Nikolas glanced at his watch. Again. Dawn should have been home by now, he reasoned. The last ray of sunlight had shone long ago. Her rehearsal was not scheduled to extend beyond early evening. He wondered what was keeping her.
As he paced in front of the fireplace, he weighed the consequences of going to Jacks to bring her home. The outcome would not be a good one, he knew. She would become upset that he went against her wishes and the last thing he wanted was for her to be upset. She had told him that she had her cell phone and she knew how to use it. If she needed him to drive her home, she would have called. He would be patient and wait, he decided.
He drew a long breath and forced himself to go back to the table. After he was settled, his hand blindly reached for PCU's Fall Quarter Schedule of Classes. Resting his back against the antique wooden chair, he attempted to give the brochure his full attention. As he began to leaf through the courses...Economics, English, Languages, Sociology, his frustration grew. Unable to continue with the pretense any longer, he slammed the schedule back down onto the table. Running his hands through his hair, he stood.
"What's made you so agitated?" Stefan asked, as he came into the room. He had stood silently in the door, watching Nikolas pace back and forth. His curiosity and concern was piqued. He wanted answers.
"Uncle!" Nikolas turned at the sound of Stefan's voice. With a small frown, he answered, "I didn't see you there."
"I'm aware of that. Is anything the matter? Was Dr. Fischer unable to aid Sheba? Has she...?" Stefan asked, as he neared Nikolas.
"No, Sheba's fine. Her leg will heal. Dr. Fischer said that we got there in time," Nikolas said, moving to bar. Suddenly feeling parched, he poured himself a glass of water. He quickly gulped the liquid down. Not fully satisified, he poured himself another glass.
Stefan continued to watch Nikolas with interest. Something was bothering him. Maybe something was wrong with Dawn, Stefan wondered. He knew her appointment with the obstetrician was earlier that day. What if something was amiss in the pregnancy. Surprised at the anxiety he felt at such a thought, Stefan sat down on the sofa. "How was the meeting with Dr. Newman? Everything was fine, correct?"
Stefan's inquiry reminded Nikolas of the sound of his child's heartbeat. The memory brought a smile to his lips and a glow to his eyes. "Everything was perfect."
Nikolas placed his empty glass on the countertop. He moved to sit beside Stefan as he continued speaking. "We heard the baby's heartbeat."
"So soon?" Stefan asked, turning so that he would have a better view of Nikolas' face. Seeing the look of pure joy which radiated from Nikolas pleased him and Stefan smiled in return.
"That's what I thought, too," Nikolas said, relaxing as he recounted the memory. "At first, Dr. Newman's attempt at finding it was unsuccessful, but she didn't give up. She tried again, and then she found it. I wish you could have seen the look on Dawn's face when she heard it. I've never seen her look so beautiful before..."
Stefan's mind overflowed with questions and concerns, but he willed himself to remain still. Nikolas was entranced with his own thoughts. Stefan would give him the time to continue, and he knew Nikolas would continue as he wouldn't be able to help himself.
He was right.
Nikolas laughed suddenly and added, "The heartbeat, Uncle, was so fast. I was afraid at first, but Dr. Newman reassured us that it's normal. Have you ever heard an unborn child's heartbeat? I think it's the best sound I've ever heard."
"Never," Stefan said softly, averting his eyes. He would have moved heaven and earth to hear Nikolas' heartbeat while he was still in the womb. However, the pleasure was not his to be had. Stavros had undeservedly heard Nikolas first precious sounds of life. If he could only turn back time, Stefan thought.
"We plan to record it the next time," Nikolas said with a smile. "We'll make copies for you and Mrs. Jensen."
"Thank you," Stefan replied, his voice hoarse. His hand, having a mind of its own, patted Nikolas' cheek. "Thank you, Nikolas. I would love to hear it."
"You didn't have to walk with me up here. I could have made it on my own," Dawn said with a small smile as she looked at her escort. "It's bad enough you rode over on the launch with me."
"What was so bad? That salty air is refreshing," Lucky said with a small laugh. "Besides, there's ghosts and goblins all over this island. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if one got to you."
"Aw, and they say chilvary is dead," she laughed softly and punched his arm.
"Ssh! Don't let that get out. You wouldn't want to ruin my rep. Now, would you?" he laughed with her.
The night air was cool as they walked in silence to Wyndemere's side entrance. The moon was full as it glowed in the sky, providing the two friends with light to see one another. As they reached the side patio, Lucky stopped. "This is where my bodyguard duties end."
"You sure you don't want to go in?" Dawn asked with a small frown. "You can hang out for a while if you want."
"No, thanks. I think I'll head back now."
