It took two weeks of recovery at General Hospital and four weeks of outpatient physical therapy before Nadine was released from the care of Patrick Drake. She was still required to visit specialists on a routine basis to have the progress of her healing lung monitored, but by the time she was three months pregnant, she could barely tell that she had endured that horrible car accident the night of Halloween. The only real change in her life, in fact, was the hired chauffer that Nikolas insisted drive her everywhere that she needed to go because he just couldn't risk the chance that something could happen to her again. While there was a still risk every single time she slipped into the buttery leather backseat of the town car he had bought just for her use, he felt better knowing that there was a professional watching over his soon-to-be wife and child.
Their engagement had been formally announced the night of her welcome home party at Wyndamere, which was attended only by their closest friends and family. Many of Nadine's colleagues from the hospital were there, including her closest girlfriends, Leyla, Kelly and Lainey. Robin and Patrick had brought newborn Emma out for her first visit to Spoon Island. Elizabeth had shown up on Lucky's arm with Cameron in Jake in toe while Lulu managed to drag Johnny out for their first family event as an official couple. Alexis had shown up with Jax and the girls. Even Monica had come over to Wyndamere to share in the joyous occasion, something that meant quite a lot to Nikolas. Everyone had been overjoyed at their announcement, and the festivities had quickly turned into an impromptu engagement party with a glowing Nadine right in the middle of it.
Nikolas had spent hours preparing just the right menu for the night, wanting to pay tribute to her Texan roots. There had been plenty of southern fair along with a few signature Greek dishes that spoke of his own heritage. They had danced the night away with Spencer between them. After everyone had gone home and the new Cassadine family was alone, they had sat their son down to tell him of his pending sibling. He had been timid at first but eventually warmed up to the idea when he thought about having a playmate to chase around the giant mausoleum they called home. Nikolas and Nadine had told Lucky and Leyla first, followed by Elizabeth, Alexis and Lulu. The formal announcement was made a few days later when embossed cards were hand delivered by Nikolas' social secretary. It had been a surprise to most people to say the least.
Soon plans were under way for the wedding, starting with a date to be set. It had taken hours of scouring the calendar to find a suitable date before they had settled on Nadine's first suggestion. She wanted to get married in the spring and hadn't particularly cared how much she was showing. Nikolas would have pretty much agreed to anything she wanted by the end of the conversation because really when it came down to it, he just wanted to marry her. Nadine had wanted a small affair from the beginning, but by the time they counted up all his social obligations and her needs at the hospital, they had quickly realized that things were spirally out of control.
The search for her wedding dress had been a long and torturous process, especially as she started to grow in her pregnancy. Even though she enjoyed carrying their child, there were still days where her hormones got the best of her and she couldn't help but bemoan her ever-expanding waistline. Leyla, Elizabeth, Kelly and Lainey had all had to endure tearful phone calls as she met with the various seamstresses and dressmakers that Nikolas sent to Spoon Island to help her. Finally, she had settled on just the selection that defined both her personal style and the theme of their big day. After a little convincing, Nikolas had agreed to find something that would compliment her attire, and that part of the wedding was set.
When it came time to choose the wedding party, Nikolas and Nadine had flirted with everything from having several people stand up with them to only having Spencer. In the end, they had settled on a compromise that made both of them happy. Lucky would stand up as best man and Leyla had been asked to be the maid of honor. Spencer would also stand up with them, but they didn't want anything as formal as a ring bearer or flower girl. They just wanted their best friends and the most important person in their life to stand up as witnesses to their joyous union. Anything else just wouldn't have been them.
Nikolas Cassadine and Nadine Crowell were married in an outdoor ceremony on May 1 on the Wyndamere estate on Spoon Island. With the freshly budding trees of the clearing serving as the overhand, their closest friends and immediate family had been seated in white folding chairs as Nikolas and Nadine made their commitment to each other. She had worn her favorite jeans with an elastic band sewn into the waist, a white peasant maternity top and bare feet. Nikolas had worn dark denim jeans and a white button-up shirt. Lucky and Leyla had worn similar outfits only with pale blue shirts. The girls carried bouquets of wild violets, lilacs and sweet williams. All of the music was provided by a single violinist, who had played the same waltz that Nikolas and Nadine had first danced to that night on the terrace.
