Lucas woke with a smile on his face. He'd just had the most fantastic dream about Emily. They were at school together, walking down the crowded hallway hand in hand. Emily only had eyes for him. She didn't care that she was a Senior while he was a Freshman. The only thing she cared about was him and nothing else. When his alarm sounded and had woken him up, he and his beloved were about to share a kiss. He lightly touched his lips with the tips of his fingers as he imagined how soft and delicate her lips would be against his. Mm, soon, he thought.
Lucas rose from his bed and padded to his closed bedroom door. He opened the door and listened for any signs that his mother and his stepfather were awake. He couldn't hear them, but that didn't mean they weren't up. And, even if they were asleep, he'd have to move fast. He didn't have much time. He'd have to leave for PCH soon and he wanted to make sure everything was set in motion before the first bell rang.
Keeping one eye on his bedside clock, he moved quickly. Lucas showered and dressed in his standard blue jeans and pullover sweater in record time. He stuffed his feet into his socks and Adidas before he moved to sit behind his desk. He flipped on the power switch to his monitor and hard-drive and while he waited for his computer to boot, he tied his sneakers.
Within minutes, the computer was ready and Lucas double-clicked on the Microsoft Word icon. He had to wait a few seconds more before the word processing program was ready for him. As he waited, he smiled with malicious merriment as he thought of Mr. Big Man on Campus Tommy Hardy. After what he must have endured the night before, he wouldn't be so *big* anymore. Lucas cackled happily. He wished he could have been a fly on the wall when the extra ingredient of Tommy's pastrami sandwich had kicked in.
With a mother for a nurse and a father and a stepfather as doctors, Lucas had access to information on any type of drug imaginable. He'd read about the effects of hallucinogens, and he'd become intrigued. After reading a few more articles and journals on what he deemed his favorite, PCP or Angel Dust, he wanted to know more. At first, the idea of lacing the stuff in anyone's food or drink hadn't crossed his mind until the day before when he'd had his fill of Tommy interfering in his relationship with Emily. But it wasn't only Tommy's interference that infuriated Lucas. It was also the humiliation he'd felt after the run-ins with the smug SOB. It wasn't Lucas' fault that he was younger and not as strong as Tommy. Tommy had an unfair advantage, but after last night, they were now on equal footing. Well, almost.
The blank page appeared on the monitor and after a few adjustments to the font, Lucas was ready. He started typing. The words flowed from his fingertips like magic, and when he was done, he sat back and read it. He smiled and nodded slowly. It was perfect. Maybe he needed to change a word here or there, but the content couldn't have been better. Way to go, Jones, he silently applauded himself.
Lucas quickly minimized the scream. Without turning around, he said, "Come in, Mom."
Dressed for work in a pale green business suit, Bobbie entered. She looked around the room and was pleased to see that the bed was made and her son was dressed. She was a little surprised to see him sitting behind his desk, though. "Honey, what are you doing? Noah and I are waiting for you."
"I'll be down in a few minutes," he said, turning his head to look at her and smile.
"Well, hurry. Your breakfast is getting cold," Bobbie said. She gave him a smile and then she left him alone.
"I'll be right down," he mumbled to himself as he faced his monitor again. He maximized the screen and reread the letter, which he knew would work like magic in destroying Tommy Hardy's life. Proud of himself and unable to contain his joy, he began to read the letter aloud.
"To whom it may concern;
Ever wondered what PCH's star quarterback and captain of the football and basketball teams does when he's not terrorizing the field and dominating the court? Ever wondered about the cause of his peculiar mood swings?
Well, I have and now, I have the answers to those questions. And, if you'd like the answers, you can find them on a drug test. That's right. Mr. SADD is sad. A very sad person who loses himself in drugs. But don't take my word for it. The proof is in his blood, and when you find it, don't worry. I won't say a word. I'm the not the type to say 'I told you so.'
