“Nikolas! What a wonderful surprise!” Laura Spencer stood in the doorway and smiled at her eldest child. He wore a snug red t-shirt neatly tucked into a crisp new pair of black denim jeans. A slender leather belt hugged his narrow waist and accentuated his physique.
“Good morning, Laur-, Mother,” he quickly corrected himself. She had, after all, made the effort to check on his well-being as soon as she had heard the news concerning Father and Andresj'. It was an overture toward healing their fractured mother/son relationship. The least Nikolas could do was reciprocate. “I had hoped to spend a little time in the park with Lesley Lu.”
“We were just about to leave,” Laura smiled. “Come on in. LuLu will be so happy that you are coming along.” She paused at the base of the staircase. “So am I.”
Nikolas watched his mother's ascent up the stairs. For the first time since coming to Port Charles, he was beginning to believe that there might be a chance to get to know Laura as a mother.
Cautiously he walked over to the sofa and sat. Nikolas could not shake the sense of discomfort he felt whenever he stepped foot in the Spencer house. And it was the ‘Spencer' house. Luke's presence was practically tangible in every nook and corner of the place. And though Nikolas knew that Luke was not presently living in the house with Laura and Lesley Lu, he kept expecting the man to walk in the door and begin one of his verbal assaults.
He looked around the room. Lesley Lu's crayons lay on the low table before him, along with a drawing of what looked like the Spencer dog, Foster. Nikolas smiled fondly at the thought of the one person in the house whose love was untarnished by the history of what had gone before. She was still innocent. Time, and Luke, had not had the opportunity to embroil her in the seemingly never-ending Cassadine/Spencer war.
Nikolas had resigned himself to the fact that where the Spencers were concerned, his relationship with his little sister would be the only one he could rely on. But that was before the other day when Laura stepped into the library where he stood thinking and held out her arms to him.
“I agree. That's enough, Stefan.” Alexis watched her nephew flee the room. Andresj' had impressed her with his grasp of all the legal intricacies they had thrown at him. He was living proof that all of Stefan's careful preparation those many years ago had borne fruit.
The head of the Cassadine family waited until the aged family solicitor gathered up his papers and began to leave the room. “We leave at midnight,” Stefan reminded the older man.
“I hope you will let him rest during the flight,” Alexis warned her brother. “He's not as strong as he seems.”
Stefan dismissed the comment. “Isadorios will still be there long after we are all gone,” he joked wryly. “But I will see that he is well cared for. I do not want anything to derail the plans I have already set into motion. In nine days time, Andresj' will be legally and officially mine.”
“I, for one, will be relieved,” Alexis replied. “You and Andresj' need some time to make sense of all that has happened.” She put her hand on Stefan's shoulder. When he turned to look at her, she said, “Take a few moments alone with Andresj' while you're in Greece. Don't let this whole trip be about setting legal mistakes right.”
Stefan covered her hand with his warm one. “Your advice is very wise, Alexis, and I will try. But until all the legal records have been corrected and the appropriate documents filed, I will not be distracted from my goal.” His next comment was spoken so softly that Alexis nearly missed it. “It was my inaction that cost me seventeen years of knowing my son.”
Alexis felt a chill. Life could so easily have been very different for Andresj'. And the Cassadine family as well. She didn't know what chilled her more – that Andresj' might never have been a part of their family, or that they never would have known it.
For at least an hour he had strolled through the library at Wyndemere, his hands idly sliding over the rows of priceless books that his father had insisted be brought over from Greece. With the exception of a very small number, Stefan had insisted that he - and later, Andresj' - read them all.
Nikolas closed his eyes. He could picture vividly, as a small boy, the hours spent in their home in Greece reading these same dusty tomes. Stefan would dismiss the tutors and sit beside him gently correcting his stumbling efforts at pronunciation.
Life was so much simpler then. For him, at least. For the first time, he began to truly appreciate and understand the sacrifice his father made those many years ago on his behalf. With the revelation that ‘Dre was actually his brother by blood, the scope of Stefan's actions to protect him as an infant suddenly became clearer. Nikolas felt an unreasonable moment of guilt that his safety had effectively cost Andresj' both his mother and father.
