Chapter 49

Faith lay back against the cracked leather seat and eyed the rapidly passing scenery. There was no sense of recognition for the various buildings she saw along the way; only a mild curiosity about the town her baby brother now considered his home.

She could not say whether the neighborhood had changed much since her last visit to Port Charles. That visit had taken place as a result of Granny Mae's death, and Faith could honestly say that everything about her visit to the upscale little New York town was a blur. Blessedly.

Losing their grandmother had been a devastating blow to Faith. Before, whenever the young woman thought about the word family , two people immediately sprang to mind: her younger brother Justus and their grandmother Mary Mae. Of course there were cousins and aunts and uncles to consider, but somehow for Faith her family was defined by just those two.

Her father, Bradley Ward, had been lost to the Civil Rights movement. His death, at the hands of men who thought they could silence the dream of freedom, had taken place so long ago that he had never truly played a part in her life, or Justus'. Not directly, that is. Yet his memory had somehow managed to color everything she and Justus were and everything they did.

With Bradley's death their mother, Isabelle Ward, had been left to maintain his legacy. It was a full-time job to continue the fight that her husband had begun and Isabelle was left with less and less time to raise her children. And so Mary Mae Ward had stepped in.

“Here you go.” The cabbie turned and looked back over his seat at the lovely young woman staring so pensively out of the darkly tinted window. “This is Ward House.”

Faith met his curious gaze with a weak smile. “Thank you.” She withdrew several dollar bills from her pocket and counted out an amount generously above the number displayed on the meter.

Resolutely Faith moved up the walk to the Ward House front door. Inside she could hear the faint sounds of childish voices raised in excitement. Standing there on the doorstep of her family's legacy, Faith could easily imagine Ward House as a living, vibrant thing brought to life by the sheer power of her Granny Mae's memory.

Almost whimsically the young woman reached out and laid a graceful hand upon the simple, polished front door. The sun-warmed wood mocked her with its warmth and Faith was forced to smile. “Very funny, Granny Mae,” she murmured.

The door swung open and Faith found herself face to face with her younger cousin Keesha Ward. The two women embraced warmly. “Were you preparing to leave?” Faith asked as she stepped into the welcoming atmosphere of Ward House.

“No,” Keesha laughed. “Kasey,” she nodded toward a little girl near the front window, “was yelling about there being a pretty woman on the front step talking to herself.”

“Actually, I was talking to the- never mind.”

Keesha watched Faith glance all around the room. “That's right, you haven't been here since we rebuilt after the fire, have you?” The younger Ward began to climb the stairs. “Come on, I will give you the grand tour.”

The simple act of frying bacon used to provide him with such pleasure.

Sonny tried not to remember the mornings when he would awaken early and make his way to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for Carly and Michael. To anyone unfamiliar with the mob boss, such a domestic routine would seem a puzzling contrast to his chosen lifestyle. But for Sonny, Carly and her son presented a chance for him to live the fantasy of normal life.

There was no point in such memories now that both were gone from the penthouse – and his life.

Sonny listlessly turned the sizzling meat over in the shiny skillet. His fleeting thoughts of life only months ago had succeeded in robbing him of his appetite. Sonny thrust the skillet full of bacon to the back burner and turned off the stove. Any interest he might have had in the crisp slices was lost.

And as much as he enjoyed the act of cooking, its pleasure was diminished by the lack of appreciative family and friends to enjoy his creations. But that was about to change. He hoped.

An hour earlier Sonny had gotten the one phone call that he had begun to despair of ever receiving. His ever present cellular phone suddenly gave off a series of single lengthy monotones, causing the nonplussed mobster to stare at the tiny phone in confusion.

“Yeah?” Sonny answered the phone gingerly. The cell phone's display window was blank of information, and every rule of caution urged the mob boss against responding to an unknown caller on his personal line.

“I'm coming home.”

“Jase?” Sonny's slip of the tongue was an indicator of just how off-guard he had been caught. Despite his almost constant desire that his young friend return to Port Charles, Jason Morgan's voice was absolutely the last one Sonny had expected to hear when he placed the cell phone to his ear.

He did not compound his error by asking his friend for his location. Nor did he endanger him by attempting to garner more information. Sonny merely gathered his composure and nodded as though Jason could somehow see the gesture at the other end of the line. “We'll be waiting.”

“No,” Jason replied curtly. “Only you.” He knew that Sonny thought to include Carly among the people who would await his return. “Cause I have made some decisions.”

Not for the first time did Sonny wonder about the ‘decisions' Jason spoke about. The other man's unyielding tone of voice as he spoke the words did not fill the mob boss with encouragement.

