"Do you realize what you've done?!"
Justus rolled his eyes at his grandfather. He rose from his reclining position in armchair and yawned. When he was done, he looked at his watch and said, "Yes, Edward. I'm well aware of what I've done. I've been aware of it since the moment it was done and every time you've asked me. By the way, how many times do you plan to ask me this? Everyone has left for the Cassadine birthday party and I'd kinda like to leave this place before my baby is born."
"You can be glib with me all you want, young man!" Edward bellowed. He pointed at Justus to emphasize his words. "But the fact remains that when you crawl into bed-"
"Now, wait just a minute, old man!" Justus fired back. "I know you don't care for the Cassadines and to be frank, it doesn't bother me; however, I will not allow you to disrespect Alexis! She will be the mother of my child-"
"Exactly!" Edward said. "She's having your child—a Cassadine child! Do you fully understand what this means?! You'll have the lot of them in your lives forevermore. You mark my words!"
"So what?" Justus shrugged. "They're not as bad as you seem to think. It's been a bunch of media hype-"
"Media hype, huh?" Edward grunted. "Well, I suppose it was media hype when they damn near froze the planet, or maybe when they whisked Laura Spencer away from her family! Media hype, my eye! I know about these people! They've been dilly-dallying in this family for far too long! Just when I was relieved that Emily and Ned had seen the light, you go and get one of them pregnant! Dammit, Justus!"
"No, damn you!" Justus countered. "I've had enough of this. We came here tonight to honor you with our news. We could have informed you after the child was born, but we didn't! And this is how you repay our generosity-"
"You, put a sock in it!" Justus replied, grasping for anything that would make the old man be quiet for once. "Alexis and I know exactly what we're doing. I love her and she loves me back. This isn't about Cassadines, Wards or Quartermaines. This is about a man and a woman who respects and loves each other. And, if you have a problem with that, well, it's yours to have!"
As Justus brushed past Edward and headed towards the door, Edward called out. "Wait!"
"I'm tired of waiting," Justus said quietly with his back to his grandfather. "It's always a waiting game with you and I'm sick and tired of it."
"No, it's just that-"
"No, Edward, it is." Justus released a deep sigh and turned to face the patriarch. "I've been waiting for some miraculous event to happen that would cement our relationship, but apparently, I've been a fool. I should have been waiting for something that would demolish it forever, and I think it's come. Good-bye, Edward."
"No, Justus…Please!" Edward's cry immobilized his grandson, and Edward didn't waste a moment. He went to Justus and placed his hand upon the younger man's forearm. "It's not good-bye. It can't be. Sure, I have some qualms about your involvement with this woman. I had them when Ned was with her and then, with you, too. Her family is capable of things that would give even me nightmares. Are you sure this is right for you? Are you certain that you're not with her because of Ned?"
The questions were softly spoken and heartfelt. Justus could feel the older man's sincerity and genuine concern, and he responded to it. He faced Edward and said, "She and the baby she's having…they're both right for me. Maybe our relationship began because of Ned, but all of that ended long ago. Long before Lois returned and long before Alexis became pregnant. She's a Cassadine, but I'm part Quartermaine and for some, that's almost as scary. So, yes, Edward, I'm sure."
Edward found himself incapable of speech. He couldn't remember the last time Justus had referred to himself as a Quartermaine. He couldn't remember if Justus ever had. He coughed to mask his emotion and then he nodded, "Very well, then. If you're sure."
A single knock at the door prevented their discussion from progressing. Justus opened the door and saw the face of the woman in question staring back at him and right behind her, stood Reginald.
"Excuse me," Reginald said as he brushed past Alexis. He thrust a small beige telephone into Edward's hand and said, "You'd better answer that."
"Who is it?" Edward asked, frowning.
"The Gazette, The Herald, The Enquirer…take your pick. The Grille's got rats and everybody wants answers!" And before Edward could hand the phone back to him, Reginald stormed from the room.
"Rats?" Edward repeated. He looked at Justus and Alexis who were both holding in laughter. He glowered at them. "This is not funny! This is serious! Can you imagine the lawsuits? You're both attorneys. What should I say?"
