Path to Power
With his return to Port Charles it was easy to
fall back into his routines, Stefan Cassadine sits at the table
that has a vantage down to the stables. Before him are two slices
of whole grain toast-dry and a pot of tea. To his right is the
morning packet of documents. To his left is the early edition of
the Port Charles Herald. Not in the mood to start with fiction
first, he reaches for the packet unwinding the string at the
front of the binder and then extracting the documents.
The dossier on Faith Flynn Roscoe Ashton has finally arrived. The cover sheet is a summary of the sources used in the making of the dossier: State of New York-- birth, marriage, death certificates, police records; PCU-- College transcripts; IRS-- income declarations; a standard credit check and Mercy Hospital-- medical history. Since Stefan believes that a person is a product of their upbringing and experience the actual dossier is arranged chronologically from birth to the date of the report. Stefan starts scanning the material mentally making a note of any significant omissions-- Mrs. Ashton appears to have graduated from neither high school nor college but her marks for the courses that she did take are excellent. Declared Major in Business with minors in Botany and Fine Arts. Very eclectic choices in courses with constant progress toward a degree until.... Stefan turns the page. ...She got her Mrs. instead.
"Good Morning, Uncle." Nikolas goes to the breakfast bar first and makes a selection of fruit and biscuits before taking the seat at Stefan's left hand. Seeing the Herald and that Stefan isn't reading it yet but is instead engrossed in other papers, Nikolas snags it for himself hoping that there isn't any more of that ridiculous eligible bachelor talk. He sees that he's been shoved off the front page by a fire at the Quartermaine Estate. "Uncle."
"Yes?" Stefan says absently looking up with a frown. Mrs. Roscoe's financial information appeared to be a well crafted work of fiction.
"Did you know about this?" Nikolas holds up the paper. There is a picture of the burned out gatehouse.
"No." Stefan takes the paper from Nikolas and quickly scans the article. "Nobody was hurt but they are treating it as a suspicious fire."
"You are doing lessons with Natasha this morning. I'll talk to Ned and find out what is going on."
"Insist on a schedule of visitation for the baby when you speak to him." Stefan hands the paper back to Nikolas.
"Hmmm." Skye smiles but doesn't open her eyes. There is a tickle in the middle of her shoulder blades. The chill of covers being drawn back replaced by a warm hand, a gentle kiss, a tickle at the base of her spine.
"Where is my coffee?" Skye demands in a gravely morning voice still keeping her eyes closed.
"Turn over and I'll hand it to you." Coleman tempts.
Skye laughs but turns over. She supports her weight on one elbow not bothering to pull up the covers but instead reaching for the promised coffee. She catches the glint in Coleman's eye as he puts his arm out to put the coffee out of her reach. "No. Do not even think of teasing me." She pulls the covers up and tucking them tightly under her arm pits reaches again for the coffee.
"Spoil sport." Coleman mutters and throws himself to the other side of the bed after giving her the cup of coffee. He grabs the pillow and shoves it around to support his back against the headboard.
"Hey I was more than willing to let you... enjoy the view but a girl's got to have priorities. You promised me coffee."
"And if I promised to make a fresh pot... later?" Coleman purrs seductively against the nape of her neck.
Skye is tempted and it shows but then she sees the clock. "Oh no. No. Do not tell me." She shoves Coleman away, sets the coffee on the bedside table and races for the shower.
Coleman sighs. It just wasn't going to happen this morning. He reaches over and grabs Skye's coffee cup. If she wasn't going to drink it then he might as well.
She hadn't always been a neatnik, some might
even say a control freak. Faith looks around the cottage. It was
starting to come together but there was something about boxes
half full sitting around the room that just offended her. It was
like chipping a nail. It was there and you just couldn't stop
picking at it.
Ned had tried to avoid the whole Eddie Conversation the night before by getting back late. And she'd let him because she'd been exhausted by putting enough stuff together to make things livable. The guys had put together what they could of the furniture. Had even moved it around until she was satisfied with the placement. But after the first Lalique had gone in the dustbin, she and Alice had been on their own.
Even then they had been working around the kid. Kristina handled the move the best of all of them. But maybe that is cause her favorite stuffed animal and afghan had been with her rather than in the Gatehouse. But she and Alice had still done the handoff whenever one or the other was in the midst of something that couldn't be interrupted. The baby's room and the kitchen were the closest to finished. The rest was all a matter of degree. And there's no way she was going to risk waking the kid to finish her room.
Ned comes down the stairs dressed in a dark suit and straightening his tie. "I can't believe you managed to pick me up a suit with everything else that was going on."
"It's Roscoe's." Faith says flatly reaching into a box and carefully unwrapping a glass vase. She inspects it for damage and then puts it up on the mantel out of her way. "As soon as you get a new wardrobe ordered from your tailor or Wyndams they are going to charity."
