Life After Dark – Chapter 128
~ Timoria: Maternal Instinct ~
"your love is better than chocolate
better than anything else that I've tried
and oh love is better than chocolate…"
The music was loud in the otherwise quiet February morning. Birds flew away in surprise and fright, and as Laura made her way towards the farmhouse, she didn't blame them. A worried frown wrinkled her brow as she took note of Nikolas' unlocked Jag and the wide-open front door to his home. Placing her hands over her ears, she stepped cautiously into the two-story house. "NIKOLAS!" she called out as her eyes frantically searched for the source of the music.
With two large duffel bags swung over his shoulders, Nikolas bounded the staircase. He stopped as he saw his mother reach for the remote control. "Laura! No! Don't turn it off."
She nodded in response and gestured that she would lower the volume. He shrugged to tell her that her actions were acceptable. When he moved to go outside, she said, "Nikolas? What are you doing?"
"I'm going out to my car. I'll be right back."
He left before Laura could stop him. She made a move to follow him, but the sound of her daughter-in-law's laughter rooted her to the floor. Dawn's laughter soon turned into a short monologue, and Laura was surprised to discover that the music had come from a video and not the stereo, as she had first believed. Nikolas' state of mind began to worry her and she reached for the remote control again.
"Laura," Nikolas said as he re-entered the living room, "I told you not to." He crossed the room and took the remote from her. He rewound the tape and became spellbound as Dawn's laughing face came into view. His brown eyes darkened as she grinned at the camera. When she began her monologue on how chocolate was her best friend, but Nikky was her love, he stood still and mouthed the lines with her. Laura's firm hand on his shoulder drew his eyes away from the television screen and to the worried eyes of his mother. "I'm fine," he told her.
Laura shook her head. "Nikolas, this isn't healthy. I know you're hurting, but watching videos of her…"
Nikolas covered her hand with his as he stopped the tape and pushed the power button on the remote. The television screen faded to black and he gave Laura a gentle smile. "Really, Laura, I'm okay. I just wanted to hear her voice and see her. It helps me stay focused."
He squeezed her hand and then turned away from her. He left the room and this time, Laura followed him. "Focused? What are you focusing on, sweetheart?" she asked as he opened the door to the first floor's linen closet.
"On finding her, of course." Nikolas reached inside the closet and pulled out several folded sheets. After he had an armful, he turned away from the closet and went back towards the living room. With a deeper frown on her face, Laura followed him.
"What are you doing with those?" she asked as they entered the living room.
"I'm closing up the farmhouse," he answered as he placed the large sheet over the sofa, loveseat and chairs. "When we come back, I don't want her to find that I let her furniture go to hel- um…got dirty and so forth."
"Do you have a lead? Was a ransom note delivered?" Laura asked. This time, she followed him upstairs. As she passed the bedrooms, she noted that he had been very busy. The rooms had already been prepared for his departure.
"No, ransom note," Nikolas said. "I didn't expect one, and the only lead I have is common sense. Helena is behind this. Once she's found, so will Dawn be."
His words were spoken with such quiet assurance that a chill coursed down Laura's spine. Momentarily stunned, she watched him in silence. He moved methodically around the room. He filled the small suitcase with the barest of his necessities. Once he was done, he zipped it closed and set it aside. He then reached for the larger suitcase and began to fill it with Dawn's things. When it was almost full, he paused and stared at the suitcase as if in deep contemplation. He removed a few items and then he left the room. He quickly returned with things for the baby and Laura rediscovered the ability to speak.
"You can't stop me, so don't even try," he said in a distant voice. "I know that you and Dawn have your differences, but she is my wife. I won't give up on her. She called out to me, and I'm going to her. She's depending on me to find her, and I intend to."
"I would never tell you to give up on her!" Laura said indignantly. Her temper, coupled with hurt at his thinly disguised accusation, flared. She would have defended herself, but something else he had said demanded her attention first. "What do you mean she called out to you?"
Nikolas finished packing the suitcase before he looked at his mother. He released a deep sigh as he explained. "A little while ago, she called out to me. I know this sounds crazy and a little off, but it's true. I heard her say my name just as clearly as I hear you speaking to me. She's out there, Laura, and she's calling for me."
"You heard her?" she said, mostly whispering the words to herself. She nodded her head and smiled at Nikolas. "I understand, and I don't think you're crazy."
"Thanks," he said, offering her a faint smile. He grabbed his two suitcases and was on the move again. Laura followed him downstairs.
"Where are you going?" she asked again. She couldn't resist the urge to help him with his dark brown suede jacket as the collar folded against his neck. She smoothed it down and then gently caressed his cheek. She wasn't surprised that she encountered stubble there. She knew that a clean shaven face was the least of his worries now.
"I'm going to Wyndemere. You're welcome to join me." He placed his hand over hers, lightly pressing it against his cheek.
"I want to help you. You wouldn't mind my presence?" she asked, wanting to be certain that she didn't overstep any boundaries.
"I need your presence, Laura," he said, his voice cracking just a little. "And, I would like very much for you to help me. I need my family, right now. All of my family."
