Dawn opened the door and greeted her older sister with a smile. "Hey, what's up?" she said with a small laugh.
Dara's tired and over worked eyes brightened when she saw the smiling face which resembled her own to a slight degree. "Work is up. How goes it with you?"
"Fine. We heard the baby's heartbeat yesterday," she said, her happiness with the memory radiating from her as she beamed at her sister.
Dara moved from behind her desk and pulled Dawn into a hug. "Really? Aw, I wish I could have been there, too."
As they ended the embrace, Dawn said, "We're planning to record it the next time. We're giving Mama and Stefan a copy. If you want, we could give you one, too."
"I would love one," Dara said as she went back to sit behind her desk. "Wait a minute. You said 'Stefan' and you didn't flinch when you said it. What does that mean?"
"I couldn't call him 'Mr. Cassadine' forever," Dawn said with a shrug as she sat in one of Dara's guest chairs.
"Uh huh. What's going on over there at Wyndemere. Come on. You can tell me," Dara said, moving her case files away so that she could give Dawn her full attention.
"Nothing's going on. I'm living there. It's my home for right now, and Nikolas and I are trying to make the best of it. Stefan lives there and I can't be afraid of him. Actually, after talking with him a little bit, I don't quite remember why I was afraid of him in the first place."
Dara frowned at Dawn's admission. Trusting Nikolas was something Dara expected Dawn to do, but trusting Stefan Cassadine... She hoped her sister knew what she was doing. Stefan wasn't like any man Dara had ever known before. He had been in Port Charles for a few years and as far as she knew, he didn't really socialize nor did he seem to have any friends. He isolated himself on purpose and Dara wondered why. She also wondered if his isolation would somehow hurt her baby sister. It had better not, she decided.
"Okay. Well, as long as you know what you're doing," Dara said, choosing to keep her suspicions to herself. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to register for school today?"
"Yeah, I am. Actually, this visit will be a short one. I wanted to ask you if you could do me a favor."
"What kind of favor?" Dara asked, resting her back against her chair as she folded her arms.
"A legal favor, and if you could also give me some personal advice," Dawn said, biting her lower lip. When Dara nodded that she should continue, Dawn did. "L&B offered us a contract. None of us knows anything about that kind of stuff. Anyway, would you go over it with us? We'd really appreciate it."
"Of course. Just let me know when. What's the personal advice you need?" Dara asked with a small frown. Her wheels were turning a mile a minute, but she forced herself to listen before she jumped to any conclusions.
"What do you think of L&B? I remember you said something about them wanting you to sign with them a while back, but you didn't. Did it have something to do with Brenda's breakdown? Is she really okay? I read about the tripod stuff in the tabloids. If she's not stable, I don't want her to start wielding one again and hurt me or the baby, you know?"
"I don't think you have to worry about Brenda's mental capacity. From everything I've seen and heard, she's fine. I think L&B is a good company. My not signing with them had more to do with me and what I want from my life than anything which may have happened in Brenda's. Trust me. They're a good company. Besides, I won't let them get one over you," Dara finished with a smile.
"Thanks. I needed to hear that. Um...do you think you could meet with us sometime this week? L&B wants an answer from us as soon as possible, and we want to give them one," Dawn said with a small laugh.
"Sure. When are you guys available? We can clear it now. Give me a date."
"Okay... I'll have to call the guys to see what's good with them. Actually, they're all with Jordan and he has a pager. I can just page him." Dawn reached into her purse and felt around for her cell phone. Unable to find it, she dumped the contents of her bag onto Dara's other guest chair. The cell phone was nowhere to be found. "Uh oh."
"What's wrong?" Dara asked as she moved her paperwork back in front of her.
"I don't have my cell phone."
"It's not like you can't afford another one," Dara chuckled.
"Shut up," Dawn laughed. "It's not that. I promised Nikky that I would always carry it with me."
"Will he be mad?" Dara asked, suddenly concerned.
"Nah, he just wants to be able to hear the lovely sound of my voice as often as possible. Missing out just this once will be hard for him, but my baby will be okay."
"Oh, please," Dara laughed.
Dawn laughed and asked, "Mind if I use your phone to page Jordan?"
"No, go ahead."
"Hi!" Lark said with a smile as she watched Tommy come towards her. He was dressed in a form-fitting black shirt and snug blue jeans. She couldn't remember ever seeing him look better or sexier.
"Hi, Lark," Tommy replied. He smiled when he saw her. The good humor which shone from her enveloped him and made him feel better. The argument with Gina had bothered him and hurt him more than their past disagreements. After he left the hospital, he had gone for a long walk, hoping it would clear his head, but it didn't. He kept seeing her face and hearing her voice tell him that he wasn't man enough to take care of himself or his mother. Her lack of belief in him had hurt and for the time being, he was quite content to not see her for a while.
Lark noticed the troubled look in his eyes and asked, "Are you okay? Did something happen to your mom...?"
"Nah, she's fine. I'm okay. I just had a rough morning, but I'll be okay," Tommy reassured her.
"Okay," Lark slowly nodded, not really believing him, but knowing better than to pry. She smiled at him and changed the subject. "Well, let's go then."
"Uh...not yet," Tommy said as his eyes began to roam around the park.
"Why not?" Lark asked. "And, what are you looking for?"
"My cousin said she'd meet us here. Some more kids are meeting us, too. They should be here in a few minutes," Tommy said as he glanced at his watch and then gave Lark another small smile.
"Oh. Great," Lark replied. She forced a smile on her face as her mind thought of how the chance to finally be alone with Tommy had been taken away from her. "Just great."
"I'll be right back," Dara said as she left her office.
