Characters in this story are the property of ABC, I do not own them.

Chapter One


Stefan sat in his study after the others had left, cleansing his palette with a glass of brandy. The fine stuff, as Luke alluded to the other day. He had to admit though that drinking a fine brandy alone was not nearly as enjoyable as drinking the rotgut stuff with a friend. Friend.Luke Spencer? Stefan smiled in irony. Maybe not yet. But it was possible. Anything was possible now that Helena was in jail and out of their lives. For Stefan, the word family has taken on a whole new meaning. He had witnessed the closeness exhibited by the Spencers. Now the Cassadines could have that experience. Love. Acceptance. Intimacy. Stefan looked forward to getting to know Kristina as intimately as he knew Alexis and Nikolas. He hoped the bond with her would become as strong. A little sister. It made him smile just to think of it.

The smile turned into a frown as he realized something. He was much more excited by finding out Kristina was his sister than when the same revelation occurred with Alexis. He shrugged. The situation with Alexis was far different. He recalled the ugly circumstances of that event. She had made him think that Katherine was his sister - a prospect that filled him with horror and revulsion. Later it turned out that it was in fact Alexis that was his sister. Part of him had felt relief that the romantic feelings he had for Katherine were not incestuous. Yet, he had also felt a certain grief whose origin eluded him. He should have felt glad that Alexis, with whom he had such intimate ties, was not a distant cousin, but in fact his sister. Yet the loss was there anyway. Unable to come to grips with such emotions, he had chalked it up to his continuing anger at her betrayal. He had given her the kiss of death, declaring her no longer a part of his family. When he later found out she was his sister, then the hurt and grief he felt must have been because as his sister, her betrayal cut that much deeper. He ignored the little voice that said it was semantics. Just because her position on the family tree was different did not mean her betrayal was any worse. But it was the only explanation he could come up with at the time. Later, none of it mattered because a bigger issue needed to be addressed - Helena and the threat she posed to their very lives. Now, after a long and bloody battle, the threat was gone. A weight had been lifted from his shoulders. But like a log that has been lifted from the ground, the rot and vermin beneath is now exposed to the light of day.

Alexis. Stefan got up to pour another glass of brandy. Different scenes of the past couple of weeks flitted through his mind in a morbid montage. As he sat down, one scene in particular stayed with him. He and Bobbie had just been taken to the conference room where Alexis was being held. His relief at seeing her intact had turned to anger as she revealed her dream of being rescued by Sonny Corinthos. He had dismissed his anger at the time, because of course she would want to be rescued. But why had it angered him? Stefan rubbed his hand along his beard. Maybe it was frustration that he had been unable to save his family himself. It had eaten him up inside as he had tried to open the vent while Alexis and Bobbie argued about Sonny. He had finally had enough and barked at them to stop and help him. He wanted to hear no more about Sonny and his sister's bizarre devotion to him. There were more urgent matters at hand. Now the situation was no longer urgent, and Stefan had time to ruminate on his feelings.

Stefan set the glass down. He did not want to ruminate on his feelings. Alexis was going to associate with whoever she wanted, and he had to accept that. Just as he had to accept Gia, or face a life without Nikolas in it. He did not want to face a life without Alexis either. Or Kristina for that matter. He smiled as he thought of Kristina. She was like a ray of sunshine in the Cassadine family. Ready to come in and spread warmth and love around. She was already making changes. He still couldn't get over the outfit Alexis was wearing at Ned's the other night. He had walked in with Nikolas and Gia, and could not believe his eyes when he saw her. She looked so different. Relaxed. Soft. Feminine. He was so used to seeing her as a lawyer. His sister. The girl he grew up with. Now he saw her as a woman. The idea disturbed him. His mind flashed to another scene in Helena's maze. Alexis asking him if he ever wondered why she didn't get married and have babies. He had not directly answered her question, because it had thrown him for a loop. He had never wondered those things because the idea of it was like a punch in the gut. But why? Didn't he want his sister to be happy? Maybe it was one of those possessive older brother things. He would probably feel the same way about Kristina some day. But suddenly the picture of Kristina holding a baby in her arms flashed in his mind, and he felt pleasure, not pain. She would make a wonderful wife and mother, he was sure. And he hoped that when she married he could give her away. So why couldn't he have that same vision for Alexis? He remembered her wedding day clearly. He had shown her as much support as he could give. But when she fled the wedding he had felt relief. Was it because deep down he didn't think Ned Ashton was the right man for her? Yes, probably. Of course, he didn't think Jasper Jacks had been good enough for her either, yet he had felt indifference about their marriage. But their marriage had been a farce, and he had known it.

