Anna stirred her coffee absently as she thought about the events of the previous day. Holly Sutton had proven to be a revelation.

Holly had looked at Anna for what seemed like hours, perfectly content to let the silence between them stretch interminably because she would not be the first to speak. Anna wanted answers; Holly understood and appreciated that, and she was not averse to providing them, but she was determined Anna would have to work for this opportunity.

"What are you willing to tell me?" Anna finally whispered.

"I'm not setting limits. Kurt is aware this meeting would most likely happen sooner rather than later and gave me permission to speak on his behalf, provided the questions were not too outrageous."

"Is he incapable of speaking for himself?" Anna hotly demanded.

Again, Holly let the silence loom, knowing it would drive Anna spare. She had too often experienced the woman's impatience and impertinence, but she was the one holding the cards here. She wasn't trying to prolong Anna's suffering, but Anna herself had opened this can of worms by coming to her rather than Kurt, which she should have done.

Kurt and Anna both were too raw in this situation, each wanting to use her as the middleman, so to speak, and while Holly was happy to perform that function for Kurt's own sake, she would not stand for Anna's intolerance of their relationship.

"I'm sorry," Anna murmured.

Holly sighed. "I know. Look, Anna, Kurt is just as confused and hurt. He told me I can answer whatever questions I wish, but you need to understand how truly difficult this is for him."

She held up a hand. "I know you're aware of this on a maternal level, but I also understand how desperate you are for answers. I can't even imagine the situation in which you've found yourself, and while you certainly have my sympathy, even empathy, you need to be aware that, regardless of how badly I feel for you, my primary concern is Kurt."

Anna nodded sadly. "I do understand and I respect you for that. Thank you for being there for him when I wasn't."

Holly clucked her tongue. "I think that statement needs to be qualified, don't you? I know you would have been a wonderful mother to your son had you been allowed. I know you're not the bad guy in this circumstance. Time was stolen from you, Anna, and it's only natural you want it back."

Anna quickly looked up at her with wounded eyes. "I don't know if I would be as gracious if that circumstance was reversed."

"I do. Whatever you might think of me and my relationship with Robin, you were her mother, Anna. I was never confused about that and neither was she. She always knew how much you loved her. I always knew you were a wonderful mother. I might have had a hand in raising her, but the woman she became? That's down to you."

Anna gripped the table. "Why are you doing this? Why are you being so kind to me? It's unbearable."

"Because this has nothing to do with you or me," Holly answered simply. "It's about your children. What was done to you is unimaginable, but you were there for them in the formative years when it counted. They remembered and revered that; that's why they mourned you so keenly. It's particularly difficult for Kurt because he missed more years with you than his sister did. He doesn't resent Robin, but is he jealous? Probably. He hasn't admitted it, most likely because his grief for her is overriding it, but I would imagine some part of him envies her."

Anna surreptitiously reached up and wiped her eyes. "He … he loves me?"

Holly regarded her with not pity, but a deep sadness. "Of course he does. That's why this hurt him so badly. If he didn't love you, he simply wouldn't care."

Anna nodded.

"The bottom line is this: You are responsible for the amazing people your children became. If I helped at all, I'm honored, but I'm not their mother."

Anna laughed. "Robert was a fool to throw you away."

Holly waved a hand. "Oh, that was never in doubt."

Anna laughed harder.

"In the end, though," Holly said, "Robert didn't throw me away. If he feels that he did, if he feels badly for it, that's a bonus. I stepped aside because Robin was more important."

That was a statement Anna utterly respected. "You're much stronger than I ever gave you credit for being. For that, I am sorry."

Holly nodded.

Anna cleared her throat. "How did you meet him?"

Holly became noticeably reticent. "I presume you've looked into this?" she finally asked.

"Of course."

"And found no answers?"

Anna shook her head.

Holly sighed. "Given your experience, what does that suggest to you?"

Anna stared at her for a long time before sucking in a sharp breath. "What agency?" she croaked.


Anna nodded and looked away. It made sense. GNET was a young organization and had learned from the mistakes of its predecessors. There were no leaks. Espionage was not tolerated. Treason was punished with execution. "Both of you?"

"I was his handler."

Anna let that sit for a while, gleaning new insight into their relationship. She had arguably been closer to her handlers than she was to members of her own family, even now. Such relationships were intense; bonds formed quickly by necessity and trust was absolute if said bonds were to be maintained.

She had never been a handler herself, but was aware that truly good handlers came to view their agents as family. They were, in a fundamental way, the first and last lines of defense between an agent and the agency. For Holly and Kurt to have been as close as they were, she must have gone to bat for him on every single mission and beyond.

"How long?"

Holly took a sip of her tea. "Ten years."

Anna blinked. "Then he's only recently out of the game?"

Holly nodded. "He was one of their top operatives and they were … very reluctant … to release him. You understand how the game is played."

Which meant Kurt had dirt on GNET that was explosive enough to buy his freedom. Good boy.

"What was his specialty?"

Holly paused. "Anna, are you truly sure you want to know?"

