Get the kids and bring a sweater
Dry is good and wind is better
Count the years, you always knew it
Strike a match, go on and do it
Oh, days go by, I’m hypnotized
I’m walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire
– Sunny Came Home, Shawn Colvin
Thursday, May 11, 2000
Portland International Airport: Lounge
“I’m doing the best I can,” Sonny said as Luke snapped again about the waiting time. “Unless you have a personal airstrip we can use, we’re waiting on clearance—” He grimaced. “It’s maybe six hours and some change back to Port Charles, another hour maybe while we refuel— and then from there, we need to refuel again in Spain—I’m not equipped for a nonstop flight to Greece,” he said when Elizabeth turned in surprise. “I don’t have the fuel storage.
“What if Jason’s not in Greece?” Elizabeth wanted to know. What if he’d already—
“We aren’t going to think like that, sweetheart.” Laura took Elizabeth’s hands in hers, and Elizabeth felt shame for complaining—she wasn’t the only who was grappling with a world in which Nikolas had orchestrated Jason’s disappearance. Laura was his mother.
“I have to think the Dark Prince—” Luke grimaced as Alexis glared at him. “Don’t start with me. This is pretty damned dark, don’t you think? Anyway, if he’d wanted Jason dead—” Elizabeth flinched, but Luke continued, “he’d have done it. Left a body. But he wanted you to think Jason was gone, honey. He wanted—”
“This was designed to hurt you,” Laura realized. “To make you doubt Jason. I think—” She closed her eyes. “I have to wonder if Nikolas might want Jason close to…”
“Taunt him, maybe? The Cassadines always liked to pat themselves him on the back. They’ve even been known to monologue like a Bond villain. Fatal flaw.” Luke looked to Sonny. “It’s noon here. We’re leaving here in an hour. We land in Port Charles at four, local time. We’re off to Spain by five. Finish the route. I need to make some calls and check in with some contacts. I need to know when—”
“Uh—It’s what, eleven hours to Spain?” he asked Alexis, who nodded. “We’re there by five am our time—”
“11 am local Spain time,” Laura volunteered as the words started to sound the same to Elizabeth. So much time. Why did it have to be Greece? Of all places—halfway around the world—
“It’s only three hours to Mykonos,” Alexis continued. “And they’re an hour ahead. So add four hours — we’re there by three pm tomorrow. Which is eight am in New York.”
“All told, sweetheart, it’s maybe twenty-four hours,” Laura told Elizabeth. “We’ll be in Greece—”
“I—I need to call Emily and Bobbie.” Elizabeth got to her feet, swayed slightly. Luke braced her with an arm around her waist. “Bobbie’s got—she’s a nurse. Jason might need her, and Emily—Emily knows something is wrong, and I haven’t called her. They should meet us in Port Charles—”
“I don’t think—” Sonny closed his mouth when Alexis elbowed him in the stomach. “Sounds good to me. Luke?”
“I’ll get to my contacts. We’ll need a boat when we get to the island, and we might want a few other reinforcements—” he disappeared around a corner.
“Let’s get you something to eat and drink,” Laura said, taking Elizabeth by the arm. “And before you argue—” she continued as Elizabeth opened her mouth, “I want you to know that the only way I’m keeping it together is focusing on you. Can you let me do that? Please.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah. Okay. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry—” Her voice broke. “How could he do this? How could he ever think this was—”
“I don’t know if we’ll ever get the answer to the question. All we can do is hope for the best—that we’ll find Jason in Greece and bring him home to you.”
Cassadine Island: Dungeons
He wanted to sleep.
The headaches had come first, but Jason was used to them. He’d had terrible migraines after the accident and had learned to work through them. To push the pain away. The chills—he thought they came later, but he couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was all at the same time. He shivered—he couldn’t feel the cold, but his body was trembling and sweat dripped down his face.
But it was the intense desire to sleep that told Jason that he was sliding into the danger zone. His eyelids drooped, his limbs felt numb and too heavy for his body—
He knew that if he paced too much, if he exerted too much energy, he would hasten the dehydration. The harder his body worked, the more it drained what resources were left.
