"Dad, could I talk to you for a second?"

Alan turned sharply at the sound of AJ's face. His gaze appeared unfocused and he blinked as if he didn't recognize his own son. AJ reached out a hand to him and Alan jerked away. Beads of perspiration glistened across his forehead and his hand shook as dabbed the moisture away with a wrinkled handkerchief. "What is it, AJ? I don't have time for nonsense today."

AJ bristled. A razor-sharp pain pierced his heart. He swallowed down the hurt he felt at his father's response and spoke to him quickly. "This isn't nonsense, Dad. I have a few suggestions for the therapy room and I wanted to go over them with you. "

Alan stuffed the damp handkerchief inside the breast pocket of his jacket and backed away towards his office, all the while shaking his head. "Later, AJ. I'm late for an appointment."

"But Dad-"


AJ watched in wonder as Alan slammed his office door shut and a lock clicked into place. The man baffled him and AJ couldn't help but wonder what he was up to. Folding his list of suggestions in half, he went to the nurses' station. "Amy, could I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure!" The nurse's greeting was bright and her smile was genuine. Tendrils of strawberry blonde hair framed her face as she rested her forearms against the counter, lowering herself down so that she was eye level with AJ. "What can I do for you?"

"You told me that my dad's schedule was open this morning, right?"

She nodded. "Alan doesn't have any meetings until tomorrow afternoon. Why?"

AJ smiled his thanks and began to back away from her legendary curiosity. "No reason. Just curious. Thanks."

"Anytime. Um…AJ, how does Keesha like her new job?"

He knew a trap when he heard one. Keeping the smile plastered on his face, AJ shrugged. He hoped it would be enough, but just in case; he quickly spun on his heel, intent on a safe getaway. The person walking briskly out of the elevators didn't see him and the two men collided. AJ recovered first and stammered an apology. "I'm sorry, Mr. Cassadine. I didn't see you."

Stefan nodded once and stooped down to pick up the folders that had dropped during the collision. AJ helped him and when they were done, moved towards the elevator.

"Mr. Quartermaine."

Releasing a low breath, he turned around again to face the older, austere man. "Yes?" he asked, hoping that his job wasn't in jeopardy because of a simple mistake.

Black-framed eyeglasses perched on the bridge of Stefan's nose. A sheet of paper with a crease was held in his hand and his gaze was drawn to it. His eyes moved quickly as he read whatever was on the document and then looked at AJ. He folded the paper with one hand and held it out to a speechless AJ. "I believe this belongs to you."

AJ took the paper from him and glanced at his list of suggestions for the therapy room. The heat of embarrassment flooded his face. He nodded once. "Yes, this is mine."

"You have a keen eye, Mr. Quartermaine. I will inform my secretary to schedule a meeting for us later this week to discuss your suggestions. She will contact you to confirm the meeting. Good day."

Stefan strode away. The elevator doors opened and closed behind him, but AJ didn't move. He was nearly frozen in shock. His father had rebuffed him and minutes later, a stranger and one of the most powerful men in the world had complimented him. With a morning starting off as peculiar as that, he wondered what the rest of the day would bring.

Jax sat alone in a darkened corner of the Port Charles Grille. His mind kept thinking of the mysterious woman at the gym. He hadn't seen her since and was anxious to see her again. Over the past few days, he had spent a lot time at the gym, looking for her. Each day had proven to be as fruitless as the last. He felt almost as helpless as Prince Charming in his search for Cinderella, but at least that lucky bloke had a glass slipper to go by. Poor Jax had nothing but the memory of dancing brown eyes and a sparkling smile to aid him. But he was determined to find her. The lack of leads only made the endeavor more challenging and enticing.

"When a man grins like that, it's a sure sign of trouble."

Jax smiled and stood up from his table. He pulled out the chair for his guest and placed a kiss upon her cheek. "Good morning, Alexis."

"Good morning," she returned. She waited until he was seated across from her before she spoke again. "Are you aware that you have a silly smile plastered across your face?"

"Is that a nice thing to say when I'm so happy to see you," he asked. He tried to pout, but it didn't work. The smile returned, brighter than ever.

