Nikolas sat silently in Bobbie's kitchen, drinking the hot chocolate that she served him, wondering why it was that marshmallows were believed to have emotionally healing properties. Lucky's absence hadn't ended their conversation, and he had come to realize just how much he'd missed Bobbie and her mothering. It was different from the friendship and sometime camaraderie that he'd shared with Kathryn, but it was something he'd never enjoyed with his mother. Even now, he was realizing just how very little he knew about his mother and the life she'd lived with the Cassadine family.

It was strange, he also thought. He'd also come here to ask about what Stefan had said about Bobbie trying to poison him, but there was no way that he could ask her that. There was no need. Bobbie wouldn't have tried to kill Stefan-but he did want to know why she'd done whatever it was she had done. "Bobbie?"


"Why did you try to drug Stefan?"

Honestly, Bobbie answered. "I needed access to his safe. Luke had told me about a computer program that was to be used to finagle with financial programs worldwide, and that could be used to do other potentially life-threatening things. I didn't want to believe it, but I had to know for sure. Luke was so sure, so convincing...and, I believe, he was right about that. Unfortunately, Stefan caught me and that was that. He doesn't forgive or forget a betrayal, and he made no attempt to understand."

"And that was why he threw you out?"

"That was most of it," Bobbie answered. "He'd already encountered Kathryn and I think that he was looking for an excuse to move me out." She chuckled softly. "Now Kat knows how it feels. What a man does to one woman, he'll do to another."

Lucky looked at the front door of his house, and then at the car in the driveway, one he'd longed to see for months, and now that it was there, he dreaded seeing the driver again. For a while he hung back, watching from a distance, wondering what he'd say, what he'd do. Whoever it was that had said ignorance was bliss had it partly right. He'd definitely felt better not knowing what he knew, or what he'd been told, but it didn't change the facts, whatever they turned out to be. Unfortunately, now that he'd been force fed the forbidden fruit, well, maybe that wasn't exactly the right analogy, but it was close enough, he had to follow it through, and determine once and for all what the facts actually were. This time, he couldn't take anybody's word for anything-accept no spin doctoring, no slant on the truth.

Lucky approached the house, feeling as if he was watching himself from afar. The place looked alien to him, strange, no longer welcoming, even as Foster barked in greeting. "Hi, Foster," he said, patting his dog on the head. As if sensing something wrong with his young master, the dog whined and pushed closer. "Not now, buddy."

"Lucky?" Laura called, hurrying from the kitchen. The smell of cookies baking filled the air. "Oh, Lucky, I'm so happy to see you!" Laura pulled him to her, hugging him. "I can't believe how you've grown since the last time I was here. You won't believe Lulu...Lucky? What's wrong?"

Lucky pushed away from his mother, looking into her eyes as if for the first time meeting a stranger. He read hesitancy and something else-something hidden. Lucky said nothing, just continued to watch the expressions play across her face.

"Lucky, what's wrong?"

"When did you get back into town?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Just answer my question."

"I just got home a little while ago."

"That wasn't what I asked," he said, realizing that before, he'd have accepted her answer and gone on. When had his mother gone political? Now he was going to have to parse her words, dissect her answers like the public had to do with their politicians. "When did you get back to Port Charles? Note: I'm including Spoon Island in the Port Charles area."

"Lucky, I don't like your attitude," Laura began, her expression changing, becoming more guarded. "Here I've been gone for such a long time! I thought you'd be glad to see me and your sister, but you're asking strange questions."

"What's strange about asking when you got back into town, unless you don't want to tell me? Okay, I can play that game, too. I'll ask specific questions and you can give me specific answers. Were you on Spoon Island yesterday at any time?"

"Lucky, what is the matter?" Laura tried to pull her son into her arms, but he pushed free.

"Answer the questions, Mother!"

"I'm the parent here, young man," Laura began, indignantly. "And I don't appreciate your treating me like this."

"Answer the #$%^&* question, Mom!"

"What question is that?" Asked Luke from the door. "Hello, Laura. When did you get back?"

Lucky looked from one parent to the other, sensing a previously undetected undercurrent swirling beneath their words. He watched as their eyes met, as they began a guarded dance around each other.

"I got home a little while ago," Laura answered. "Oh, my cookies!" With that, she turned and dashed into the kitchen.

"You want to tell me what that was all about, Cowboy?" Luke asked Lucky. "You're supposed to be glad to see your mother when she gets back."