But he had to stay awake. Had to keep his eyes open, so he had to walk that line. He did push-ups. He walked laps around the cell to keep his blood moving. He felt over the stone walls, hoping for something—
He might have even considered drinking his own urine, but he hadn’t needed to relieve himself since waking up in this cell.
Another dangerous sign of dehydration.
He started to talk to himself because that wouldn’t use much energy. He recounted the places he had been, and then the names of the motels. He listed every insult he’d ever used to describe the members of the Quartermaine family, from Edward to Alan to AJ, and hell, even Ned.
He recounted the first time he’d met Emily, about the day he’d learned that he’d eaten disgusting oatmeal to make Lila happy—he’ been so rude to her—had he ever apologized—he would do that when he got home.
He was going home. He could do that now. He could face anything—he’d rather be on the docks, listening to Michael cry out for him than laying on the stone floor of this cell, this dungeon—was he even still in the States?
He thought about the first time he’d seen Robin after the accident—and even better—when he’d seen her on the bridge, and he’d kissed her for the first time. Another apology he needed to make. Robin hadn’t deserved the way things had ended—
And Elizabeth. When had he seen her for the first time? He strained his mind, trying to picture it—he knew it couldn’t be that day in the boxcar—maybe at the Nurse’s Ball—but he knew he’d never forget the garage fire—watching her cling to every last hope that it wasn’t Lucky—and then the moment it had hit her, and she’d fractured into pieces—
And then that night at Jake’s. He told himself about that night, more amused now at how she’d been angry at him—he understood it, he’d always understood it—she’d come to Jake’s looking for a fight, just like he had. She’d needed to fill the nothing that had invaded every piece of her world—
He’d never spoken so many words in all his life, but finally his throat cried defeat. The words were hoarser and barely audible, even to himself—and then there were no words. He had nothing left to give.
His eyes finally closed, and Jason slid into sleep. He’d fought so hard—but he’d lost the battle. Or maybe it was the war—maybe he wouldn’t ever wake up—
Port Charles Airport: Gate
Bobbie knew something wasn’t right — she’d known it the moment she’d answered Elizabeth’s phone call and heard the tremble in her voice. Even before Elizabeth had told her that Jason was in trouble, and that he might need medical attention. They were sending the jet —
She thought it was strange but knew Jason disliked hospitals and other doctors. She’d thought it was nothing more than that, and maybe Elizabeth was overreacting. But Elizabeth had asked for help, and Bobbie was determined to be there. She’d packed and left Lucas with Tony and Lulu with Felicia. Then she’d arrived at the gate and found Emily waiting with a suitcase of her own, a mixture of bewilderment and fear in her dark eyes, and it sunk in that maybe it was more serious that Bobbie wanted to believe.
“Bobbie?” Emily asked. “What are you—”
“Elizabeth said there was trouble, that Jason needed help—” Bobbie gestured at the black bag in her hands. “But if you’re here—”
Emily exhaled slowly. “She told me Jason was in trouble, but she didn’t want to get into it on the phone—” She clenched her hand into a fist, raised it to her chest. “She couldn’t get him on the phone when she was here, and then Luke and Laura and Sonny—” She swallowed hard. “Even Alexis — they all left yesterday without any explanation. Now they’re calling for us—”
They turned at the sound of the gate door opening — Sonny’s jet just beyond the window attached to the passenger boarding bridge. Elizabeth was first through the door, followed by Laura and Luke, then Sonny and Alexis.
But no Jason. Bobbie’s eyes darted behind them, searching, but then at Elizabeth. “What’s going on?”
“We need—” Elizabeth folded her arms, took a deep breath. “We need to refuel. We, um—” Her voice trembled, and Laura put a hand on her arm.