Stefan sighed and paced around the room. The only wedding he should be concentrating on is his nephew's. Nikolas and Gia were going to be married, and he wanted to make sure that this one would go off without a hitch. No doubts, recriminations or lies like every other marriage a Cassadine has entered into previously.

PCPD jail

Helena Cassadine sat in her jail cell, and finished the rest of her pressed turkey dinner. She had come so close to reaching Nikolas tonight. If only those two brats Lucky and Gia had not shown up. But she could see that the seeds were planted in her grandson's mind. What he needed was to be given a much bigger taste of his true destiny. He needed to take over the reigns of the Cassadine estate so he could truly understand the lure of power. That could only happen if Stefan was out of the way. Stavros should have killed him while he had the chance. It was unfortunate that she no longer had the means to hire someone to kill Stefan now. He has taken away all her powers of persuasion. But no matter. She didn't need money to strip Stefan of his position. She had waited a long time to play the particular card she now held in her hand. Many times she had been tempted to use it, just to wipe the smug self righteous look off his face. But she had known that there would come a day when she would need it more than anything. And that time was now.

Penthouse living room

Alexis sat on the couch and rubbed her neck. What a day. Actually spending a festive Thanksgiving with Cassadines. Who would have thought it? Except for the few ackward moments when Stavros was mentioned, there had been nothing but love and sharing. She was so happy that Nikolas was marrying Gia. She was such a ray of light in his life. Alexis desperately hoped it would work out. Weddings for the Cassadines always seemed more like curses than blessings. Alexis's own attempts at the union had been farces. She still couldn't believe that she had married Jax. She shook her head. At least she hadnt loved him. The split was amicable. He was still her friend. If she had actually gone through with the wedding to Ned...well, things were strained enough as it was with just a broken engagement. Imagine if they had gotten a divorce. She would have lost one of her best friends. Alexis frowned. How did she know they would have gotten a divorce? He was her friend. He was her lover. She loved him. Couldn't they have worked it out? She knew it would not have. There was something in her, holding her back from him. She was not able to give him what he truly needed. It would have been unfair to him.

Alexis got up and went into the kitchen, feeling restless. She couldn't have popcorn, she was already stuffed to the gills from the feast at Wyndemere. Coffee would just make her more jittery. Decaf was out of the question - the regular stuff was bad enough. She went back into the living room and stared at the couch. The one Sonny had been sleeping on the night she had that dream. Alexis groaned and sat on the other couch, facing the opposite direction. Why did she have to think of that dream? She didn't want to think of Sonny sexually. He was forbidden to her. Not just because he was married, because that would end soon enough. Maybe. Not just because he was in love with Carly. Even if he returned her desire, having an affair with Sonny Corinthos would just be wrong. Every part of her (except the one) rebelled against the idea. So why was she having dreams about forbidden fruit? There were plenty of available good looking men out there. Taggert was very attractive, so was Mac Scorpio. Why couldn't she have dreams about them? No, scratch that. I don't want to dream about them. I don't want to dream about anyone at all. It would be a waste of time to get involved with anyone right now, when I can't even figure out why I would run screaming from Ned Ashton of all people. I irrationally want what I can't have, and run from what I can have. I should just concentrate on my job, and getting to know Kristina. And growing closer with the other Cassadines, Nikolas and Stefan.