Laura blinked back sudden tears. "You'll have us."
"Thank you," he said again.
Carrie smiled at Stefan as he descended the staircase and came towards her. A short nap, a change in clothing and a light meal had rejuvenated her…as well as Stefan's verbal and physical declaration of love. She was now raring to go and very determined to find her youngest daughter. She handed him the stack of papers she had reviewed and vigorously nodded her head.
"I take it you found something," he said, unable to resist the urge to tease her. He looked through the papers as he waited for her response.
"I sure did!" she said, her pride evident in her voice. "Your friend, Spiros, surveillance of your mother was inspired. Have you reviewed it? He even recorded the number of times she used the restroom."
"Really?" Stefan replied with an upturned nose. "Very precise."
"I'll say," Carrie said, with a laugh. "Anyway," she added as he shuffled the papers, "have you noticed anything, yet?"
"You mean have I found the source of your triumph?" he asked with a smile. "I believe I have, but perhaps, you should-"
"I believe I will!" Carrie interrupted him in her enthusiasm. She took the papers in one hand and reached for his hand with the other. She led him to the sofa and as they sat side by side, she showed him what she had found. "Your mother has spent a great deal of time away from Port Charles. According to these reports, her yacht, Hera, has been at sea quite a bit, and now, it's disappeared."
"You don't seem bothered by its disappearance," he commented. A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as he watched her. She was exuberant. He could hardly wait to hear what she suspected.
"I'm not," she told him. "I know where your mother is and I know that she has Dawn with her."
"Where are they?" Stefan asked, all traces amusement having vanished from him. He sat up straight and waited for her answer.
"Helena has taken Dawn to an island. She's taken her to-"
"Good afternoon, Carrie…Father," Nikolas said, as he entered the room. "I'm packed and ready to go. Are you two ready?"
"Hi, Nikolas," Carrie said with a smile. Her smile faltered when he stepped aside and Laura came into view. "Laura."
"Laura," Stefan replied. Without making a conscious decision, his hand rested at Carrie's waist. He frowned slightly. "I wasn't aware that you were with Nikolas."
"I told you I would be," Laura said.
"Father, Laura will be joining us," Nikolas said. "Carrie, have you spoken to Lucky? Is he meeting us here or at the airport?"
Carrie shrugged. "I haven't been home, and I haven't spoken with him."
"You didn't call him and tell him what happened?" Laura questioned.
Carrie bristled at Laura's tone. "No, I did not. It was late and I didn't want to wake him."
"It's not late now," Laura said. She glanced from Stefan to Carrie and immediately understood. She decided to shrug it off. She would deal with their relationship later. "He rises with the sun. He'd have heard about Dawn's disappearance. It's been all over the news. He would have stopped by the farmhouse, Nikolas. Right?"
Nikolas nodded. "Yeah. I hadn't thought about it, but yeah, Lucky would have beat down my door as soon as he heard. Do you suppose he's out looking for her? Maybe that's why we haven't heard from him."
"Maybe so," Laura murmured. "But no…" Her voice became firm and louder. "He wouldn't have just gone out to look for her…not without contacting you. Your relationship is better now, right?"
"Lucky has a mind of his own," Stefan interrupted. "I think he would search for Dawn on his own, confident that he would find her."
"Even so, something doesn’t sit well with me," Laura said. She placed a hand on Nikolas' arm. "I'm going to look around some and place a few phone calls. I'll come back as soon as I can-"
"Our departure is imminent, Laura. We have reason to believe that we know Helena's whereabouts and we must leave now," Stefan told her.
Laura released a deep sigh. "Very well then. I'll catch up with you after I find Lucky. Tell me where you're going and we'll join you."
"Greece," Carrie said with authority. "That's where she's taken Dawn. We're going to their island in Greece."
It's not true.
Dawn's eyes opened and she relaxed her grip on the newspaper. She sat up straight in the bed and took a deep breath before she read the headline again.
Cassadine Heir Killed in Explosion
"He's not dead," she whispered to herself, shaking her head. She would know if he were gone. She would feel it somehow. Besides, how could he be gone when his child moved inside of her, when she could still feel the touch of his hands caressing her and holding her, and when the delicious taste of him still lingered on her lips. No, she thought, her Nikky was very much alive. He had to be. He just had to! Suddenly angry, she balled up the newspaper and threw it towards the door. Her face immediately fell to her hands and she wasn't aware when the door opened.
Her breath caught in her throat. She recognized that voice! His name fell from her lips as she raised her smiling face from her hands. "Nikky."
Lucky choked back a sob as her eyes registered on him. She'd thought he was Nikolas. Maybe he should have waited before going to see her. He almost turned away, but when she began to weep, he was beside her within seconds. His arms wrapped around her, holding her close to him. "Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry," he said, mournfully. "So very sorry."
