What is Mine
~ Two ~

Two couples and a family of six had come and gone since they'd sat down in the little restaurant. The atmosphere, which had first been a bit more boisterous, was now intimate and relaxed.

“I know how much this all goes against your cautious nature.”

Stefan acknowledged his wife's comment with a small nod. There was no point in pretending otherwise. Ariana had realized just how difficult for Stefan her request would be. “If I am overly cautious, it is only due to my concerns for your safety.”

“And we are grateful.” Ariana glance over at the restaurant-supplied high chair where a dark haired little boy slept peacefully. His long eyelashes lay softly against his smooth, downy cheeks. “Well, some of us would be more grateful if we were awake,” Ariana teased.

Stefan gazed with love at his young son. “I daresay that gratitude would take a back seat to his interest in the bowl of pudding our hostess so kindly supplied.”

Ariana glanced quickly toward the kitchen of the small, cozy little family restaurant. Located in the back right corner of the room, it was just far enough away that the metallic clank of pots and pans could barely be heard; but close enough that the tantalizing aroma of meals still to be served drifted in and out of the diners' senses.

“I hate to hurt the hostess' feelings by leaving her pudding uneaten,” Ariana Slovic Cassadine said.

“You could hardly have anticipated that the little one would fall asleep before partaking of her gift.”

“I know,” she agreed. “But still-” She discreetly pushed the bowl of cold rice pudding her husband's direction. “ You eat it.”

Stefan's lips quirked into an amused smile. “Oh, no,” he replied, pushing the bowl back Ariana's way. “I have never developed my son's affection for this particular dessert.”

Grimacing, the dark-haired beauty set about emptying the bowl. With each forced swallow, Ariana marveled at the little one's fondness for such a concoction.

“Good girl!” Stefan praised his wife in the same tone he reserved for his young son.

As she pushed the empty bowl beside the other used china waiting to be removed from the table, Ariana glared at Stefan. It was a look that held the promise of retribution once she and her husband were back in the privacy of their hotel suite.

“Shall we go?” The prospect of his wife's revenge was suddenly very appealing to Stefan.

Ariana rose and lifted the sleeping child from his chair. She watched her husband place upon the table several times the amount of their bill.

“Deserved compensation,” Stefan explained, “for an evening of privacy.”

They made their way to the exit. “I hope that everything was perfect for you?” Their hostess suddenly emerged from a nearby door.

Stefan switched from the native Russian that he and Ariana spoke when alone. “The evening was quite enjoyable.”

“Which is high praise coming from my husband,” Ariana added, also in English. “Thank you.”

The hostess reached out and reverently touched the little boy in Ariana's arms. “God keep you, little angel,” she whispered. Then she turned and left.