Chapter 26

The morning sun was just beginning to rise in the sky. Inside Ruby's Diner the lights were not yet on. But there was a bustle of activity inside as Bobbie Spencer finished filling the last of the salt shakers. Yawning, she stretched and rolled her neck to ease the tight muscles. It was her morning to open the diner, and after last night's late stay at Wyndemere, Bobbie was less than alert.

Nonetheless, she felt pleasure looking around at the small family business. This diner had belonged to her Aunt Ruby, and after her death, Bobbie and her brother Luke had promised to keep the doors open as long as they could. It was getting to the point where they'd have to find someone to run the homey little diner full-time. Between caring for her son Lucas and her job as a nurse at General Hospital, Bobbie's schedule left little time for attention to Ruby's.

As for Luke, well, he had his own club to run. Actually, his sister reflected, he had handed over most of the details of running the club to his bartender-slash-bookkeeper-slash-manager Claude. With the club in such proven good hands, what occupied most of Luke's time was his unending schemes and plans against the Cassadines, the Establishment, you name it.

Bobbie laughed. As if he'd been waiting in the wings she heard Luke's key scrape the lock. "Mornin', baby sister," he greeted her cheerfully.

"If you knew you were gonna be here this early," Bobbie grimaced, "why didn't you come a half hour earlier and help me with the setup?"

Grinning, Luke looked around at the neatly arranged room. "You don't look like you needed my help." He sauntered toward the kitchen. "Breakfast ready?" he asked the surly cook standing over the stove.

When the grizzled old man raised his cleaver and turned slowly Luke's way, he hastily backpedaled out of the kitchen. Moving to the other side of the counter for safety's sake, he kept a watchful eye on the swinging doors which marked the kitchen. "Tell me again why we hired Lizzie Borden in there?"

"Because Gunter can cook. And he doesn't mind doing it for the small amount we can afford to pay him," Bobbie reminded him. "Don't go and make us lose another cook, Luke."

"Barbara Jean, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, there's nothing to cooking."

Bobbie shook her head. "Not the way you do it, there isn't. Maybe no one's told you, but food isn't supposed to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Not if you're running a diner, at least."

"You set fire to one kitchen," Luke grunted. Bobbie's expression became incredulous. "Okay, okay. So I set fire to a couple of kitchens. Satisfied now?"

Before she could respond, the clang of a bell was heard from the kitchen. "What the devil is that?" Luke asked.

"Gunter's ready to open. Turn on the lights, will you?" Bobbie moved behind the counter. "The sooner I get things going here, the sooner I can go home and get a little rest."

"Late night at Spook Island, baby sister?" Luke flipped on the lights, throwing the room into brightness. He strolled back to the counter where Bobbie stood watching. "I noticed you among the little family get-together. You aren't falling for Count Bat again, are you?" He observed her closely.

"I was there for Andresj's sake," Bobbie hedged. "He's a wonderful boy, and I wanted to be there for him in case he needed someone to talk to about what he found out yesterday."

"Come on, Barbara, this is me you're talking to." Luke's voice was hard. "Are you sure you weren't out on Spook Island to hold the proud new papa's hand?"

"Who is a proud new Papa, Luke?"

Tommy Hardy stood across the street from Ward House, his clear green eyes constantly scanning the immediate area. He was careful to remain in the shadows. Despite the protection the early hour provided, he did not want to risk being seen.

Not that there were very many people left in the neighborhood who would recognize him. After all, it had been several years since his mother Simone had relocated them both to Los Angeles.

What was Ward House like now? Still as lively and full of noise as it had been when he was a constant visitor? Only a few feet of roadway separated him from the answers he sought. The distance seemed like a continent, and all the time passed - a lifetime.

Today was his first closeup look at the one of the subjects of his nightmares. The original Ward House was gone, burned by the fire that began Tommy's new existence. This new building, impressive though it was, was still symbolic of everything Doctor Rachel Locke said was holding him back. She was the one who suggested that he 'return to the scene of the crime', so to speak.