Perfect, Lucas thought. After the letter was forwarded to a few people...like the principal, the coaches of the football team and the basketball team, and of course, PCH's own 'The Gazette'...well, *then* they'd be equal. And, then Tommy Hardy would learn the hard way what happens when Lucas Jones is crossed.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?" Nikolas murmured the words softly as he watched his tiny niece sleep. He stood facing the glass partition which separated the newborns from their doting visitors, but even with his back turned, he knew who had silently moved behind him. He smiled faintly as his father patted him on the back.
"Yes, she is. An exquisite vision, so like her namesake," Stefan agreed. His voice was soft and hoarse with emotion. Waiting for the birth of the child he considered his grand-daughter reminded him of the hours he'd spent pacing as he waited for Nikolas' arrival. Agonizing, torturous hours were lost as he waited outside of Laura's chambers. He feared he would go mad as he heard her screams and new that he could do nothing, but wait. But when the wait was over and Stavros' presence was no longer a hindrance, the hours of anticipation only seemed like a millisecond as he held his precious son in his arms.
"Father?" Nikolas repeated, turning away from the sleeping infant to look at the man who was lost in his memories.
"Yes?" Stefan said. He blinked once, twice to return to reality and face the inquisitive brown eyes of his son.
"You were miles away. Care to tell me where you were?"
Stefan smiled. "In Greece."
"Ah," Nikolas nodded, "Greece. Any particular reason?"
"Just remembering." Stefan gently cupped Nikolas cheek. "You were a wonderful sight to behold."
"Was I?" Nikolas asked, intrigued. A faint smiled upturned the corners the of his lips as he imagined himself at the tender age of the newest addition to his family.
"You were," Stefan reassured him. "And, you were willful and stubborn almost from birth. Your cries were strong and insistent."
Nikolas glanced at the sleeping Jolie and then turned towards his father. "Did I cry often?"
"Whenever you were in need of something, however, you were by no means a child who was over indulged, quite the contrary."
"Was I happy?" Nikolas asked softly, his eyes wistful.
"Extremely so," Stefan said, his voice hoarse from emotion. "You were loved and you knew it."
"I've always known it," Nikolas said, hugging his father.
"I love you, Nikolas."
"I know," Nikolas told him as he released Stefan, "and I love you, too."
"Ah, two of my favorite men," Carrie said as she came closer to them. She smiled brightly as Stefan extended his hand to her.
"You say that as if you have more," Stefan said, narrowing his green eyes at her.
"Perhaps," Carrie laughed softly. She offered Stefan a light kiss on the cheek, which he kindly accepted in exchange for her teasing. Knowing that she could anticipate more from Stefan later, she directed her attention to Nikolas. "Were you able to get Emily home before Edward called for the National Guard?"
"I think so," Nikolas replied. "For a change, Mr. Quartermaine wasn't bellowing as loudly as usual. I think the news about Jolie softened him a little. As I was leaving, I was half afraid he'd invite himself along, but Emily saved me."
"Mm, I'm sure she did," Carrie said with a brief smile. "Speaking of young women, have either of you heard from Dawn?"
"She hasn't returned your telephone call?" Stefan asked, a worried frown, creasing his brow.
"No, she hasn't, and that's not like her."
"No, it isn't," Nikolas agreed. "Did you leave a message for her at the gym or at Quartermaine's? Maybe she hasn't received it."
"Are you suggesting that her messages are inspected before she receives them?" Stefan asked, stiffly.
"I don't know if AJ reviews her messages or not, but it is *his* home. Maybe...I don't know," Nikolas shrugged.
"I don't believe that," Carrie said before Stefan could voice his differing opinion. "As unhappy as I am about her present living arrangement, I don't believe my daughter would allow someone to invade her privacy like that. Maybe something is wrong with either the machine or..."
