~Three months earlier~

They sat near the water's edge and soaked up the warm sun of the Mediterranean. The
man turned to his companion and remarked, "It is good to be home, is it not? I cannot
express how delighted I am that you have chosen to return here with me."

Rushing on, he added, "I know that I am not your first choice of companions for this trip
to Greece. But this will give us time to get to know one another again."

Helena glared at the amusement on her younger son's face. It was the only way she
could only express her ire, with her body poisoned by the same potion she'd used earlier
on him.

"Come now, Mother. Don't you see the irony in our little change of fate?" He crouched
down beside her wheelchair. "Perhaps I'll toss you in as you had your servant do me."

He reached up and gently wiped the corner of her mouth. "We'll have to get you a bib."

"How it saddens me to see you this way," Stefan intoned solemnly. Throwing back his
head, he laughed heartily. The wind carried the sound until it seemed to echo in
Helena's head.

"You have only yourself to blame, Mother." His voice was low and intense. "You
should have killed me when you had the chance. But do not worry. I have no intention
of harming you."

"No," he smiled ferally, "you will waste away here, unnoticed and forgotten. Nikolas
will be safe from you." He began to push her back toward the house. "I hope, in the
months to come, you do not give me cause to regret not killing you."

One hand caressed her shoulder. "I do not really worry that you will cause problems for
me, Mother dearest. You will be too busy trying to survive."

~end flashback~

"Explain yourself," Stefan demanded of the young man. His voice, barely
above a whisper, was deadly.

Darius blanched at the hostile tone. Despite all his careful efforts to remember
his grandmother's teachings, he had obviously angered the man before him.
"F-f-forgive me," he stammered, wringing his hands anxiously, "for whatever
flaw in my manners, sir. I can only plead my worry for my grandmother."

Stefan frowned at the seemingly genuine concern written all over the lad's face.
"Sit." he commanded. "And let us begin again." He waited while the youth
lowered himself warily into the chair before him. "What is your name?"

"I am Darius Cassadine," the young man replied. His gaze was fixed upon
Stefan's face.

"And your father?"

A flush crept up Darius' neck and he lowered his eyes. "I do not know.
Grandmother would not say which of her sons fathered me. Nor would she
name my mother."

Any hesitation Stefan had regarding the young man's story disappeared with
his inability to provide details. Whether pawn or partner to Helena's games,
the lad had failed miserably to convince him of his sincerity.

"But I do not matter right now," he explained earnestly. "She does." Darius
slid to the edge of his chair. "I have not heard from Grandmother in several
weeks. We have never gone so long without some form of contact. I am truly

Stefan stroked his goatee as he considered the youth's face. He would see just
how long the ruse would continue. "Where is your home?"

"Manhattan. I live there with my guardians, Ari and Maria Petrarch."

Stefan felt a small shock at the mention of the couple's names. They were two
of Helena's most faithful employees. Employees who had quietly disappeared
from Greece over eighteen years ago.

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