Chapter 23

Downfall

~ here and now…~

"Okay, what are the last minute changes to the set?" Sly asked, as he entered the green room. He glanced at his three bandmates. "I know you're cooking up something."

"You're too suspicious," Jordan said.

"With good reason," Sly countered. "I've played with you all long enough to know nothing ever stays the way we rehearsed it. Where's Justin?"

"He's getting into costume," Lorenzo answered. He arched an eyebrow as he looked at Dawn. "Did you tell him?"

The door opened, delaying her response.

"Looking at you and the guys, it's hard to believe twenty years have passed."

They all turned at the distinctive Australian accent. The same aquamarine blue eyes smiled with confidence. Other than a few streaks of gray, Jasper Jacks hadn't changed. More time had passed since they last saw each other.

"Jax." Dawn hugged him and stood back to give him another once over. He reminded her of the prince from the Sleeping Beauty cartoon. Tall, blonde and handsome. He hardly aged at all. "How's Phaedra? I hope she and the boys are here."

"They are. In the very first row." Contentment seemed to fill him. "I've seen your eldest dodging the attention of many. He's grown up to be a handsome young man."

"He looks so much like Nikolas," she said.

Jax frowned. "I see you in him, too."

"You must have been squinting," she said with a laugh.

Jordan, Lorenzo and Sly took turns greeting the man who gave them their first break in the music industry. Dawn edged toward the scores of music. She found the one that she and Dominik rehearsed at her home studio. Now that the time was near, she wasn't sure about singing it. The lyrics were too raw and the music too haunting.

"Mama."

She jumped. "Dom, you scared me. I was just thinking about you. I didn't hear you come in."

"You were caught in the music." He took the sheet from her. "It's beautiful. I hope I don't mess up."

"You won't." She patted his shoulder. "How did Nikolas take the news?"

Heat rose to his face. Dominik frowned. "I haven't told him."

"Dominik--"

"I got sidetracked," he quickly explained. The warning tone of her voice was just that, a warning. He did not want to incur her wrath.

"Nephew," Lorenzo greeted, pulling Dominik into a hug. "Welcome to the band."

"Thanks, Uncle." Dominik breathed a sigh of relief.

Lorenzo's appearance should delay his mother saying what he didn't want to hear. Why tell his father? Why not let him be surprised like the rest of the world? What if Nikolas forbade him? God, how humiliating would that be? It wasn't like Dominik wasn't old enough to make his own decisions. Plus, he didn't want this to be another thing that pulled his parents apart. Playing onstage with her just once in his life shouldn't be a big deal.

"You should tell him," Dawn said. Her expression hadn't changed. If anything, her face looked more determined.

Dominik was doomed. Unless…

"I don't know where he is." Then, he glanced at his watch. "And show time is only minutes away. I can't go out in the crowd looking for him. I'd never get back in time."

"There are video monitors of the audience," Jax said. He pulled out his PDA and pushed a button. The wall flipped to reveal rows of television monitors. He pushed another button and the units flickered to life.

Dominik rolled his eyes. This was just great. Further excuses escaped him. He moved beside his mother. She was already busy scanning the screens. He noticed a sudden change overcome her as her eyes stopped on an image. She tensed. Hurt replaced the determination.

"Mama?" He looked from her to the screen.

"I'll be damned," Lorenzo muttered so softly that only the three of them heard him.

"Lorenzo, not one word," Dawn said, her voice low and forced. "Never mind, Dom. He's busy and we don't have time."

Dominik inhaled a ragged breath. The two people on the screen captured his attention. His father stood with Gilly Spaulding. If his mother hadn't reacted, he wouldn't have thought much of it. Mrs. Spaulding worked at the family's newly acquired movie studio. It shouldn't raise eyebrows that she spoke with the CEO. But the way, they looked at each other… So much made sense now. Too much.

Instinctively, he wrapped his arm around his mother's shoulders. "Mom…"

"Ssh," she whispered. She quickly returned his embrace and then stepped from his arms. Her eyes glittered with unshed tears. She blinked them away and squared her shoulders. Giving him a forced smile, she said, "Do you still want to play with us?"

"Yes." Now, more than ever. All the restrictions his father had placed on him--why didn't Nikolas Cassadine live by his own rules? Dominik decided that he was only answerable to himself from that moment on. If his father didn't like it, then so be it.

~ I want so much so bad… ~

AJ couldn't ignore the longing in Carly's eyes as she watched Morgan with Keesha. Michael and Grace were too engrossed in each other to notice. But AJ did. It amazed him that even after all these years and how much she had changed, Carly still longed for Jason. Then, AJ realized that so did he. He missed his brother.

"You're too good for him." AJ sipped from his club soda.

"I know," she said, meeting his gaze. "The same could be said for you. You could do better than Keesha."

"I doubt it." He lowered the glass to the table and leaned back. He folded his hands in his lap and glanced at the woman he's finally learned how to love unconditionally. "She's a good woman."

"And I'm not."

"I didn't say that," he replied. "We've all made our share of mistakes. Some more than others. Some took a long time to learn from them."

Her nostrils flared and he knew he'd gotten to her.

"You brought it up," he said, not unkindly. "She's a different woman than you are. It's not fair to compare you."

"But you've always done that," she said, her jaw tight. "Keesha has never known a hard day in her life."

