Chapter 43

Words on paper. That's all the document resting within his briefcase amounted to. In truth, though, it was really so much more.

In the quiet of the sleek private jet, Stefan Cassadine mentally reviewed the text of the letter that Diane Jennings had given to him on Andresj's behalf. Although addressed to his son, Stefan had carefully steamed the missive open and read its contents.

His was not an idle curiosity. Perhaps he should have allowed Andresj' to be the first to unseal the letter penned to him by his mother. But Stefan was concerned not only about the contents of the letter, but about its authenticity. It was obvious from the letter Miss Jennings had graciously shared with him that a portion had been removed. For Stefan, the action smacked of his mother's machinations. If Helena had manipulated letters from Alyse to her friend Diane, might she not have done the same with Andresj?

Stefan recalled the text of Alyse's letter to their son. He had copied the contents of the document into an encrypted file on his laptop computer and could recite them nearly word for word. Stefan felt no sense of disquiet that he had made himself privy to a conversation that should have been up to Andresj' to share. When it came to information about the boy's mother, he was as deserving to be told as Andresj'.

What would be his son's reaction to Alyse's words? Her letter to Andresj' had shared her hopes and dreams for his future. The love she felt for the child she had borne shone through every line. Would her sentiments strengthen the bond father and son already shared? Or would her words provoke questions from Andresj' that Stefan would not be able to answer?

The older man glanced across the plane at his son. Andresj' sat opposite him with his eyes closed and his head thrown back against the fine leather seat. His father watched the even rise and fall of his chest and realized that he was asleep. He would not awaken him. There was time enough to present Andresj' the letter once he awoke.

The young woman stared straight ahead, seemingly intent upon the back of the seat before her, but in truth seeing nothing. As the plane's powerful engines brought her closer to her destination, she struggled to reinforce the instinct which had led her to make this particular journey in the first place. She considered returning to Port Charles a necessity – for her brother's sake. When she'd heard the latest news about the happenings in his life, her course had been clear. He needed her there for support.

They had always been more than mere siblings. Growing up they had forged a bond of friendship as well. Faith Ward smiled at the memory of the number of odd looks she and Justus had received concerning their close relationship. Not that such opinions mattered to them. Their grandmother Mary Mae had instilled within them a sense of independence and self-worth that did not rely upon outside standards.

Between their father's civil rights crusades and constant travels, Justus had been the most constant male presence in her life. He had always been a little too serious, Faith reflected, as though he could take the burden of heading the family upon his own shoulders. And even though he was slightly younger than Faith, Justus had taught her about men and their complexities. He had always answered her questions about their behavior honestly and without excuses. Justus, perhaps more than anyone in her life, had encouraged Faith's stubborn demeanor and mischievous spirit.

In return she had divulged to her little brother all the ‘mysterious' and ‘secret' ways of women. Faith taught him to be comfortable in their presence and how to balance the words they said against the things they desired. She might have been biased, of course, but when it was all said and done Faith truly believed that the woman who managed to capture her brother's heart would be most fortunate. There didn't exist a more giving, loving man.

All too soon Andresj's eyes fluttered open. His gaze shifted to the scenery outside his window, as if he could somehow gauge the plane's location simply by looking. The unending expanse of blue water quickly discouraged his efforts.

Stefan closed the lid of his laptop computer. The moment had come for him to share with Andresj' the letter Alyse had so lovingly written. Casually he reached inside his leather briefcase and drew forth the envelope. “Brephos,” he quietly addressed Andresj', “I have something which belongs to you.”

Quizzically Andresj' accepted the envelope his father extended his way. It was a plain white envelope; sealed, but unaddressed. ‘Dre's forehead creased into a frown as he considered the sudden uneasy sensation he experienced.

“It is from your mother,” Stefan explained. “It is the gift Miss Jennings traveled to Port Charles to deliver.”

Andresj's hands began to tremble slightly. He quickly pressed the envelope against his thighs in an effort to disguise his emotional reaction to his father's words. He was profoundly aware of his father's intense scrutiny, and for the first time that Andresj' could recall, he was uncertain about revealing himself fully before him.

His fingers felt like lead as he smoothed the surface of the envelope. It was a stalling tactic, he knew, but Andresj' was not quite ready for whatever he might find written inside.