"I suppose it wouldn't be if that smile was really for me." Alexis nodded her thanks as Jax poured coffee into the small porcelain cup for her. "But considering you had that look on your face when I saw you from across the room and long before you saw me, I might add, I think I may be justified."

"Touché." He conceded. "My thoughts were elsewhere, but I am happy to see you. I always am."

A waiter appeared and handed menus to both of them. Their orders were quickly placed and the waiter left them alone. Alexis took a few sips of her coffee. When she lowered the cup to its saucer, her hand shook. The cup rattled as she set it down and coffee splattered onto the tablecloth. She reached for her napkin and tried to clean up the spill. Her hand brushed a glass of water and it almost fell over. Jax set it upright just in time and then closed his hand over hers.

"Alexis, what's wrong?"

"I-I guess I'm not myself this morning," she said in a hoarse whisper.

Jax leaned towards her and said quietly, "Your hands are cold and your eyes are drawn. Something is wrong. Your voice was strained over the telephone and I dismissed it. I can't do that now. You're frightened. Has someone tried to hurt you?"

She tried to laugh away his questions, but her laughter sounded force and hollow. Jax gave her a stern, caring look and Alexis' eyes brimmed with tears. She blinked them away and apologized. "I never cause scenes or cry in public. I am sorry for embarrassing you."

He shrugged. "You're not embarrassing me. I don't give a damn what these people think of me. I am more concerned about you. Tell me what's frightened you."

The waiter reappeared with their breakfast. He set it before them and quickly left them alone. By the time he had departed, Alexis had regained her composure. Jax watched her carefully, waiting for her to respond to his demand.

"You're right," she said. "Something has me terrified and I fear that my life may be in danger."

Jax pushed aside his plate and took her hand again. Holding it tightly, he said, "Who has threatened you?"

"No one has…yet, and I'm sorry for coming to you like this, but I don't have anyone else to turn to. I'll tell you everything and if you choose not to help me, I will understand. I mean, I wouldn't blame you. You could be in danger, too."

Jax gave her a reassuring smile. "I am the original daredevil. Danger excites me and I will do whatever I can to help you. Tell me and we will start from there."

"Okay, I got here as fast as I could," Ned said, laughing as Brenda pulled him into the cottage, "would you please tell me what's going on?"

"Something fantastic has happened!" she said. She took his coat from him and tossed over the back of the chair near the staircase. Her hand slid inside his and she guided him to the sofa. "Sit down!" she instructed, nearly bouncing up in down in excitement. "I have the most wonderful news!"

Brenda's enthusiasm was contagious and Ned was on the edge of his seat. "What?" His hand gestured wildly, encouraging her to continue. "What's so fantastic?"

"You won't believe it!" She sat down on the arm of the sofa. Wisps of dark brown hair fell from her ponytail and she pushed them behind her ear. "Dara Jensen quit! She left her job as the ADA! Isn't that wonderful?"

"Wonderful?" Ned repeated. He leaned back against the sofa and took a long look at Brenda. His enthusiasm waned even as her bubbled over. "How is that wonderful? She's one of the best in the DA's office. Never mind that she rarely wins a case, she seems dedicated and I don't think it's fantastic that she quit."

"You will when I tell you the rest!" She bounced from the arm of the sofa and stood in front of him. "She needs a new job!"

"My God, Brenda!" Ned rose from the sofa and went to her fireplace. He tossed another log in and pushed it around with the nearby iron poker. "I can't believe you're so happy at her expense. We've always been fortunate, but unemployment is not a laughing matter. Are you aware of how it affects the economy?"

"Ned!" She grabbed his arm and squeezed until he looked at her. "Please, stop imitating your grandfather and listen to me!"

"Imitating Grandfather?" he screeched. "I'm insulted!"

"Ned, please!"

"Okay, okay!" He raised his hands in a defensive gesture. "I'm listening."

"Dara would be perfect for L&B Records! She sings at the Outback and always draws a good crowd. Hell, you've sung with her at the Nurse's Ball. She's wonderful!"

"Oh," he smiled, finally understanding her excitement. "But there's no guarantee she wants a music career. When we rehearsed for the Nurse's Ball, I asked her and she said that it wasn't in the cards for her."

