Chapter One

Luke stared at the still smoldering ashes of what had been his blues club and wondered why all his sins had had to catch up with him at the same time. There had been a time when he'd thought he could live through anything, but that had been before his life had taken a nose-dive straight into a previously undiscovered level of hell. There were worse things than physical pain, he had learned. Physical pain could almost always be brought to an end, or at least alleviated through pain killers. Unfortunately, the only thing that could kill the pain he felt was inflicting it on someone else, and that probably wouldn’t do it, either. It would just increase the burden he was already carrying.

It was odd, he realized. It was almost like he wasn't here, like he was elsewhere, viewing his situation from afar, almost objectively. Poor jerk, he thought. Poor dumb jerk. Poor dumb jerk to think that he might avoid paying for the mistakes in his past. Fate had flipped him off but good this time. Still, he was his own victim.

"You reap what you sow," he whispered to himself. "And God knows that I've sown my share of wild oats."

"Feeling sorry for yourself?" came a mocking voice from a few feet away.

Hiding the anger and revulsion he felt, Luke turned and faced his old enemy. "Helena. Nice of you to drop by. Don't let the crime scene keep you out. It's just for the law abiding citizens, not hardened criminals like yourself."

"Luke, whatever my sins..."

"Too numerous to count."

"I didn't have your club burned."

Luke sighed deeply. "Helena, I learned a long time ago that, like some politicians, your words must be parsed for every possible meaning. Does your statement mean that you're completely innocent of this arson, or that you did the deed yourself instead of assigning it to one of your henchmen? Or, does it mean that you had it bombed and that the fire was an unexpected bonus? Or, maybe that while you didn’t do it, or have it done, that you still know who was behind it?"

Helena chuckled. "Oh, Luke, I do love matching wits with you. Unlike others, you are still a challenge. But, if I had to guess, I'd suspect Stefan. He does take such pleasure in your pain. He always has. Even as a child, he enjoyed destroying those he thought were his superiors, though he would never admit to the deeds. He was a sneaking, conniving child, always denying his misdeeds to me, even when I'd have rewarded him for them."

Luke shook his head at the sick images that were conjured by Helena's words. "And you hate him for that? I mean, I know that there's no love lost between the two of you, but he sounds like a true Cassadine."

Helena continued. "He wanted to redefine the Cassadine name, and eliminate or confine all who did not live up or down to his expectations."

"Like you. So it was more a matter of you not living up to his expectations, and not the reverse?"

"More or less," Helena smiled. "He was of the opinion that I should abide by some of his silly little rules--a foolish thought since he would never abide by mine."

"So why didn't you kill him when he was a child and save yourself and the rest of us a lot of annoyance? Don't tell me that motherly instincts got in the way."

Helena chuckled again. "Like I said, you have always been a worthy adversary. And, yes, you're right that I'd like nothing more than to see him permanently removed from this earth. Planted beneath it would also greatly please me. Regrettably, I made a promise years ago that I wouldn't see to his demise, and I do keep my promises."

"Only when you have no other choice. That means that either Stefan or somebody else has something that will be made available to the authorities should he have a fatal accident or come up missing."

"An excellent deduction."

"And you’re alive for basically the same reason. It's mutual blackmail."

"Crudely put, but essentially correct."

"Surely you don't expect me to fall for that? I mean, you could arrange a hit and fix it so that some other sap took the fall and be home free. Besides, you wouldn't be telling me that taking Stefan out would take you out at the same time because you'd know that I'd never buy that you’d admit it. You don't expose your vulnerabilities unless it is to lure someone into a trap, and I'm not that stupid."

"Aren't you?" Helena asked. "Look around you, Luke. Stefan has your wife's affections, your daughter, and the friendship of your son, Lucky. You, on the other hand, are standing around in a stinking, smoldering heap of ashes where your club once stood. Taking revenge on Stefan will not further your cause with Laura or rebuild your club. It would only reinforce Laura's belief that you're a thug that she married in a moment of weakness, or as a silly, girlish fantasy of reforming the bad boy." She smirked as she watched her words score a direct hit, then continued. "There's only one thing that can save your marriage, Luke, and that is for you to discredit my son and do it completely. Put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak."

"And why are you telling me this?"

Helena shrugged. "Why not? You'd have come up with the idea sooner or later, and sooner fits my needs better. Besides, I'd like to think that we have a relationship, you and I. Sort of like the mutual respect one warrior accords another."

"If you mean that I'm well aware of your reputation, having experienced it first hand, then yes."

"I love it when you talk dirty," she breathed with a mocking grin.

"In your dreams, Helena. I know how spiders like you treat their mates."

"Do you?"

Luke nodded. "Yeah. It may take a while for the final event, but it still happens. I know all about it. See, I married one."

Laura looked at the white ring of untanned skin on her finger where her wedding ring had been and knew a moment of pain. Moving on was uncomfortable, but it was too late now, too late for any other choices. Indeed, it had been too late for quite some time. Luke no longer trusted her, no longer believed a word she said. The pain on his face said it all. The tie that had bound them together had been severed, and she'd done it herself. And now, Stefan held the key to her future, much as he'd held the key to her past. His arrival in Port Charles had opened up a Pandora's Box of problems for her, but Lulu, whom she'd secretly thought of as Hope, remained to see her through what must be done.

Forcing herself not to glance around at her surroundings, Laura smiled at the picture of her children that sat on the mantle. "I love you kids," she whispered, "and I hope that you'll always love me."

Then, turning around, she hurried to the phone. Quickly, she dialed. "Stefan? Laura. Can you come to dinner tonight? Lulu is staying with Betty."

Jason's worst nightmare was unfolding before his eyes. Seconds before, Michael had been in his arms, laughing, holding his stuffed giraffe, and now, the little boy was lying beside him bleeding from a bullet wound.

"I got the shooter," Sonny told him. "And an ambulance is on the way. How's Mickie?"

"Not good," Jason answered, forcing the tears back. "He's bleeding bad, and he's gonna need some blood, ASAP. God, Sonny! Why didn't I listen? Why didn't I do the right thing?"

"Jason, you did the right thing. You kept Mickie from the Quartermaines. He'd have been miserable there."

"You don't get it," Jason spat. "It's my arrogance that has Mickie here."

"Michael!" Carly screamed, running towards the three. She pushed past the policeman who was directing traffic around the area, making room for the emergency vehicle that was speeding towards them.

"Get out of here, Carly," Jason ordered.

"But Michael?"

"Get out of here, Carly, or I'll kill you myself."

Shocked, Carly recoiled. "Jason?"

"Only Dr. Jones can save Michael now. Michael needs blood."

"No," Carly began, shaking her head. "No. You can't do that to me."

"Sonny," Jason said, almost shaking with rage. "Get her out of here. Now."

Sonny pulled Carly away as Jason rendered whatever first aid he could. The ambulance crew questioned him as they prepared the baby for transportation, stabilizing him as much as possible.

"I'm coming," Jason told them, pulling his cellphone from his pocket. "And there will be blood available when we get there. It will match."

Jason punched in the keys of the number that he knew by heart. "Page Dr. Tony Jones. It's an emergency."

Seconds crept by as he waited, then heard the familiar voice on the phone.


"Dr. Jones, this is Jason Morgan. Just shut up and listen. Michael is coming in via ambulance."

"Jason? I heard that Michael has been shot. Damn you!"

"It's too late for that, Dr. Jones. I am whatever I am, and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life, but Michael needs you now. He needs your blood-his father's blood."