~ Nothing But a Family Thing ~

"What do you think the hospital's liability will be?" Nikolas Cassadine rubbed his chin. He stood just inside the doorway to the library. It was one of the few rooms inside Wyndemere that did not overflow with the ghosts of memories past. Nikolas didn't understand how that could be so; Stefan had been as much a fixture in the spacious library as the priceless volumes themselves.

The young prince found himself drawn to the library when a meeting place was needed. Stefan's study went unused. The singular time Nikolas forced himself to visit there, the room was exactly as Stefan had last left it.

"Until we find out exactly what happened," his aunt Alexis Davis mused, "I can't answer that for you. The hospital will have some degree of responsibility no matter what the outcome of the investigation. But it might be better for everyone if Doctor Winters' death was just the latest casualty of the hospital serial killer."

"Why do you say that?"

"People want to believe that their lives are safe, that they're above the horrible things that happen all around them. The public would rather know that a serial killer has struck than to be afraid that there might be a doctor going around killing patients at General Hospital - even if that patient was her own father and she was doing it out of kindness for him." Alexis gestured for her nephew to take a seat. Nikolas had been pacing throughout their informal meeting. His seemingly endless energy made Alexis feel even weaker than normal. "As illogical as it might seem, hospital patients dying because of a serial killer would just be easier for the public to accept than an angel of mercy."

Nikolas poured himself a glass of juice. He took the opportunity to add another inch to the one already in Alexis' glass. "Robin says that Commissioner Scorpio doesn't believe that Lainey ended her father's life. He believes she is protecting the man who did."

"Lainey Winters seems like a really lovely young woman. I hate the thought that she might have to carry the burden of having ended her father's life - however mercifully."

Nikolas nodded ruefully. "Emily is quite concerned about her. It is all she talks about." He seemed to consider his next words. "Well... that, and Andresj."

The mention of Andresj's name brought an immediate change to the atmosphere of the room. "Has something happened?" Alexis asked. She put down the glass of juice she was holding, thankful that Nikolas was too distracted to notice the shaking of her hand.

"No," Nikolas finally replied. "My little brother is still somewhere in Europe. As far away from me as he can get."

Alexis put a comforting hand on Nikolas' back. "It's the family he's pushing away, Nikolas. Not you."

"We both know that isn't true, Alexis." Nikolas rose abruptly. "You heard him that day. He no longer considers me family."

"Andresj' is hurt. And he's grieving. Give him time. He'll get past it."

"I don't think he will," Nikolas quietly replied. "And I'm not sure he should."