Dawn smiled at Dara as she left the room. She glanced at her watch and wondered what was taking Jordan so long to call her back. Usually, he was so happy to have a page that he answered it on the first 'beep.'
Desperate to kill the time, she began to shove her belongings back into her purse. When she was done, she stood and stretched. Her hand massaged the sore spot on her hip. It still tingled, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been the night before. She had hid it well, but the walk from the launch to Wyndemere had been painful. She decided to move around to work out the kinks.
As she moved around Dara's office, she smiled at the little knick knacks and keepsakes her sister had decorated her office with. Dawn recognized many of them as things she had sent Dara when she had been in college and later in law school. Their fourteen year age difference had made a significant impact on the types of things Dawn thought her older sister would enjoy. Dawn laughed softly to herself as she picked up the makeshift sculpture she had made in art class when she was in the second grade. "I can't believe she kept this...this thing!" Dawn said with a smile. She carefully set the 'art' back onto Dara's shelf and moved to stand behind Dara's desk. Her hand was reaching for the photo of Dara and Alex as the telephone rang.
"Hello, Dara Jensen, ADA's office. Dawn speaking."
Dawn stiffened at the sound of the familiar voice. Her hand clutched the receiver as her eyes moved to the other frame which rested on Dara's desk. The Jensen family portrait stared back at her as her father's voice came across the phone line.
"Dawn?" Robert repeated, insistently.
Dawn found herself unable to speak. She had half a mind to hang up the phone, but she found she couldn't move. Hearing his voice again made all of the old feelings of being unworthy and useless come roaring back to take hold of her. Her hand absently caressed her cheek where he had slapped her the last time they saw each other. Her eyes mirrored the sadness and pain she felt that night and every night she allowed herself to remember it. She was so locked in the past that she didn't realize that she wasn't alone any more.
"Dawn? What is it? Who's on the phone?" Dara asked as she rushed to stand beside her.
"Daddy," Dawn hoarsely whispered as she shoved the phone at Dara. She grabbed her purse from the chair and rushed from the room. Tears clouded her vision and she ran straight into a pair of strong arms.
"I'm sorry," Dawn said as she tried to pull herself away.
"Bright Eyes, wait," Alex said as he tried to hold onto her. He saw the tears in her eyes and asked, "Are you okay? Tell me what's wrong. Or let me go get Dara for you."
"No!" Dawn all but screamed. She swallowed hard and lowered her voice. "No, Alex. I'm okay. Really. I just need to get out of here."
"But, don't you want to talk to Dara-"
"Dara's busy," Dawn said as she finally broke free of Alex and left the courthouse.
"Lark, this is my cousin, Elizabeth; her boyfriend, Lucky; his cousin, Sly; and that guy coming toward us is Jordan," Tommy said, making the introductions.
"Hi, Lark," the three replied with smiles in unison.
"Hey, guys!" Jordan said, as he reached them. "Have you guys seen Dawn?"
"Not, yet," Liz said. "She should be here soon. I think she stopped by to visit her sister."
"Yeah, she's asking her for legal advice," Sly said with a nod. His eyes were drawn to Lark, but hers were glued to Tommy. He caught Lucky giving him the evil eye so he focused his attention elsewhere.
"I know. She paged me from there. When I called her back, her sister said she was gone. She also said she was pretty upset," Jordan said, displaying his sensitive side which he usually kept under tight wraps.
"Really?" Lucky asked with a frown. "Did she say why?"
"She wouldn't say. I guess it's personal. Anyway, she wants Dawn to call her back. ASAP."
"Well, you guys can go ahead. I'll wait for her here," Liz suggested.
"I'm not going anywhere until she gets here," Tommy said, just as worried about Dawn as his cousin was.
"Neither am I," came the other voices. Lark agreed with them even though she thought differently.
They all sat down on the park bench as they waited for Dawn to arrive.
Maxwell watched the group of teenagers as they moved to sit on the bench. His surveillance of Dawn had come to an abrupt halt when she gave him the slip at the courthouse. He had been doing an excellent job of keeping tabs on her, but somehow, he lost her. Knowing she had planned to meet her friends in the park, he had come ahead of her. He hoped to pick up her tail again when she arrived. He backed himself into the bushes and trees to watch and wait.
The walk from the courthouse to the park had given Dawn time to relax and compose herself. She chided herself as she recounted how she almost fell apart in Alex's arms. She was stronger than that, she decided. Her father didn't have the power to hurt her anymore. She wasn't the person he said she was. Nikolas' love and belief in her proved that she was special and that someone could love her and care about her. She had to remember that and not the let the sound of Robert's voice bring back the pain she had fought so hard to forget.
She saw the faces of her friends smile in relief as she came closer to them. She smiled back at them to reassure them that she was okay. "Hi! Sorry, I'm so late."
"It's no problem. Are you okay?" Liz asked.
"I'm fine," Dawn nodded. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"I got your page, and when I called you back, your sis answered. She said that you were upset," Jordan said, choosing his words carefully.
"I'm okay." Dawn smiled brightly at them to reassure them. "Let's go and get this over with."
As they began to walk away from the park, Tommy moved to stand next to Dawn. Softly, he said, "Are you sure everything's okay? I saw you before you saw us and you didn't look so good."
"Thanks a lot, T-bird!" Dawn said with a slight chuckle. She elbowed him and said, "I'm better now. Who's your friend?"
"Lark. She's registering today, too," Tommy said. "Well, if you're sure..."
"I'm sure, but thanks all the same," she said softly.
As the group of friends walked away, they never noticed that someone else was behind them, watching them every step of the way.