"Faith... I'm going to talk to my grandfather today."
"Screw talking." Faith says between gritted teeth. She reaches for another paper wrapped object. If she kept her hands moving maybe she could control the urge to wrap them around Edward's neck. "He owes me. He owes me for my wardrobe, my jewelry, my... annoyance." Not quite the word she was looking for but it would have to do. "And if you even start to think about letting that old goat off the hook... I hope you have a picture of Brooklyn in your wallet." Ned recoils as if slapped. "Yeah, everything, Ned, every scrap of memory that you had in that place... of your daughter, of your music that you were still working on, your favorite guitar, everything...." Faith reaches up cupping her hand in front of her face and blows once sharply in Ned's direction as if blowing him a kiss. "Ashes."
"Reginald, Bring the car around." Lila orders the butler after she is finished with her breakfast and ready to start her day.
"We going to down to Courtland street again?" Reggie inquires reluctantly. He really hates it down there. Figured he was taking his life in his own hands every second they were down there.
"Eventually. First we have to stop by the cottage and see if there is anything that Ned and the baby need." Lila's voice is grim.
"Mr. Q has been trying to get hold of you last night, this morning."
"I'll speak to him when I have something to say." Lila says firmly. "The car, Reginald."
"Yes, ma'am." Reggie sighs and heads down stairs to bring the car around.
Nikolas stands on the front porch of the cottage. He looks out toward the street. He and Gia had been happy here. Had some of their happiest times. And then everything had fallen apart. The move to Wyndemere had been a mistake. The door swings open behind him. "Are you going to stand here all day? If you wanted to see Ned he's already left for the office. If you want to see the baby, she's having a bath." Faith demands.
"I don't... have an appointment." Nikolas hesitates. "I am Nikolas Cassadine."
"Then you shouldn't be on my porch. But you are." Faith steps back from the door. Leaving room for Nikolas to enter. "I think you know the way."
"Then you know?" Nikolas enters and walks down the two steps to the living room. The only thing that looks the same is the fireplace. There are no other signs, no physical reminders of when he'd lived here.
"Skye told me that you used to own this place." Faith shuts the door and then follows Nikolas to the living room. She feels at a disadvantage without her heels. Damn Bruno. He should have warned her that Richie Rich was here. She shouldn't find out by looking out the damn window. "Security sucks."
"In general the privacy makes up for it." Nikolas wanders around the living room. "You've made quite a few changes." Not the least being her appearance. Faith is dressed in a red boat neck long sleeved shirt and black pants teamed with black flats. It is the first time he's seen her in pants or wearing a color other than black. Her silky platinum hair is pulled back from her face with a red headband that coordinates with her shirt. Nikolas looks away.
"Didn't have much of a choice." Faith retorts. "Everything went up in smoke now didn't it?"
"The Cassadines have their share of problems." Nikolas admits.
"But..." Faith prompts. "There is a but right?"
"The Quartermaines are... colorful."
Faith chuckles at that one. "Oh that's one way of putting it." She walks over to the last damn box in the living room. "Do you mind? I want to get this done before Kristina gets going."
"Sure." Nik reaches into the box and starts unwrapping another of the figures. "You have quite a few vases." very valuable vases. Nikolas recognizes the Waterford.
"Yeah, well it's a thing I used to do." Some hubbies buy roses when they felt guilty. Roscoe had learned early on that a vase went a lot further than flowers and was less likely to be thrown back in his face. The guiltier the conscience the nicer cut to the crystal.
"Are you sure having a baby around all this glass is a... safe thing?"
"The kid isn't even crawling yet." Faith says defensively. "Besides this is just unpacking. Checking for damage. Everything will get put away. So, Stefan Cassadine..."
"Right. Wants to know Kristina's schedule so we can be one big cozy family. Hmm does that mean since Kristina is my stepdaughter now that you're my nephew? I've heard all kinda stories about what Monica did with her nephew." Faith licks her lips suggestively. The kid had been avoiding looking at her but that got his attention before he looked back to his unpacking.
"As I said. The Quartermaines are colorful. The Cassadines... aren't."
"What a shame." Faith starts calling off in short order when Kristina's meals times are. When her nap times are. When they normally like to be in the park. Which part of the park. "The park is on hold today. A few too many things to get done. And call first. I might not be a richie rich Cassadine or a Quartermaine, but I try to be security conscious and I don't like surprises."
Nikolas reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. Flipping thru the pictures swiftly he brings out a picture and hands it to Faith. "If she tries to get anywhere near the baby..."
Faith laughs. "This is her?! The one I supposedly look like?" She goes to hand it back. "The reason that your aunt lost her marbles? We don't look anything alike."
"Keep it. I have others." Nik says grimly. "Has any bond of affection grown between you and Kristina? Any at all?!" He adds insultingly.