"Are you sure? The boxcar must be kinda cold. Are you sure you don't want to come in for a little while?" Dawn repeated her offer. She couldn't imagine why he would want to rush back to the emptiness of the abandoned railway car he called home. She would never want to be as isolated as he was out there.
"The boxcar is a temporary deal. I think I can tough it out until the bucks from L&B kick in," he said with a smile. Robin's and Brenda's offer put his mind at ease about his future. In time, he knew that boxcars and cold nights would be a distant memory. DJLS would make millions. They were that good.
He handed her the backpack he had carried for her. Placing a hand on her shoulder, he gave her a light squeeze as he said, "Make sure you rest and be careful next time. No more falling down, okay?"
"Falling down?" Nikolas asked, as he moved from the glass doors and joined them on the patio. Having heard a noise, he came to see if Dawn had returned. He was relieved to see her, but became upset when he heard Lucky's suggestion.
Dawn narrowed her eyes at Lucky in a playful and silent attempt to scold him for speaking so loudly and too much. When Nikolas wrapped his arms around her, her eyes moved to his. "Yeah, I had a little accident."
"At rehearsal?" he asked as his eyes glared at Lucky accusingly.
"No, I fell at the hospital."
"What? When?" Nikolas asked, turning his questioning eyes on her.
"Someone bumped into me and I fell down. It happened before the appointment-"
"Why didn't you say something?" Nikolas asked. The worry and concern made his voice increase an octave. His hands grasped her upper arms as he turned her toward him.
"Hey there, man, calm down. There's no need to scare her," Lucky said, as he took the opportunity to glare at Nikolas.
"I don't need you to tell me how to talk to my wife!"
"Yeah, you do if you're scaring the hell out of her!"
"I'm not scaring her!"
"Look at her! She's terrified!"
"No, I'm not!" Dawn replied. She had been stunned in silence as Nikolas and Lucky began to go back in forth, but when Lucky said that Nikolas terrified her, her silence was broken. Instead of being stunned, she was now irritated. "I'm not scared! I'm fine, Nikky. Honest. I didn't tell you about the fall because I forgot all about it. I didn't remember until Lucky asked me why I was limping."
"You're limping?" Nikolas' eyes grew larger and he quickly moved to pick her up.
She backed away from him. "No, you don't. I'm fine. I told you that."
"I think you should lie down. Thanks, Lucky," Nikolas said, dismissively. Still angry with him, he turned his back on Lucky and moved to lead Dawn into the house.
Dawn shook her head at her husband's attitude and smiled at Lucky. "Thanks."
"Are you sure you're gonna be okay here with Neanderthal Man?" Lucky asked, refusing to budge unless she gave him the okay.
Dawn knew she shouldn't laugh at Lucky's description of Nikolas, but at that moment she couldn't help herself. "I'm fine. Good-night, Lucky."
"Okay. Good-night, D." Lucky watched until Dawn was safely inside and then, he left.
"I wish you wouldn't coddle me. I'm fine. Really, I am," Dawn said as Nikolas led her to the sofa.
"I'm not sure about that. Lucky's right. You're limping. I can't understand why you didn't tell me that someone knocked you down. I'm calling Dr.-"
"Someone knocked you down?" Stefan asked, re-entering the den. He had stepped away to answer a telephone call from a business associate. As he came back into the room, he couldn't help but overhear the newlywed's conversation.
Dawn stiffened at Stefan's question. With wary eyes, she looked at him and said, "Yes. It was just an accident, though. I'm fine. I just had the wind knocked out of me."
"And when was this?" Stefan asked, moving to stand next to Nikolas as they hovered over her.
"Before my appointment. I was walking down the hallway and someone bumped into me," Dawn said. She looked away from Stefan to Nikolas, hoping that he would understand that she was okay and that the attention was unnecessary. Her hope would not be realized.
"I think you should lie down. I'll help you upstairs," Nikolas said, reaching out a hand to her.
Deciding that she'd rather deal with Nikolas alone, than with his uncle, she took his hand and allowed him to lead her to the staircase.
"Can't it wait? Dawn needs to rest. The sooner the better," Nikolas said, making no attempt at masking his irritation at being interrupted.
"I can go up by myself," Dawn said, giving his hand a light squeeze.
"No, I don't think you should go alone."
"Neither do I." Stefan reached for the telephone. The telephone was answered on the first ring. "Mrs. Landsbury, would you come here? Thank you."
"Uncle, I don't need Mrs. Landsbury to walk Dawn upstairs. I can do it myself. Whatever you want to discuss can wait until later."
"No, it can't." Stefan acknowledged Mrs. Landsbury as she entered the room. "Mrs. Cassadine requires assistance upstairs. She fell earlier today. Please, attend to whatever needs she may have."