Anna paused, realizing just how loaded both questions were. On the one hand, she didn't really wish to know just what services her son had performed. On the other, she didn't want it standing between them. She knew there was a limit to what Holly could reveal. Even if she was no longer employed by GNET, she undoubtedly retained some level of clearance and remained under stringent confidentiality agreements.

Anna wanted answers, but didn't want to compromise Holly's safety – and not only out of concern for Kurt.

"Whatever you feel comfortable telling me."

Holly looked around discreetly. "Perhaps we should continue this discussion elsewhere. I've always enjoyed the park." She placed a twenty under her saucer. "In fact, let's both turn off our phones so that we're not interrupted."

Anna frowned. Holly was concerned not only about being overheard, but that she, Anna herself, or possibly both of them were being bugged. She stood immediately after Holly did.

"Of course. Robin loved the park, too. It would be nice to visit."

Nikolas gave his brother a hard look as he approached the breakfast table. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

There was no way Lucky was going to answer that question honestly, so he settled for a half-truth. "I spoke with Mac. He was reluctant but agreed."

Nikolas knew it was a lot more than that, but knew better than to press Lucky when he was so obviously on the verge of shutting down. "That's great!" he falsely enthused.

Lucky gave him a wilted smile. "Are you sure about having me here?"

Nikolas stared at him and then looked around blankly. "Uh, yeah. This place is, like Kurt described, a mausoleum. It's only me, Spencer, and Alfred here, Lucky. I have fifteen bedrooms. It won't be a problem."

Lucky chuckled. "Thanks, man."

Nikolas raised a brow. "This isn't the first time I've offered, you know."

Lucky's cheeks reddened. "Yeah, but I'm not as insecure as I was then." He blew out a breath. "It was always so important to me to be able to support myself. It always felt like Mom and Dad were taking care of me, and then Elizabeth … the house is hers, you know? Jason gave her money, but she never touched a cent. She worked her ass off for the cottage."

Nikolas nodded. He had realized a while ago that he would never truly understand Lucky and his issues with money. He himself had been extremely fortunate that money had never been a concern. He'd never had to worry where his next meal was coming from nor did he give much thought when he spent his family's money. He'd also had the luxury of having some of the world's best financial planners in charge of his accounts; he had more money than he could ever spend in several lifetimes.

As far as he was concerned, there was no better expense than his family, but Lucky and Lulu, even Mom, had always been very prideful. At least Mom and Lulu had never resented him for his wealth, but it had been a bone of contention between him and Lucky for a long time. If Lucky was finally ready to let that go, Nikolas wasn't interested in questioning it.

"So what's next for you?"

"I'll need to get my books and I guess school supplies," Lucky said. He laughed and shook his head. "I feel like I'm back in middle school again."

Nikolas smiled. "But you're excited, aren't you?"

Lucky nodded. "I really am! I wasn't expecting it, but … there it is. I really want this to work, Nikki."

Nikolas found he just didn't have the wherewithal to protest the nickname once again. He actually kind of liked it as it had always been reserved to the people closest to him, namely Lulu and Kurt. Mom had never called him that because, he felt, she had, in the beginning, been scared to upset him or be presumptuous. Helena and Uncle Stefan had never called him by that name, far more concerned with him understanding his role in society and being prepared to live up to it. He would have laughed if Alexis had ever called him that.

As he had grown older, Lulu had dropped the diminutive and he had always been a little bit sad about it. That Lucky felt comfortable enough to address him as such, secure enough in their relationship to do so, well, that meant a lot.

"Have you told Mom and Luke?"

Lucky shook his head. "Mom would totally be supportive, I know that. I think she's regretted not going to college." He tilted his head. "Dad? I don't know. He's always rebelled against anything that could be construed as establishment." He shrugged. "Then again, he was really disappointed Lulu was never interested in college. I don't know how he'd react to me going back, though. He's always had different standards for us."

Nikolas nodded, knowing it was true. "So what will you do if he doesn't support you?"

Lucky shrugged again. "Study harder. I'm past the point where I need his approval. I'm doing this for myself, for the right reasons, and that's all that matters."

Nikolas looked down. "I don't know if it means anything, but … I'm very proud of you."

Lucky swallowed heavily. "It means a lot. Thanks, man." He grinned. "So where are you taking Kurt to dinner?"

Nikolas gave him the Cassadine Side-Eye. "Don't push it."

Lucky gave an innocent blink. "Do you have condoms?"

"I hate you."


Nikolas flushed with anger. "Please don't talk about him like that."

Lucky instantly sobered. "I wasn't implying anything, really. I'm sorry, Nikki. I guess … this is all kind of new for us, isn't it? We've never really done the brotherly teasing thing, have we? I didn't mean to overstep."

Nikolas felt like an ass. "No, I'm sorry. I guess I'm just a little sensitive where Kurt is concerned."

Lucky frowned. "How long have you liked him?" He remembered Nikolas saying twenty years, but was it even possible to carry a torch for someone that long? He thought about Jason and fought the blush.

Nikolas looked away. "A long time," he admitted after a beat. "For years it bothered me. He was so much younger than me, Lucky. It felt wrong."