"Who the hell do you think you are to talk to me that way?!"
"The Head of the Cassadine family. Kristina is my responsibility just as Alexis is. And I'm telling you that Helena would kill that child and worry more about breaking a nail than a sweat." Nikolas draws closer to Faith. "That my aunt lost her marbles as you say after she saw Helena Cassadine slit her mother's throat from ear to ear practically decapitating her almost thirty years ago. And yes, take thirty years off my grandmother and there isn't a man in a room that would look at you." It grated to reveal anything about the family to this woman but most of it had already been exploited more than once by The Port Charles Herald.
"I'll have to look her up." Faith puts the picture down on a nearby table, flipping it carelessly for effect. "But don't worry. I won't have the kid with me if I do. If this Helena's such a threat and you're such a stud-- then why isn't she dead?"
"Not from lack of trying." Nikolas says wryly. "My Grandmother is a brilliant woman, and quite psychopathic. She knows right from wrong and does what suits her. She has body doubles-- including one dying in the women's prison here in New York for murder. As soon as that Body double dies..."
"She's gotten away with murder and got someone else to do the time." Faith's eyes light up. "Excellent. Helena Cassadine dies-- long live Helena traveling on her double's passport. Unlimited funds?"
"She's squirreled away some for a rainy day." Nikolas admits. "Her jewelry alone..." He shakes his head.
"Is it like the crown jewels thing... they aren't really hers she's just using them?" Faith goes over to the couch and has a seat patting a spot next to her.
Nikolas laughs wryly but has a seat after putting down the vase in his hand. "Perhaps." His eyes narrow. "Except for a few dower jewels.... Yes, that could work."
"If you could find her. Course if you could find her then you could take all her shiny things what would she do about it? Go to the cops?"
"I don't have to find Grandmother. She will always find us. And now Kristina."
"How much of this does Ned know?"
Nikolas shrugs. "All of it. He's even seen some of it. The attempts made on Chloe Morgan's life by my grandmother before she was..." Nik looks away again.
"Was strangled by my father, Stavros Cassadine, for getting in his way." Nikolas says quietly. "Ned knows all of this. But I think you understand it."
"Here she is-- all shipshape and ready to face the world!" Alice says cheerfully as she carries the baby down the stairs.
Faith smiles over in the direction of Alice and the baby. "And look who is here and who has company. Alice, this is Nikolas. He's here to see the baby. Supervised and by appointment only."
"You got it, Mrs. A." Alice comes over to Nikolas; Nik has already risen to his feet at her approach. Alice makes a smooth transfer to Nik so that he is holding the baby, making sure he is supporting her head. When she figures it's all clear she steps back and and stands at a parade rest ready to spring into action if needed.
"Marcus! You're here!" Natasha springs up from the table and races to the foyer. "I thought you were going to come see me yesterday!"
"Had to work." Marcus smiles at Tasha and takes her hand allowing her to pull him toward the table.
"Was someone dead? Did you get to shoot them?"
"No, you little ghoul. It wasn't somebody dead. And you shouldn't shoot dead people anyway. It's redundant." Marcus looks over at Stefan who had looked up at his entrance but remained seated by the table where books are spread out. "It was someone playing with matches." His voice is kinda light; suitable for around Natasha, not threatening in the least, but the information is for Stefan.
Natasha's eyes go wide. "Mama told me to never play with matches."
"Smart woman your mama. If someone had taken her advice then three people would be sleeping under their own roof."
"Their whole house burned down?!" Natasha looks over at Stefan. "That's so awful, Stefan. They lost all of their things. I will give them my books." She orders graciously very much the young lady of the manor.
"No, you will not give them your books. You will sit down and read your books." Stefan says sternly. "I had already heard about the fire. Read about it in today's newspaper, Lieutenant Taggart. Nikolas has gone to where these poor souls are staying to see if we can be of any assistance."
Marcus nods at that. "So what are you reading? He comes around the table to where Natasha had been seated and holds the back of the chair for her. Natasha sits back down with a plop and a pout.
"It's myths. And they're boring." Natasha gives a look to Stefan out of the corner of her eye. "I want to ride Petunia."
Stefan winces at the name of Tasha's horse. Marcus winces at the idea of being out in the stables around everything that he is allergic to. He quickly reads over Natasha's shoulder. "Reading up on the Greek heroes, huh?"
"Stefan told me it was the story of a horse but it's not." Tasha gives her brother a dirty look. "It's about a Trojan horse. And that's not a real horse. It's a trick."
"You assumed it was about a horse. I never said it was." Stefan counters. Nikolas had never been this argumentative.
Marcus scoots Tasha's chair closer to the table and then sits down next to her. "You've got to read this one to get to the good part. The real fun doesn't start until the Greek guys are trying to get home from Troy after the battle."
