laughed when she remembered the boy's face when she reminded him that she was already married.

"Oh, I'm sure he'll just love that," Dara said, thinking of her brother-in-law's over-protectiveness.

"You're still coming over tomorrow for Christmas brunch, right?" Dawn asked, looking at Dara.

"Yeah, tonight it's dinner with the Garcias and tomorrow, it's brunch at Wyndemere. Please, make sure that it's sweet potato pie and not pumpkin pie. Mrs. Landsbury is a nice woman, but when it comes to my favorite dessert on Christmas Day…"

"I know, Dara, I know," Dawn said, nodding her head. "Mama gave her the recipe and I'm the official taster. Mrs. Landsbury won't let us down. So, Mama, after we're done here, are you coming back with me, or are you going home first?"

"I'm going with you to drop some things off, but remind me to call Lucky before we leave here. I want to make sure he's not at home moping around."

"Oh," Dawn said quietly, averting her eyes as she looked down at her wedding band.

"He's been like a bump on a log for weeks and he's getting on my nerves. Do you know what's wrong with him?"

"Nope," Dawn said, shrugging. Resistant to discussing Lucky, she changed the subject. "My feet are beginning to hurt a little. I think I'll go sit down over there until we're ready to go."

Dara watched Dawn walk away. Turning to her mother, she said, "Do you know what that was about? I thought she and Lucky were good friends."

"They are. Something is going on with him and I'm pretty sure she knows what it is." Carrie shrugged. "You know how she is, though. When she wants to share, she will."

Dara nodded in agreement. "Speaking of sharing, care to share with me what Cassadine's intentions are with you?"

"No," Carrie said, "I don't. Mamas don't have to share. I thought I taught you that."


Stefan Cassadine was not his uncle, but his father. The revelation had sent Nikolas reeling, and as his mother…and father…had stood below him, silently comforting each other, it had been all he could do not to shout out and demand answers. Answers to so many questions that he had been unable to voice at the time and now, hours later, he was only just beginning to form.

Stavros, the man he had believed to be his father…the man he had mourned and cried over his entire life, was his uncle? His uncle, who was his father, had often held him in his arms as his tears had streamed down his cheeks, comforting him as he lamented over never having a father to hold him, to love him and to tell him he was proud of him. His uncle, who was his father, had been the one to hold him, to love him and to express his pride in him. The comfort he found in that acknowledgment was minimal as the rest of him was consumed with confusion and a strong sense of betrayal.

As his parents had parted ways, confident in their plans for making their deceit known that evening at dinner, Nikolas had stood still, refusing to breathe or even bat an eye until they had passed. The truth…if it were indeed the truth…was too raw for him to conceive at that moment and much too painful for him to face. He said a silent prayer of gratitude as his presence went unmarked by neither of them and they went on their way.

He had gone back to Spoon Island, the place where he had only recently called home, but couldn't any more. Upon his arrival, he had been thankful that he was alone. He loved his wife with all of his heart and every bone in his body, but he was not ready to face her with his newfound knowledge. First, he needed to make sense of it. Then, after he understood, would he be able to confide in her. And confide in her he would. In his confused state with mixed emotions running rampant throughout him, he knew only one thing for certain. She was his lifeline. He didn't know anything anymore…not even who he was, but he was hundred per cent convinced that her love would show him the way. It sounded corny even to him, but he knew that the trite thought would be proven correct. Dawn's love would envelope him and see him through this.

After placing his shopping bags in their quarters, he had roamed the mansion, thinking about all the little things that he had failed to comprehend over the years. He had always taken Stefan's presence for granted. He'd never considered that his uncle's involvement in his life was extraordinary, but it had been. Uncles loved their nephews and nieces, spoiled them and teased them, but they never forfeited their lives for them. Maybe if the parents had passed on, an uncle would assume the role of guardian, but Nikolas was quite certain that it would not be at the intensity of Stefan's commitment. Pausing on the landing to consider it, Nikolas realized that Stefan had given up everything for him.


As he took a step forward to go down the grand staircase, another thought entered his mind. Laura. He'd noticed the tension between his mother and…Uncle. He had erroneously assumed that their animosity stemmed from the age-old Cassadine/Spencer Feud, but looking back on it now, he realized that there was always a little something more going on between them. A look between them, an electricity which charged the room and left him spinning in curiosity and wonderment. So much anger and all because of him, Nikolas had thought at the time, but now he knew the truth. He'd heard it on the dock. Hell, he'd seen it, too! There was something between them…sex, love, a taste for forbidden fruit. One of the three?! Perhaps all combined in some sick, twisted game with him as the product.

God, the thought of it all disgusted him and weakened him. He bit his bottom lip to refrain from crying out. The dark walls began to close around him. He needed to get out of there. He needed answers. He wanted his wife. He heard footsteps sliding along the hardwood floors. He held his breath, in anticipation, hoping that his prayers had been answered. That Dawn was home. The newcomer came into view and he saw that his prayers hadn't been answered. Dawn wasn't home. But his…father…was.

Nikolas stood in the shadows, furiously blinking back tears and taking deep breaths to regulate his breathing. He watched in silence as Stefan moved about the room, adjusting his papers and cleaning his reading glasses. The older man moved methodically, taking his time with each task. He was focused and intent. He had a job to do and he made certain to do it well. In that moment, Nikolas hated him. But, he loved him, too. He wasn't sure if he would ever stop. He took a deep breath and made that first step.

Stefan turned as he heard the soft footsteps behind him. Pushing his glasses atop his nose, he smiled as Nikolas looked down at him. "I trust your Christmas shopping went well."