Lucky nodded. "But you were never inappropriate with him, that's just not who you are, and the age difference doesn't matter now."

"Which is why it's so strange. I never thought I'd have this chance." Nikolas grimaced. "If I even have one."

"Why would you think you wouldn't?"

Nikolas sighed. "Kurt is very proud of who he is, as he should be, and he's always known exactly who that was. I … I've never put a label on myself. If I had to do it now, I don't know what it would be. I've been involved with men before." He grumbled. "Elizabeth said they were booty calls."

Lucky snickered.

Nikolas glared. "But that's kind of what they were. I never allowed myself to invest emotionally in another man and Kurt has never known me to sleep with men. I don't know how he'll react to this."

"But why are you assuming he'd react badly?"

"I don't know," Nikolas finally admitted. "I guess … I'm used to relationships not working out for me."

Lucky snorted. "Yeah, been there. Got several t-shirts."

Nikolas laughed, though it seemed forced.

Lucky sighed. "Can I give you some advice? Even though I have no more experience than you."


"Don't be in such a rush to qualify it. Right now, Kurt may or may not be aware of your feelings. The first thing you need to do is tell him just what those feelings are. He may or may not want to explore them. If he doesn't, just let him know that you'll always be his friend. If he does, let it happen naturally. I don't know Kurt, but from what I've seen, he's sophisticated enough not to worry about what box you check on some random form."

Nikolas released a long, slow breath and nodded.

"Stop it."

Nikolas frowned. "Stop what?"

"Stop dwelling on his rape. I understand you've only just found out about it, but it was ten years ago. Don't presume to know how it affects his life today. I know you, Nikki. I've been where you are and I can tell you for a fact that nothing good will come from you treating Kurt as a victim."

Nikolas closed his eyes. "You saw what a mess I made of things after Connor raped Emily."

"Totally different situation," Lucky snapped. "Connor had your face, Nikolas. He impersonated you for months. He was mentally unstable and, by the end, refused to believe he wasn't Nikolas Cassadine. I've always thought …" he trailed off.

"What?" asked a curious Nikolas.

Lucky ground his teeth. "That some small, rational part of Connor's crazy mind knew that he wasn't you, that he was Connor Bishop, but he looked at this house, the money, and Emily and decided they should belong to him because he wanted them. He bleated about how much he loved Emily, but he never saw her as a person. She was just another thing you had that he didn't. He didn't rape her because he was consumed by love for her. He raped her because she didn't want him. He raped her because he had your face and knew how much it would hurt her."

Nikolas' eyes filled with tears.

"He was a bastard," Lucky spat. "Just like Tom Baker. Just like that sick fuck who raped Michael in prison."

"Why does this happen?" Nikolas quietly asked. "Why has this happened to the most important people in our lives?"

"I don't know," Lucky whispered, shaking his head. "I really don't. I think it happens much more than we realize. It's probably happened to more people, our friends and family, then we'll ever know. I think we're more aware of it because of what my dad did to Mom."

"I've never been able to figure out …"

"Why she stayed with him? How she could have married him?" Lucky's hands curled into fists. "I've never been able to either, really, but both of them told me a long time ago that what happened that night was between them, that it had nothing to do with me, and that I needed to stay out of it. I didn't like it and it took me years to accept it, but they were right. I don't know everything that happened. I don't want to know, I don't need to know, and it isn't my business."

Nikolas nodded slowly. "Any more than it's anyone's business what happened to Elizabeth and how you faced it."

"Yeah," Lucky agreed. "It's personal. Mom and Dad … growing up, there was never any indication to me that they didn't love each other fiercely. How they got there belongs to no one but them."

"It's hard for me not to hate him."

"I know. It is for me too. When you told me … when I found out what he had done to her, all I could see was what that bastard had done to Liz. Only instead of Liz crawling out of those bushes, I saw Mom."

"God, Lucky, I'm so sorry."

"You were right to tell me," Lucky insisted. "I needed to know. I mean, when Liz was raped, Dad did and said all the right things, but his reaction … he was devastated. At first I thought it was because he knew and liked Elizabeth, but then I realized it was because he was seeing the same thing I was, Mom in place of Elizabeth, only he was Tom Baker."

Nikolas gently nursed his coffee. "Has Mom ever talked about it with you?"

"Not really. I know she talked about some of it with Lulu, and I think she shared more with Elizabeth, but I don't think she's ever really talked about it to anyone. Not Grandma, not Aunt Amy. No one. I heard she tried counseling after it happened, but back then she wasn't even able to admit it had been Dad. She was still married to Scott at the time. I don't know how she dealt with it, or even if she did, but she doesn't let it define her.

"What pisses me off is that other people want to do that for her. They look at her and see a rape victim. They look at Elizabeth and see a rape victim. As if that's all they are. As though they're not mothers and sisters and daughter and friends and women and people. Don't do that with Kurt. He had a life prior to the rape and he's made one for himself after. Focusing on one horrible night in his life will negate everything he's done to move beyond it. Don't do that to him."

Nikolas studied his brother. "You know, I think you missed your calling. Maybe you should be studying psychology."