"Oh yeah. It's one thing after another getting in this guy's way. And he's just trying to get home to his wife and kid. Huge storms, monsters, adventures and his ship gets wrecked a couple of different times." Marcus makes his voice very dramatic and uses big hand movements.
"I want to read that one!" Natasha demands of her brother.
"After you read about the Trojan Horse." Stefan says firmly. "Now begin! I will speak with Lieutenant Taggart over there-- privately." Stefan indicates with his hand out the french doors to the patio.
Marcus nods and rises from his seat. He gives Natasha a squeeze on the shoulder. "It gets good about the time they come up with the trick."
Natasha sighs heavily and pulls the book to her.
Once out on the patio, Stefan makes sure that the door is secured but that he can still see Natasha at her lessons. "It was arson then?"
"Still preliminary but it's looking that way. I'll never get a case." Marcus shakes his head. "Probably the Old Man trying to get Ashton to move the baby to the big house. Didn't work." Marcus looks over at Natasha and then back to Stefan. "He's got the cash to pay off the fire department for their time and effort and it was all on his property anyway. She's giving ya fits isn't she?"
"I would not have put it that way... yes. It was much easier with Nikolas." Stefan admits and it pains him to do so.
"Yeah, well you were a lot younger too." Marcus grins at Stefan. He remembers going thru it with Gia because Florence had always been working and doesn't envy him at all, takes pity on him in fact. "Gia was always more of a... auditory learner, I think it's called. She could read something and it wouldn't stick. But tell her something or put it in a song..." Marcus snaps his fingers. "With Tasha's mother being a singer and all..."
Stefan nods as he remembers back to when Kristen had been his nanny and the methods she'd used. "Possible. I will consider it."
Bruno steps out in front of the Bentley as it pulls in front of the cottage. He walks around to the driver's side. "You got an appointment? Mrs. Ashton ain't seeing people."
"Please tell her it's Lila Quartermaine." Reginald says confidently. Everyone wanted to see Lila.
"Wait here. And don't bother getting out of the car." Bruno replies. He walks up to the porch and leans in the front door. "Hey Faith, Lila Quartermaine is here. You want me to kick her off the property for ya?"
Faith sighs and rolls her eyes. She looks at Alice then at Nikolas still with the baby. Alice nods. Faith goes outside. Bruno steps out of her way. "Kick her off the property." Faith snorts. "Yeah, that's about your speed. Gonna steal candy from the baby next?"
"I'm really sorry, Faith. I know I fucked up." Bruno says sheepishly. "Who knew that the guy would show up so freaking early?"
"No excuse. If you want to sleep then you better make sure there is somebody here that is awake!" Faith orders.
"Yeah, I'll make some calls; it won't happen again."
Reginald is already out of the car and transferring Lila to her wheelchair. Lila puts it in gear and goes up the drive to the path to the cottage. The stairs are a barrier to her going any further without being carried. She comes to a halt. Faith takes a seat on one of the stairs to the porch. She doesn't say a word.
"I'll just go make those calls now." Bruno says in a hurry and retreats into the house.
Faith looks at Reginald. Lila is the one that gives the instruction. "Please wait in the car, Reginald. I want to speak to my new granddaughter alone."
"I'm not sure that's a good idea." Reggie shakes his head but under the combined stares he keeps muttering and climbs behind the wheel of the Bentley.
"Are you alright, My dear?" Lila inquires.
"Your husband comes on my property again, in my property again-- I'll kill him." Faith says flatly. "He should have made sure that I was in that fire. He made a big mistake, and an enemy. I'm not your granddaughter. My grandmother is dead; God rest her soul. I'm your grandson's wife. I don't play these little Quartermaine games."
"Now, my dear, there is no proof..."
"Don't give me that no proof crap. I don't need proof. I'm not a judge but I will be his executioner if he comes at me again. You can't be as stupid as you play. It was your grandson's house. Your grandson. Every picture he had of his eldest daughter, his guitar, his music, his clothes. Everything his baby had? What kind of sick prick did you marry?"
"I do not appreciate your language nor your accusation." Lila rebukes Faith sternly.
Faith gets up and walks back into the cottage shutting the door behind her.
Reginald pops out of the car and hurries over to Mrs. Quartermaines side. "Are you okay, Mrs. Q?"
"I hate it when she has a point. Courtland Street, Reginald."
Inside the cottage. Nik is standing in the living room holding the now sleeping baby. "Most people do not speak to Mrs. Quartermaine in that fashion."
"I'm not most people."
"Good." Faith's eyes narrow. "Ned and I were rolling around just fine with no plans on getting married until your Aunt climbed on the trolley to the funnyfarm. I don't think it's a secret to anyone why we got married. I do appreciate the warning about your grandmother. I'll keep an eye out for her or anything else that threatens the kid. We clear?"
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