"Oh, look at the baby!" Gracie exclaimed. She released Keesha's hand and made a beeline for Alan as he, dressed as Santa, balanced Michael on his knee. "Hi, baby," she said, staring at an inquisitive Michael.
"Gracie, no!" Georgie called, as he too, released Keesha's other hand to follow his sister.
"I'm just looking at him, Georgie," she said in a quiet voice.
"Oh," her brother replied, chewing on his lower lip. He looked at the man in the red suit with awe. "Hi, Santa." He offered Alan a tentative smile.
Alan smiled and said, "Merry Christmas to you both!"
Several steps away, Jason and Keesha watched the scene with loving eyes. Jason reached for Keesha's hand as he slowed his steps. "Wait."
"What's wrong?" she asked him, frowning.
"Michael's with Dad," Jason told her.
"So?" Keesha asked with a shrug. "I'm sure it won't be a big deal. Since AJ left him with Alan, he must be okay now."
"He's probably okay with Alan, but who knows how Michael will react when he sees us? AJ has done a lot to make sure that Michael knows that he's his father. What if seeing us confuses him?" Jason asked, his expression uncertain.
Jason Morgan? Who was that, Keesha thought with a smile as she looked at Jason's concerned face. She squeezed her husband's hand and told him, "Maybe you're right. How do you suppose we handle the double "G" situation? They seem infatuated with Michael and Santa."
"Hmm…let me think about this," Jason murmured. He glanced around the room, looking at friends and family as they entered the room. He was at a serious loss for help until his eyes spotted his brooding best friend. A mischievous smile spread across his handsome face as he said, "I think I've found our man."
"Who?" Keesha asked, following the direction of his gaze. "Sonny? You want Sonny to bring Gracie and Georgie back to us? Okay. This oughtta be good."
Nikolas laughed softly at the sound of his sister's high-pitched voice. He held his arms out to her and caught her as she threw herself at him. "Hi, Lesley Lu! Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas," she said, hugging his neck. She released him and looked around. "Where's Dawn?"
"She's right over…" His words drifted as he noticed that she wasn't with Liz like she had been a moment before. He felt a sense of relief when he saw that Arman was nowhere to be found either. He smiled at his sister and said, "I don't know, but would you like to help me look for her?"
"Yep!" Lesley Lu laughed softly as Nikolas lowered her to the floor. She grabbed his hand and the two made a few steps before Lesley Lu squealed, "Dawn!"
"Hi, Sweetie!" Dawn beamed as her sister-in-law ran to her.
"Be careful, Lu!" Nikolas warned as he followed her.
"She's fine," Dawn reassured him as she squatted down to give her sister-in-law a hug. "Merry Christmas, Lulu."
"Merry Christmas!" the little girl repeated.
"Dawn, you shouldn't bend down like that," Nikolas told her with a frown. He reached out a hand and helped her to her an upright position. "You could hurt yourself."
"Baby, I'm fine," Dawn said, shaking her head at him. She turned her attention to Lesley Lu and laughed softly as she saw how the little girl stared at her. "What it is, honey?"
"Where's the baby?" Lesley Lu asked with concern. "Mommy said that you had a baby in your tummy, but I don't see it. Is it still there?"
"The baby's still here," Dawn said with a smile. "Give me your hand." She placed Lesley Lu's hand on her rounded abdomen. "You can't really tell all that much now, but there is a baby inside. Nikky and I felt her…or him…move this morning."
"Really?" Lesley Lu asked, her eyes aglow with wonder.
"Really," Nikolas reaffirmed. "Next month this time, Dawn will be a little bigger and you'll be better able to see the outline of-"
Dawn shook her head at him to still his explanation. Her expression told him that his words were too detailed for the four-year-old's comprehension. She gave him a smile of encouragement when he began to speak again.
"Next month," he began slowly, his eyes taking turns smiling at his wife and his sister, "the baby will be bigger…inside of Dawn…and you'll be able to see him…or her…better." He pressed his lips against Dawn's ear to ask, "How did I do?"