"You're delusional," he said. "She lost her grandmother and Jason within days of each other. She lost me when I didn't think I was man enough to love her properly. I won't even mention the kidnapping and the miscarriage. She's gone through her share."

"You should be her PR man." Carly snorted. "A perfect woman must be hard to love."

AJ shook his head. His gaze connected with Keesha for a brief moment. He saw discomfort on her face. An ache to comfort her claimed him. But not because she was perfect, but because she was Keesha.

"She's no more perfect than the rest of us," he said, admitting what took him years to realize.

~ only love can save us now… ~

Jax was saying, "…and now, D-J-L-S!"

The audience went wild. The band performed a medley of their early hits and then Justin Timberlake joined them onstage. He and Dawn sang "Cry Me a River" as duet. Then, he and Lorenzo did a rocking rendition of "Play That Funky Music." They continued, performing DJLS hits.

As the music died down, Justin moved center stage. "It's been great jamming with one of my all-time favorite bands, but all good things must come to an end. Thanks, DJLS for twenty years. Give us twenty more." He waved as he left the stage.

Dawn took his place. The crowd cheered every time she opened her mouth. After a few minutes of this, the noise finally drifted to silence.

"Wow," she said. "Isn't he amazing?"

More applause. As it died down, she added, "I'd like to introduce you to another amazing man. Sure, I may be biased, but it's true. Just for tonight, my son Dominik will join us onstage. Please, welcome him."

Dominik paused to wave. He strode to the piano. He sat, looked at her and smiled.

"This is our final song and I hope it will mean as much to you all as it has meant to me."

Jordan, Lorenzo and Sly grabbed their mikes and joined Dawn in the center. All was silent as Dominik performed before a live audience for the first time.

Dawn drew in a quick breath. Tears again filled her eyes as she looked at her firstborn. Instead of doing the song she'd written, she told Dominik they would do another one. A song that comforted her during her turbulent last few months of pregnancy with him. A song that stirred her soul now that turbulence had reappeared in her life.

"When you're weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all

I'm on your side

Oh, when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down."

She remembered the first time she and Nikolas were torn apart. They were in the park. Men associated with her father kidnapped her. Nikolas fought to protect her, but he was outnumbered. Later, full with their firstborn, an explosion separated them. Luke and Helena decided that she and Lucky were better suited. She glanced at her brother-in-law and wondered if he remembered singing this song to her. Holding her as she feared for her unborn child's health and their safe return to their family.

Dear God, they had been through so much.

"When you're down and out, when you're on the street

When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you

I'll take your part

Oh, when darkness falls

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down."

Sarah's return brought another separation. She wanted Nikolas and using a disguise, forced Dawn to leave not only Nikolas, but their children, too. In order to save their lives, she had pretended to be Lorenzo's lover. It wasn't an easy time for any of them. But they did the best they could. And won.

She believed that would be the last battle. But she was wrong. Her voice began to falter.

Jordan wrapped his free arm around her waist while Sly took her hand. The three men began to sing. She'd join in when she regained control of her emotions.

"Sail on, silver girl

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on the way

See how they shine

Oh, if you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind

Yeah, like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind."

After the concert, Dominik sat with her in the dressing room.

"I'm coming with you."

"I've explained that your Aunt Elizabeth wants me to come alone," she said.

"You shouldn't be alone right now."

She smiled. Her baby was becoming a man right before her eyes. She loved him so much her heart hurt. "I'll be okay. Your friends are waiting for you."

They stood and hugged. "You were wonderful onstage. Like you were born for it. I'm proud of you. Thank you."

"No, Mama, thank you." He cupped her face and bent forward to kiss her forehead. "I love you."

"I love you, too, baby."

He left. Dawn slumped onto her chair. Her reflection mocked her. In it, a well-put together woman stared back. Inside, she was anything but.

Footsteps sounded on the other side of the door. She said a quick prayer that it wasn't Lorenzo on the other side.

"Please, God, anything but that."

The door opened. "That was quite a surprise."

Her jaw clenched. "I told him to tell you."

"He didn't," Nikolas said, closing the door behind him.

"I know. He's not a child anymore. We can't make his decisions for him."

"You let him join you and the band."

"He asked," she said, unable to make eye contact with him. The look he gave Gilly… It--whatever it was--wasn't over between them. Man, childbirth hurt less than this.

"He's good, but…"

"I know," she said. "You don't want him following in my footsteps. Neither do I. Music gives him release. He needs it. He won't be denied it and if you push, you will force him to go after it."

"I won't push."

"Good."

"So, you're leaving for Switzerland now."

She nodded once and finally mustered the courage to meet his eyes. "When I come back, it won't be to the farmhouse."

His eyes narrowed. "Where are you going?"

"Wyndemere. Adrik will be with me there. Noelle, too, if she wants to come." She looked down at her clenched hands. Her fingers were close to losing circulation. She flexed them. "I saw you with Gilly. Let's not pretend anymore. She went away, but nothing's been resolved."

"You said you wanted to work things out." He folded his arms across his chest. "You're running away."

"I am not. I'm doing this for you."

"For me?"

"That last song was for you. In my heart, I dedicated it to you," she said quietly. "No matter what happens, I want to be your friend. I will be. Even if I may not be your wife."

 

["Bridge over Troubled Water" ã Paul Simon.]

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