Lucky scoffed. "Yeah. Maybe if I learn how to psychoanalyze other people, I'll be better adept at disguising my own symptoms."

They laughed.

The dam which had been holding Nikolas' anxiety suddenly burst forth. "What if he doesn't like me back? What if he doesn't want to have to deal with Spencer? Kurt's never expressed any interest in having children. What if …"

"Whoa! Again, Nikki, you need to slow down. You're being way too intense. You haven't even told him you liked him yet, but you're acting as though you're about to propose." He shook his head. "If Kurt isn't interested in you that way, so what? It's not worth throwing away a twenty year friendship to force something that might never happen." He raised a brow. "Okay?"

Nikolas gave a tight nod.

"Now, it's also possible Kurt may have romantic feelings for you. That would be awesome and I'd be really stoked for you guys, but there's something I don't think you've considered."


"What if he just wants to sleep with you?"

Nikolas blinked. "What?"

Lucky rolled his eyes. "Really? Nik, he's twenty eight and hot. You're hot. He might not want to get married yet. Or at all. He might or might not want kids. He might or might not want to tiptoe through the tulips with you and recite sonnets. Or he might just want to get naked and have you screw each other into unconsciousness." He grinned. "Would that really be such a bad thing?"

Nikolas blushed profusely and looked down. "No," he quietly admitted.

"Okay, then. Talk to him and see where it goes. If it doesn't go further than the bedroom, so what? Maybe you're not meant to be together forever, but that doesn't mean you can't have really awesome butt sex."

"Lucky," Nikolas growled, "don't be so glib about this."

Lucky gave him a thunderous look. "Nikolas, yesterday I was in Jason's office ripping his clothes off body and begging, literally begging, him to fuck me."

Nikolas sharply raised his gaze, eyes the size of moons. "What!"

Lucky merely shrugged.

"Holy shit!"

For some absurd reason, Lucky was floored. "Language!"

"Screw language! Did you fuck him?"

Lucky was annoyed. "If you had been listening, you would have heard that I was the one begging to be fucked." He leered. "While we're on the subject, what's your – heh – position on the subject? For some reason I think you've always been the pitcher in the past. What if Kurt wants you to receive?"

Nikolas blinked. "I … I don't know."

"Better figure it out," Lucky advised, "or maybe you can explore versatility together."

"Did you sleep with Jason Morgan!" Nikolas roared.

"No," Lucky confessed, "but I wasn't exaggerating either, Nikki. I really was begging for it. I've never acted like that before in my life. It was kind of horrifying. I was all over him, groping him, kissing him, pulling him on top of me. I couldn't get enough of him. It's like I was drugged."

"How was it?"


"Don't be such a prude. Jason has slept with almost every woman we know and they've all gone back for more. I hate his guts, but he's not completely unfortunate looking. How big is he?"


Nikolas became very serious. "Did he hurt you?"

Lucky slowly shook his head. "No. I mean, no, we didn't. It was close." He exhaled. "Very close."

"Are you okay?" Nikolas carefully asked. He was trying to comprehend that, from what could be inferred from his brother's statement, Jason sure hadn't turned Lucky away.

"Not really. I went to him because, after talking with you, I realized I hadn't been fair to Jason. He's done a lot of wrong, yeah, but I basically persecuted him because I was hung up on a crush that was never reciprocated and I blamed him for that. After I said my piece, I tried to leave, but he pulled me back."

Nikolas growled.

"He didn't hurt me," Lucky repeated. "He … he kissed me."

A pregnant silence fell between them.

"Did you want him to?" Nikolas asked.

"Yeah. A lot."

"And he didn't … he didn't hurt you."

"Jason's not a rapist, Nikolas, and I'm no one's damsel in distress. I had torn his clothes off his body, I had his hard cock in my hand, and he looked into my eyes, asked if I was sure, and when I hesitated, he stopped immediately."

Nikolas sat back, relieved. He had never thought Jason would force someone, but he was still relieved. "What did he say about … well, anything?"

"Not much," Lucky said. "I couldn't believe it was even happening. Suddenly he was kissing me and I was fourteen again and …" He looked away.

"I understand."

Lucky gave him a pained smile. "I know, and thanks. It just happened so fast. We were so carried away that I couldn't actually think at first. Then I remembered Sam and the baby and I just … I couldn't."

"Because you have integrity."

"I don't know about that," Lucky said honestly. "It was hard, Nik, really hard. I wanted him so much at that moment and to know that he wanted me too? And then to stop?"

"Then what?"

Lucky was mortified. "I told him it never happened and then ran out of his office."

"Are you twelve?"

"Don't start."

"Lucky …"

"No, Nikolas. I'm done talking about this. I was very weak for a moment. Jason was very weak for a moment. Then the moment was over. He's married and I respect that. I'm not so sure I respect Sam or even Jason himself, but I will respect their marriage."

"But it wasn't one-sided."

Lucky flushed, this time with surprise and pleasure he was trying to deny. "No," he whispered, "it wasn't."

