Chapter Twenty, Part 1

~ Decisions ~


You and me
We used to be together
Every day together always

After having her pregnancy confirmed, Dawn filled her prescription and then spent the rest of the day at the bookstore. She purchased everything she found on pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing. In one afternoon, her passion for music was replaced by her love for her unborn child. She promised to do everything within her power to give birth to a healthy, happy baby.

Vinnie, who had been by her side the entire time, didn't mention Nikolas again. His gaze was watchful and Dawn sensed more lectures were on the tip of his tongue. To her relief, the advice went unspoken. She wasn't ready to think about Nikolas. It still hurt that after all the years they'd known and loved each other...

Once when they were about five-years-old, her favorite doll disappeared from her collection. She cried in her mother's arms and Uncle Stefan promised to replace it. Nikolas had spent the day with Alexis so no one suspected him. The moment he returned and saw her tears, he went to her and admitted that he had accidentally broken the doll. While he was out with Alexis, they searched for a replacement, but found none. He was sorry he made her cry and told her she could have something of his to replace her prized possession. She chose not to take anything of his as long as he promised to always tell her the truth like he did that day. He promised, and she never had cause to doubt him. Until now.

I really feel
I'm losing my best friend
I can't believe this could the end

The memory came to her suddenly, and just as abruptly, tears pooled in her eyes. She blinked them away and told Vinnie she was ready to go back to the Callison home. They planned to return to Port Charles in the morning for her mother's wedding. She hadn't packed anything and an early night would give her the time to prepare herself for the emotional time ahead.

Upon their return, Carl informed her that she'd received several calls but no messages. Dawn thanked him and continued the journey to her room. Vinnie left the books with her before continuing the trek to his room a few doors down. She packed quickly and directed her attention to the pregnancy books.

The first chapters all mentioned morning sickness and the best way to handle it. Dawn flipped past those pages. So far, she'd been fortunate and hadn't suffered any nausea, dizziness or loss of appetite. She wouldn't have thought she was pregnant had she not missed her period. Her body worked like clockwork. When her cycle didn't start on its appropriate day, warning lights flashed. Later, Dr. Wolek confirmed her suspicions.

Subconsciously, her hand closed over her abdomen. There was no outward sign of the tiny child within. But in a few weeks that would change. Her body would alert the world to her condition. Like Vinnie said, she couldn't keep the pregnancy a secret. She'd have to tell. Nikolas would have to know.

She glanced down at the bright diamond ring that glittered on her finger. The courage to remove the engagement ring hadn't come to her. She wore it because in her heart she still belonged to Nikolas. As she looked at the dazzling jewel, she knew she couldn't keep the knowledge of his child away from him. No matter how he betrayed her, she knew in her heart that he'd never betray his own flesh and blood.

Dawn finished with the books and tucked them away in the bottom of her suitcase. As she was about to curl into bed, a knock sounded at her door. She answered it and was surprised that Carl, the butler, stood on the other side.

"Yes?"

"I apologize for disturbing you at this hour," Carl apologized. "There's a young gentleman downstairs who is very insistent that he must speak to you. Should I notify your security?"

An odd twinge of excitement coursed through her. It could only be Nikolas. "There's no need to disturb Vincent. I'll see him. I'll be right down."

Dawn tied her dressing gown tight around her and stepped into her slippers. She moved briskly down the staircase and to the sitting room. Anticipation and dread cloaked around her. What possessed Nikolas to come to Llanview that night when he knew she'd return to Port Charles in the morning? Did he bring with him good news or bad?

He stood in front of the fireplace. The flickering flames caused shadows to dance across his chiseled features. He had lost more weight since the last time she saw him. Perhaps, guilt ate away him.

The door clicked as she shut it, enveloping them in privacy. Nikolas jumped as if the sound startled him. His head turned, his gaze found hers and he smiled.

"I hope I didn't wake you."

She crossed to him. His arms closed tightly around her. Her body responded on automatic and accepted his warm embrace.