"I'd go with 'no comment,'" Alexis suggested with a broad smile.
Justus wrapped his arm around her and nodded. "I second that opinion. Good-night, Edward."
Edward's mouth opened with the full intention of calling them back, but it promptly closed again as he watched them leave together. As they reached the door, Alexis's hands loving cupped Justus face and the smile her simple gesture produced touched the old man's heart. He went back inside the den and closed the door behind him. Having forgotten about the business of rats for a moment, he was content that his grandsons were all finally happy.
"They want us to beg," Emily told Lark.
"Should we?" Lark asked, looking at the smug look on their boyfriends' faces. "Are they worth a little groveling?"
"I know I wasn't asked, but I say no," Lizzie piped in. She laughed as Jordan and Sly rolled their eyes at her.
"Don't listen to her," Sly said, waving his hand towards Liz. "She doesn't know about our finer qualities the way you and Emily do."
"You have those?" Lark asked with a laugh.
Jordan arched an eyebrow as he waited for Emily's comment. None came except for a broad grin as she wrapped her arms around his waist. He smiled as she held him and then smirked at Sly as his friend rolled his eyes.
"Thanks a lot, Lark," Sly said with a pout.
"Oh, good grief!" she laughed. She kissed him on the cheek as she slid her hand inside his. "I suppose you have a few."
"Oh, enough with this mush!" Liz said. "What did you get her?"
"You're not gonna believe it," Sly said. "We outdid ourselves, didn't we, Jay?"
Jordan nodded. "Yep. She's gonna freak when she opens our gift."
"Well, there are several kinds of freak," Liz mumbled. "Will Nikolas have to hurt either of you?"
"Of course not!" Sly said in mock outraged. "Dawn's our girl! He knows that. We hooked her up."
"Yeah, we got her something that we bet no one else has even thought of."
"Uh oh," Lark and Emily said simultaneously. "What did you get her?"
"Tix for the Knicks!" Jordan and Sly told the three young women. Their exclamation was met with disbelief.
"You're kidding, right?" Emily asked.
"No," Jordan said, shaking his head. "She's from the City. She's gonna like this. Trust us."
"Hmm…" Lark murmured.
"Seriously," Sly said without a trace of his trademark smirk. "She'll like it. It's different. She'll definitely remember it."
"I'll say," Liz replied, shaking her head at them as she began to laugh.
"Wow," Jason commented softly. "It's quite a turnout."
"Yeah," Ned agreed. "Nikolas went all out."
"That's what a man will do for true love," Lois told him, grinning at him as his dimples appeared.
Keesha smiled at her husband and his family as she reappeared with her and Jason's drinks. She handed him a club soda and took a sip of her lemonade. As Jason's hand rested firmly at her waist, she looked around the nicely decorated room. Once again, Wyndemere had been transformed and the results were amazing. Instead of its normal austere furnishings, the ballroom was filled with silver, black and white balloons and streamers. Tasteful, yet fun, party-favors even adorned the tables. Not bad for short notice, Keesha thought.
"Not bad, huh?" Jason said softly against her ear.
"I was just thinking that." Keesha laughed softly. Her brown eyes continued to take in the scene as Jason's deep chuckle sounded in her ear. She looked around the room and smiled. Tonight wasn't about social standing and having your name in the society column. This party that Nikolas had labored over for months was a celebration for true friends and family. And even though there were a few whom she didn't know, Keesha could sense it. She had a strong feeling that Dawn would sense it too the moment she entered the room. Love was definitely there.
"A penny for your thoughts," Eve suggested as she presented AJ with a glass of Ginger Ale. "You've been staring into space for quite sometime. What's up?"
"I'm not sure," AJ said, his voice distant. His hazel eyes turned away from the window, and he shrugged. "I thought I saw a flash of lightning. It was weird. A streak was there and then it was gone."
"Maybe it was a falling star. You're supposed to wish upon those, you know," she told him as she took a sip from her glass of champagne.
"Oh, yeah?" he asked with a smile. "Well, what am I supposed to do if I have all that I could ever wish for. Do I wish anyway or do I give the wish away?"