Nikolas stared at him.

Stefan felt chilled under the relentless gaze of the younger man, yet, he continued on. "You were able to find the gift for Dawn, no? I'm quite certain that she'll be beside herself tomorrow morning. She's investigated every inch of Wyndemere I've been told and I-"

"Are you my father?"

Stefan became restless. His eyes moved rapidly as words, not answers, but words came rushing from his mouth. "When I first brought you here, I felt that having your moth-"

"You didn't bring me here. I came to save my sister's life."

"-having your mother," Stefan continued, deaf to Nikolas' interruption and defeated by Nikolas' unwavering stare, "in your life-"

"What is this? Another lecture?" Nikolas asked, gesturing with his arms and hands. "Another speech?" he asked, his voice hoarse. He fell into the chair across from Stefan. "The question was simple. Are you my father? Don't deny me the truth. Not anymore. Please."

Stefan's throat constricted. He was speechless. He was broken. His eyes flooded with tears and he sobbed. "Yes." He reached blindly for Nikolas' hand. "Yes! I *am* your father."

Nikolas was unmoved by Stefan's tears. He sat still, emotionless. He wanted answers. "What about Stavros? You had no qualms about sleeping with your brother's wife and passing your child off as his?"

"Stavros…was… He was Stavros! Consumed with power and drunk on wine. Laura was a-a possession to him. He didn't love her!" Stefan cried. "And, it was *not* like you suggest. Yes, she was his wife, but… Things were complex back then on the island. You can't understand what it was like for your mother…for me. We cared for each other-"

"You committed adultery!" Nikolas said, removing his hand from Stefan's grasp. "You bedded your brother's wife! Have you no shame?!"

"Shame?" Stefan asked, through his tears. "To feel shame is to be ashamed for having produced you. I bear no shame in your existence, Nikolas. You are the best part of me…of her. I could never be ashamed of you."

Nikolas rubbed his hands over his face, over his eyes. He wanted to make sense of it all, but it still felt so jumbled. "Laura told me that she saw something in Stavros, but it was you. And, you…" he sadly shook his head. "You taught me to revere him. To love and mourn him. To put him on pedestal and to strive to live up to my father's name…his legacy. Why? He didn't exist. He wasn't real. You told me that I was conceived in love. You recited to me this fairy tale romance of how my father and mother met and loved on sight. You made me in believe in a lie."

"I thought it was important," Stefan whispered, tortured by the heartache and disillusionment he saw in his son's brown eyes.

"What was important?" Nikolas asked him, swallowing hard to keep the tears at bay.

"For you to think of your father as someone you could have loved and respected."

Nikolas stared at him in wonder and disbelief. "I couldn't have loved you? Respected you? So what was this all about, huh? An insignificant title? Money? Was it all for you or did you tell yourself it was for me?"

"I know you're angry and you have every right to be, but none of this was for me. It was all for you. All of it," Stefan told him, pleading with his eyes as Nikolas moved from the chair and turned his back on him.

Nikolas drew in a ragged breath. "You've been with me almost every day of my life. You've taught me everything and I thought you knew me. But you can't know me, if you thought that I would have preferred those things to you. What you did…the lies…the manipulation was wrong. You made me believe a lie." Nikolas turned around to face him. "That title isn't mine. The fortune and the responsibility aren't mine. You've turned me into a thief. A liar. I'm a fraud. A fabrication. I'm not the heir. We all are…Helena, Alexis, you, our cousins in Belgium and Prague. None of this is mine!"

"No!" Stefan declared, rising from his chair to face Nikolas. "You are our center. Who would bind us the way you bind us now? *You* are the only one who can lead us. Of all of us, you are the one with the compassion, the grace, the intelligence and the training-"

"You have an answer for everything! I have all of that, except for the most important thing! The right! Or is that it, huh? You didn't do this for me," Nikolas said, pointing to himself. "You did this for you! You wanted it all for yourself, right? To get back at Helena, Laura…right?"

"No!" Stefan vehemently denied.

"I don't believe you," Nikolas said, shaking his head. "Tell me you would have never used this against her. Threatened to tell Luke." Stefan could not and Nikolas saw the truth in his eyes. "You have, haven't you? It was like the secret of the rape. To be used at will."

"That's not true," Stefan denied. "I wouldn't have said anything. Ever! I would have taken it to the grave." "I don't believe you."

"It's true! Who told you?" Stefan asked. "I must know! Steps must be made to protect you from Helena-"

"I'm not important enough to kill any more!"

"You are important! To me," Stefan said, begging him to understand. "She knows what you mean to me, and you must promise me, Nikolas, promise me that you won't tell a soul. Not Dawn, not anyone."

"I can't do that," Nikolas said, shaking his head. "She's my wife! I can't keep this from her."

"Nikolas, I know that. I know what she means to you, but you can't tell her. You mustn't! You're riddled with questions and I have answers for all of them, but you must-"

"Answer me this!" Nikolas said, interrupting him. "Tell me why it's a Cassadine duty to hate the Spencers! They didn’t kill my father. You," he pointed at Stefan, "you killed my father!"

Stefan reached out to Nikolas, but Nikolas backed away.

"Don't touch me," he said, in a hoarse whisper. "Don't ever touch me."

Nikolas pushed past Stefan and rushed up the stairs. Stefan had never felt so alone in all the days of his life.

[Author's Note: Some of the dialogue in the Nikolas/Stefan scene was from the show.]

Chapter 107

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