The ceremony had been short and traditional, followed by an outdoor picnic beneath white gauzy tents in the gardens near the stables. By the time the sun had set, they were all dancing on the makeshift dance floor beneath the twinkling white lights to Nadine's favorite mix of pop, soul and country songs. During the traditional mother-son dance, Nikolas had swept a proud Alexis around the floor, not once regretting that his aunt was there when Laura could not be. She had been a mother to him in every way that counted, and he couldn't imagine anyone else sharing in that moment with him. In lieu of the father-daughter dance, Lucky had asked his new sister-in-law to dance in order to show her that she was really apart of the family.
As the night had grown to a close, there were still a few traditions that Nadine insisted be apart of their wedding. Though she hadn't worn a garter, Nikolas had still pulled one from her jean-clad thigh and thrown it into the crowd toward Patrick's direction, a reminder that the two of them still need to get married after their last failed attempt. For her part, Nadine had thrown her bouquet directly to Elizabeth in hopes of sparking a little good luck for the newly reunited Spencer couple. Elizabeth had hugged her afterwards and whispered into her ear, "We will be sisters soon."
Nikolas and Nadine had decided not to go anywhere for their honeymoon because she really didn't feel like traveling and Nikolas didn't want her to be too far from her doctors. Elizabeth and Lucky had offered to keep Spencer for the night, but the newly married couple had refused. They couldn't imagine starting their first night as a married couple without having their son in the house. The three of them had stayed up until past midnight eating wedding cake until Spencer had finally collapsed in his father's lap. After the little boy was tucked into his bed, Nikolas and Nadine had made love all night until falling into a deep and peaceful slumber in each other's arms. Later on, they would both agree that the day had been exactly what they had wanted.
Nadine was well into her seventh month when the wedding happened, so once the ceremony was finished, preparations began on the nursery. She had selected a small and cozy room just down the hall from the suite she now shared with Nikolas. It also happened to be right across from Spencer's room. Since she couldn't really do too much of the work and Nikolas didn't exactly have those skills, a designer and decorator had been brought into realize her vision. It started out as a little-used guestroom but was quickly transformed into the dream nursery for any little girl or boy. She had gone gender-neutral since they had decided not to find out what they were having and had selected a theme centering on rocking horses. The love of horses was something the entire family shared and had been one of the things that had first brought them together. The centerpiece of the room was a hand carved rocking horse that Nikolas had custom made for her using wood from Spoon Island. She had cried for nearly an hour when he had given it to her.
As she moved into her eighth month, Nadine finally had to give up working at the hospital as much as it pained her. She enjoyed spending time with the kids in pediatrics and seeing normal people that didn't bow down to her every whim at home. The girls made sure to come out to Wyndamere several times a week to keep her filled in on all the latest gossip since she couldn't come in and see them every day. Leyla, Elizabeth, Lainey, Kelly and Robin had all become regular fixtures at the mansion much to the joy of both Nikolas and Nadine. They also had frequent dinners with Lucky, Elizabeth, Lulu, Johnny, Alexis, Jax and all the kids.
Nadine found it boring to stay home all the time, though she enjoyed the time that she got to spend with Spencer. He was excited about the impending arrival of his little brother or sister and would spend hours talking, singing and reading to Nadine's swollen stomach. Nikolas would always watch them with this proud smile that just screamed, "That's my family." He would catch her eye across the room or over Spencer's head and just have to thank God right then and there for the incredible life he had been given.
It's not to say that things were perfect between them all the time. Nikolas was doting sometimes to the point of being overbearing, closely monitoring everything she did and ate. She knew that he was only trying to be protective because he loved her and the baby so much, but it still irritated Nadine when he would bring her fresh vegetables and a class of milk rather than the chips and soda she had asked for. However, he would make up for it later when he would rub her swollen feet or tell her that she was the most beautiful girl in the world or surprise her with something new for the baby's room. He was around most of the time now, working out of the house as much as he could and keeping his business travel down to a bare minimum. When he was gone for more than a day or two, he would convince Elizabeth or Leyla to come out and stay with her. Nadine never liked when he was gone but enjoyed having her girlfriends around. It became like a little slumber party.