Mrs. Landsbury nodded and took Nikolas' place as she helped Dawn upstairs. Nikolas stood at the bottom of the staircase and watched as Dawn carefully moved up the steps. He became angrier with every step she took. As soon as she was out of earshot, he turned to Stefan. "What was so important that it couldn't wait? She needs me and I have no intention of having you keep me away from her!"
"Nor do I," Stefan replied. Now was his turn to pace as he considered the right way to voice what he felt was important enough to prevent Nikolas from helping Dawn.
"Uncle, I'm waiting," Nikolas said through gritted teeth.
"What did she say happen? Exactly."
"Someone bumped into her and she fell," Nikolas replied, moving away from the bottom the staircase to stand closer to his uncle.
"She said nothing else? No description? Whether or not the person helped her?"
"That's all she said," Nikolas said. He felt a slight chill creep up his spine as he asked, "Why?"
"Helena. I fear she may be behind this," Stefan answered. His eyes revealed to Nikolas how deeply he believed his words.
"But why?" Nikolas asked, shaking his head, not wanting to believe that Helena could be at work so soon. "Dawn said it was an accident."
"I don't believe in accidents. Not where Mother's concerned," Stefan said, placing his hand on Nikolas' shoulder to offer him some reassurance.
"What should we do?" He was afraid. He knew Stefan could hear it in his voice and see his it in his eyes, but he didn't care. He only cared about protecting her and preventing Helena from causing anymore harm than she already had.
"When you join her upstairs, discreetly ask her for a description. I would have asked myself, but I could see that I was upsetting her. She'd feel more comfortable if the inquiry came from you. Remember the details and later, give them to me. I'll find the person responsible and he or she will, in turn, lead me to Helena. I promise you, she will be dealt with swiftly and permanently," Stefan vowed. His hands had moved to cupped Nikolas' face as he made his promise. His green eyes bored into Nikolas' fearful brown ones as they made plans to put an end to Helena's relentless quest for power.
"Thank you," Nikolas said, pulling Stefan into a quick embrace before he moved to join his wife.
Dawn gingerly rose from her reclining position in the bathtub. Keeping one hand on the wall, she carefully stepped out of the huge tub. She grimaced as she lightly limped to the towel bar. She began to towel herself dry, but then stopped. Turning toward her reflection in the mirror, she turned her body sideways as she glanced at her backside. Her eyes were drawn to the purple bruise which had formed on her hip. She lightly touched it with the tip of her index finger. "Ow."
Hearing a noise outside the door, she quickly moved to cover herself. "Mrs. Landsbury, I'm fine. I don't need any more help. Thanks, though."
The door opened and Nikolas walked in. "I asked her to leave us."
"Thanks. She means well, but she was driving me crazy," Dawn laughed, wrapping the towel around herself. She tried to secure the towel firmly in place, but it kept slipping from her grasp.
Nikolas moved from the doorway to stand before her to help her. His eyes glanced to their reflection in the mirror and he saw a glimpse of her bruise. His hands acted on their own, and instead of closing the towel around her, he removed it. "This is huge!"
"It's not that bad," Dawn said, grabbing the towel from his hand. She wrapped the towel around her and left the bathroom.
"It is bad! Who did this to you?" he blurted out. He immediately regretted his outburst as she looked at him with confusion and a small twinge of fear.
"Why do you think someone did this to me? I told you what happened. It was an accident," she said. She went to the bed and picked up the nightgown and underwear that Mrs. Landsbury had laid out for her. She began to dress as Nikolas answered her question.
"It might not have been an accident," he said, moving to help her pull her braids from under her nightgown. When he was done, he allowed his hand to rest at the nape of her neck, gently massaging her there.
"What do you mean?"
"Uncle thinks it may have been Helena."
Dawn moved to sit on the bed. She rested her head on Nikolas' shoulder when he sat beside her. She said, "I don't think it was her. The person who bumped into me was young. Maybe our age or a little bit older."
"Did you see the face? Could you give me a description?"
"No, it happened too fast. I was stunned at first, you know? One minute, I was walking and the next, I was flat on my butt," she chuckled softly as she soothed her fears with laughter.
"Dawn, this isn't something to laugh about. You could have been hurt. You were hurt," Nikolas said, wrapping his arm around her, pulling her closer to him.
"I'm fine *and* our baby's fine. Trust me, this is nothing. I've had worse happen while trying to teach Sly how to dance."
He smiled as she laughed again. Maybe it was a good thing that she wasn't afraid and saw the humor in it. He wished he could join her, but images of Helena hurting her kept coming into his mind and he found himself afraid. So very afraid.
"I'll be fine tomorrow. You'll see," she said, caressing his cheek. She lowered his head to hers and brushed his lips with hers.
Nikolas returned her embrace and as they separated, he asked, "Why did you tell Lucky about it and not me?"