"There's a lot of things that I'm supposed to be," Lucky answered curtly. "And some of them I don't think I'll ever be again."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Supposed. Now, we've just used that word three times, very close together. Do you know what it means? It just so happens that we had to look that up in English recently. It means 'presumed to be true, real or genuine.' But, let's take that a step farther, and define 'presume'. Had to look that one up, too. It means 'to take for granted, assume to be true in the absence of proof to the contrary.'"

Luke watched as Lucky struggled with what was on his mind, wondering at the depth of pain that could elicit such a response from the teenager. "Go on."

Lucky paused, searching for the words. "Seems like I've been supposing and presuming a lot of things for most of my life. No, make that all my life."

"I don't understand."

"Well damn! Neither do I." Lucky could barely restrain himself, restrain the anger that was bubbling ever closer to the surface.

At that moment, Laura came out, holding a plate of chocolate chip cookies, still fresh and warm from the oven. "Cookies for my favorite men?"

"Cookies?" Lucky asked, incredulously. "Cookies?"

"They're your favorite," Laura smiled as if nothing was wrong. "I'm just so glad to be back. I've missed you both so much."

Suddenly, the events of the afternoon returned with her words, and Luke could almost hear Kat's words again, hear what had to have been one of the last conversations that she'd ever have, one that she wouldn't have had if she hadn't found Laura ensconced with Stefan in the study, heard them making love. "I have some bad news," he began, and Lucky laughed mirthlessly as if at a private joke.

"Oh?" Laura asked. "What's wrong?"

"It's Kathryn Bell. She's dead. I found her body in the park today. She was garroted."

"What?" Laura asked, stunned.

"She was murdered." Luke answered, tersely. "She had just been in my club, and she was angry."

"Why was she angry?" Laura asked, her tone interested, and Lucky noted, innocent sounding. Make that 'presumed innocent' sounding. 'Innocent sounding' in the absence of facts.

"We don't need to have this conversation at the moment," Luke decided, sensing the tensions still seething beneath Lucky's surface. "Luckster, go on up and check on your sister. Laura, is your mother upstairs with her?"

"My mother will be coming home soon," Laura answered. "I wanted to make certain that everything was fine before I brought her home."

"What wouldn't be fine?" Luke asked as Lucky stayed downstairs. "Lucky, go check on Lulu."

"No," Lucky said. "I'm a part of this family-at least, I used to be a part of it, and there are things that definitely aren't fine here."

"You're still a part of it," Luke told him. "You'll always be a part of it."

"Maybe," Lucky hedged. "Maybe not. After what I've heard, I'm not certain that I want to be. Not certain at all."

"What's this all about?" Laura asked. "Lucky. What's wrong? You've been acting strangely since you came home today."

The three eyed each other warily, each conscious that this was far different from any previous homecoming. There was something strangely powerful in the air, and it was frightening.

"I'm acting strangely?" Lucky scoffed. "I'm not the one with a problem answering a simple question. When did you get into Port Charles, Mom? Was it today, or was it yesterday?"

Luke listened to Lucky's question with the sinking feeling that he knew precisely why Lucky asked it, and wished for a moment that Kat had been killed before she'd spread her venom around. Hell, he'd have done the deed himself if it had kept him from seeing and hearing the pain in Lucky's voice and eyes. He held his anger in check, listening instead to hear Laura's denial, hoping against hope that his fears wouldn't be realized.

"I drove into Port Charles this morning," Laura stated, emphatically. "I bought gas from the station just outside of town. Here..." She paused, picking up her handbag and searching through it. "Aha! My receipt." She handed it to Lucky. "See? That is today's date."

"Okay, Mom," Lucky smiled. "We'll play it your way. One question, one answer at a time until I get the truth."

"Lucky, that's no way to talk to your mother."

"It's the only way," Lucky answered. "But then, as I'm learning, you're both experts at hiding the truth. I used to think that it was how we protected our family from outsiders, but that, as I've seen, was a presumption. Something that you believe until presented with facts to the contrary. Well, I've been presented with something to the contrary, and I'm trying to determine the facts."

"Don't go there, Lucky," Luke warned. "There are things that you don't understand, can't understand-not with your current level of experience."

"Trust me, Dad, no, make that Luke. My dad would never have done what you did-there is at least one thing that I will never understand, because I will never experience it. I will never, if I live forever, understand rape!"

Once it had begun, the torrent couldn't be stopped, and Lucky turned to Laura who was sobbing. Lucky's voice was breaking with anger and pain, his eyes as tear-filled as his mother's. "And you, Mom. Is that why you did it? Is that why you gave yourself to Stefan? I don't understand, Mom. Please tell me so I can! Why did you come back to him?" Lucky gestured towards Luke who was standing still, horrified at what he was hearing, but Lucky continued. "How could you come back to the man who raped you?"