Chapter 28

“Hello, my dears!” Lila's cheerful greeting met Diane and Justus at the door. She maneuvered the battery-powered wheelchair until she was alongside the couch.

Diane glanced quickly up at Justus' face. As she expected, a warm smile of affection graced his handsome visage. While she was not exactly sure what manner of relationship Justus had with his Grandfather, there was no doubt that he loved the frail woman before them.

“Hello, Lila.” Justus crouched beside her wheelchair and kissed her on the cheek.

“Oh, my! Do get up, Justus!”

Justus looked back over his shoulder at Diane. “She's being modest, you know.” He turned back to Lila and his white teeth gleamed brilliantly. “I am just the latest in a long line of men at her feet.”

Lila tapped her step-grandson on the hand. “You had better be careful, my dear. He is quite the charmer.”

Her warning was too late, Diane was afraid. Watching them interact, she was even more certain than before that she had fallen for the charming Port Charles attorney. In just a few weeks, Justus Ward had become a very important part of her life.

As unmoving as a statue, Jason sat and watched a parade of people bustle by. He was content to just observe them in motion. Anyone else would have taken a moment or two to wonder about their destinations, or perhaps make colorful guesses about their lives and personalities. Not Jason. He dealt only in the tangible.

Presently his mind was not even on the variety of people who hurried by as he sat at the little sidewalk café. It was focused on Port Charles, and the little family of people he had adopted upon his emergence as Jason Morgan. Almost three years ago that other Jason jumped into the car with his brother AJ and suffered the tragic accident which, for all intents and purposes, ended his existence. It took his memory and altered his brain's functions. And thus Jason Morgan was born.

This new Jason's attitude was simple. He lived by a code established after close observation of the people in his life. Sonny, Robin, Carly and the others were the standard by which he'd established his moral compass.

Those who could not accept that he was not that other Jason besieged him so constantly with warnings and predictions of doom that he cut off all contact with them. Alan, the Old Man, and AJ tried to change him back into their Jason. When that failed, they warned him that the world he built around his new family would one day fall to ruins.

Keesha Ward tried to warn him, too. Of all the people from his life before, she was among the very few who had finally truly accepted that he was not and would never be Jason Quartermaine again. ‘You have made it clear that you don't want anything to do with those of us who loved Jason Quartermaine.' Jason could still hear her soft voice as she turned before walking out of his life as he had demanded. ‘ For your own sake, Jason, spend some time with people not in Sonny's line of work. See that the world doesn't operate by the twisted values you've embraced.'

She had shaken her head sadly at him. At the time it angered him greatly that she would pass judgment on the people he loved. ‘Broaden that circle of people you rely on for guidance. Or I promise you, one day you'll be sorry.'

She was right to a point. Oh, he would never regret choosing Sonny and the others over Alan and The Old Man. But maybe if he had opened up his inner circle and been exposed to neutral observers as Keesha had suggested, the tragedy that befell Michael could have been prevented.

Jason sighed heavily and continued to stare blindly as the world rushed past him. ‘Maybe' was a word that had no place in his vocabulary months ago. Now, it was the word that haunted him most.

She was lost in the moment, surrounded by golden stalks of wheat swaying gently in the breeze. It seemed that the evening sun warmed her skin gently and the dusty scent of the earthen road filled her nostrils. Life was funny. This all felt so real, while the past was more like a dream.

Diane sighed as larger than life Maximus joyfully reunited with his wife and son. She let her head fall onto her companion's shoulder. “This was perfect.”

“What? A ten-foot tall Russell Crowe?” Justus looked down fondly at the top of her head. “Your own personal theater? I know,” he chuckled, retrieving several empty boxes from the seat beside him, “free Raisinets!”

Diane squeezed his arm playfully and sat up. Her smile faded and her face grew serious. “Moments like this,” she explained sadly. “I will miss you, Justus.”

The handsome attorney grew still. “You're leaving?”

“Yes.” She turned and stared straight ahead. “I can't put my life on hold much longer. I have just about run out of vacation days.” Diane sighed. “It is time for me to go home.”