“Jason went missing,” Luke said. “Liz got back and his things were gone. The bike, clothes—all gone. All she had was a note telling her not to look for him again—”
“That’s a goddamn lie—” Emily interrupted harshly. “He’d never—”
“That’s what I said,” Elizabeth said, rubbing the side of her face, deep purple circles gouged beneath her eyes. “Em—” Tears slid down her cheeks. “Oh, God. Em, someone took him. And Alexis recognized the guy carrying Jason’s duffel out of the lobby.”
Emily frowned. “What? Who? Is that where we’re going? Why you’re refueling?”
But Bobbie knew what Elizabeth would say, read the misery and heartbreak in Laura’s eyes, the disbelief and fear in Alexis’s expression. And realized why Elizabeth thought Emily deserved to be here for this. She put a hand on Emily’s shoulder. “Are you sure?”
“I’ve known him for years,” Alexis said, stiffly. “No question in mind. I don’t know what, if anything, we’ll find there, but we have to start somewhere.”
“What? Start where? I don’t understand,” Emily said. “Liz—”
“Greece,” Elizabeth said faintly. “The man on the video works for Nikolas, Em. We think—” She swallowed, her breath shaky. “We think Nikolas is the reason Jason is missing.”
Friday, May 12, 2000
Somewhere Over the Atlantic
Alexis stood in the small galley kitchen at the bank of the jet, staring blindly at a closed cabinet, trying to remember why she’d come in here in the first place.
Since the moment she’d seen Georgios on the screen, Alexis had been putting one foot in front of the other, concentrating on the next step. Get to the airport. Stay upbeat, listen to Luke go over plans to infiltrate Cassadine island, watch Elizabeth and Laura battle with the horror of watching someone they loved slip over to the dark side—
And Alexis had just shoved everything away, deliberately ignoring the implications of Georgios being in Portland, a devoted family servant who had looked after Nikolas since he’d been a small child. There would be no reason for a Cassadine servant to be in Oregon, in a hotel lobby, carrying Jason’s duffel bag to the elevator for the parking garage just minutes before someone had roared away with Jason’s motorcycle.
No reason other than the obvious—that a Cassadine scheme lay behind all this madness — that Nikolas himself had orchestrated this after months of screaming at the world how much he blamed Jason for Lucky’s death—
“Did you want coffee?”
Alexis jumped, then turned to find Sonny behind her. “What?”
“Coffee,” Sonny repeated. “I’m making some for the rest of us. Bobbie took Liz and Emily to the bedroom, hoping they’d get some rest, but I don’t see the rest of us heading that way.” He rubbed his eyes. “Christ,” he muttered. “I think I’d rather the threat be coming from my side of things—”
He crossed to the cabinet, drew down a bag of coffee beans. Even on the jet, he had to grind his own beans. She nearly smiled at the image, but it faded. “It’s in the blood. We’re broken. Damaged. Doomed to insanity.”
Sonny said nothing, just scooped the beans into the grinder, the loud, screeching sound jarring. When they were ready, he dumped the fine powder into the coffee maker. “I used to think that,” he said finally. “That something in my background — something in me was like a ticking time bomb. I get these dark moods,” he continued as Alexis stared at him. “And it’s hard to dig out of them. They’ve become worse since I lost Lily. And Brenda,” he added.
“You’re not broken or damaged, Alexis.” He looked at her. “You’re a neurotic control freak. Your living brother is a cold fish, and the dead one was a fucking psychopath raised by a supervillain and an evil bitch.”
“I suppose Stefan’s lucky to have emerged so unscathed in your opinion,” Alexis said folding her arms. “What about Nikolas?”
“A spoiled little prince who has spent his whole time whining about his mother leaving him.” Sonny sneered. “He expected Laura to stay on that island to continue being tortured and raped by that animal, I suppose. Would he have been happier if Stavros Cassadine had killed her? The way Deke killed my mother?”
Alexis hesitated. “Nikolas doesn’t think she loved him—”
“Nikolas should have been raised to revere that woman for escaping that son of a bitch, but Stefan Cassadine never forgave Laura for choosing Luke, either.” Sonny jerked his shoulder. “My mother stayed because of her belief in her vows, because she didn’t have any choices, because she thought I needed a father—pick your reason. Deke broke her into so many pieces she no longer resembled the mother I loved. So, yeah, Nikolas is a spoiled little bastard, but he’s a product of his environment, not his blood line.”