"Pretty doggone good!" she said with a smile.
"Oh," Lesley Lu said, thoughtfully, "I see. Wow. Did my Mommy keep me in her tummy when I was a baby, too?"
"Yeah," Nikolas said, smiling, "and me and Lucky, too."
"At the same time? Was there enough room?" the little girl asked.
Nikolas laughed and shook his head. "No, sweetheart, at different times. I was first. Then later, there was Lucky, and even later, you were there, too. We each had our turn."
"Wow! I'm gonna go tell Grandma! She'll never believe it!" And with that said, the preschooler was gone.
"You are so good with her," Dawn said in admiration. She smiled as Nikolas took her hands and interlaced their fingers. "You're gonna be an incredible papa."
"Hmm…papa? Do I look like a papa to you?" he asked, frowning as he thought of a tiny voice calling out to him…saying 'papa'.
Beaming, Dawn nodded. "I think you look like a papa. A very sexy papa, but a papa all the same. And speaking of which…" She stopped speaking as she wondered the best way to continue.
Unaware of her inner confusion, Nikolas asked, "Where did you go before? You weren't with Liz the whole time."
"No, I sure wasn't," Dawn admitted. "I called Wyndemere. Baby, Stefan is-"
"Why did you call?" Nikolas asked, loosening his hold of her.
"Because I thought that since we were out, we could stop by and see Ste-"
"I thought we had an agreement? We would stay here for a little while and then go back to the suite. Isn't that we agreed?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest as their brown eyes locked.
Feeling defensive, Dawn frowned at him and folded her arms across her chest as well. "Yes, that's what we agreed, but-"
"Will you let me get a word in, please?" she asked. She kept her voice soft, but her eyes were beginning to light with fire.
"Sure. Go ahead," Nikolas shrugged.
"Stefan is spending Christmas alone. Upstairs, here at GH all alone. I think we should at least go up and say, 'hello.'"
"No," he expression, stoic and unforgiving. "Last night, we agreed that we would share this day together, just the two us, and then Liz shows up. Then, we agreed we'd come here, stay a little while, and then leave, and now, you want to go see Stefan. I don't want to, and I'm not going to."
"Fine! You don't have to. I'll go see him by myself!" She turned on her heel to head towards the elevator, but was prevented from going too far when Nikolas grabbed her upper arm.
"No, you're not," he whispered. "We're going home."
"Nikolas," she said, softly, "baby, I love you with all of my heart, but you'd better let go of me."
He immediately released her. His eyes were apologetic and filled with regret. "Sweetheart, I wasn't trying to hurt you. Did I? I'm sorry-"
"You didn't hurt me as much as you're hurting yourself," she told him, forgiving him instantly as she gently cupped his face. "Please, come with me to see him."
Nikolas carefully removed her hand from his face. He shook his head, and then took a step back.
"Okay, then," Dawn said after drawing a long breath. "It'll only take a few minutes, and when I come back, we can leave."
"Okay. I'll wait here for you." Shoving his hands into his pants pockets, he turned on his heel and slowly walked away.
Dawn watched him walk away with a heavy heart. She didn't want to hurt him, but knowing that Stefan was at GH on Christmas instead of sharing it with them…well, it bothered her. She couldn't sing about the joyous holiday season with the thought of Nikolas and Stefan being so close, yet so far apart. She had to see Stefan…if only for a moment. She turned away from the sight of Nikolas' rigid back to wait for the elevator.
Lucky closed his eyes as he hummed "Joy to the World." Thinking of the old carol was a lot better than thinking of the time he'd spent with his family. He knew that his grandmother meant well, but her timing was off. Way off.
In all honesty, he would like for nothing more than to be able to be a family again, but he knew that he never could be apart of the Spencer clan the way he once was. Not with the knowledge he had, and not with the way it made him feel. He didn't want to dwell on it and he for damn sure didn't want to think about it, but his parents' union was strange to him. Very strange. At the present stage of his life, where love was confusing enough, he didn't want to understand how after their time on that campus disco floor, they could marry and raise a family. It was bizarre, and it made him question himself…as if the questions he had surrounding his dear, sweet and feisty sister-in-law weren't enough.
