Unnaturally Natural

What did it mean to live? Truly live?

Raisa Teplov thought about the irony of her current location in Stavros’ room. Not long ago she’d mocked her young cousin for finding solace in a place that solace had never known. But, now…she could not deny the accuracy of his claims.

She had just come from a meeting with Stefan (a mind-blowing meeting in so many ways). Raisa was still in shock. So much so that her mind could not stand still long enough to address at length a single point of what they had discussed. What Stefan had discussed, if truth be told.

“Despite all that has been announced publicly, there exists a chance to survive certain death. Experts have calculated the optimum amount of people that might successfully survive such an endeavor. It is, in comparison to the world's population, an exiguous amount. One made even smaller by the necessity of expert personnel required to sustain life afterward.

From his opening statement, Raisa sat stunned and wordless. Over the past year Stefan had assembled a team of the greatest thinkers of the modern age. After much debate and discussion, they had concluded that there existed a tiny chance at survival that they were duty bound to attempt for the sake of preserving some portion of humanity. It was a miniscule chance, Stefan emphasized, but a chance nonetheless. He had, he calmly informed Raisa, begun steps to make just such an attempt.

‘How? When?’
‘Nearly a year ago work was begun,’ Stefan calmly replied.
Raisa gaped. ‘The renovations to Wyndemere! That was why you declined my visit! I just thought it was about security, that you didn't want anyone to see what you were doing…’

Listening to the logistics of it all created more questions than answers for Raisa. If she was so stunned and overwhelmed by just the prospect of surviving Earth's death sentence, then how had Stefan managed to move forward toward action? How had he done so without revealing a single clue?

‘You have been included among those being offered a place during this survival attempt.’

‘Me?’ Raisa gaped. ‘Why would you choose me? I mean, I am beyond grateful that you did, but…’

Raisa did not pretend that she could add anything to the pool of cutting edge thinking by Stefan's chosen experts. She had foregone University, choosing instead to live off the largesse that came with being a Cassadine. Virtually every member of the Teplov branch of the family tree did the same. With Stefan’s ascension to the head of the family, there was a return to the royal inclusion enjoyed before Mikkos Cassadine held the reins. And yet, the Teplovs staunchly supported the Baron's claim to the throne on behalf of his children. It was a stance that put them in direct opposition to Stefan's goals and wishes.

‘Natasha and Sabrina have long expressed affection for you. As have Nikolas and Andresj…despite your puzzling enmity where Andresj is concerned. Over the years, he has generously chosen to overlook it, much as I have overlooked your family's continued support of the Baron’s claims to the throne.

My Beloved,’ Stefan continued without inflection, ‘remains unforgiving of your treatment of our younger son. If asked, she would unerringly choose against your inclusion. Thus she has chosen -in this matter- to defer to my decision.’

Stefan hadn't raised his voice. He did not have to for Raisa to feel the sting of his reproach. The response to her question was Stefan’s not-so-subtle reminder of his wife's fierce love for his sons, as well as the position Faith held in the hierarchy of the Cassadine family.

Raisa had long received cool receptions during encounters with Stefan’s beautiful, haughty wife. She'd assumed it was due to Faith’s disapproval of the Teplovs choosing to back the Baron in the struggle for leadership of the family.

Raisa now knew better.

‘I can allow you only twenty-four hours to inform me of your decision.’

Raisa shook her head. ‘I can tell you now!’

Stefan silenced her with an upraised hand. ‘Do not be too quick to respond. Such an offer does not come without conditions.’

Raisa was not prepared for the direction the conversation veered next. All her assurances that she was willing to do whatever was needed died on her lips when Stefan asked if she would be willing to bear children.

That pulled Raisa up short.

It was almost certain that if they survived she would have to be a mother to some child. Or children. Motherhood was an experience that Raisa had definitely decided against. She did not desire either the physical act of childbirth or the emotional one of pregnancy. But such a willingness was as much a condition of inclusion as intelligence or compliance.

Stefan suggested that she take the short time he had given her to truly think about her answer. There had already been those who could not consent to such a condition. Like their cousin Evgenia, whose deep faith could not justify bearing a child for a man not her husband. Not even at the cost of possible survival for all mankind.

"Is everyone required to help repopulate the world?"

"Yes," Stefan replied. "Though neither Nikolas or Andrésj or myself will father children outside our established relationships."

Raisa might have objected to Stefan’s words if she hadn't already understood how royal privilege worked. Instead, she accepted the decree for what it was.

"Well, speaking of relationships…" Raisa asked slowly, "does the invitation you offered extend to two?"

"Had you been involved in a committed relationship, it would."

“Then what does that mean for me? Have you included anyone like me?”

Raisa didn't need to explain her question. Stefan had only moments ago explained the selection procedure and the fact that he had researched every available bit of information on those selected - even the most private details.

“Your romantic life has never been a matter worthy of my attention,” Stefan replied bluntly. “There have been far more pressing matters to attend to. And lest you think it a pronouncement on your choice of sexual partners,” the billionaire uncharacteristically offered, “I remind you that Andresj’ also goes into this situation uncoupled. I have made no concessions for him.”

The situations were hardly the same, Raisa thought. It was unlikely that Andresj’ would have trouble finding someone with whom to make a life. She, on the other hand…

For just a moment, Raisa felt an illogical sense of resentment for Alexis and Sabrina. Perhaps if they had not indulged -no, encouraged- her crush on Natasha, Raisa might have been serious in her search for a life partner.


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