~ Cutting Ties ~


Over the past two months Andresj' Cassadine had been traveling all over Europe, never staying more than a week in one place. The exception was just after his arrival on the continent, when the young Cassadine spent two weeks at the family home in Greece. He reconnected with cousins Evgenia and Grigori - twins that could not be more different if they tried. They were childhood companions whose parents were firmly in Stefan's camp when it came to leadership of the Cassadine family.

Those two weeks had been like a balm to Andresj's soul. It had been nice to just take comfort in being home, to breathe in sights and sounds so very familiar to him. He and Grigori explored the town each day. The threesome dined together each night. But soon, Evgenia's gentle rebukes about Andresj's fractured relationships grew tiresome, so he bid his cousins -and the estate -farewell.

After several brief stops he'd ended up in Spetses. Long before the quiet little town had become the 'New Monaco' (home to the ultra-wealthy), it had been a favorite spot of his father's. Spetses made Andresj' feel closer to Stefan. Some of his earliest memories were of being carried into the calm waters of the Aegean secure in his papa's arms. Stefan had overcome a three-year-old Andresj's fears by reminding him of the promise that no harm would ever come to him while in his Papa's care.

How Andresj' wished he'd been able to return the favor.

He had been away at University when Stefan was murdered. For nearly four days Andresj had been kept in virtual isolation with no explanation from the guards but that it was so ordered. On the evening of the fourth day, Stefan's oldest friend, Count Andrassy, had shown up at the private estate where Andresj' was staying and gently informed the young man that his father was dead.

Andresj' remembered the shock of that moment. Even today it still did not seem real that he would never again know the comfort of Stefan's unflagging support. Andresj' was buried so deeply in grief that he did not notice the scarcity of details about the nature of his father's passing. It was nearly a day later before his shock cleared enough for him to inquire. In retrospect, the extended isolation days before - coupled with the lack of contact with his family - spoke of violence and treachery.

Andresj was not appeased by Dimitri's carefully worded evasion. He demanded angrily to know the full truth of Stefan's death. The Count refused...almost sadly, Andresj thought. It was not his place to have that conversation, Dimitri Marick told his godson gently. That duty now fell upon the Prince.

The flight to Greece did nothing to quell Andresj's determination to know the painful details of Stefan's death. Even as he greeted a solemn-faced Nikolas with a fierce embrace, Andresj' demanded to know just what had happened. Silently Nikolas turned and began to stride toward the waiting limousine, signaling his refusal to have such a discussion so publicly. Andresj dug in his heels and refused to move until he understood how Stefan died. Sighing, Nikolas informed his younger brother that Stefan had died during an encounter with Luke Spencer.

An encounter.

Nikolas made it seem so ordinary. While it was true their father and Spencer had been going at one another since before the Cassadines relocated to Port Charles, this 'encounter' had resulted in Stefan's death - a little detail that Nikolas seemed perfectly willing to overlook. It wasn't until their grandmother, Helena, revealed the full truth of Stefan's death did Andresj' understand Nikolas' reluctance to avenge him. To do so would have been to condemn himself for the incomprehensible part he played.

Maybe if he'd been in Port Charles, Andresj' thought, he might have been able to change the outcome of the situation. At the very least his father would have had at least one voice in his defense. The two people Stefan had relied on for that task had not only failed miserably in that regard, but inexplicably chose to act against him.

Andresj had given their betrayal quite a bit of thought. It was possible that his aunt Alexis harbored some residual anger for the way his father had cut her out of their lives when he'd discovered her relationship with mobster Sonny Corinthos. Or maybe it went even further back to the time of Katherine Bell and Alexis' pretense that the strident blond woman was really his father's long lost sibling. Whatever his aunt's feelings, they did not justify turning against Stefan.

By that same token, no reasons that Nikolas could ever list would explain his betrayal of their father. After all Stefan had done to ensure Nikolas' future, it was inconceivable to Andresj' that his brother would assist in leading their father into the hands of Luke Spencer, of all people. Spencer was not only their father's enemy, but an enemy of the Cassadine family as a whole. Assisting Spencer in any way was an affront Andresj' could not forgive. Fueled by betrayal and anger, he did not even try. He relocated to Europe and put an entire ocean between him and Nikolas.

It was not enough. His brother's reach as Cassadine Prince extended to most of Europe. Stefan had cultivated, on Nikolas' behalf, a network of sources and resources that was more than willing to keep its eyes and ears on their Prince's younger brother. Not his brother, Andresj' corrected himself. His cousin. Nikolas was his Uncle Stavros' son, in some ways far more like the long-dead Cassadine Prince than Andresj' dreamed possible. It was legend among the family how long his uncle could remember a slight against him (perceived or not) and how ruthlessly he could then avenge it. Even more legend among them was Stavros' lack of allegiance to any but himself - a trait Nikolas had obviously inherited.

Yet despite all that, Andresj' inexplicably mourned the loss of the sibling relationship he and Nikolas no longer shared. Stefan's death had rocked the very foundations of 'Dre's world. Not even in his worst nightmares had he imagined a world without his father in it. And at a time when Andresj' should have been leaning on Nikolas for comfort and guidance, he could not abide the Prince's presence.

A slight movement in his periphery drew 'Dre from his thoughts and reminded him of the guard's presence. It was not that he had forgotten the silent sentry was there. Rather, it was that Andresj' chose not to acknowledge him. Nikolas had made the man's presence a condition of Andresj's leaving, and as Prince of the family, his brother's wishes were immutable. The guard was an edict that Andresj' had been unable to refuse.

"You asked to be informed when your guests have arrived, Mr. Cassadine," the hotel manager quietly announced from the doorway. "Shall I escort them up?"

"In twenty minutes."

The manager nodded and then backed out of the room. Andresj looked over at the guard, Evangelos. Waves of censure and disapproval rolled off the man. "There is something you wish to say?" The clipped, terse question was designed to effectively remind the guard of his place. Evangelos removed all expression from his features and dipped his head in an apology Andresj was certain he did not feel.

"Forgive me, Master Andresj. It is just that the Prince would not be pleased with your choice of dinner companions."

Andresj flashed the guard a humorless smile. "Then it's a good thing the Prince's happiness is no longer my concern."