Slowly shaking his head, he opened his eyes. "Oh, Dawn, what have you done to me?" he murmured.
Then the elevator doors opened and there she was.
Subconsciously, Lucky stood up straight. His blue eyes darkened as they stared at each other. "Dawn. Are you going up or down?"
She shook her head as if to loosen whatever thoughts that had taken hold of her. "I'm going up."
"Hop in," Lucky said, stepping further into the elevator car to give her room.
Dawn took a deep breath and closed her eyes tightly shut for a moment. She could do this. She could be alone with Lucky without anything strange or out the ordinary happening. They had done it before. They could do it again. She was certain of it. She glanced at him as she stepped into the car and mumbled, "Merry Christmas, Lucky."
"You, too," he replied.
The elevator doors closed. He wanted to keep his eyes on his feet, the doors, the wall panel, anything, but of course, without his permission, they drifted to her. The red sweater against her mocha skin was incredible and the green corduroy pants were a cute touch. She looked so…Christmas-like. Looking at her made him almost want to believe that a moment on Santa's knee would take away all of his problems and give him his heart's desire… But, he couldn't have his heart's desire, if that's what she was. He shook his head at his wandering thoughts. Give it up, Lucky, he told himself. He needed to focus on what was real and not some inconceivable fantasy. Clearing his throat, he frowned at her and said, "Where are Boris and Natasha?" How was that as a healthy dose of reality, he asked himself. Mention the bodyguards and build up a wall.
Dawn shrugged and said, "Boris is with Nikolas and I sent Natasha downstairs to the car. I left Stefan's gift in there."
"Oh," he murmured, while inside his head, his curiosity was piqued. His brother was now 'Nikolas' and not the special endearment she usually used. What did that mean? "Is it safe for you to be alone? Why isn't Nikolas with you? Is Stefan on his sh*tlist, too?"
"Nikolas is waiting downstairs, and I can't discuss what's going on between him and Stefan," she said, amazed at the calmness of her voice. "And, yeah. I'm fine by myself. Besides, Arman will come right up once he retrieves the gift from the car."
Nikolas again, Lucky thought as a small smile lit up his blue eyes. Whatever his older brother did, it must have been bad.
"Where are you going?" Dawn asked, breaking Lucky free from his reverie.
"To the fourteenth floor Nurses' Station. Bobbie left a box of gifts up there."
"Oh, well, your stop is coming up," Dawn told him as the overhead light flashed on the twelfth floor. "I'll see you around."
"I'm not getting off. I'm going up with you. I want to make sure you get up there okay."
Dawn shook her head. "You don't have to do that. I'll be fine-"
"I know you will be. Consider me your reinforcement, just in case." He gave her a hundred watt smile which lit up his face and crystallized his sapphire eyes.
The effect dazzled Dawn and her breath caught in her throat. She offered him half a smile in exchange as his handsome face brightened even more and she quickly looked away. Her anger with Nikolas caused her to become breathless at Lucky's exuberance. Nothing else. Not Lucky himself nor any possible attraction she might have felt in that moment. Even nearly furious with him, she loved her husband. Period.
Stefan replaced the receiver with a quiet click. What should he do with her, he thought, vigorously rubbing his hands over his face. She was head-strong, spirited, willful and one of the best things to happen to his world in a long time…with her mother being, inarguably *the* best thing to happen to him in eighteen years. Sighing deeply, he rose from his seat behind his massive, oak desk and strode to the door to wait for his visitor.
His wait wasn't a long one as the elevator doors soon opened and Dawn stepped out. He frowned slightly as the Spencer boy followed her. Why was the younger Luke with her instead of his son? Where was Nikolas, he wondered. His frowned deepened and he folded his arms as Dawn and her friend drew nearer.