Nadine's water finally broke a week past her due date on a bright sunny afternoon when she had been sitting on the terrace watching Nikolas and Spencer play in the newly opened swimming pool below. It had been nearly 100 degrees that day, and her mood had been irritated all day. That irritation was heightened tenfold once the contractions started, and it had taken the ambulance less than fifteen minutes to make it out to the house after Nikolas had held the receiver up to her screaming mouth. Lulu was sent out to Wyndamere to stay with Alfred and Spencer so that Nikolas could come in town with her in the ambulance. Leyla, Lucky and Elizabeth showed up a few minutes after Nadine was admitted to the maternity ward and sat patiently in the waiting room until an exhausted Nikolas came out to announce that their baby was finally there.
Raylen Alexa Cassadine was born at 4:23 in the afternoon on July 11 after three hours of labor. It only took a few minutes for Dr. Kelly Lee to declare that the baby was perfectly healthy and set the swaddled bundle of joy into her mother's arms. Nadine and Nikolas had sat in quiet awe of their daughter as she slept peacefully in the chenille pink throw that Epiphany had set aside for the special little girl. With coat black hair like her father's and shocking blue eyes like her mother's, they were both fairly convinced that she was the most beautiful girl who had ever been born at General Hospital, let alone anywhere. She had been named in honor of Nadine's Aunt Raylene, the person who perhaps shaped her life more than anyone, and Alexis, the strongest woman that Nikolas had ever known.
Two hours later, Leyla had been the first person to hold the little girl other than her parents. As she smiled down on her goddaughter, she couldn't help but believe that her entire life had been designed just so she could smile down on this beautiful godsend. Lucky and Elizabeth had visited shortly after when Lucky had accepted the role as godfather. Alexis had smiled down on her namesake and promised the same promise she had given Nikolas on the day that he was born, one she still came through on every single day. The parade of visitors after that became a blur as Raylen was taken to the nursery so that her many admirers could view her through the large glass window.
Lulu had brought an exuberant Spencer early the next morning, and the little boy couldn't wait to hold his tiny little sister. Nikolas had held both of them in his lap, showing Spencer how to hold Raylen's head. Once Spencer had grown bored of playing with the baby, he had snuggled up against Nikolas' shoulder and fallen asleep. By the time Nadine returned from getting a shower with the aid of Leyla, she was pleasantly surprised to find the father asleep with both children in his arms as they sat together in the rocking chair brought into her private birthing room.
Three days after she had given birth, Nadine was rolled out of the hospital in a wheel chair by Nikolas with a sleeping Raylen in her arms and a behaved Spencer at her side. She had insisted that they go home alone so that they could have a few days of quiet before any visitors came by. It had pained all of the baby's many admirers to wait that long to see the little beauty again, so once the allotted time frame had passed, Wyndamere was once again filled with a stream of visitors. Instead of gifts, Nadine had asked for donations that she could give to the hospital. The only thing she had kept from any of the gifts was a soft teddy bear that Kristina and Molly had picked out, a crocheted sleeper made by Leyla and a monogrammed receiving blanket from Lucky, Elizabeth, Cameron and Jake.
A month after Raylen was born, Nikolas and Nadine took their children for their first horseback ride as a family. While Nadine still wasn't feeling up to mounting her horse and was not about to take a infant anywhere like that, Nikolas had arranged for a carriage to take her out to clearing while he and Spencer followed behind on the pony and Sheeba. They'd had a quiet picnic on a soft blanket that ended with a nap for both of the kids beneath the shade of the overhanging trees. As they watched Spencer snore from Nadine's lap and Raylen dozed on Nikolas' shoulder, the two of them leaned across the blanket and kissed briefly before whispering a declaration of love to one another. As they pulled apart, Nikolas watched as the clouds parted so that the sun could illuminate the sky surrounding them. Just like that, he realized that he had finally put the darkness of the last two years behind him. She had brought him back to life and into the light.
Into the Light has truly been a labor of love over the past several months, driven mostly by the kind reviews of my beloved readers and the inspiration that is Nikodine. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me, it's been a wonderful ride!