Chapter 11

Again

I come from a place that hurts…

The 20-inch flat screen monitor disappeared. The darkness of a cave replaced it. Tommy shivered. The cave he shared with his mother was always cold. There were never enough rags to keep them warm. Never enough kindling to sustain a good fire.

Always cold. Always dark. Always lonely.

"Tommy?"

Tommy blinked and returned to the present. Nikolas stood in the doorway. Last week, they made plans for racquetball. Tommy glanced at his watch. Nikolas was right on time.

"Your secretary told me to come in," Nikolas explained as he closed the door after he entered. "Is something wrong?"

Sliding his hand over his bald head, Tommy shook his head. "Nothing important."

"The look on your face contradicts you."

"About our game," Tommy said. "I can't make it today."

"Neither can I." Nikolas appeared drained and tired. His mouth was tight and grim. "Are you busy?"

Tommy lifted his shoulders in a half shrug. He pointed to the guest chair that faced his desk. "Sit."

Nikolas grunted. "Your mood is as pleasant as mine."

Listening to Nikolas' problems seemed a lot less grueling than thinking about his own. "What's wrong?"

"No, you first. I know that Tom Hardy has returned. Have you seen him?"

"Once. That was enough."

"He's your father--"

"I don't have a father," Tommy stated, "and I don't want to talk about Tom right now." He leaned back in his chair and carefully observed his best friend. Nikolas paced the floor. Nervous energy radiated from him in choppy waves. "What is it?"

Nikolas' footsteps paused long enough for him to say, "My marriage may be over."

"I don't believe you."

"It's true." Nikolas finally sat on the guest chair. He gave Tommy a world-weary look. "Dawn and I argued. She cried all night."

"Did you go to her?" Tommy didn't understand. The couple had just celebrated twenty years of marriage. And they were happy! People don't go from bliss to desolation in the blink of an eye. Then he remembered his own situation. His life was just fine until Tom came along.

Nikolas absently drummed his finger on the arm of the chair. "No, I'd said enough."

"You could have held her," Tommy offered.

"She wouldn't have wanted me to." Quietly, he added, "I didn't want to."

Tommy's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "What?"

"It's odd, isn't it?" Nikolas murmured almost to himself. "I told her last night that I loved her."

"Don't you?"

"Yes..."

"But?" Tommy prompted.

"I don't know what I want," Nikolas confessed. "I can't imagine being without her, yet, I'm afraid that if we remain together, I'll only hurt her more. I don't want to do that."

"Another woman is involved," Tommy said, unwilling to believe that his friend had been unfaithful.

"Is it written across my forehead?" Nikolas inquired.

"No. Are you in love with her?"

Nikolas frowned. "I don't know."

"How can you not know?" Tommy asked more sharply than he intended. "Either you're in love with your wife and plan to be there for your family or you don't. How can you go from loving someone one day to not--"

"Wait!" Nikolas rose quickly. "I love Dawn."

"Are you sure?" Tommy asked.

"Yes. I'm just not sure if I'm still in love with her. At least not like I used to be."

Tommy sadly shook his head. The blues were catching.

~*~

Dawn stayed in the music room all night. She couldn't imagine sleeping next to Nikolas, pretending that nothing had changed. Besides, sleep was something to avoid. All it brought was distorted images that filled her with terror. She wished that the dreams would start to make sense or better still, stop completely.

While she was in Wisconsin with Traci and then Lorenzo, the night terrors came but they were less terrifying. But somehow she knew that the return to Port Charles would bring it all back. After facing Nikolas, the last thing she wanted to do was dream. So she bypassed the baby grand and headed for the stereo. She turned on her favorite dance CD and danced herself to exhaustion. Drenched in perspiration and tears, she collapsed on the floor and slept.

At first, pictures of the good times flashed before her. As she fell into a deeper sleep, the pictures changed. Darkness replaced the sunshine. Coldness overrode warmth. A deafening roar exploded. Then, there was rain. Lots of rain. A sharp pain ripped through her belly. Dawn wrapped her arms around her middle, but nothing was there. Hollow emptiness. She woke up screaming.

"Baby Girl! Dawn!"