"You don't have to see me to the door. He's standing right there. I'll be okay."
Stefan could hear her whisper the words as she narrowed her eyes at the Spencer boy. A battle of wills before his very eyes, Stefan thought. He never doubted the victor, and a tiny smile formed on his lips as Lucky threw up his hands and went back to stand in front of the elevator. She was born to be a Cassadine, Stefan thought, with pride, and they were fortunate to have her.
"I know what you're gonna say," were Dawn's first words as she approached her stiff father-in-law.
"Oh?" he asked, arching an eyebrow, "and what might I say?"
"I shouldn't have come alone. I should have either Arman or Sergeui with me," she told him, her eyes trained on his. "Arman was with me, but I made him go to the garage to get your gift. I lef-"
"Dawn," he said, gently cupping her face, "listen to me. Never endanger yourself. You are greater to me than any gift. Surely, you understand that."
Dawn lowered her eyes and speaking softly said, "I-I thought maybe…but… I'm not sure. If I am," she began, lifting her eyes to his again, "why didn't you want Nikolas to tell me that you were his father? He told me that you didn't want me to know. I thought…you trusted me."
Stefan smiled. "Oh, dear, little one, my request to Nikolas was not intended as a slight against you." He released her face to draw her to him. His arms wrapped around her as he tenderly held her. His voice was raspy as he continued to speak. "My words were meant to protect you. This knowledge is dangerous, Dawn.-"
"It's only dangerous if I tell anyone," she said, pulling away from him to make eye contact, "and I would never tell anyone. I know that Helena would k-kill Nikolas over this, our child and me. I know *that*! I would never do or say anything that would make her want to hurt my family. Uncle, you have to know that."
Her voice trembled at the end and she burst into tears. As she quietly sobbed in his arms, Stefan slowly moved them further into this office, closing the door behind them. He led her to his black leather sofa and the two sat down.
Still holding her, he said, "I know that you would never intentionally bring harm to anyone, and I deeply regret that any words that I uttered in a passionate moment were mistook as such. I have not spoken to you of this, but I do trust you, Dawn. You are far superior to any I could have hoped for my son to share his life with. I am in error for not having told you sooner. Please, accept my sincerest apology."
"T-thank you," she began as she sniffled away the rest of her tears. "I didn't realize how much I needed to hear that until you said it. I love him so much, Stefan, and right now, he's hurting. He still loves you, but he's too angry to realize that. He will and he'll come back to you."
"Thank you for that," he told her, slightly pulling away from her to look at her. "Thank you for adding light to this bleak day and for making my Christmas merry with your presence." He gently patted her hand as he rose from the sofa. Taking long strides back to his desk, he said, "Would you believe that I found myself compelled to travel with your Christmas gift?" He reached into his top drawer and pulled out a neatly wrapped gift. He went back to her, handed the box to her and said, "Merry Christmas."
"I don't know what to say," Dawn said, taking the present from him. "Should I open it now?"
"Please." Stefan stood with his arms folded in front of him, as he anxiously watched her.
"Okay." She smiled and unlike before with Nikolas, she tore into the package. The box was opened within seconds and she was very surprised by what she saw. She held the object up and let it dangle from her long, slender fingers. "Is this what I think it is? Stefan? Did you buy me a car?"
Nodding enthusiastically, he smiled at her. "Yes. Your very own sports utility vehicle manufactured by Lexus, I believe. You will find it parked at the garage. It comes equipped with every modern convenience known to man…and woman, as well as, bulletproof protection."
"Thank you!! I don't know what else to say. I'm speechless!" she said, laughing as she looked at the keys in her hand.
"You're welcome." He opened his arms to her in preparation for her embrace. She wrapped her arms around him, hugging him close to her as Stefan came to the slow realization that he loved his dear daughter-in-law fiercely. Silently, he whispered, "Thank you."
"Why is it that everywhere I go, you're there, too?" Simone asked, frowning at Sonny as he grabbed a cup of punch from the table they were both standing beside. "Could you tell me that, Mr. Corinthos?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sonny shrugged, indifferently. "Maybe you're just imagining it."
