~ Just Waiting For You ~
Alexis smiled at the look of surprise that must have flitted across her nephew's face when he spied her already seated and waiting at the breakfast table. She shook off his gesture to remain seated and instead rose slowly but steadily to her feet. "Good morning!"
"I take it this means you are feeling more rested today?" Nikolas' voice was gruff with emotion.
"Yes. Thanks to you. I hadn't realized just how tired I was until I fell into bed." Alexis placed a hand on the table. Though she tried to make it appear otherwise, it was evident that she needed to support to remain standing.
Nikolas quickly rounded the table. "I am sorry, Thea." He had not missed her subtle action. "Here, sit." From experience he knew that it did not take much to make her feel all the effects of the chemotherapy. "Better?" Nikolas asked.
"Yes, thank you." Alexis glanced with interest at the steaming food being brought in by the housekeeper, Mrs. Landsbury, and one other maid. Breakfast these days tended to be only Nikolas (with occasional early morning visits from Emily). Protocol had been lifted so that Alexis - and consequently, Kristina - could partake of breakfast later in the morning. And with Andresj' gone, Nikolas did not see the need for a full kitchen staff.
"Good morning, Master Nikolas." Mrs. Landsbury placed a plate of fried eggs, black bread and sausages in front of the Prince. A steaming cup of black tea was added by the lone maid assisting the housekeeper. This was traditional Russian fare, something Nikolas had requested more and more of late. "And here you go, Miss Natasha. Just as you requested." The housekeeper placed a bowl of buckwheat porridge in front of Alexis. Like a mother testing her infant's food, Mrs. Landsbury dipped the tip of a spoon into the porridge and tested its temperature. "Perfect!"
"Is there more porridge, Mrs. Landsbury?" Nikolas exchanged a look with the long-time housekeeper. It had been so long since Alexis had desired any food in particular that he wanted to encourage her mood.
Mrs. Landsbury beamed at the young man she would always see as her young charge. "Certainly, Master Nikolas!" She removed his plate and swiftly replaced it with a bowl of porridge sprinkled with vanilla and sweetened with a touch of honey. Unlike Alexis' plain serving, freshly cut fruit adorned the bowl before the Prince. "I am certain you will enjoy it. I could not make enough of it when you were seven years old."
Alexis flashed a quirky smile. "Stefan hated buckwheat. I've never understood how he made himself eat it with you every morning that summer."
The cheery mood they shared faltered at the mention of Stefan's name. Nephew and aunt ate their porridge in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. "Kristina enjoyed last night's dinner," Nikolas dropped into the silence. "Well...judging by her non-stop conversation, she did."
Alexis raised her juice glass in an unsuccessful attempt to hide her grin at her nephew's pained expression. Almost from infancy, Kristina possessed a sense of curiosity and single-mindedness that could be a bit much to take at times. "Kristina's talked nonstop about that dinner all week. I am glad she had a good time. What about Sam," Alexis carefully asked after a beat. "Did she enjoy herself, too?"
"She seemed to. She kept Kristina fascinated by her somewhat exaggerated tales of the high seas. She was," Nikolas added, "disappointed that you wouldn't be joining us for dinner, but she understood the reasons."
Alexis put down her spoon and pushed the rest of the buckwheat porridge away. She had managed to eat half. That was a major accomplishment these days. "Did she really? Understand?"
"She accepted that it was my decision," Nikolas amended. "Tell me, Alexis. Why are you so reluctant to bond with Samantha? It can't be because of her indiscretion with Lansing. That did not occur until some time after Samantha's arrival in Port Charles."
"How do you know that? Oh...Capinger," Alexis answered her own question. "What else did he tell you?"
Nikolas thought he detected a note of careful apprehension in his aunt's voice. Apparently Alexis was waiting for the other shoe to drop, as the American saying went. "The detective's investigation is still open," Nikolas replied. "He doesn't believe that Sam and Ric are involved anymore. They haven't had contact for several weeks now. That should bring you some relief." Alexis' lack of reaction prompted Nikolas to continue. "Samantha's actions are not unforgivable. My involvement with Katherine Bell was one of my greatest mistakes. But Uncle forgave me. You and Samantha can get past this, too."
"I think I have been waiting to feel some kind of connection to Sam. Over the years, whenever I thought about somehow meeting my child for the first time, I always imagined I would."
"And you don't feel that connection with Samantha?"
Alexis shook her head wearily. "At first I thought it was because of the obvious - two people meeting as adults, as mother and daughter. Then I thought it was the chemotherapy." She did not have to explain that statement. Nikolas had seen firsthand the ravaging affect his aunt's cancer treatment had upon her. "By the time I found out about the affair, it was just one more reason to stay at arm's length."
"I am sorry this has been so difficult." Nikolas paused. "I hope you will attempt to understand my decision to provide funding for Samantha's salvage vessel, as she asked. Putting aside the difficulties of your relationship, it is a sound business venture."
Alexis shrugged. The gesture was anything but casual. "You're the Prince. You lead, I follow. I won't question your decision on this matter." She raised her glass of pomegranate juice, but before it could reach her lips, Alexis leaned across the breakfast table. "You are at least planning to require some percentage of each haul, aren't you?"
"Of course," Nikolas replied. His lips were curved in a ghost of a smile. "The family attorney would not support this business decision if I did not."
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