Nikolas nodded and dropped the subject. What happened next, if anything, was up to Lucky. If anything did happen, the fallout would not be pretty. Not only for Jason's marriage to Sam, but for both Jason and Lucky's respective relationships with Elizabeth.

The entire thing was a powder keg just waiting to explode and Nikolas knew whatever he thought or felt would not be welcome until then.

Lucky was quick to change the subject. "How does Kurt know Jax?"

Nikolas' lips thinned. "What do you mean?"

Lucky rolled his eyes. "It was pretty obvious at the funeral, Nikki. They know each other."

He decided not to mention the other guy, the fucking gorgeous Brit who somehow knew Anna. He wasn't sure Nikolas could deal with Mystery Date in addition to Jax. Best not poke bears with too many sticks.

"I have no idea," Nikolas said shortly.

Lucky did his best not to laugh, not surprised that Nikolas was so openly displaying his jealousy, though he was sure his brother would insist it was nothing more than concern.

"You know that," Lucky drawled, "by now, Carly is well aware of it. Do you really believe she's going to let sleeping dogs lie?"

Nikolas blinked. "What do you mean?" he asked with suspicion.

"Seriously? Before they were married, Jax and Carly were actual friends. There's no reason to believe they won't return to that once the divorce is finalized. I've always thought they made better friends than lovers, and Carly said she's always been more comfortable with guys. She'll want Jax to be happy, and she'd probably prefer it be with another man rather than a woman."

Nikolas huffed. "That's ridiculous."

Lucky said nothing, merely drawing his brother out. They both knew Carly couldn't help but interfere in the love lives of others, particularly her exes, and it was abundantly clear she'd happily commit multiple homicide if she thought it might make Kurt smile.

Finally, Nikolas gave a petulant sigh. "I know that Kurt was in Australia a few years ago for some medical conference. He probably met Jax there."

Lucky maintained his silence.

Nikolas narrowed his eyes and glared at the baguette before him, as though it had done him vicious and tremendous wrong. "It's not too surprising," he said with false nonchalance. "Jax is very much Kurt's type."

"Really?" asked a surprised Lucky. "How so?"

The glare intensified. "Kurt has always been partial to men who were very tall, taller than him, and especially blonds." He sighed. "I'm not sure why. Before high school, when Kurt still lived in the States, I know there were issues with some boys in high school."

"What kind of issues?" Lucky asked with concern.

"He wasn't treated well, Lucky," Nikolas said softly, "but there were some, I wouldn't call them relationships, but maybe possibilities, one of whom eventually became Kurt's stepbrother."

Lucky winced. "Yikes."

Nikolas gave an absent nod. "There was another boy. Tall, blond, and built like Jax. Fun-loving and fancy-free, too," he said with disdain. "I think his name was Sam. He and Kurt had some kind of relationship but it ended badly sometime after Kurt moved to Paris. I don't know what happened, he would never discuss it, but it hurt him terribly."

"You want me to track this Sam guy down?" asked an ominous Lucky.

Nikolas chuckled. "No, but thanks for looking out for my friend."

"It's not just him I'm looking out for," Lucky said.

Nikolas dropped his head, a small smile on his face, before he finally sighed. "I won't go through this again. Not with Jax."

Lucky paused. "You don't know …"

"I know Kurt; Jax is his type. Kurt has always preferred men who are taller than him, I think it makes him feel safe, and he does have a, well, a weakness for blonds. Look at Carly."

"I've always thought Jax dyes his hair."

Nikolas laughed. "It's okay, Lucky. If Jax makes a play, that's fine. I can compete for Kurt fairly. I'm not worried about Jax." He blew out a breath. "The truth of the matter is that Jax is a very honorable man. What happened with Spencer … well, Jax was devastated by Courtney's death. Even though she had left him for me, I think he was still in love with her, and everyone knows how much he always wanted a child. Carly preyed on that."

He held up a hand. "I'm not even sure I'm still angry at them. They were both grieving and hurt and they made a stupid decision. A horrible one that had to be righted by Robin, but I know both of them truly regret it. I really do believe that part of the reason Carly did what she did was because she was worried about Helena having plans for Spencer. I can't even blame her for that.

"And it's not like I behaved honorably during that time. I was finally married to Emily, the girl I had always loved, and I cheated on her because I was scared to be happy. It wasn't even a one-night stand. I actually married Courtney even though I still loved Emily. I think part of me felt as though I had to, to rationalize my behavior to myself."

He plopped his chin in a hand. "I'm not scared of Jax or of his relationship with Kurt. I know that Kurt has always been attracted to me, so the height and alleged blondness won't put me out of the running."

"But you think something will?" Lucky asked.

Nikolas sighed again. "Jax is a fun guy, Lucky. Everyone knows that. It's not easy to charm Lois Cerullo. She was happily married to Ned, but lapped up every bit of flirting Jax threw her way. I remember how Jax was with Chloe. Before she died, the two of them were deeply in love and spent most of their time laughing and having grand adventures. When Jax was married to Alexis, even though it was for show, well, you know how dour Alexis can be. I'd never seen her laugh so loud or so often than during that time."

Lucky nodded.