"Well," Brenda said with a wide smile, "it looks like the cards have changed or maybe the game has. She's ripe for the picking and L&B is ripe for her."


Tommy pulled his gaze from the window to greet his cousin with a smile. "Hi, Sarah," he said, watching her as she slid into the seat across from him. "How's it going?"

"It's going," she said as she shrugged out of her coat, gloves and scarf. She set the garments on the chair beside her and glanced around the restaurant before looking at her cousin again. "I wasn't sure if you'd be able to find the place."

"This place? I practically grew up here."

The atmosphere of Kelly's hadn't changed since he was last there. He remembered everything. Ruby's gruff, but warm greeting was still the same. The wooden tabletops were still adorned with plaid napkins that matched the plaid curtains. The food smelled delicious and he was certain that it would taste just as good.

"I'd never forget anything about Port Charles, and especially not Kelly's. Look behind you." He pointed to a wooden beam that was just to Sarah's left. "Do you see those marks there?"

"TH+MS=4vr?" she asked, squinting as she read the worn etchings. "Your handiwork?"

Tommy grinned. "Well, yeah. I take credit for some of it. I was surprised that it hadn't been painted over by now."

Tammy arrived with their menus and the cousins quickly placed their orders of burgers, fries and shakes. When Tammy left, Sarah began her interrogation. "So, who is MS?"

"Maxie Scorpio," Tommy replied. "We were thisclose to becoming stepsibs until my dad and her mom called it quits."

"Have you called her? Maybe she'd be happy to see you."

"Maybe so," he said.

Tammy returned with their shakes and a large basket of fries. She set the items down on the table and left. Silence settled around the table as Sarah began to dig in and Tommy's thoughts drifted to the past. A vision of soft, flaming curls and twinkling blue eyes came to his mind. His appetite waned and a deep, whistling sigh passed from between his lips. Sarah glanced at him, her face filled with concern. Heat flooded his face and he slid the milkshake in front of him.

"What's wrong?" Sarah asked. She dipped a long French fry into ketchup and watched him closely, waiting for his reply. "I've leaned on your shoulder about…well, Nikolas. I'd like to return the favor. Did things end badly with you and Maxie?"

He shook his head. "It's not Maxie. We're still good friends."

"So there was someone else?"

Tommy nodded. Dividing his attention between stirring the shake with the straw and Sarah's questions, he began to answer her. "Her name was Lynn. She took a year off from school to join the Peace Corp."

"You met her overseas?"

"Yeah," he said after releasing another deep sigh. The memory of nighttime walks in the desert with Lynn came to mind. Their time together had been so right, so perfect. Months later, the feelings still lingered. Joy and pain mingled together, leaving a bittersweet taste in his mouth. He inhaled some of the chocolate shake to push the taste away.

"If you don't want to talk about it, I understand-"

"No, that's not it." Tommy would have said more, but Tammy returned with their burgers and a surprise from Ruby—2 helpings of apple pie ala mode.

"Don't tell her I told, but I think Ruby has a crush on you." Tammy smiled at Tommy and Sarah and then she left them alone again.

"Ruby's always been nice to me. When I was a kid, no matter which parent had me, I always found myself here for dinner," Tommy explained. "It's nice to be remembered."

"Lizzie works here," Sarah said, "and I don't think she's as fond of her as she is of you."

"We can't fault Ruby for having good taste, can we?" Tommy said with a small laugh. They ate half of their meal and then Tommy spoke again. "Lynn disappeared, Sarah. I don't know where she is."

Sarah's glass of vanilla milkshake hit the table with a thud. "What do you mean? Was she kidnapped?"

"One day, she was there and we were making plans about coming back to the States to go to college together. Then the next, she was gone. All her stuff was just gone and she didn't tell me good-bye or leave a note for me or anything."

She covered her hand with his and squeezed. "I'm sorry. Have you tried to look for her? Would you know where to start?"

Tommy shook his head again. "I don't have a clue. Maxie's mom used to be a private investigator. I was thinking about asking her for help."