She shrugged. "I didn't think about it. I planned to tell you tonight. It's really not a big deal. He saw me limping around. He asked about it and I told him. I wasn't keeping it from you."
"Okay." He pulled her into a hug and held her close to him. Thoughts of Lucky and Helena vanished as she returned his embrace with hands that roamed up and down his back. As she pressed her body against his and began to kiss his neck, his body begged him to surrender to her silent, passionate demands. Instead, he pulled away. "Are you sure?"
"Very sure. We'll just have to go slowly," she said with a seductive grin.
"Slowly?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "I think I can handle that."
"This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass."
"You tell him, Skinner!" Dawn cheered the television screen. She sat alone in the sitting room on the second floor. After a passionate and tender lovemaking session with Nikolas, she and he had drifted off to sleep. Her slumber wasn't as deep as his and soon, she found herself wide awake. Not wanting to disturb him, she left their bed and carefully crept out of their room.
She remembered seeing a television in the sitting room and seeking the comfort and the distraction it could provide, she went there. After a little channel surfing, she found a marathon of her favorite sci-fi series, right there, just waiting for her. She smiled as she allowed the adventures of Mulder and Scully gave her an escape from her troubles.
"Skinner?" came the quiet voice from the doorway.
Startled, Dawn quickly stood. She was a little surprise to see Stefan standing there, watching her.
"I did not intend to alarm you. Please, have a seat," he said, moving into the room.
Dawn watched him as he took a seat at the opposite end of the sofa. She sat back down, but her eyes remained glued on him. "I'm sorry. I didn't think I'd bother anyone in here. I'll go back to my room."
"Don't. Please, don't leave on my account. You were viewing a television program. Please, continue," he said, smiling in the hope that the small gesture would help her to relax. He felt if given the opportunity, she would bolt from the room. Her apprehension around him had grown more since she'd moved in, and he didn't want it to grow further. He liked her, and he wanted her to know it.
"Okay," Dawn said. She tried to find the comfortable position she had before, but was unable to do so. Being alone with Stefan filled her with unease. He was so quiet! His silence made her wonder what was going on his mind. It made her wonder if she should she build up the walls she used to protect herself from her father.
"What is the name of this program?" Stefan asked, as he settled himself against the sofa. He kept his eyes on the screen as he asked, instinctively knowing that she would feel more comfortable with that approach.
"The X-Files," Dawn replied, stealing a glance at him and then, quickly moving her eyes back to the screen.
"Oh. What type of program is it?"
"A sci-fi...Science Fiction. UFOs, unexplained phenomena..."
"Do you watch it often?" Stefan asked, taking a chance to look at her. Looking at her in the glow from the television screen, he saw a young frightened girl. He also saw a determined young woman who refused to succumb to her wariness of him. He felt sympathy for the girl, but he admired the young woman. Yes, she will do well, he thought.
"Every week," she replied. She stole another glance at him and was surprised to see him watching her. He smiled at her and she could see Nikolas in his small gesture. She felt herself relax and she tentatively smiled back at him.
"I take it you could apprise me of any pertinent information I may need in order to understand the program?" he asked, his eyes still on hers.
"Sure. Just ask," she replied, giving him another faint smile before she turned her attention back to the show.
They sat quietly as they enjoyed the program. As Stefan asked her questions and she answered them, they began to feel comfortable with one another, and they both relaxed. They even shared a laugh when Dawn explained that Cigarette Smoking Man and Well-Manicured Man were actual names of the characters.
"Nikolas tells me that you heard the baby's heartbeat today."
"Yes, we did. We plan to tape it the next time, Mr. Cassadine. We'll give you and Mama copies of the tape if you would like," Dawn offered with a gentle smile.
"I would like that very much," Stefan replied. After a brief pause, he continued, "Dawn?"
"There's really no need for you to be so formal. 'Mr. Cassadine' is who I am to strangers. You're my nephew's wife. You're family. Wouldn't you feel more comfortable addressing me in a less formal manner?" Stefan asked, gently.
Dawn was surprised by his suggestion. She had never thought about it, but now that he'd mentioned it, she had no idea of what to call him. 'Uncle' seemed out of the question, and 'Stefan' seemed too familiar. She replied with a nod, waiting for him to tell her which would be best.
"Either 'Uncle' or 'Stefan' would be fine with me," he said, leaving the decision to her.
"Okay," she said with a slight nod. "'Stefan' it is."
"Very well then," he smiled at her and turned his attention back towards the television. With a small frown, he asked, "Did we miss something? Wasn't Mulder in the burning boxcar a second ago? How did he get out?"
A laugh escaped Dawn before she could stop it. Turning her dancing brown eyes to Stefan's confused green ones, she said, "Your guess is as good as mine. I have no idea."