"Would it make you feel any better if I went over there and brought her here myself?" Nikolas offered. He was a little surprised by his suggestion, and after seeing the hopeful expressions on his parents' faces, he immediately realized his mistake. They'd think his offer would mean more than a simple gesture of kindness on behalf of his step-sister- Um, 'step-sister.' Even weeks after their break-up, thinking of Dawn in terms of their familial relationship seemed a bit off for him. He'd have to think of another term, or perhaps no term at all would be in order. And, perhaps he'd reconsider his offer-
"That would be great, sweetie," Carrie said, beaming at him. She released Stefan's hand, and moved closer to Nikolas to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek and a brief hug. After they released each other, she took Stefan's hand again and began to lead him down the hallway towards Dara's room. "Thanks again, Nikolas. And, hurry. I can't wait to see Dawn's face when she meets little Jolie."
"I don't think this is such a good idea."
Dawn glanced back at Tommy over her shoulder as he repeated the words he'd said to her on the drive from Mercy Hospital to AJ's home. She drew a long breath and paused for a second as she chose her words carefully. "I know you don't, Tommy, but it's something I have to do."
"But why?" he asked as he followed her down the hallway and into her room. "What about your recovery?"
"I'll be fine." She began to move around the room and gather her things. She placed her folded clothing on the bed and then moved inside the closet to retrieve her luggage. The suitcase was on the shelf above her head and in trying to reach for it, an excruciating pain ripped through her, causing her to cry out.
Tommy reacted instantly. He moved behind her and took the suitcase down. He placed it to the side. He then placed his arm around Dawn's waist and guided her to the bed. He didn't say anything as she sat down and squeezed her eyes shut. He squatted in front of her and eased his hand into hers. He remained still as she squeezed his hand in response to the pain she felt.
Slowly, the pain subsided and Dawn released Tommy's hand. She bent over slightly and pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes. A fresh sea of tears had begun to sting her eyes and the last thing she wanted would be for Tommy to see them. The previous night as he had sung to her, she'd promised herself that she had cried her last tear in front him. But then again, years before she'd promised herself that she'd never take another drug. Not even aspirin. So much for promises, she thought, taking a deep breath.
Tommy reached out a hand to touch her, but he dropped almost as soon as he extended it. She didn't want his touch or his comfort. She hadn't said anything, but he knew. He was intuned enough with her to know that her distance didn't really have anything to do with him, personally. She wanted to get through the tragedy alone. She wanted to prove to herself that she was okay, but deep down inside, he was afraid that she wasn't. He was also afraid that if he questioned her or pushed too hard, she'd shut down and completely turn him away. And, after last night when he finally came to the realization that he cared for her, deeply cared for her and maybe was in love with her, the one thing he would not want to do was have her push him away. He wasn't sure if he could handle it if she did.
"What?" she asked, her voice muffled as she rubbed her hands over her face before she made herself look at him. She placed her hand on her knees and pulled herself into a standing position. Finally, a promise she made herself was kept as she stood up without grimacing. I can do this, she told herself. I *can* do it!
Tommy stuffed his hands into the pocket of his sweats to prevent himself from helping her. He went back to the closet and grabbed the suitcase. He came back and placed it on the bed. He watched her as she unzipped the bag and began to fill it with her belongings. "Well, maybe you could go to Wyndemere instead-"
"No!" she said, more sharply than she had intended. Her voice was softer as she said, "I'm sorry about that. It's just that... I left Wyndemere for a reason. I can't go back there. Besides, my mother would know something was wrong the minute I walked through the front door."
"Well, why can't you stay *here* instead? Going back to that damp, dirty apartment... Dawn, do you realize that you could get an infection? Staying here where someone could look out for you-"
"I don't need anyone to look out for me. I can look out for myself," she reminded him.
She brushed past him to wrench open her dresser drawer. She picked up an armload of socks and when two pair fell from her arms, she bent over to pick it up. She tried to bite back the cry of pain, but she couldn't.