"I've missed you so much," he murmured against her neck. "Four weeks have felt like a century. I hate being apart from you." He slowly ended the hug. His hands dropped to her waist and kept her close. "Did you miss me, too?"

Dawn nodded without thinking twice. God help her, she did miss him.

"You didn't have to come and get me," she said. "Vinnie and I were coming back tomorrow."

"Tomorrow is too long," he said. He glanced at the fireplace. "It's warm here. Let's sit."

"On the floor?"

He nodded. "Do you object?"

She shook her head. Nikolas retrieved pillows from the sofa. He set them on the floor and helped Dawn to sit on them. He chose a space so that they faced each other. His hands immediately reached for hers.

"A good deal has transpired in these four weeks," he said after a few moments of silence. "So much has changed." He drew in a harsh breath. His gaze left their joined hands and his brown eyes were glassy and pained as he looked at her. "Things have happened that will affect us. What I have to tell you won't be easy for either of us, but the time has come, and you must know."

It looks as though you're letting go
And if it's real
Then I don't want to know

Dawn tried to tug her hands free. She thought she wanted him to admit to what happened. Now, that the moment arrived and he was about to, she wasn't ready.

"No," she mumbled hastily.

He held fast to her hands. "I must!" he cried. "I have to tell you. You must know this from me. Please, listen."

Don't speak
I know what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me 'cause it hurts

Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me' cause it hurts

With the words just second from falling from his lips, Dawn forgave him. She shook her head. "You don't have to say anything. Whatever's happened, I love you."

"I hope that doesn't change," he said, his tone weakened yet resolved. "I never wanted to tell you, I know that's wrong, but you must know." She opened her mouth to object, but Nikolas pressed his finger against her lips. "I've been afraid. I still am, but I believe we can get through this. Please, just listen and let me speak. Will you do that for me?"

She wanted to refuse him, but the effort would be futile. It was clear that he meant to tell her all the sordid details. Damn honesty to hell.

"The morning you left for Llanview, I awoke to find Caroline Benson in my bed. I had no recollection of the previous night's events, but—" He inhaled a sharp breath. "There was no doubt as to what happened. Later, I remembered bits and pieces. She gave me a drug and forced herself on me. I was paralyzed except for my body's r-reaction. Believe me, I never encouraged her! I would never be unfaithful to you."

Dawn gasped. That wasn't the explanation she expected. Yet, she believed him.

Oh, my God! Four weeks wasted with thoughts of having been betrayed when her poor Nikolai needed her! "Nikolai! How could that woman do this to you? Why?"

Nikolas shrugged. "I don't know why." His eyes glistened with tears and he sniffled. "I've searched my mind for possible explanations and have found none. I'm so sorry, Dawn. Please, tell me you forgive me. Please, tell me you know I didn't enjoy it! I didn't want her!"

"Oh, my sweet love," Dawn said, rising onto her knees to hug him to her breast. His arms circled her waist. "I don't blame you. I wish you told me. You didn't have to suffer this alone. Don't you know how much I love you? I wouldn't have accused you."

His face burrowed between the valley of her breasts. His arms tightened around her. "I wanted to forget it happened. I never wanted to tell you and have you think less of me."

"I would never." She cupped his face and tilted his head so that their eyes locked. "You cannot blame yourself for what she did to you. Keesha warned me about her. I should have listened and been on guard. Has she been jailed? I plan to see that she never see the light of day again!"

Nikolas shook his head. His features tightened, and his mouth set into a grim line. "I haven't alerted the authorities. I don't plan to."

Dawn sighed. "You cannot allow your male pride to prevent you from doing what's right!"

"This isn't about male pride!" Nikolas cried, abruptly pulling away from her and rising to his feet. "There's more. She's pregnant and she says the child is mine!"

She moved to her feet and stood in front of him. "She's lying! Look at the lies she's told in the past! With Bobbie, AJ, and that doctor! You mustn't believe her!"

Nikolas threw up his hands in despair. "How can I not? There's a chance she's telling the truth. I can't assume the child isn't mine."

Her arms moved protectively around her middle. "What do you intend to do? You cannot know for certain until the child is born."