"You give it away, of course!" She grinned.
"Well, my dear," he said, placing his arm around her waist. "I give my wish to you."
Eve shook her head. Her brown eyes sparkled with happiness. "I don't need it either. All of my wishes have come true."
"Aw, Eve," AJ gushed. "That's so sweet of you to say."
"Yeah, Chris Carter just asked me for my number and I gave it to him." She laughed as he narrowed his eyes at her.
"Why I outta!" he threatened with a laugh. He kissed her soundly on the cheek and turned them so that they faced the crowd. His eyes wandered around the same as Keesha's had only moments before. He saw and felt the same thing. "Dawn's gonna lose it when she sees this place. And, 'The X-Files'…aw, man. Nikolas is gonna be loving life for a long time," AJ predicted.
"I won't even ask what that's supposed to mean," Eve said, giving him a nudge in his ribs. "But, I do agree that she's gonna be happy. I say the kids deserve it, don't you?"
"I say that we all deserve a little bit of happiness, and I agree. They're good together. This turnout proves that we all seem to think so."
Unable to add anything, Eve simply smiled and rested her head on AJ's shoulder.
Carrie smiled at Dara as her eldest daughter spoke to her. Nearby, stood Marcus and Alex who seemed very intrigued by Gillian Anderson. The soft tones of their voices carried to the mother and daughter, but neither focused on the others' conversation. "What is it?"
"You're so quiet. Is something wrong?" Dara asked the question and she looked at Stefan for emphasis. He saw her and smiled. She returned the gesture with half a heart before she faced her mother again.
"I saw that," Carrie told her. "And, no, he and I are okay."
"Well?" Dara asked, determined that her mother answer her.
"Well, I'm wondering where your sister is," Carrie said, quietly. The entire guest list was in attendance and the guest of honor was nowhere to be found. Tardiness was not a trait that Nikolas seemed to possess and Carrie was becoming worried. "They should have been here by now."
"Maybe they became…um…distracted," Dara offered with a grin.
Carrie's smile was faint. "I don't think so. Not this time."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Just a feeling I get. It may be nothing, but…" She shivered as she felt a cold tingle course through her. Her eyes searched for Stefan and she would have sworn that she saw him shiver, too. "I'll talk to you later," Carrie said softly. She patted Dara's shoulder and then left her to join Stefan.
Nikolas wasn't sure how he arrived at Wyndemere's gates. The fog was still dense and now, a light rain had begun to fall. A gentle breeze flapped the tattered pieces of his pants. His bruised and bloody knees didn't hurt nearly as much as the pain in his heart…in his soul.
He pulled open the gate and walked through. As he neared the mansion, the sounds of music and overall good cheer greeted him. He stumbled for second. After righting himself, he continued on until he was inside.
He closed his mind. He didn't want to remember the last time he'd been to this side of the house. His birthday party had been an extravagant affair. Surrounded by family, friends, and acquaintances, he and his wife had been happy. They had been together. He didn't want to think about the kiss they had shared in the hallway or about how tightly her hand had held his before they made their entrance. He didn't want to think about it, and so he didn't. Instead, he concentrated on reaching out and opening the door.
To Nikolas' relief no one saw him as he entered. His thoughts were too jumbled for coherent speech. It had taken nearly everything he had to leave the dock and arrive inside the ballroom. Lengthy, explanatory speeches were something he was incapable of at the moment.
With his arms wrapped around him and his brown eyes staring out in terror and pain from his ashen face, he stepped away from the door. He only took one step and that was all. For some strange reason, he was surprised that the first faces that saw him belonged to his father and to her mother. He swallowed hard as they rushed towards him.
Stefan's eyes roved over him. Then his hands roughly cupped his cheeks. The concern in Stefan's green eyes ripped through the icy shell that Nikolas had erected around himself. As the shell shattered, so did Nikolas. The dam of tears broke and flooded down his pale cheeks. In a hoarse whisper, he said, "Help me!"
"Help me, Father!" he begged. "She's gone. God, help me!"
Stefan's arms wrapped around his son as Nikolas collapsed in his arms.