This time, Tommy went to her and wrapped his arms around her. He half-carried and half-guided her to the bed. Once she was sitting, he sat down beside her and pulled her into his arms. He began to rock her gently. "You don't have to go through this alone. That's what I'm trying to tell you," he said softly. "I know you're strong and smart and tough, but right now, you don't have to be any of those things. I want to help you. Your family would be more than happy to help you and I'm sure AJ would be, too."
"No," she croaked as she shook her head. "I know you mean well, but I meant it when I said that I didn't want anyone to know. I'll be fine. Once the pain goes away, I'll be okay."
"At least stay here until that happens. Please, don't go back to that apartment."
"I'm sorry, but I have to. I have to leave and I have to leave now. I can't stay here, Tommy. It's just too...with Mikey... I couldn't bear to be..." She paused to catch her breath. "Don't get me wrong. I love him with all of my heart, but he's a ba-"
"Ssh," Tommy cooed, rocking her gently again. "I know. I'm sorry. I should have realized. I'll take you out of here."
"Excuse me, but what's going on here?" AJ asked as he stood in the doorway of the room. He'd heard the muffled voices as he neared the hallway. He thought that maybe Dawn was staying home because she'd been at GH all night, waiting for the birth of the baby. He'd retrieved the messages when he'd called and she hadn't answered the phone. He had thought that she'd left him a message because she knew he'd be worried, but instead he'd received the news that the birth of Ned's second child was close at hand. When she hadn't picked up the phone, he then thought she was at the hospital, too. But, looking at how comfortable she appeared wrapped in Tommy's arms, AJ now that that perhaps she was with him all night. Hmm.
"Hey, Em, wait up!"
Emily turned at the sound of her lab partner's voice. Dressed from head to toe in her trademark designer ensemble, Allison Phillips approached her. Emily waited for Allison to reach her before she said, "What's going on, Allison? I have an exam in less than five minutes."
"I know. We're in the same class, remember?" Allison said with a grin and a nudge. When they began to walk again, Allison casually asked, "So, um...have you seen Tommy today?"
"We broke up, remember? We don't make a habit of seeking each othe-"
"Calm down," she said with a humorless laugh. "There's no need to be defensive."
"I wasn't being defensive," Emily denied, shifting her textbooks from one arm to the other. She looked at her curious companion and began to wonder if there was more to her question than met the eye. Perhaps, she was interested in Tommy, Emily wondered. No, that can't be it, she decided. Allison hated Tommy and vice versa, which meant that if Allison was asking about him... "Okay, what gives?"
"What do you mean?" Allison asked, her dark brown eyes glowing with the secret she had hidden behind them.
"I mean, why all the questions about Tommy?"
"I only asked you one," Allison replied sweetly.
"Give it up, Alli," Emily said, becoming irritated with Allison's silly little game. "Why were you asking about him? Didn't you have a test with him this morning? The French exam?"
"Aw, you break up, but you remember his schedule. That's touching-"
"Allison!" Emily warned through gritted teeth as they reached the door of their classroom. They stood to the side as their classmates filed inside. Most of the classmates eyed Emily openly while others whispered and snickered. Emily responded by glaring at them, but since she didn't know what the present rumor was, she was at a loss. "What was that about?" she asked, indicating the passersby.
"You mean you don't know?" Allison asked, biting her lip to prevent a smile from coming across her face. "It's all over school."
"What is? And, hurry. We don't have much time."
"The stuff about Tommy," Allison said, ignoring Emily's sarcastic remark. "Everyone's talking about Tommy being a user."
"Being a what?!" Emily said, subconsciously raising her voice. "That's absurd! Anyone who knows him knows that he would *never* touch the stuff."
"You know that's what I said...at first. But one has to wonder why he missed two semester exams today. The old Tommy would never have done that, but this new one...the user one...might. Maybe he's picked up on a few of your old habits," Allison smirked as she sauntered past a stunned Emily and went inside the classroom.