"That sounds good. When we finish up here, we can go over to the Outback. I think she works there, right?"

"Yeah, she does. Thank you for your offer. Are you sure you want to be involved?"

Sarah leaned towards Tommy and whispered, "I'm a lot tougher than I look. Besides, we're family. Of course, I want to be involved."

Tommy gave her a smile that came straight from his heart. "Thanks."

Robin slammed the door of her black Honda Prelude shut and a familiar sensation swept over her. She was being watched. Clutching her handbag to her chest, she gripped her keys in a defensive manner and glanced around the almost deserted parking garage. Except for a lone woman whose back was to her, no one else was around.

She took a steadying breath and exhaled. The feeling of being watched faded. Not wanting to take any chances, Robin picked up her pace and hurried to the stairwell that led down to the main lobby of the precinct. By the time she waved to the desk sergeant, she was scolding herself unmercifully. Even if someone had his eyes on her, he wouldn't be foolish enough to follow her to a police department.

She smiled at a few of the officers and made her way down the hall to Mac's office. The visit was impromptu but she knew that Mac would make time for her. He always did.

"He's not there."

Robin stiffened and wondered if the man's voice would ever stop grating on her nerves. Plastering a tight smile on her face, she turned to face the detective. A row of even pearly whites greeted her as Taggert smiled down at her. "Thank you, Detective."

"No problem. He just left about 10 minutes ago and from the looks of it, he may be out the rest of the day."

In light of his treatment of one of her closest friends and her former love, she found herself becoming agitated with every word he spoke. His helpful persona seemed fake and she bit out another, "Thank you."

Taggert's smile disappeared and a frown of disapproval passed across his features before he masked his emotions behind a bland tilt of his head and mock salute. "You're welcome, Miss Scorpio. Good day."

He moved about two feet from her before Robin moved to catch up to him. "Wait!"

His footsteps ceased, but he made no move to face her. Robin swallowed a groan and stepped around him to face him. "I apologize."


He resumed walking and Robin grabbed his arm to stop him. "I said that I apologized. Is that all you can say to me? Accepted?"

Taggert looked down at where her hand gripped his forearm before fixating her with a hard stare. Robin dropped her hand and then he answered her. "If that was an apology, it was a half-assed one at best. I said that I accepted it-"

"Doesn't that chip on your shoulder get heavy?" she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"No," he said shaking his head. "If you're comfortable behaving like a self-centered immature brat, I guess I can live with my chip."

"Excuse me?" Her hands fell to her slim hips and she waited for his response.

The pale blue cable knit turtleneck sweater stretched across Taggert's muscled chest and massive forearms as he folded his arms across his chest. His voice was quiet in the hallway as he answered her. "You heard me. I thought you had matured somewhat when you apologize for your impolite behavior just now, but I should have known that assessment was premature. You have a long way to go, Miss Scorpio-"

"Who are you to tell me that?" she ordered in a voice of authority. Her voice rose in anger but not so loudly that others could hear. But at this point, she was too angry to care. How dare he comment on her behavior and call her immature, too?

"I work for your uncle, but we're friends, too. I can see the toll your actions have taken on him. Lately, he doesn't bark at us as much as he used to and the dark circles under his eyes have faded, so a few of your current decisions haven't been worrying the hell out of him-"

"You have no right to pass judgment on my or my relationship with my uncle." She met his accusing eyes without flinching.

"You asked, so I'm telling you. Besides, I'm not passing judgment. These are all merely observations. You can take 'em or leave 'em. The choice is yours. "

"I suppose you think I should thank you," she retorted with cold sarcasm.

Taggert unfolded his arms and his features softened. He shook his head regretfully. "No, Miss Scorpio. I don't want your gratitude. If anything, I'd like for you to think about what I've said and consider that in your determination to live your life your way, your uncle isn't the only person whose been affected by your actions. He's not the only one you've hurt. I believe in Karma, Miss Scorpio. It's an endless cycle and there are consequences for our actions."

His footsteps echoed down the hallway as he walked away from her. The façade of cool indifference left her and her mind repeated his words. An inexplicable feeling of emptiness consumed her and with bowed head, she turned and went back the way she had come.

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