"He changed a lot when he became involved with Brenda and then Courtney. Both dragged him into Sonny's world. Then that stuff with his brother and Carly. Jax became a shell of who he once was, almost as though he went dark."

"Jax is charming," Lucky acknowledged, "but so are you."

"In different ways," Nikolas allowed, "but I'd be stupid and short-sighted not to admit that Jax has a certainly quality, a way with people that I simply don't." He nodded to himself. "But that's okay. I just need to remember to be the boy I was when Kurt and I were kids."

Lucky grinned. "What were you like?"

"A lot like Jax, actually," Nikolas confessed. "I was very young, but Helena hadn't gotten her hooks very far into me yet, thanks to Stefan's interference. I was a bit of a playboy. I liked having fun and going to parties. I loved music." He smiled. "Did you know Kurt sings?"

Lucky shook his head.

"Oh, Lucky," he whispered, "his voice … I don't know if he stuck with it, but back then it was the purest, most beautiful sound in the world. I'd never heard anyone with such natural ability. He could sing anything, any style or genre, and it was always flawless." He blushed. "I used to listen in on his lessons. I don't think he ever discovered it. He knew he was very talented, but he was also slightly insecure about how high his voice was."

Kurt's voice was still high, Lucky thought, and it was certainly musical. He imagined it must have deepened somewhat over the years because, from the little he'd heard Kurt speak, his voice was very much a tenor. A high tenor, to be sure, one that was gentle and soothing.

"Well," Lucky said slowly, "maybe you just need to let out your teenage side a little."

"I've felt a lot like that boy these past few days," Nikolas said, "especially with everyone calling me Nikki." He looked askance at his brother.

"My relationship with Nikki is different than my one with Prince Nikolas," said a quiet Lucky. "Not better, just different. I feel very close to Nikki." He looked up and scowled. "Don't you even think about calling me by my real name!"

Nikolas snickered. "Why not, Lucas Lorenzo?"

"You married Sonny's sister."

"You almost banged his enforcer on a desk. Yesterday."





"Sam is your cousin."

"Carly is yours."

They grinned at each other.

"Let's go check on the boys and Mom," Nikolas suggested.

"We should hold hands," Lucky added. "It's fun to freak her out."

They stood, joined hands, and exited.

"You know, I think Mom thought were getting a little too close," Nikolas said as they headed toward the staircase.

"Probably because we're both so good looking," Lucky said. "Of course, Kurt thinks I'm devastatingly beautiful."

"He has astigmatism."

With Kate away and Spinelli being even more strange than usual, Maxie was happy to shrug off her grief for a few hours and indulge in her favorite hobby: shopping. She and Sam were perusing the maternity wear Lacey's department store was featuring, though neither were very impressed.

"How's Jason?"

Sam paused from fingering through the blouses and frowned. "Brooding."

Maxie quirked a brow. "So, business as usual?"

"I don't know," Sam admitted. "This feels different."

Maxie hesitated a moment. "Elizabeth?"

Sam shook her head. "No, nothing is going on there and I don't think it ever will." She winced. "Elizabeth handed me a few home truths before the funeral and I didn't react well. I said something really cruel to her in response, and of course Carly overhear and couldn't wait to tell Jason."

Maxie blinked. She knew Sam and Elizabeth exchanged barbs on a regular basis and both had hurled some truly awful comments at each other. "What did you say?" she asked carefully.

Sam sighed and hung her head. "Basically that, if she had been a better mother, Jake would still be alive."

Maxie's eyes widened. "Oh, Sam."

Sam winced. "I know. Believe me, I know. I couldn't believe I was saying it even as the words were coming out of my mouth. No matter what I think about Elizabeth, that was not only untrue, but just vicious."

"It really was," Maxie murmured, "especially given your condition."

Sam pursed her lips and said nothing, thought she knew Maxie had a point. She knew from firsthand experience what it was to lose a child, so throwing that in Elizabeth's face had been beyond the pale. She knew what happened to Jake was no one's fault but the asshole who hit him. She couldn't even blame Carly for telling Jason, especially considering the woman's daughter was only alive thanks to Jake.

"So Jason's not mad about that?" Maxie pressed.

"Oh, he's plenty mad," Sam said, "but I don't think that's why he's brooding. He won't tell me of course, he never does, and frankly I don't want to know if it's about business."

Maxie nodded. The mob had impacted her life far too much and too often for her tastes. It was one of the reasons she was so hesitant to devote herself fully to Spinelli. She hated that he worked for Jason and thus, indirectly, Sonny.

"Thanks for coming with me," Sam said, smiling. "I don't think I could face this without my fashionista best friend."

Maxie beamed and pressed a kiss to Sam's cheek. "Happy to help."

"I'm just surprised you were available. Doesn't Kate usually have you working weekends?"

"At least once a month. Usually Lulu has to work the rest because I have more seniority, one of the few perks, but Kate took off for the city with Kurt and gave us both the weekend off."

"Robin's brother," Sam muttered. "What's he like?"

"I don't know," Maxie admitted. "Lulu's met him, but I haven't. He must be something, though. You saw who was with him at the funeral."