Footsteps pounded across the hardwood floor. The vibrations made her tremble. She pulled her knees to her chin and willed herself to call out.

"Jordan! I'm in here!"

He pushed through the door and rushed to her side. He grasped her shoulder. "Are you okay? I heard screaming."

"It was just a dream." With his help, she moved to her feet. Subconsciously, she smoothed her clothes and patted her hair. "I must look a mess. What time is it?"

"Almost noon." He draped an arm around her waist as they left the room. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yeah. I need to shower and change. Give me fifteen minutes. I'll meet you in the den."

"Us," he said as she neared the staircase. "Sly is outside and Lorenzo is on the way."

Fifteen minutes later, Dawn greeted her other two friends. They all held worried expressions so she knew that Jordan had blabbed about her nightmare. She held her hands up and waved off their concern. "I'm okay. It's just a dream. No biggie."

"You look like shit," Sly said without the sugarcoating.

"Thanks," she said, heavy on the sarcasm. "You know how to make a woman feel special."

Jordan gave Sly a dirty look. Lorenzo crossed the room to her. He took her chin and tilted her head so that their eyes met. "What happened?"

She pulled free. "Nothing." Dawn turned away from her brother-in-law's curious gaze. Nikolas' accusations still stung. For him to go there... She swallowed hard. "What's up, guys? Why the impromptu visit? Business or pleasure?"

The scowls that darkened their handsome features only faded somewhat. The three men stared, but she didn't break. With an interested expression plastered on her face, she waited them out. In the end, she won.

Jordan grumbled and said, "A little of both. Jax called. He has a special request for DJLS."

Dawn sat on the floor and crossed her legs beneath her. "What does he want? Another surprise party for Phaedra and the boys?"

"Nah," Sly answered. "Don't you remember? Jacks' grand opening was twenty years ago. He wants us to play. Opening act...star billing. All that jazz."

She would never forget the opening of Jasper Jacks' nightclub. Long before the international hotspot became a chain, DJLS made their mark on its first stage in Port Charles. By winning the talent show, they were rewarded with a recording contract. A faint smile parted her lips. How sweet it was.

"When and where?" she asked.

Lorenzo's eyebrows shot up. "You up for it?"

She looked at him. Those familiar blue eyes read through her bravado. He knew that all wasn't well. She took in a deep breath and exhaled. After what they'd been through, she supposed the connection between them would always exist. She nodded. "Of course. How can we turn Jasper down? When is it? We've missed the 'official' anniversary date."

"Three weeks from Friday," Jordan said. "A live televised event."

"Wow," she said softly. "That doesn't give us much time."

"We can pull it off," Lorenzo said. "We always do."

Sly directed his narrow-eyed gaze on Dawn. "Do you think you can still fit into that costume? The same way you did back then?"

His corresponding leer was too silly to resist. Her mood lightened and she laughed. It felt good.

~*~

"Tell me again," Dominik said to his visibly upset sister. "Start from the beginning."

Reddish brown curls tossed as she shook her head. Her aquamarine eyes swam behind unshed tears. "No, Dom. You heard it. Just answer my question and tell me the truth. What's between Mama and Uncle?"

Dominik's stomach clenched. Why did she have to come to him? But wasn't it better than going to their parents? He groaned and edged his chair closer to hers. The lunch time crowd at Kelly's had dwindled down to only a few lingering patrons. But even so. "They're friends, Noelle. You know that."

"I don't know anything," she said, "I don't know why you'd lie to me when I'm asking you straight out. Mama and Uncle had an affair."

"No." But his voice lacked conviction. Noelle's eyes widened and he knew that he failed to convince her. He rested his arm along the back of her chair. His hand patted her shoulder. "It's not like Mama and Papa have never argued before."

Her bottom lip trembled. "Not like this."

"They'll kiss and make up," Dominik continued as if she hadn't spoken. Her fear unnerved him. He didn't want to consider the possibility of his family falling apart. Again.

"No, they won't. Not this time." Noelle's voice broke, and so did her resolve. She burst into tears. Dominik pulled her into a hug.

"We'll be fine," he murmured, stroking her hair. "I promise."

At the next table, Robin bit back a smile.

A house divided will not stand, she thought. She'd see to it.

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