Several hours had passed and the previously malfunctioning software continued to perform flawlessly. General Hospital's in-house computer technician was unable to determine just what had been done to correct the problem they had been having. The harried man chose not to share with the hospital's watchful administrator that he had not even begun to understand the software's flaw, much less work toward a solution for it. It was all he could do to concentrate with Stefan Cassadine's critical eye upon him.
The staff was duly appreciative of the beautiful stranger who had materialized from thin air to fix the hospital's computers. The extra work that the malfunctioning software had created was a thing of the past. For the first time in several days they were able to resort to their regular routine.
Thanks to Amy Vining, General Hospital's unnamed benefactor was no longer a mere human being with technical skills. She was an angel in human guise; the proof of which, said Amy, was the ‘ethereal glow' that seemed to surround her. By the time the story had circulated General Hospital several times, Stefan had grown weary of correcting the inaccuracies of the story.
Certainly no angel made use of the questionable language the young woman had directed his way. Initially angered by the scathing comment, Stefan now found the young woman's behavior intriguing. Perhaps it was the lack of information regarding the hospital's unknown computer specialist that drew his attention. Or maybe it was the novelty of dealing with someone who neither recognized Stefan nor was intimidated by him.
Either way, Stefan decided, it was time to dismiss the subject of the mystery woman. With all his afternoon appointments rescheduled because of the computer crisis, he was temporarily free of responsibility where General Hospital was concerned.
Stefan alerted his secretary that he would be returning to Wyndemere for the remainder of the day. He gathered up his briefcase and coat and headed for the oversized limousine that would ferry him home.
“Should the computer system resume its malfunctioning,” Stefan announced to his secretary just before he exited his office, “I expect to be informed immediately.”
“Who was that on the phone?”
“Andresj' Cassadine.” The handsome silver-maned gentleman imitated the irritated young caller's voice. Every haughty nuance was captured to perfection.
“How did he sound?”
“Quite peeved with me. And quite condescending,” the man responded. “He suggested that I overstepped my bounds in not informing you that he wished to speak with you. I get the impression that young Master Cassadine is accustomed to having your undivided attention.”
Sabrina frowned at the note of rebuke she heard in his voice. “You make it sound like that is a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with Andresj' knowing that I am always there for him. You made sure that I knew that about you!”
“It is not the same, and you know it. You are not the young man's parent, whereas I am yours.” Victor Cassadine cast a stern eye toward his daughter. “Did we not settle this issue when you were eighteen?”
Sabrina's temper flared. “And you were as wrong then as you are now!”
The deceptively soft quality of Victor Cassadine's voice alerted his daughter that she had crossed a familiar line with him. “Forgive me, Papa,” she immediately apologized. “I did not mean to disrespect you.”
Growing up with Victor Cassadine as a father, Sabrina had not been subject to very many rules. But among those few that her father dictated, there was one unbreakable rule – that she always respect Victor's position as her father.
From her earliest childhood, it had been apparent to Victor that his daughter would not be easily controlled. Sabrina was too brash, too bold… And so he had set out to ensure that there was always one person to whom she would defer.
People who knew Sabrina were often shocked speechless upon seeing father and daughter interact one-on-one for the first time. Victor Cassadine was able, with a single glance, to command his daughter in a manner unlike anyone else in her life. If he never did another single thing of note in his life, the Cassadine family joked, then being able to control his headstrong daughter was enough.
“You should know that I have just set your plan in motion… Indeed, it is working already… Yes, I will owe you twice, Grisha. Name your price.” Andresj' hastily scribbled something on a notepad. “You want what??” Andresj' shook his head fondly. “Of course I am willing to repay my debt, but I am afraid that such a thing is far beyond my powers of persuasion where Papa is concerned. Your most recent incident in Greece, after all, did result in Papa's limousine being stopped and searched… Yes, I know…” The young man sighed. “I will try, Cousin. I promise nothing more.”
Andresj' disconnected the call. Stefan waited to speak until his son put down the telephone. “Your association with your cousin Grigori remains a source of constant concern for me,” Stefan commented drolly. He flashed briefly back upon all the mischief the two young boys had gotten into as children. “Should I ask just what goes on between the two of you this time?”
“It is not important.” Andresj' slipped the piece of paper he'd written on into his shirt pocket and changed the subject. “So… was there a particular reason you came looking for me, Papa?”
“You have recently returned from Ward House?”
“There are changes that must be made before you attend there again.” Stefan directed his younger son to a chair and then gracefully lowered himself into the one opposite it. “You will no longer be able to engage in such a ‘hands-on' role in the day to day functions of Ward House. Stefan cut off the shocked protest he saw forming on Andresj's lips. “I allowed it before as a sort of community service, a reminder of those less fortunate. But now-”
“-that I am a true Cassadine, it is beneath me?” Andresj' was more than a little upset that his carefully laid plan to wear down Keesha's resistance had been derailed just like that.