Justus punched a code into a small remote and the lights came up and flooded the immense room with brightness. He and Diane blinked rapidly as their eyes fought to adjust to the change. Abruptly Diane stood and moved about the room. The conversation had begun to take a depressing turn and she quickly changed the subject. “I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed by this.” She found herself standing before the enormous theater screen which towered above her. “You are the only person I know with a real movie theater inside your home.”

Justus took in his surroundings, from the plush leather seats to the thirty foot tall state-of-the-art movie screen built into the far wall. “I told you before,” he deadpanned, “my family likes to overdo things.”

Diane's laugh was musical to him. Justus was glad their playful mood had returned, and he was grateful for the interruption of the earlier conversation. He knew that Diane's time in Port Charles would eventually come to an end, but her announcement threw him nonetheless. Perhaps now was the time to make his move.

. . can only imagine the wonderful man you have become. I pray that you have inherited all that is best of your father - his loyalty, his enormous heart, his love for family. With his guidance, I do not see how you could do otherwise.

I don't know how long I will have been gone from your life by the time you read this. Perhaps your father has spoken so highly of me that I do not seem real to you. Well, if you don't believe anything else your father tells you of me, believe this. You were and always will be the single most miraculous thing in my life. I love you, gios. Mama.

Remorse washed over Stefan as he reflected on the hopeful words Alyse had written. No doubt she had died content in the belief that Andresj' would be safe in his father's care. Alyse's faith in him had been largely undeserved.

Painstakingly Stefan examined the envelope's flap. Once more the seal appeared tight and unbroken. Satisfied with its condition, he placed it gingerly back in amongst the other vital documents within the safe. He shut the door with a quiet clang , mindful to rotate the dial and remove any possible clues about the safe's combination.

He poured himself a snifter of brandy and crossed the room to sit in his favorite high-backed chair. Hewn of dark wood and imported from the Cassadine ancestral home, it never failed to provide a comforting sense of the familiar.

Greece. In two days he would travel there with Andresj' beside him. It was by no means his son's first trip to Greece. But it was the first trip in which his younger son would stand upon Greek soil draped in the true mantle of his Cassadine heritage.

The realization angered Stefan anew. Seventeen years of deception. Seventeen years of living with and loving a child he had no idea was his flesh-and-blood. He exhaled a shaky breath. How close had he come, those many years ago, to cutting himself out of Andresj's life?

Stefan recalled clearly his original intention of eventually securing the young orphaned child a family among the people of the village. Would his mother have watched silently as Stefan made his own son a ward of strangers? Would she have cared enough to lead him to choose a decent family structure to nurture and protect Andresj'? Those were questions Stefan would never know the answer to.

His ire rose anew as he considered the fact that Helena had so cavalierly toyed with his son's entire existence. And why? Was Andresj' a casualty in his mother's quest to punish him for daring to take what was Stavros'? Or was her deliberate concealment of Andresj's parentage just another indicator of her disdain for her youngest son?

Stefan cradled the snifter between his palms and gently warmed the brandy within. He swirled the amber liquid gently around the glass and peered into it as though it could provide the answers he sought.

“No matter your objectives back then Mother,” Stefan shook off his reverie, “you will pay now. I swear it.”

In companionable silence Justus and Diane strolled along the manicured lawn of the Quartermaine expanse. Diane never wanted to forget this moment in time; from the quiet, subtle cologne of the wonderful man beside her to the afternoon sun which warmed her flesh. She tried to imprint every detail into her memory. Maybe - if she was lucky - in the lonely night hours back home she would be able to live this dream again.

“You don't have to go.”

Diane's gaze flew to Justus' unrevealing face.

“You came because of Andresj'. But you have barely spent any time alone with him. I know for a fact that he wants to get to know you. And through you- his mother.”

His eyes searched hers. “Don't you think you owe it to Andresj' to stay and see what life here has in store?” A large, warm hand gently grasped hers. Justus' handsome face, which just moments before had been so shuttered, now seemed to grant her access to his very soul. Diane was stunned. Could the longing she saw in his dark orbs be more than the reflection of her own feelings?

“Don't you owe that to us?”

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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.*