"When she's further along in her pregnancy, a DNA* test can be performed. I will know before the child's birth."

A cold knot formed in her stomach. "What will you do if the child is yours?"

His eyes bore straight into hers. "Raise the child. Be a father. I never had parents. I wouldn't turn my back on my child."

"Would you have her jailed then?"

Slowly, he shook his head. "A child needs both parents. As horrible as she is, she's still the child's mother. My mother left me, Dawn. She abandoned me. You know how much that's hurt me. I would never cause my child to go through that kind of pain."

Her voice became strained with unshed tears. "So you don't think I could be a mother to your child?"

"You're the only mother I've ever wanted for my children," he said. "You know that."

"But I would be your child's stepmother," Dawn said. Tears fell freely down her face. "What difference then would it make? Your child would already know me. I hate Carly for what she did to you, but I would never take that out on your child."

Nikolas smoothed his thumbs across her cheeks, drying her tears. "I know," he said in a hoarse voice, "but if I am the child's father, you wouldn't be its stepmother."

"What are you saying?" Dawn backed away from him. "Nikolas, no!"

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me 'cause it hurts

Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
And I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me 'cause it hurts

He closed the distance between them. Grasping her upper arms, he pulled her to him. "Do you think I want this? But I thought about it and there's no other way! Your parents lived on separate continents! You've told me countless times how much you hated it and how lonely you felt, traveling back and forth all the time! I want my child to grow up in a home with both parents, knowing from the very first that the child's interests were the first priority!"

"So, that's it?" she asked, sobbing. "If the child is yours, you'll marry her? You'll have a loveless marriage with her when you could be with me!"

"Don't think of it like that!" he cried. "I'm not choosing her over you! I love you! I'll always love you!"

"But we won't be together," Dawn choked out. "I won't be your wife. If the child is yours, we'll never be married!"

Nikolas pulled her to his chest. "The child may not be mine," he said quietly. "We'll marry and forget this ever happened."

Her shoulders shook with sobs and raw fury. It wasn't supposed to happen this way! They planned to be together forever!

Eventually, she regained controlled of her emotions. She moved out of his embrace and crossed her arms around her waist. "That won't happen. The baby will be yours. This is why she did that to you. To force you to marry her."

He frowned. "No. She couldn't have known..."

"She knew." Dawn swallowed down fresh tears as she removed her engagement ring and handed it to him. "This isn't mine to keep anymore."

He refused to accept it. "It's yours. I won't take it."

"You have to," she said. "I can't wear it. Not when you marry her. We should face it now. This is goodbye."

"Goodbye?" The color drained from his face. "Why?"

Dawn sucked in air in a failed attempt to ease her breaking heart. "I love you too much to watch you marry someone else. After the wedding, I'm leaving and I won't be coming back. This is for the best and you know it. Promise me, you won't contact me."

"There has to be another way. The child may not be mine! I don't want to lose you," he said, tears streaming down his face. "I need you!"

"I need you, too. You'd be surprised to know how much."

She averted her gaze from the pleading she read so clearly in his teary brown eyes. She couldn't tell him about their baby. The child Carly carried would need a strong, stable, loving person to guide him. The baby would need Nikolas. Dawn would have to be mother and father to their child. She didn't want to keep this secret from him, but this was the only way.

Dawn took his hand and placed the ring inside. "Promise me. If you love me as much as I feel you do, you'll promise."

"That's not fair."

"Life isn't fair."

He shoved the ring into his pants pocket. Countless emotions flashed across his face. Anger. Despair. Regret. Love. Finally, he nodded. "I pr-promise."

Dawn fell into his arms. She didn't know how long they stood in the sitting room, just holding each other. The flames in the fireplace finally died and left them in complete darkness. Then, she took his hand, led him up the staircase to her room, and made love with him for the very last time.

As we die
Both you and I
With my head in my hands
I sit and cry

{Author's Note: Don't Speak can be found on No Doubt's CD Tragic Kingdom

*DNA: I can't say for sure if DNA testing can be done on an unborn child. It's stated here for plot/fan fiction purposes only.}

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