Stefan ignored the hint of anger in his son's tone. “As I attempted to explain… now- ” Stefan emphasized pointedly, “-that you have chosen Ward House as your addition to the Cassadine Trust, the guidelines set down by the trustees will not allow it.”
Andresj' was ashamed. “I am sorry, Papa.” He had been so certain that his father would quote what seemed to be his mantra of late that he'd lashed out in anticipation.
An awkward silence descended. Stefan considered his young son carefully. “Have my careless words injured you, brephos?” Stefan's face tightened as the ring of the telephone interrupted his next words. With an economy of motion, he disabled the phone's ringer.
“But I am expecting a call!”
“The servants will take a message. I believe it is time we talked.”
“Do you remember calling me, furious that Stefan had restricted you from the little one's life?”
Sabrina instantly recalled her conversation with her father. She had been eighteen years old and falling more in love with four year old Andresj' every day. The little boy was a stranger among the Cassadines, placed there by a quirk of fate. Sabrina understood well the little boy's situation. “I was so angry with Stefan! I didn't understand how he could be so cruel to ‘Dre.”
“What is wrong with Stefan, Papa?” Victor could hear the pain in his daughter's voice. “In all the time I have been here, Andresj' has only been the most distant afterthought for any of those people!”
“ Those people are your family, and the little one is Stefan's concern. Not yours. You overstepped your bounds.”
The silence at the other end of the phone spoke volumes. Victor knew that his comments were not what his young daughter had expected from him and had shaken her faith in him.
“Overstepped my bounds?” she repeated softly. Her voice trembled with the threat of tears. “To love a child who feels like he is alone in the world?”
Victor winced. He knew that the remark was Sabrina's quiet way of reminding him of what she felt was his own betrayal of her.
Victor reached out and cupped his daughter's chin gently. “Then, just as now, Stefan understood that what was needed was time for him to connect with his son. Time and space without outside interference.”
“But what he is doing now is not going to help him connect with Andresj',” Sabrina protested vigorously. She was a bit stung by her father's refusal to agree with her point of view on this matter. “Stefan is so busy trying to make his son ‘more Cassadine' that he doesn't see what is right before his face!”
“And just what would that be, Sabrina?”
“That Andresj' is starting to hear loud and clear the message Stefan keeps preaching.” She shook her head. “I'm telling you, Papa, Stefan is going to push Andresj' away if he doesn't do something to correct things.”
“He did, Little One,” Victor replied, not wanting to hurt his daughter. “He separated you from Andresj'.”
“Two days after the celebration of your fourth birthday, you came to me and climbed upon my lap. You took my face between your small hands and, squinting deeply, demanded that I ‘ look into your ‘pooky eyes '.” Stefan smiled at the memory. There had been a world famous magician hired to perform for Andresj's birthday and his routine made use of the supposed persuasive power of his ‘spooky eyes'.
“What joy flooded your countenance as I pretended to be ensnared by the power of your spell!” Stefan recalled. His gaze met and held his son's. “And my heart was lost. In that instant you became mine. As much my son as Nikolas. And I could not have loved you more all these years had I known the truth of your paternity.”
“But now that you do?” Andresj' asked.
Stefan unconsciously leaned forward, as though his nearness to Andresj' could somehow better transmit the sincerity of his words. “My love for you has not changed.”
It was not difficult for Stefan to see that doubt remained in Andresj's eyes. “From the moment that I set your adoption into motion, I have worked to ensure your future as my son and as a Cassadine. The first was not difficult,” Stefan explained. “The rules of succession and inheritance among our family are clear.” He leaned back heavily in his chair. “But it was not so easy a task to establish a secure place for you among the family.”
“So many opportunities were closed to you because you were not believed to be born a Cassadine.” Stefan left his seat to stand and stare at a somber portrait hanging nearby. “I had no reason to believe that you would seek said opportunities as you grew older; but I was determined that they be available to you.”
Andresj's father turned away from the portrait. “Thus the revelation of your paternity was miraculous in so many ways beside the obvious. With a single truth, the family's basis for opposition to my plans was removed. I could openly ensure that your rightful place among us was set.”
“As your true son .” This time the words were uttered without anger.
“Yes.” Stefan reached out and gently tipped his son's head up so that their eyes might meet. “My words were never meant to wound you, brephos.”
For several long moments Andresj' searched his father's face for some truth that only he would recognize. “I love you, Papa,” the young man uttered finally. Without hesitation Andresj' rose and embraced his father.“And I, you, my son.”
*Grisha is an affectionate nickname for the name Grigori
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*