Sam nodded, somewhat awed. "Erica Kane."

"I have no idea how they know each other, but they looked very close. Holly Sutton was also with him. She's Robin's former stepmother." Maxie shrugged. "Again, no idea."

"What about the two girls his age?"

"Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce. All I know about them is what I read in the paper. They're married and Santana is some huge Argentinian oil baroness. I did some digging on Google and found an old picture of them from high school. They were cheerleaders and so was Kurt. They won the national title."


"Has Nikolas told you anything about Kurt?"

Sam frowned. "No. Nikolas and I may be cousins, but we're not close. I don't even think I have his phone number. Why?"

Maxie stared. "It was pretty obvious Nikolas has a thing for him."

Sam laughed. "Nikolas isn't gay, Maxie."

"He doesn't have to be. Bisexuals exist in the world, Sam. They're not unicorns."

Sam was floored. "But … but Nikolas … I mean, I can't even imagine …"

"What I'd like to know is how they know each other, as well as how Kurt knows Jax. Nikolas wasn't the only one smitten."

"Wait, what? Jax too? Who is this guy?"

Maxie briefly rattled off what little she knew of Dr. Kurt Hummel.

Sam was suspicious. Why would some hotshot want to settle down in Port Charles? Had he blindly thrown a dart at a map? But if he knew Nikolas and Jax, and Kate and apparently Brenda, and then Robin turned out to be his sister, was it really such a coincidence?

Something was very off about all of this. She needed to talk with Spinelli.

She thought she'd found their next big case.

"What's wrong with you?"

Jax startled and looked at Alexis, who was giving him basilisk glare. "Pardon?"

She arched a brow. "I'm more than pleased to be here. We haven't had brunch in ages and I was beginning to feel rather uncivilized, but what is going on? I know you, Jax, in some ways better than anyone, and I know something is wrong."

He faked a smile which quickly evaporated before exhaling. "Have you ever found yourself questioning everything you thought you knew?"

"Frequently," she drawled.

A pregnant silence loomed before them.

"All right," Alexis said curtly, "I've had it. Explain yourself or face the consequences."

He grinned. "And what consequences would those be?"

"Nothing as filthy as I'm sure you're imagining," she said primly before offering a wolfish grin. "I'm thinking about a cross-examination which would see my brilliance forever ensconced in the halls of legal sagacity."

He rolled his eyes. "If you must know, I've run afoul of Erica Kane and am currently contemplating what actions she might take to ensure I'm denied something I desire very much."

Alexis blinked. "What did you do?"

"Thanks for the show of support."

"Jax, I don't know the woman, but her reputation precedes her. If you've pissed her off, what the hell are you doing here with me? You should be hiding in an igloo at the North Pole and praying Santa Claus will have mercy on your soul."

"It's not like you to be so enamored of celebrity."

"The woman faced down a grizzly bear by demanding it recognize her superiority. It did."

He fidgeted. "That's merely an urban legend."

"Oh, really? Let's ask Adam Chandler about the myriad times she bested him. Let's ask her eleven ex-husbands how they fared after the dissolutions of their marriages."

"Now be fair," he cautioned, "she doesn't have eleven ex-husbands. Some of those marriages were to men she married twice or more."

"Which suggests only how deeply masochistic they are," she retorted, "as are most men."

He sighed. "As much as I would like to unburden myself to my dearest friend, I believe it would be a conflict of your interest."

Her eyes narrowed. "Why? It can't be a professional matter; you have your own attorneys. If it were just a point of law, you would have no reservations about picking my brain. That means it's personal." She frowned in concern. "What on earth do you think you can't tell me? You know how much I love you."

He gave her a weak grin and patted her hand. "I do, but I don't want to set you against your favorite relation."

She blinked. He didn't say child, so he must have meant Nikolas. She shook her head.

"You too? What is it about this man?"

"He shares many of his sister's best qualities."

She sobered. She hadn't been close to Robin, but had liked her.

"So I gather Nikolas has expressed to you his interest."

She gave him a stern look. "I sincerely hope this isn't going to be another Courtney fiasco. Both of you acted like fools then."

He fought off the blush. He was Jasper Jax. He didn't blush! He also knew Alexis had never cared for Courtney. Of course, given that she'd had a child with Sonny, her opinion was suspect.

She held up her hands. "I'm out as of now. I love both of you too much to be involved."

He nodded. "I respect that."

She hesitated and then rolled her eyes. "In the interest of fair play, I will tell you the same thing I told Nikolas: if you like Dr. Hummel, tell him. You say he's like Robin, who was one of the most forthright people I've ever known. If that's the case, I sincerely doubt he will tolerate either you or Nikolas acting like idiots in search of his attention."

He chuckled. "That helps me more than you know. I fear I have been acting rather like one as of late."

"No doubt in the presence of Erica Kane."

He winced. "I used my master key to surprise Kurt in his penthouse at the hotel."

"As an officer of the court, I am duty-bound to report this to the authorities. I should do it anyway just to give Mac another excuse to laugh at you. However, I will refrain because, frankly, I'm curious just how much of a train wreck this might turn out to be."