Stefan. Alexis had been proud of him today. Apologizing to Gia and welcoming her with open arms. He was growing so much. A light is finally beginning to shine in his dark world. Alexis wanted so much for him to be happy. His whole life has been bereft of love. Every romantic relationship he has had has been a runaway freight train. And Alexis got to be the one to seem them crash and burn. They had all been so wrong for him, from the very beginning she could tell. She only tried once, though, to meddle in his affairs. She had learned her lesson in the most devestating way. When he had given her the kiss of death, it had been like her whole world crumbling. She was so glad that he accepted her now. They were brother and sister.

Alexis frowned. Why did that particular thought fill her with sorrow? Maybe because that time in her life had caused her such grief and pain. It hadn't been a particularly joyful thought to know that Mikkos Cassadine was her father. And the memory of Helena killing her mother was unbearable. To be so inexorably joined to such a clan was heartbreaking. She had wanted to be closer to Stefan and Nikolas. But not really that close.

Penthouse guest room

Kristina tossed and turned in her bed. Today had been a tornado of mixed emotions for her. Today she was able to give thanks for being reunited with the family whose blood ran in her veins. She was able to give thanks that they were safe now, and she could openly get to know them. She was able to give thanks that she now had the opportunity to grow close to her sister. But all this joy was tinged with sadness and lonliness. A year ago she had celebrated Thanksgiving with her adoptive family. The parents that raised her. People she had known all her life, and who knew her more intimately than anyone on earth. These people who knew her so completely were now gone. Lost to her forever. It had been New Years that they died in an explosive car crash on the autobahn, as they had sped home to Paris to be with her. They had been on their anniversary in Switzerland the week before. They hadnt wanted to be apart from her for Christmas, but she had insisted they go. It was their thirtieth anniversary after all, they needed some time alone. Thanksgiving had therefore been the last holiday she had shared with them. Ever. Tears welled in her eyes as she remembered her devastation when the German polizai had called her and told her the news. Before their death she had only been contemplating the idea of locating her sister. But losing the only family she had ever known spurred her on to seek out Alexis. Now she had not just her sister, but a brother and a nephew as well. But they were still strangers. She didn't know them, and they didn't know her. Kristina sighed. And she was in a strange city where she hardly knew anyone. She wiped a tear from her cheek. Why am I feeling so depressed? I'm not usually like this. I'm more of a silver lining kinda gal. Must be the doom and gloom atmosphere at Wyndemere. The feng shui was all out of whack. She would have to do something about it ASAP.

Cassadine Yacht

Nikolas lay in bed, Gia in his arms, listening to the sounds of the waves lapping the yacht. It was peaceful here, but he often missed the cottage. That was where his love for Gia was planted and took form. That was where he had felt some independence from his family. That was where he had grown closer to his mother and brother. It was where he felt like a normal human being. Not a prince. He sighed, but softly so as not to wake Gia. She wanted a fairy tale wedding. A royal wedding. He was sure Stefan wanted the same thing. He had so many mixed feelings at the moment. About his father, his grandmother, about the Cassadines in general. What did the future of the Cassadines look like? What was his role in that future? Stefan had made it clear he wanted Nikolas to take the Cassadine throne, or whatever you want to call it. Nikolas had made it clear in return that he didn't want the "honor." He wanted to lead a normal life. But he knew he couldn't put it off forever. He couldn't ignore it. Someday he would have to address his inheritance. His heritage. Maybe not soon, but eventually.

His grandmother would have him believe that he really does want all this. That he has gotten a taste of power and would not be able to resist it. Was this true? Okay, maybe not. Helena telling the truth was laughable. Yet, why was he filled with so many doubts about his father? It was impossible to wear rose-colored glasses where his father was concerned - Stavros had wrought far too much havoc to dismiss. Yet in the end he showed the truth of his words - the words he spoke about loving Nikolas - by setting him free. Nikolas's throat tightened as he remembered begging his father to come with him, and the look of longing on his face as he refused. Was his father perhaps like Macbeth? Making horrible decisions for the sake of his passions and desires, and in the end being consumed by his decisions and his own arrogance? Nikolas would never know. In the space of one day he met his father and lost him. Lost all opportunity to really know him. Now he must again rely on the knowledge of others - those who hated Stavros, and one person who loved him obsessively.