Andresj' strode quickly down the quiet halls of the family estate. Now that a return to Port Charles was imminent, he was filled with restless energy. All business was concluded, the official paperwork completed, and the adoption corrected. For the first time since arriving in Greece, Andresj' wished for the boredom of legal matters to keep his mind occupied.
The Cassadine cousins with whom he had passed several enjoyable evenings were no longer in residence. With word of Stefan's departure from the family estate had come a mass exodus of family who departed as well. It seemed, Andresj' mused, that many of those in residence at the mansion had come with hopes of an audience with the family Regent.
Obviously, most had been successful. Other than the hours spent in the somber halls of the Department of Records, he had seen virtually nothing of his father for the duration of their trip.
Andresj' wandered the expansive estate in search of Stefan. He could have just asked one of the servants for his father's whereabouts. But as restless as he found himself, Andresj' welcomed the time-consuming task. Unfortunately he was down to the last hallway, with still no sign of his father.
A sensation of disquiet settled over him. Andresj' stood before the door to his past and allowed the disturbing moment to pass. It always did. He never knew just why the curious feeling of fear and trepidation always beset him when near his old bedroom. Andresj' had not mentioned it to anyone. Not even Nikolas, with whom he shared just about everything.
“Brephos?” Stefan's voice behind him froze ‘Dre, who had been about to push open the bedroom door. “Was there something you sought?”
The young man pasted a smile onto his face before turning. “I am here in search of you, Papa.” Andresj' shrugged. “Would you believe that I have covered the entire mansion in my quest? All that remained was . . .” He gestured toward the room behind him.
“Your first bedroom.” Stefan completed Andresj's sentence and drew nearer. “Do you recall your time there?” He seemed strangely intent upon his son's reply.
Andresj' shook his head. “I have no actual memories of this room,” he replied truthfully. “Only stories told to me by Arman.” He gave Stefan a genuine smile. “My earliest memories seem to revolve around you, Papa. My first time astride a horse, my first attempt at swimming. . . The details sometimes blur, but one aspect remains as strong now as it did then. I knew that I was safe with you.”
'I knew that I was safe with you.' Stefan had no time to reflect on Andresj's heartfelt declaration. His young son, in typical fashion, did not require – nor did he wait for – a response by his father. Andresj' was quite comfortable verbalizing his emotions among those he loved. It was an ability that Stefan envied.
“It is nearly the dining hour,” Andresj' observed, moving toward the wing of the mansion he and his father occupied. “If we do not hurry, Mrs. Landsbury will be quite cross with us both.”
Stefan smiled wryly. “Indeed, we would not want that.”
Now was the time. The alley was deserted and the light minimal. From the shadows the young man moved swiftly from one side of the littered passageway to the other. He followed the path of the weather beaten brick wall to the window he had been observing most of the evening.
He stood just below the window and allowed silence to reign once more. His breathing shallow, the neatly dressed youth stood and took in the sounds of his surroundings. When he was satisfied that no one had observed his stealthy approach, he went into action.
From the back pocket of his jeans Tommy Hardy pulled a slim strip of metal. He levered it into the window's casing and began to work it back and forth. At the first scrape of metal upon metal he paused and awaited a reaction. When nothing occurred, he returned to his task.
With a snap, the window jerked open a quarter inch. Tommy returned the metal strip to his pocket and then pushed the window open just enough to climb through. His arms, deceptively strong, pulled him up and through the window with ease. The rough fabric of the linen curtains brushed against him as he slid quietly to the floor, taking care to break his fall with his hands. For several seconds he lay there. The room was silent save for his breathing. Tommy eased the window shut behind him.
Darkness cloaked the interior of the room. The young man strained his eyes to make out just what lay beyond his feet. Carefully he slid his right foot forward and tested his surroundings. He repeated the action again and again until finally his toe struck something solid.
A sofa. Tommy paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. With a little concentration he was able to pinpoint his location within the room. He was only a few steps away from a small table lamp whose light would be sufficient to illuminate the room without drawing undue attention.
Confidently he paced off the four or five steps, gratified when his outstretched hand fell immediately upon the lamp in question. Subdued light replaced the darkness and Tommy was able to see the contents of the room.
Elizabeth's studio was full of half-painted canvases and discarded drop cloths. Tommy supposed it was typical of an artist's workspace, though he had nothing with which to compare. Filled with curiosity, he moved from painting to painting, taking time to really study each one.
One thing was pretty clear. His cousin was fond of abstract art. After staring skeptically at a series of paintings entitled Wind, Breath, and Thought , Tommy concluded that Elizabeth's art would definitely not be the thing they bonded over.
