The Preparation, 3

Gia Campbell rolled over and reached for her husband, a move that never failed to spark intimacy. Throughout the course of their marriage, she and Nikolas had reveled in their mutual appreciation of the physical, making love with abandon at every opportunity. It came as a shock, then, when she felt Nikolas pull away from her.

"Nikolas?" For just a moment Gia felt the irrational urge to apologize for her touch; his withdrawal from her side had been that abrupt. "Nikolas, what's wrong?" He was always Nikolas to her. Gia had tried over the years to find something a little more informal for their moments together, but none of the nicknames felt right for them. Kolya was Andresj's form of address, Nik was his sister Lulu's. There had even been an old girlfriend who called him Prince Nikky. She sure as hell wasn't going to use that little reminder of some other woman.

"I'm sorry," Nikolas shook his head. He stood beside the bed, his back taut with tension. "I just can't think about...that."

"That?"

"Sex... Not when so many people are going to die."

Gia sat up and crawled naked to the side of the massive bed they shared. She placed her hand softly against the corded muscles of her husband's back as if to soften the blow of her next words. "You heard the scientists. We are all going to die."

Once again Nikolas eased away from Gia's touch. Because he faced the other way, he did not see the flash of hurt that danced across her face. "I spent all of last night thinking. And I realized just how much of my life I have spent trying to outdo my father," Nikolas mused aloud. "I threw myself into Laura's life. I was convinced that Father had done something wrong to drive her away from us. I told myself that I would love my mother better than he did, not make the mistakes he did..." Nikolas did not have to continue that tale. Gia knew that despite all of the overtures her husband had made toward forging a genuine relationship with his mother, Laura Spencer remained little more than a footnote in her first-born's story.

"Then Spencer came along. John," Nikolas visibly corrected himself, "John came along. And every decision I made about raising him was the exact opposite of the decisions my Father made in my upbringing." For the first time in their conversation, Nikolas turned and faced his wife. "We all saw what a disaster that almost was."

Gia wished she could look into her husband's dark eyes and deny the truth of what he was saying. But she could not. She and Nikolas weren't together at the time, but she'd heard all about the baby boy that paternity tests had proven to be Nikolas' son. Gia watched from afar over the next few years as that little boy grew into a snotty, entitled brat.

All that changed when five-year-old Spencer set into motion a kidnapping ruse that ended in injury and the need for transfusion. Nikolas had proven incompatible. Further tests proved it impossible for him to even be young Spencer's father. Jasper Jax, on the other hand, was an ideal match.

And so the truth came out.

Jax, having lost the first years of his son's life, was not prepared to go slowly in reclaiming the child he promptly renamed John, after his father. No argument could dissuade the Aussie tycoon. Even the judge appointed to the high profile case agreed. Under other circumstances, caution might have been warranted. But in light of Jax's ability (read wealth) to ensure the minor child's transition to a similar level of living, the judge saw no cause to delay the inevitable correction of paternity and custody.

Two years passed before anyone in the Cassadine family even got a glimpse of young John. It was only Jerry Jacks' fondness for Sabrina that led him to show her a brief mobile video of a tanned and grinning John sharing a surfboard with his equally tanned and toned father.

"You'd think I learned my lesson." Nikolas picked up his narrative as though he hadn't been lost in thought. "No, I just had to push the issue, demanding to know what my place as Prince entitled me to know."

"You are the Prince," Gia insisted. "You needed to know the truth about all this...the whole truth."

"I wish now that I didn't." Nikolas retrieved papers from the table and silently offered them to Gia.

"What are these?"

"My father has been working on a chance a slim chance - for us to survive this." Nikolas sat down heavily on the bed. "But only a limited number of people will be included." He gestured toward the documents Gia held. "By this morning's breakfast I need to narrow down the list of servants to only thirteen."

Gia's dawning horror reflected what Nikolas had been feeling most of the night. "But that's hardly anyone! The kitchen staff is three or four times that much!"

"The scientists have considered all their calculations repeatedly. A larger amount has no hope to succeed."

"Why do you have to make this choice? Is this your father's way of getting back at you for reminding him that you're the one who is supposed to lead the family?"

"No." Nikolas reached out to calm his wife's growing anger. From the moment they'd married, Gia had informed him that she would always be steadfastly in his corner. She was, he smiled faintly despite the somber mood, his "ride-or-die". "I accused him of not having faith in me, in my leadership. He didn't deny it. He said I wasn't ready for something like this.

And he was right."

"You're being too hard on yourself, Nikolas! Maybe if Stefan had told you about all this from this beginning, you would have had time to prepare for making these kinds of horrible decisions."

"If Father had taken me into his confidence that first day," Nikolas said softly, "any chance for our survival would be gone. I never would have been able to keep this a secret from the family for so long. I couldn't keep it from you a single night."

 

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