Feeling Stefan's piercing gaze upon him, Andresj' raised his eyes to meet his father's. Concern for him shone from Stefan's clear green eyes. ‘Dre realized with a start that his father had nearly as much interest in the letter's contents as ‘Dre himself. Yet there Stefan sat, willing to allow his younger son the time and space to discover the letter's truth at his own pace. It was another example, the young man thought, of his father sacrificing his own interest in Andresj's behalf.

Andresj' gave his father a shaky smile before turning the envelope over. He took a deep breath, exhaled it quickly, and opened the letter before he could change his mind.

My dearest Andresj'…My precious boy…

With those words the young man was lost. Everything else ceased to exist except for the document within his hands. Faintly his lips moved as he read with wonder his mother's words.

In the seat across from Andresj', Stefan raised the lid of his laptop computer and read along.

After the last tiny jolt, the big plane rolled to a smooth stop. Immediately the rustle of movement from the passengers of Flight 972 could be heard throughout the plane. Some passengers, in an attempt to be first off the plane, rushed to retrieve items from the overhead compartments. Others, demonstrating a familiarity borne of frequent travel, simply sat back and watched the frantic activity with an amused eye.

Faith made no move to gather her things. There would be time enough to do so once the initial crush of passengers began to thin out. Instead, she reminded herself of just why she had journeyed to Port Charles. Now that she was actually there it was becoming more difficult to find the sense of peace she had felt upon making her decision.

At last she had no choice but to move. The weary flight attendant attempted to maintain a pleasant expression as she reminded Faith that she was the last passenger left to disembark.

With a soft, heartfelt apology, Faith grabbed her possessions, squared her shoulders and strode confidently into the concourse. As she moved through the terminal, she took in the sights and sounds of joyful and sometimes tearful reunions. She did not begrudge any of the other travelers their happiness. Had Justus known of her arrival in Port Charles, he would have undoubtedly been there waiting with a brilliant smile on his handsome face. She had chosen not to tell him, deciding instead to surprise him and make use of the key her younger brother had given her all those months ago.

More importantly Faith did not want her arrival to become common knowledge. Other than Keesha, whose call had prompted Faith to travel to Port Charles, there was no one else she wished to alert to her presence there. She definitely did not want the Quartermaine relatives to hear the news. Not that any of them would be excited at the prospect of seeing her again.

None except the old man.

And Edward Quartermaine was exactly who Faith intended to do her best to avoid.

Though the letter was not more than three pages in length, Andresj' did not take his eyes off it for the remainder of the flight. For nearly two hours the young man read and reread the message Alyse had painstakingly penned to him. Stefan watched him with concern, unable to decipher Andresj's reaction to the words he had read.

And while it was quite understandable for the young man to react thus, Stefan had never seen such single-mindedness in Andresj'. So engrossed in Alyse's letter was ‘Dre that he did not even seem to hear the pilot's instruction to fasten his seatbelt in preparation for landing. Stefan was forced to lean across the small aisle that divided them and silently point above Andresj's head to the small flashing light which repeated the pilot's announcement.

Stefan watched Andresj' fumble one-handed through the procedure of fastening his seatbelt. He was, or so it seemed to Stefan, unwilling to allow his mother's letter to leave his possession even for the scant seconds it would have taken to secure himself in place.

“Andresj!” the elder Cassadine called sharply for the third time, successfully catching his son's attention. “I realize the significance of the letter you hold,” Stefan said. “But,” his voice softened, “we have arrived and the servants await. I must ask for your attention during the short journey from here to the exit where the car awaits.” He gave Andresj' a tiny smile of understanding. “I ask for only that and no more,” Stefan promised.

A quick glance confirmed that all the occupants of the plane indeed stood waiting for him. He had been so lost in his own thoughts that he was detached from all the activity taking place all around him. ‘Dre nodded sheepishly and placed the envelope within the inner pocket of his suit coat, where he would feel its every movement. It contained a most wonderful thing, he mused happily...a letter from his mother. The letter, nestled so symbolically against his heart, was now the most precious thing he owned. Andresj' would not risk losing it.

Obediently he traveled with his father the short distance from the plane to the private terminal. His mind, however, could only focus on the letter in his pocket, and Andresj' moved solely on autopilot.

“It seems we are to be met,” Stefan announced quietly.

His attention caught, Andresj' looked toward the far end of the terminal. A brilliant smile came to his face as he spotted a familiar shy smile. “Emily!”

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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.*