Dawn watched the beginning of the new day from the window seat of Dara's living room. She had spent most of the night pacing the floor, worried about Nikolas and everyone else involved with the impossible rescue mission. Subconsciously, her fingers stroked the keys to Nikolas' Jaguar which had never left her hands the entire night.

She didn't move a muscle when Dara opened the front door and found her in the living room.

"Why is Nikolas Cassadine's Jaguar parked in front of my building?" Dara asked, tossing her purse and briefcase on the sofa. "Is he here?"

Dawn sighed and rolled her eyes. "Dara, please. Of course, he's not here."

"Why is his car downstairs then?" Dara asked, her hands on her hips.

"Why are you sneaking in at six o'clock in the morning?" Dawn countered. Her nerves were shot from thinking about Nikolas all night. She was not in the mood to deal with Dara.

"Sneaking in? Have you forgotten who's the oldest? I am a grown woman. You, on the other hand, are not. You need-"

"Dara! Stop it," Carrie said as she entered the room, tying her robe around her. "She's been up all night. Leave her alone."

"Aren't you the least bit concerned that the boy, she's only known for a matter of days, left his car…his expensive car downstairs?" Dara asked.

"Yes, but not as concerned as I am about my oldest daughter sneaking back home at the wee hours of the morning. I won't ask you where you've been, but you could have at least called," Carrie said.

"Mama, please. I'm not a little kid. I don’t have a curfew," Dara said, leaving the living room to go to her bedroom for a fresh set of clothes.

"Common consideration, Dara," Carrie said, following Dara out of the room.

Dawn chuckled as she listened to them go back and forth. For a few minutes, she was able to let her mind be free from worry, but not for long. As she moved to sit on the sofa, thoughts of Nikolas consumed her mind and for the umpteenth time that morning she contemplated calling him at Wyndemere. She reached for the telephone, but just like all the other times she reached for it, something held her back. Instead, she sank back into the cushions and covered her face with her eyes.

She had drifted into a light sleep when a light tap at the door woke her. She rose from the sofa and moved to the front door. She looked through the peephole and almost jumped for joy when she saw who stood on the other side.

Flinging the door open, she threw herself into Nikolas' waiting arms. Still holding her in a tight embrace, he lifted her feet from the ground and carried her into the living room, kicking the door close with his foot.

Slowly, she pulled herself from his arms to stand back and take a good look at him. He had a black-eye and bruised cheek, but other than that he looked fine. He was dirty and he smelled like smoke, but none of that mattered. He was back!

"Nickie, I was so worr-"

"Ssh," Nikolas whispered. He lowered his head and claimed her lips in a kiss that rocked both of them to the core. His hands slid down to her waist and pulled her close against him. She wrapped her hands around his back and squeezed him to her. Reluctantly, Nikolas broke the kiss.

"I have been thinking about you and about kissing you for the longest time," he said softly.

"Me, too," she said. She took his hand and led him to the sofa. She moved Dara's purse and briefcase to the floor, making room for them on the sofa.

"This feels so good," Nikolas sighed, sinking into the sofa and pulling her into his arms. He held her close so that her head rested against his chest.

She laced her fingers with his and asked, "What happened? Is everyone else okay? Tommy's mother?"

"Everyone is fine. Tommy's mother is in the hospital. There was an explosion. Right now, she's in a coma. The doctors aren't sure if she'll make it."

"That's awful. How is Tommy doing? I want to go see him," Dawn said, moving to look at Nikolas' face.

"He's doing as well as can be expected. We've been at the hospital for the last few hours. After I go to Wyndemere for a quick shower and fresh clothes, I plan to go back. Do you care to wait for me? We could go together," Nikolas suggested.

"Of course, I'll wait for you," she said. They were quiet for a few minutes. Dawn wondered about his bruises, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know who caused them. She had a very good idea, but saying it out loud was not something she was sure she could do.

Nikolas watched the array of emotions that danced across her face. He knew she wanted to know about Wayne, and he wanted to tell her. His only problem was that he wasn't quite sure how to tell the person he loved that he almost killed someone.

"Did you…how did…" Dawn began the questions, but couldn't finish them. She bit her lip in frustration with herself.

"Yes, I found him. Some of the bruises are from him. Some aren't."

"Oh, Nickie," she said, reaching out to tenderly caress his cheek and black eye. Her eyes became filled with tears at the thought of Nikolas fighting Wayne because of her.

"Dawn, it's okay. I'm fine. He's not, though," Nikolas said with a small smile.

"So you kicked his butt again?" she asked with a light laugh.

"You could say that," Nikolas laughed, but then immediately sobered when an image flashed in his mind. He had decided not to tell her, but he changed his mind. He didn’t want there to be any secrets between them. Ever. "I almost killed him. Until Lucky stopped me. He told me that you wouldn't want me to do that."

"He was right," Dawn said quietly.

Nikolas waited for her to continue, but when he realized that she was unable to, he added, "We turned him over to the authorities. If you want to press charges against him, he's there. Do you?"

Dawn nodded her head. "Oh, yeah. Let's go there before we go to the hospital."

"We don't have to go so soon."

"I want to. I should have done it before, but I was too ashamed. I'm not ashamed anymore."

"You never had anything to be ashamed of," Nikolas said, caressing her face.

"I know that now," she said, her eyes brimming with tears. "You helped me realize that."

"I love you," Nikolas said, wiping the tear that rolled down her cheek.

"I love you, too," she said, smiling at him.

Nikolas pulled her into a warm embrace which she returned with all her love and affection.

To be continued in...

Life After Dark

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