As he stood facing the wall, a distant look on his handsome face, Laura stepped silently into the library. She was hesitant to disturb his thoughts. “Nikolas?”
“Oh, no, no!” she reassured him and moved quickly to wrap her arms about him. “I've come here to see about you.”
Nikolas stiffened in shock. He did not try to deny to himself that he wanted his mother's love. But he had learned from his mistakes. “You're here to see about me? Why?”
Laura hid the hurt she felt on his disbelief. She released her older son and stepped back with a forced smile on her face. “Bobbie told me about what happened with Andresj'. I know that your father is taking care of him. I wanted to be sure someone was taking care of you.”
Despite his best efforts to protect his heart, Nikolas felt a thrill of hope. It was true that Laura had hurt him badly since coming to Port Charles and saving LuLu's life. Maybe this visit was her way of trying to make up for the disappointments of the past.
He decided suddenly that he would allow his mother yet another opportunity to mend the damage she alone had caused. And unlike all the other opportunities she had been given, Nikolas promised himself that he would not open himself up to be hurt.
He recalled how eager he had once been to know the magical bond that exists between mothers and sons. How he had laid open his heart and soul to achieve it. And suffered as a result.
Perhaps one day they could truly be mother and son. But Laura would not gain his love easily. Nikolas told himself she would have to earn it.
Andresj' moved about the suite and tried to remember the countless instructions his father, Alexis and the family solicitor had drilled repeatedly into his brain that morning. There were so many tiny details to remember. His tired mind reviewed it all in a mixed-up jumble of Russian and Greek and English.
It was evident that he needed a break when he continually responded in Russian to questions posed by his Aunt Alexis, who did not speak the language. His father had dismissed all those assembled in the room and instructed ‘Dre to rest for several hours before they began anew.
Gratefully, Andresj' had fled from the room without protest. He retreated to the silence of his suite and fell wearily across his bed. For countless minutes he tossed and turned, unable to relax. His thoughts were both confusing and upsetting.
Dre' reached over and grabbed the portable phone from the stand beside the bed. For a while, he just lay there staring into space. Sighing deeply, he rolled over and gently replaced the phone. As much as he would have liked to talk to his older brother, Andresj' could not bring himself to disturb his afternoon. Nikolas had looked forward to spending time with Lesley Lu, and Laura as well. He hadn't said so, but ‘Dre could tell Nikolas' hopes about growing closer to his mother were renewed.
Who was he to jeopardize that? Especially now that he understood how desperate such hope could be.
The sound of LuLu's laughter cut through all the other noise of the park. Her small legs pumped excitedly through the air as Nikolas pushed the swing in which she sat. “Higher!” was the cry that echoed over and over.
Laura sat on a nearby bench and watched them. Nikolas and LuLu were very much alike. Dark hair and eyes were the physical markings of their connection. Soft speech and cautious spirits were the emotional ones.
Whatever her estranged husband Luke might claim, a deep bond had formed between her eldest and her youngest child. Nikolas was so gentle with her. He was the kind of big brother any little girl would be fortunate to have. And LuLu needed such a presence now that Lucky was no longer in her life.
Nikolas would certainly be a different kind of big brother than Lucky had been. Lucky would have . . . Laura caught herself before she could complete the inevitable comparison between her two sons. It was a frequent accusation by the likes of Sabrina DeLane and Alexis Davis that she too often placed her sons in some kind of competition, and it was never Lucky that was found wanting.
She did not examine their claims too closely. Beside, comparisons between Lucky and Nikolas would no longer take place. Lucky was gone and Nikolas was left. In time her heart would learn to accept that as enough.
Laura could not pretend a closeness with Nikolas that she did not feel. Though she loved him deeply, as any mother would, the years of separation between them had managed to make them virtual strangers. Leaving the infant Nikolas behind when she fled Stavros and that island was the right thing to do, Laura still reasoned. But she had no doubt that her son had been subtly turned against her.
Most often when Nikolas stood before her she could not begin to fathom the thoughts behind his dark eyes. But there was no question as to his emotions the other day at Wyndemere. For the briefest of moments such hope and joy had shone from his eyes at the thought of Laura's concern for him.
It made her realize how much Nikolas needed her. Maybe in time they could form the kind of bond she and Lucky once shared. In some small way it would be like having him back.
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*