"Oh? You think so?" Simone placed her untouched cup on the table and turned to face the dark, handsome man with the dangerous dimples. "When I'm at work, you're there. When I'm here, you're here. Did you really have to get punch at the same time that I did?"
"Wo-ho-ho!" Sonny laughed, his black eyes dancing with mirth. "Talk about an ego! I came over here out of thirst, and now, I'm accused of following you? I will admit, Dr. Hardy, that you are one helluva woman, but I have not now nor will I ever resort to chasing women down."
"Good. Keep it that way." Simone said softly through gritted teeth.
"Is there a problem here?" John asked, responding to the stiff way Simone held herself. He placed his arms around her in a protective and extremely possessive gesture. "Is this…*gentleman*…pestering you?"
"Unbelievable!" Sonny laughed. "First, I'm a stalker and now, I'm a…pest." He repeated the word in a tone, which mocked John and immediately struck a nerve. Sonny knew the instant he had struck home with his jibe. John's eyes flickered with a menacing glitter, which so reminded him of Deke. Sonny's previous decision to walk away and leave Simone to ponder his intentions evaporated and he stood still as he held his ground. His eyes locked with John's as in a low voice, he said, "Is that it? Do you think I'm pest?"
John took the tone and the stance for what they were worth. The former mob boss had the audacity to challenge him, and in front of Simone, no less. The stupid fool had no idea that if John even considered him a worthy adversary his life would be over in a blink of an eye. John all but laughed in Sonny's face as he said, "Squinty, dark eyes, constantly buzzing around, and parasitic by nature…yes, pest would be the appropriate word for you."
"Parasitic by nature?" Sonny repeated, holding himself still.
"Why, yes," John nodded. "You acquired your wealth by trampling on others less fortunate than you. What other word would best describe you, unless you prefer mafioso, of course?"
Simone looked from one man to the other. The tension around the trio was thick and uneasy. She felt a chill course through her, which had a very familiar feel to it. More and more, the feeling of coldness enveloped her. She knew it had something to do with 'before', but for the life of her, she couldn't remember. The image would be right there on the tip of her consciousness and then it would vanish. She wished she knew what to do to make it remain so that she could grab a hold of it and understand it. She needed peace. The constant agony of not knowing tormented her more than she could almost bear.
Before voicing his steely retort, Sonny glanced at Simone. The tortured look in her eyes prevented him from uttering a word. In respect for her, he gave a slight nod of his head before he turned and stormed away. His moment with Mr. Giovanni "John" Montega would happen in due time. Sonny planned to make certain of it.
"Hey! Sonny, what happened?" Tommy asked, stopping Sonny as the older man brushed past him. "Weren't you over there talking to my mom? Did that idiot, John, say something to you?"
Sonny frowned slightly as he looked into Tommy's concerned green eyes. "What do you know about him? You must know something, right? He and your mom are kinda tight, right?"
Tommy's jaw tightened. "I don't know anything about him. He's some kind of art dealer, and he's a real pain in the ass. I don't know what my mom sees in him."
"I take it you don't like him," Sonny said, thoughtfully.
"Like him?" Tommy asked, tearing his gaze away from his mother and John as they conversed with Keesha and Laura. He looked at Sonny and quietly said, "I hate him. There's something that's not right about him, but my mom refuses to listen to me. Gina feels it, too, but she won't listen to her either. And, with next week's trip…" Tommy allowed the words to drift as he shook his head.
"What trip next week?"
"He's taking Mama and Liz to New York. I don't want either of them to go, but they're women. They won't listen to me."
"I know what you mean," Sonny said, releasing a light chuckle. All the while, the wheels began to turn. His sixth sense kicked in. He didn't know why it mattered to him or even bothered him, but it did. Something was off about the New York trip, and maybe….if he thought long and hard, he'd figure it out. And, then maybe he'd do something about it, too. Just maybe.