“We’re going to get to Greece, we’re going to get answers about Jason, and Alexis—” Sonny met her eyes. “If my best friend is already dead, if Nikolas Cassadine is the reason Jason’s child grows up without a father, he won’t live long enough to regret it.”
“If Nikolas did this terrible thing, and if it’s gone far enough that we can’t drag it back—” Alexis swallowed, “maybe it’s for the best that the next generation of Cassadines is smothered in the cradle. But Sonny—if Jason’s alive, promise me you’ll give us a chance to fix this.”
“I’m not promising anything until I see Jason,” Sonny said. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”
“All right.” She exhaled slowly. “All right. Then we’ll see what happens when we get there.”
“You should sleep,” Bobbie told Elizabeth, steering her towards the back of the plane and the bed Sonny kept. “Laura said you barely slept last night—”
“I don’t even know what time zone we’re in—” Elizabeth sank onto the bed, blinked at Bobbie who knelt down to remove her sneakers. “I can do that—”
“I’ve never been to Cassadine Island,” Bobbie said. “I can’t pore over maps the way Luke and Laura can. You let me occupy myself—” She glanced at Emily who had joined them. “Hey, sweetie. Why don’t you and Liz take the bed? You can both get some sleep.”
“I don’t understand,” Emily said, sitting next to Elizabeth, “how this is happening.” She closed her eyes. “I can’t make it real.”
“We don’t even know that it is,” Elizabeth said dully. She didn’t even protest when Bobbie pressed her shoulder. She curled up on her side, tucking a fist under the pillow, stared straight ahead. “Alexis just recognized a Cassadine servant.”
“Maybe it wasn’t,” Emily said. She scooted to the other side of the bed, sitting against the headboard, her knees drawn up to her chest. “Maybe she was wrong.”
“Maybe.” Bobbie tucked Elizabeth’s shoes under a chair.
“But if it’s not this—if we’re chasing a completely wrong theory, then where is he?” Emily wanted to know. “I can’t believe I have to hope that one of my best friends is a psychopath because that’s the best-case scenario.”
Bobbie stroked Elizabeth’s hair, gratified when the younger woman’s eyes began to droop. Within moments, she’d finally fallen asleep.
“Was it Katherine, you think? Losing her and the crap she pulled about the baby right after Lucky?” Emily said. “Is that why he snapped?”
“It’s just—Jason’s my brother. He didn’t just do this to Elizabeth—” Emily’s voice cracked. “He did this to me. How could he—to both of us—” She swiped at her eyes. “He said we were a family. That last Christmas. That me and Liz—that we’d made him and Lucky brothers, and that made us all family. How does this happen?”
“I wish I could tell you, honey. But all we can do is wait.”
Sonny put his head in his hands. “How many rooms are in this damn castle?”
“I stopped counting at around a hundred,” Laura said, with a touch of apology. “And there were still three more wings. That’s not including any construction done since I was held hostage. There are also the outbuildings—there’s a village where most of the workers live—”
“It’s one of those old self-sufficient island kingdoms,” Luke said. He squinted at the map. “I never did much exploring—I doubt they’d keep the kid in a room with a window.”
“No, Jason would be able to escape—”
“Stavros used to—” Laura exhaled slowly. “He used to threaten me with the dungeons.” Luke and Sonny both looked at her, as Alexis sat across from them. “Have you ever seen them?”
“I heard of them, but I never saw them,” Alexis said. They’re from some warlord—the one who built the original keep in the 1300s or something—I never listened to Mikkos when he droned on about the history—but they’re there. I’m sure the family had a use for them at one time or another.”
“He took me there once,” Laura murmured. “Dragged me by the hair. The pathways are just carved passages in the rock beneath the castle. They had lights—”
“Electric?’ Luke managed, his hand fisting on the table.