The ease with which Keesha dealt with the roomful of assorted youth impressed her cousin. Watching Keesha in action was an eye-opening experience for Faith. It had been quite a while since the two young women had spent any length of time together. Faith only remembered Keesha as the little girl with the big opinions.

“You look like you have found your niche here,” Faith observed once the room had cleared.

Keesha placed her hands on her hips and took in her surroundings with satisfaction. “I think that I have,” she agreed. “I love working with the kids. And keeping Granny Mae's dream alive is a privilege.”

Her innocent words stung Faith. She had wrestled for so long with feelings of guilt over her reluctance to shoulder her share of the day-to-day responsibility of Ward House. Oh, every month she faithfully sent a generous portion of her software royalties to her younger brother for use at Ward House as he saw fit. But there were times when it just felt like guilt money.

Faith had mentioned her feelings to Justus one particularly difficult day. The younger Ward had immediately proceeded to angrily disabuse her of such ‘foolishness', as he referred to it. Yet despite Justus' heartfelt reassurance that Faith's life was just as it was meant to be, the young woman still felt as though she continued to let Justus down. And Mary Mae as well.

“I think Granny Mae would be pretty pleased with the three of us,” Keesha said. A quiet pride rang in her voice. “I have got this place, you have got your own successful computer business and Justus has his Charles Street law office. And the best part is that together we manage to keep her dream alive.”

“You are right, Lil' Bit.” Faith unconsciously reverted to calling Keesha by her childhood nickname. “I think she would be pleased.” An amused grin curved Faith's lips. “With everything but our non-existent romantic lives.”

With a skill that would have rivaled Mary Mae herself, Faith seized the opportunity the conversation presented and effortlessly led Keesha to the topic she had originally come to Ward House to discuss. “Maybe I have spoken too quickly,” she said. “I know that I don't have anyone in my life at the moment, and Justus doesn't have anyone either. But maybe you-“

Keesha quickly turned Faith's attention away from her own confusing love life. “Oh, but Justus does have someone in his life! Didn't he tell you?”

Faith pretended surprise. “No! We really haven't had time to talk about much of anything yet.”

“Well, her name is Diane Jennings and she came to Port Charles to deliver a letter…”

“How delightful to be home.”

“Yes, Madam.” Spiros raised the divider back to its previously closed position and cut the engine. He exited quickly but gracefully from the driver's seat of the limousine and hastened to open the door for his mistress. Helena Cassadine was an exacting taskmaster with rules as rigid as her posture. To be kept waiting - for her - was an offense of grave proportions.

The rear door opened smoothly and a warm, masculine hand grasped Helena's and assisted her from the car. Helena stepped out into the bright sunshine and met the cool green gaze of her younger son. “Welcome back, Mother.”

Helena glanced down quickly to see her manservant Spiros lying unconscious at her feet, a trickle of blood oozing slowly from his barely opened mouth. “Am I to be intimidated by this crass show of force?” The Cassadine matriarch gave her son a look of utter boredom.

“I would not presume to possess such power, Mother. I am here merely to deliver a message.” Stefan reached blindly behind him. A silent bodyguard placed a pair of binoculars into his outstretched hand.

Stefan raised the binoculars to his mother's eyes in an unspoken command that she peer through them. Helena obliged, though it was evident from her expression and body language that she did so only to humor Stefan.

“Just what is it that I should see?”

Helena fell silent as her younger son stepped up behind her. Wisps of his hair brushed the side of her face and his breath warmed her ear. “Not there,” Stefan murmured, his voice low and deep. His strong fingers tenderly cupped Helena's chin and angled it several degrees to the right. With the adjustment Helena's yacht, the Hera, came into the binoculars' view.

As if on cue the empty deck exploded with activity. The yacht's crewmen swarmed from below and scrambled to the rails. To a man they threw themselves into the frigid waters surrounding the Hera and began to swim frantically away from the yacht.

A subdued thud shook the air and Helena watched her beloved Hera jerk as though it had suddenly been pulled by some giant invisible string. On the heels of the muffled sound, the docks on which she and Stefan stood gave a violent lurch that would have sent the stunned woman to her knees had not her son maintained his firm grip upon her.

Silently and without ceremony the yacht that had been Helena's home in Port Charles began to sink beneath the cold waters. Priceless family antiques as well as the few personal mementos Helena treasured all accompanied the Hera to a watery grave.

Helena could not have turned from the sight even if she'd wanted to. Stefan's fingers bit cruelly into the soft flesh of his mother's chin and kept her gaze fixed upon the sight.

When there was nothing left of the Hera to be seen above the water, Stefan released Helena and stepped away. “Timoria, Mother.” He gave her a small, humorless smile that was frightening in its intensity. “For you, it has just begun.”

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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.*