It had been so long since the two cousins had spent time together that Tommy had no idea what kind of young woman Elizabeth was these days. He had certainly changed a lot since his childhood days. He had no doubt that she had changed as well.
Tommy walked back to the window through which he'd come. He double-checked it to be sure that it was still unlocked, and then went to settle himself in for the night. Carefully he pushed an armful of drop cloths to the far end of the sofa and then lowered himself onto the worn surface. He did one quick check of the alarm of his digital wristwatch, turned the tableside lamp off, and allowed his eyes to drift shut.
“What are you doing?” At the sight of Justus down on one knee, Diane sprang backward, knocking over her chair.
“We've only known each other a short time,” she insisted as she backed away from where he knelt.
“ Diane… ” Justus' firm tone cut through her panic. He stood, jammed his fists into the back pockets of his well-worn jeans and sighed. “Today just hasn't been my day.” Wearily he massaged the taut muscles of his neck with one large hand. “I am sorry if I frightened you by getting down on one knee,” he said. “I just wanted to be able to see your face when I gave you this. To see if I overstepped my bounds or not.” He reached into his front pocket and pulled out a business card. In silence he extended it to Diane, who accepted it almost fearfully.
“Diane Jennings, Port Charles Tourism Board…” As she read the words aloud, the meaning of his words became clear.
“I knew that there would be an open position on the Tourism Board within the next few weeks,” Justus explained. “I called in a couple of favors and the job is yours. If you want it. The salary is twice what you were making, and of course you'd have to take a crash course about Port Charles, but-”
“This was very thoughtful of you,” Diane interrupted, careful not to allow her disappointment to show in her voice. Though she had reacted badly when she thought Justus was about to propose, she had recovered from her initial panic. Enough to realize that Justus asking her to marry him was not an unpleasant thought. “Do you mind if I think about it?”
Justus heard her careful tones. His life as the “family's” counselor had made him extremely sensitive to the nuances of speech. In a matter of minutes, something in his relationship with Diane Jennings had changed. “Of course.”
Perhaps some time and distance between the two of them was the best thing for them both. They were suddenly ill-at-ease with one another, and neither wanted the discomfort to increase. “You have a couple of weeks to think about it. Give me a call when you have made up your mind.”
With a wan smile Diane headed for the door. She felt near tears and wanted nothing more than to escape to the privacy of her hotel room to cry. Whether that was caused by the embarrassment of misunderstanding Justus' intentions, or the realization that she was sorry he hadn't really proposed, Diane didn't know. She just wanted to escape Justus' presence.
Her desperation was obvious to him. Justus watched as Diane all but fell over herself in a rush for the door. He did not bother to even tell her ‘goodbye', but merely stood back and let her leave. For nearly twenty minutes he stared at the closed door and reviewed in his mind what had just taken place between them.
“ That certainly wasn't pretty,” he at last remarked to himself. Shaking his head Justus headed for the refrigerator. He grabbed an icy bottle of beer from inside and went and flopped down on the burgundy leather sofa. “Ugh!” he grunted, rolling over onto his side.
“It could have been worse,” he snorted, pulling a small black velvet box from his back pocket and bitterly tossing it to the far end of the sofa. “I could have gone through with my proposal.”
Justus pushed the beer aside and shut his eyes against the pain he felt in his heart.
Stefan sat opposite his younger son and listened as he happily recounted an incident from earlier in the day. He took advantage of a rare break in the conversation to make an observation. “You are certainly in a cheerful mood. I take it that you are pleased to return to Port Charles tomorrow.”
“Yes. I look forward to seeing the family again. I have missed them.”
Stefan peered curiously at his younger son. “Were not your cousins suitable companions? You spent a significant amount of your evenings in their company.” Stefan had arranged for the youths to be in attendance specifically because of Andresj's previous fondness for their company.
“Evgenia and Grigori were quite pleasant companions when they were not focused on repeating large blocks of dialogue rehearsed with their mother and father. It made me sad that they had changed so.”
“It is not they who have changed, my son,” Stefan explained. “When your brother Nikolas is handed the mantle of responsibility as The Cassadine , you will be his trusted advisor.”
“I will be my brother's Tom Hagen?” Andresj' smiled mischievously. “I tell you now, Papa, I will not kiss Don Nikolas' ring.”
Not for the first time did Stefan regret the influence American culture had had upon his sons. At the least, it had provided a wealth of inappropriate humor for his younger son. Andresj's Godfather allusion was a perfect example. “You are now a significant figure in our family's hierarchy, Andresj',” Stefan tersely reprimanded his son. “The future of our family dynasty rests not only upon the shoulders of your brother Nikolas, but upon yours as well. From this moment on, your behavior will reflect that fact.”
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*