"You truly are a Cassadine."

Mac looked around the room, annoyed his weekend had been interrupted by the inconvenience of Anthony Zacchara's death. He was far more interested in celebrating with everyone else once it was known.

"Any signs of foul play?" he drawled.

He honestly couldn't have cared less, which was a dangerous and foolhardy attitude for the chief of police, but he was thankful the man was dead. It had appalled him and stuck in his craw that this bag of bones had skirted on multiple charges of premeditated murder by playing the system.

Oh, he was sure that Zacchara indeed had several bats in his belfry, but he had known exactly what he was doing when he had killed Emily and Layla as he terrorized the entire town.

The tech looked up at him and shrugged. "Not my department. Cause of death appears to be natural, but we won't know anything for certain until the postmortem is conducted and toxicology is back."

Mac grunted. "Who's up on rotation?"

The tech grimaced. "I don't think there is one now. Once word got out a new chief pathologist had been hired, most of the docs didn't bother."

Mac frowned. "Dr. Hummel isn't due to take up the position for another month. He's not even in town this weekend."

"Better call him back. You doing the notification?"

Mac nodded. "Falconeri is off for the weekend and Spencer resigned. Everyone else is tied up."

"Spencer quit? No shit?"

"He's going back to school."

The tech gave a slow nod. "Good for him."

"I've got calls to make."

Brunch at the Plaza was always a sumptuous affair in which Kurt indulged whenever he was in town; he adored even more sharing it with such close friends. Their odd little sextet did, however, garner quite a bit of attention, not the least of which because someone unknown had tipped off the paparazzi that Erica was in attendance.

Erica had a cordial relationship with the press and had once reveled in any bit of attention that paid her. That died the moment they shifted their focus from her to her daughter, Bianca, who had been all but been forced out of the closet. Erica had been powerless to stop it and that they had no shred of decency toward a minor and her privacy was infuriating.

Nowadays Erica tolerated the press – she was, after all, a television personality somewhat dependent on them – but she had no time when they interrupted a private gathering and shouted salacious statements designed to provoke. When they had appeared in the breakfast room, she called the police.

Kurt and Santana were falling over themselves laughing as Erica calmly but effectively told off the paparazzi, whom it was apparent she knew. She took the time to drop several veiled threats which indicated she had investigated these individuals on her own time and was certainly not averse to spilling their secrets should they annoy her further.

The police led the interlopers from the dining room, the captive audience applauding a triumphant Erica, who accepted their accolades as her due before gracefully resuming her seat.

"I worship you," Kurt cooed.

She playfully rolled her eyes. "Well, of course you do. I'm Erica Kane!"

Santana turned toward her best friend. "You totally stole that line from her."

He sniffed. "I have never purported to be Erica Kane."

She scoffed. "And how many times have you shut down your opposition by saying I'm Kurt Hummel before sashaying away?"

A flattered Erica giggled, but Kurt took umbrage with Santana's description.

"I do not sashay."

Carly pulled an incredulous face. "Physician, please. Your hips should be classified as weapons of mass destruction."

Kurt turned beet red as Elizabeth and even Brenda cackled. Kate was much more demure with her mockery. He was rescued when his phone began chirping.

"Kurt Hummel," he answered.

"See?" Santana whispered. "I'm Kurt Hummel."

She laughed outright when Kurt flipped her off as Brittany snickered into her shoulder.

"Good morning, Chief Scorpio," he said.

They stopped laughing and became solemn.

"Now?" Kurt asked. "I haven't yet officially taken up my duties."

Brittany slowly tilted her head.

"I see," Kurt said. "Yes, of course I understand. I'll be back in Port Charles by late afternoon." He paused. "Yes, Elizabeth and Carly are with me, and so is Kate."

The three women exchanged an interested glance.

"I'll be sure to tell them. I'll call you once I've arrived. Thank you for calling, Chief Scorpio." He smiled. "All right, then, Mac. Please call me Kurt."

He rung off.

"What's going on?" Carly demanded.

"Anthony Zacchara died last night."

"Good," Elizabeth seethed.

Everyone but Kurt and Carly was surprised by her rancor.

"He killed Emily," she spat. "He killed Layla. He tortured Nikolas. He attacked me and Carly and Kate. Spinelli, too."

Kate gave a curt nod. She wasn't going to shed any tears over that monster's death.

"Was it painful?" asked a hopeful Carly.

"He died in his sleep," Kurt said. "Chief Scorpio – Mac – said there were no indications of foul play, but he wants a postmortem conducted in case there are questions later."

"Sounds like a wise precaution," Erica said, sipping her coffee. "I followed the case in the papers. That animal should've been put down a while ago." She clucked her tongue. "Still, it's a hell of a way to begin your tenure in Port Charles, Kurt."

He shrugged a shoulder. "Well, at least it won't be boring."

The others, save Brittany and Santana, offered an appreciative chuckle and lapsed into a discussion about the many crimes of Anthony Zacchara.

And if his two oldest and best friends looked at him speculatively, Kurt pretended not to notice.