"Lucky," she gasped through her tears. She tried to speak, but her feelings overwhelmed her. So many questions filled her mind, but at that moment, the answers didn't matter. Nikolas mattered! She had believed so strongly that he was alive. She had felt it, but one glance into the sorrow in Lucky's blue eyes had made her wonder. The split second possibility that her feelings about Nikolas having survived the explosion were wrong broke her spirit. She clung to Lucky in her despair, and he clung back.
"Ssh," he whispered against her hair. "You don't have to say anything." He continued to hold her in his arms, rocking her and comforting her for as long as she would allow him to.
Dawn buried her face in his neck. "It can't be true, Lucky. Nikky can't be…"
"Sweetheart, I know you don't want to believe it…that it hurts too much, but…"
She raised her head to look at him. She stared at him as he gently wiped the tears from her face. Shaking her head, she said, "That's not it. It-It…well, it's just that I don't believe it. I don't feel it."
He shook his head. What could he say to her to make her pain easier to bear? How could he convince her that it was true? That her husband, his brother, was gone? "Dawn, I don't want to believe it either-"
"Lucky, you're not listening to me," she said, grabbing on to his hands. She held them tightly in her lap. "Nikolas is not- He's not dead, Lucky! Trust me on this, okay! I would know it! I would know it right here." She pointed to her heart. "I swear to you that I would."
"Dawn, I know it's easier to believe that-"
"I can still feel him, Lucky," she said softly. She placed Lucky's hand on the swell of her unborn child. "We can still feel him. I-I can't explain it, but it's something that I know. I wondered when I saw you walk through that door. You looked so…so… I almost believed it when I saw your face, but… No." She shook her head.
Lucky's eyes were drawn to where their hands lay entwined. Her deep skin tone contrasted with his pale hand, but it was a nice contrast. He felt his niece or nephew move an elbow or a knee, and he thought the gesture was a reminder to him that he should mind his manners. He tried to pull his hand away, but Dawn tightened her grip. He looked into her brown eyes. "I don't know what to tell you," he hoarsely whispered.
"Tell me that you believe me."
"Oh, please," Helena murmured to herself while rolling her eyes. Surely, he wouldn't fall for those imploring brown eyes and quivering lips. She increased the volume so that she wouldn't miss his response.
"I believe that you believe-"
Helena threw her head back and laughed until tears fell from her eyes. That Lucky was a sly one, she thought as she lowered the volume. Her highly sensitized surveillance equipment recorded everything. Should she become bored with Ari or one of the numerous island boys at her disposal, she would come back and listen to the teenagers' conversation. For now, she would simply watch them.
Her eyes never strayed from the large color monitor. As she watched Lucky fawn over Dawn, she couldn't help but be reminded of Stefan and his Lasha. Her mouth thinned into a small white line as her hatred for them resurfaced. They had made a mockery of her beloved, and she would have had them assassinated if not for-
"Mrs. Cassadine?" A light tap sounded at the door.
"Enter," she brusquely responded.
Francesca took a deep breath as she eased the door open. Her footsteps were quick and sure as she scurried across the floor to Helena. She held an envelope in her hand and she held it out for the older woman. "This came for you."
Helena's green eye glittered and a delighted smile came upon her face. "Oh, goody." She took the envelope from the young girl, and with hardly making an effort, she gripped the girl's wrist.
Francesca's eyes widened in fear. She tried to pull away, but the older woman was stronger than she looked. "Ma'am?" was her frightened cry.
"Relax," Helena said softly. She smiled her catlike smile, glittering eyes and sly grin. With a firm grip, she turned the girl's wrist so that her fingers were extended. Three jewels—amethyst, diamond, and topaz—shone brightly on a single ring. Her grandson had given that ring to his whore. Helena smirked. Her grip loosened and slowly, she raised her eyes to look at the trembling girl. "Beautiful ring."
"I-I'm sorry, Mrs. Cassadine," Francesca stammered. "I-I'll put it back-"
"Don't be foolish," Helena replied with a dismissive wave of her hand as she released the girl's wrist. "What's that American saying…ah… 'Finders keepers, losers weepers.' Consider it an acquisition, my dear. A very expensive trinket."
Helena's attention reverted to her envelope, and seizing the opportunity, Francesca ran from the room. Resting her back against her plush sofa, she made herself comfortable as she gleefully perused the letter's contents. The encrypted message informed her that her ruse had been successful. Well, actually, she couldn't claim all of the credit. Spiros had proven to be quite useful.
With a laugh, she thought that the weakness of men began between their legs and went straight to their heads. One night in her bed and he had forgotten his pledged loyalty to her son. He had promised her the sun, the moon and the stars…as well as, a false report to her inquisitive brat. She laughed again.
"Yes, my dear little boy," she said aloud to herself, "run along to Greece. Take your whores and your son and go with the certainty that you will be triumphant." She giggled as she began to speak again. "Meanwhile, your precious Dawn but more importantly, the child she carries and I will bond…right here off the coast of the Carolinas."
General Hospital ©ABC
Spiros ©1997 Pamazon
Dawn, Carrie & Francesca ©1998 niklovr
All Rights Reserved
(Song credit - "ice cream" by Sarah McLachlan)