That was the one request his therapist had made during their counseling sessions that Tommy never intended to fulfill. But then Doctor Locke announced to him one day that she was relocating her practice. To Port Charles, of all places. It hadn't taken much persuasion for Tommy's mother to decide to relocate also.

Simone said that she was moving back primarily because Tommy seemed to be making such progress with Doctor Locke. But if truth be told, it was easy for Tommy to see that his mother missed Port Charles and all its residents.

"Mmmmm...." Carly Roberts moaned in satisfaction before snuggling closer to the hard masculine shoulder beneath her cheek. It felt good to be like this again. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed her body to return to its sleeping state.

She turned her face into the solid muscle and inhaled deeply. The pliant cotton shirt smelled faintly of expensive cologne. Expensive cologne...Jason never wore cologne.

With a start she jerked upright. Her ex-husband, startled by the sudden movement, also jerked to wakefulness. "What?!" AJ Quartermaine asked, wild-eyed. He jumped up from the couch and began moving toward the bedroom where their son Michael slept.

"AJ, AJ, Michael's alright." He stopped to look back at Carly curiously. "I just woke up suddenly."

AJ accepted her explanation without question. He walked over to the window and peered out from between the heavy drapes. Quickly, he pulled back. For a long moment, AJ stood with his head bowed. Carly watched as his shoulders shook. It was as if her ex-husband was in the grip of powerful emotions.

"AJ?" she asked cautiously, almost afraid to hear his answer.

He held out a hand to the woman who had been at times his best friend and worst enemy. "Come see, Carly." Unashamed, he awaited her response with tears streaming down his face.

Her curiosity outweighed any caution she felt. Tentatively, Carly moved to stand beside her ex-husband. She watched as AJ swept the drapes aside and sunlight streamed into the room. "It's morning," he announced triumphantly. "Michael slept through the night."

Carly's smile was brilliant and genuine. "He did, didn't he? Our little boy slept through the night." Impulsively she embraced AJ and just as quickly let him go. "Maybe the whole nightmare is going to be behind us now."

"Who's a brand new papa?" Laura Spencer asked her estranged husband. Standing just inside the door of his family's little diner, she awaited his answer.

Luke leaned indolently against the counter. "You mean Stefan hasn't called you with the news?"

Laura waited patiently. She knew from Luke's mood that he would answer her question in his own way and time. Pressing him for answers would only draw out the dramatic pause he seemed determined to take.

"It seems that the one hope that remained for that bloodsucking clan of vampires is actually one of their own," he replied cryptically.


"Andresj' is Stefan's biological son," Bobbie interrupted Luke's little presentation. "They both found out yesterday."

With satisfaction, Luke took in his estranged wife's shocked expression. Maybe this would shake Laura of the spell she seemed to be under where Stefan Cassadine was concerned. "My math is kinda shaky, but I believe if you count back seventeen years and some months that would put the little hellspawn's conception right around your whole little Prince Nikky fairy tale. You know," he continued mercilessly, "the one you tell about Stefan and how different he was from all the other bloodsuckers?"

"Luke, stop it." Bobbie was not especially close to her sister-in law, but Luke's tirade was cruel. He was using his hatred of the Cassadines to push Laura to cut her ties with not only Stefan, but Nikolas. Her own son.

"Stay out of this Barbara Jean," he growled without looking around. "Laura finally needs to take those rose colored glasses off where Stefan is concerned. She wants to believe that he ever had any real feelings for her. Well, this kid is proof that she wasn't as special as she thought."

Without comment Laura turned and exited the diner. In the silence that followed, Bobbie asked her brother, "Are you satisfied now?"

Luke straightened up and walked to the front window where he watched Laura's retreating back. He did not relish hurting her. But if it opened her eyes where Stefan was concerned, he would gladly do it again. "You ain't gonna suddenly pretend that you're Laura's biggest fan, are you, Barbara Jean?"

"No," she replied truthfully. "But you know what, Luke? Right now I'm not yours either."

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*