Just as quickly, Nikolas' smile disappeared.  A familiar wave of pain washed over him, nearly cutting off his breath.  Stefan's death was still a raw wound that had not even ceased its bleeding.  It had left Nikolas alone and frightened, floundering through a sea of responsibilities that he should have been able to handle due to a lifetime of Stefan's instructions.  What would his father think of Nikolas now if he could see him struggle so? 

What would his father think of the resulting rift that divided Nikolas from his younger brother Andresj?  The two siblings had once been as close as two young men could be, but with Stefan's death came bitter words and angry gestures that neither one could seem to get past. 

Andresj' had not been able to understand or forgive Nikolas' decision not to relentlessly pursue Luke Spencer and avenge their father's death.  His younger brother had not accepted that Nikolas did not enjoy the decision he'd made.  As prince of the Cassadine Empire, however, Nikolas had weighed his duty to restoring the family against the task of endlessly pursuing Luke Spencer and made his choice.  Nikolas firmly believed in his heart that Stefan would have understood and approved his choice to rebuild the family back into its place of power and prestige.  Such a feat would be the greatest honor Nikolas could bestow upon his father's memory.  It would prove that Stefan's faith in Nikolas was well-placed. 

Perhaps the last straw in Nikolas' fragile relationship with his younger brother was his order to Andresj' that the young man not pursue his own vengeance against Luke Spencer or anyone in his family.  Andresj' had seen the command as proof that Nikolas had not only betrayed their father's memory, but also chosen to place his Spencer family ties above that of the Cassadine name.   

For Nikolas, there had been no reasoning with his younger brother.  Andresj' listened stone-faced to Nikolas' explanations and curtly acquiesced to his demands with a clipped “Of course, my Prince”.  To anyone else listening, Andresj's calm acceptance of his brother's wishes would have drawn no attention.  But Nikolas knew him too well.  The four simple words dripped with betrayal and scorn and anger. 

They were the last words spoken to him in over a year by Andresj'.  The morning after their angry confrontation, Nikolas had awoken to find a simple note on the table beside his bed.  It said that Andresj' could not remain in Port Charles, but instead would travel the world to see the sights.  In deference to Nikolas, he had taken two bodyguards as his constant companions in his travels. 

For the first few months, the two guards provided Nikolas with regular (though vague) reports of Andresj's daily life.  It soon became evident just why the guards felt such a reticence to share with Nikolas the details of his younger brother's life.  Andresj' had become - in turns - a daredevil, a dilettante, and a playboy bachelor.  News of his exploits began showing up in the social columns of newspapers all across Europe. 

Andresj's exploits were why Nikolas was distressed but not disbelieving of the claims that he might have fathered a child.  He'd smoothly placated the angry father and promised, as head of the Cassadine family, to get to the truth and resolve the matter to everyone's satisfaction.  Including, he had promised the irate father, marriage to the nineteen year old mother-to-be if Andresj' was indeed the baby's daddy.