“Could have been. The, ah, the cells were just holes carved deeper into the rock with bars—” Laura cleared her throat. “They exist. And there’s no escape. But the entrance to the dungeons—it’s not easily accessible. The servants knew about them, but they never went down there.”
“So the dungeons sound like a perfect place to keep a kidnapping victim,” Sonny finally said. “Do you—do you remember where they are?”
“I might. I haven’t been back in a long time.” Laura rubbed her arms, as if warding off a chill. “Stefan is there. He’ll know.”
“How do you know he isn’t a part of this?” Sonny demanded.
“He’s ruthless,” Laura said slowly, ignoring the snort from her ex-husband. “But not cruel. He simply doesn’t have the capacity to do this—”
“He was happy to let you stay on the island forever,” Luke retorted, and she simply stared at him. “Never helped you escape—”
“How do you think I got away?” she asked. “No, at first—with Helena and Stavros—it was so hard that first year to have a moment to myself. And then, after a time, Stavros decided I had accepted my place. He must have convinced Helena the same.” She shook her head. “If Stavros were still alive, I’d say Stefan wouldn’t do anything. But he’s not. And we’ve had no indication Helena is a part of this. If it’s as we think it is, if it’s Nikolas acting alone, I don’t think Stefan would support it.”
“He’s been worried about Nikolas,” Alexis admitted. “Since Katherine, he just hasn’t—we don’t need to go into the details,” she said briskly. “Suffice to say, while no one could have predicted this, I’m not sure Stefan would be surprised. Or that he’d deny it.” Her lips twisted. “The men in our family enjoy hurting women. Especially the ones they love. It must be genetic.”
Cassadine Estate: Study
Stefan saw movement in the hall out of the corner of his eye and hurried to push open the ajar door study to catch Nikolas turning own the next hallway.
“Nikolas. A moment.”
For a long moment, Stefan thought his words would be ignored, but finally Nikolas appeared around the corner but came no closer. Stefan nearly beckoned with a gesture for his son to approach, but—
That was his father. His brother. They demanded respect. Stefan had always attempted to earn it. He closed the distance himself.
“Yes?” Nikolas asked, arching a brow. “Did you need something?”
“I want to know why you’ve been to the dungeons,” Stefan said bluntly. Nikolas’s nostrils flared slightly, the only indication that the boy had heard him. “The servants say that you’d reconnected the electricity—”
“The servants gossip,” Nikolas bit out. “Is this not my home? Do I not have the right to do with it as I see it?”
“When you were believed to be the son of Stavros, the eldest child and heir,” Stefan said, his tone a bit gentler now, “I held the estate in trust for you. But now that the world knows the truth—”
“Now that you no longer lie to me,” Nikolas spat, and Stefan winced. “What, I’ve lost my right to do anything?”
“No, but that makes me the eldest living heir. It’s no longer a trust. I closed the dungeons off a long time ago. Father only kept them accessible to drive fear into my brother and I—no good can come from allowing light in there.”
“What would you have me do then? Fill them in with concrete and pretend they never existed?”
“I never said that,” Stefan murmured, studying the shadows beneath his son’s eyes, the set of his shoulders. The tenseness in his body. “I simply don’t know what the interest is—”
“And I don’t need to tell you. If you don’t want me in the dungeons—” Nikolas lifted on shoulder in an elegant, yet careless, half-shrug. “Then I won’t go. I have no need to be there anyway. Not now.”
“Is that all? Or have the servants gossiped more about me? Perhaps it was a mistake for me to come here. I thought to find peace, but all I have is your nagging.” Nikolas sneered, and just for a moment—a terrifying moment in the shadows—Stefan thought his brother stood before him. “Shall you return to Port Charles or I?”
“Would that make you happy?”
“Nothing will,” Nikolas muttered, and then that terrible look in his eyes had gone, and his son was back. The boy he’d raised. Stefan exhaled slowly, more easily. “Let me be.” He walked away, and this time, Stefan said nothing.