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Chapters 21 - 28

"Here. Helena would not allow any photographs of Nicole or Lasha to be kept on the island so I brought all of them here." Nikolas took the photographs and studied them. The first was of Stefan, almost unrecognizable, smiling and tickling a little girl about three years old, who in turn was laughing, her head tilted back. The back of the photograph read, in a handwriting he did not know, "Lasha and Stefan". The second one was the girl again and a young woman, who Nikolas recognized as the girl he had knocked over. The girl was grinning into the camera, her dark curls pinned back by little clips. The woman had a sad smile on her face and seemed to be looking out past the camera, her long black hair was blowing around her face, her attention divided between the girl and a memory. The caption read "Nicole and Lasha". The final photograph was of two young women, one blonde, the other brunette. Nikolas recognized the blonde as Laura, his mother. The brunette, he realized, was Nicole. They were looking up at the camera with wide smiles on their faces. They seemed to have been writing something before the photographer came. Laura was extremely pregnant and had one hand on her bulging stomach. Nikolas realized that it was him in that picture. The caption read "Nicole, Lasha, and ?", with a smiley face next to the question mark. Nikolas furrowed his eyebrows and looked up at his uncle.
"Why does this say 'Lasha' when it is obviously my mother?" he asked. Stefan sighed.
"We called Laura 'Lasha'. I don't remember why. After she left, Nicole insisted on naming our daughter Lasha. Helena had a fit until Nicole gave in and named the child Lasha Helena. Although we called her Lasha, Helena persisted to call Lasha by her middle name, Helena."
"What happened to Lasha and Nicole?" Nikolas asked.
"Nicole didn't want Lasha raised under Helena's rule, so she sent Lasha off to live with her parents. The plane Lasha was on crashed and we were told that she had died. Nicole didn't believe it and left to find her." Stefan took a drink of his wine.
"What happened to Nicole?" Nikolas asked.
"I don't know. I have not heard from her in nearly ten years. I assume that she is dead." Stefan stood and took the photographs away from Nikolas and shut them in the safe, whirling the combination dial with a flick of his wrist.
"What makes you think that this Lana is actually Lasha?" Nikolas asked. He felt that, for some strange reason, he needed to keep the identity of Lasha, if she existed, a secret from Stefan.
"The exceptional resemblance between Lana and Nicole is almost disturbing. Especially since she is involved so deeply with the Spencers." Stefan replied.
"Involved? What do you mean?"
"She moved in with Lash- Laura- after her parents died. Now that Laura is back here, Lana is living with the Spencers. Plus, she seems to be involved in a relationship with Laura's son." Stefan continued. Nikolas remembered hearing the girl call 'Lucky!' after he ran into her. He knew that the girl had to be Lana. Nikolas also knew that his uncle must never find out, he wasn't sure why but he knew that Stefan could never know. Nikolas looked at his watch again.
"Oh, Uncle, I'm late for an appointment. We should continue this another time." Stefan nodded, and Nikolas gratefully slipped out the door.
"He remembers too little," Stefan mused to himself after Nikolas had left. "There must be something he is holding back, else he would have recalled the night Lasha disappeared." Stefan took another drink of wine and moved a piece of the ongoing chess match he had with himself.
"Checkmate," he said, leaning back in his chair.
Lasha was trapped. She had been standing near the library doors for nearly an hour now. She wished that Lucky could walk by and tell Nikolas to go away or that Nikolas would suddenly leave... Suddenly Lasha had a brainstorm. She walked over to the pay phone next to the History section of the library. She called information.
"Port Charles.... the number for Port Charles High School please," Lasha said. "Thank you. Please dial it." She deposited twenty-five more cents. "Hello? This is Nikolas Cassadine's mother and I need to speak with him. Could you please page him or something?" Lasha lied smoothly into the phone.
"All right, Ma'am, hold on," the secretary said, putting Lasha on hold. Within seconds she heard Nikolas' name over the loudspeakers. She dropped the phone and raced over to the door of the library, hoping Nikolas would leave.

Nikolas checked his watch again. He had seen Lana go in! What could she be doing in there?
"Okay, ten more minutes," he said to himself, knowing fully well that he would continue to wait after that.
"Nikolas Cassadine, please come to the front office, Nikolas Cassadine, you have a call at the front office." a voice said over the loudspeaker.
"Who would be calling me?" he wondered. Stefan would still be at the hospital and would call him at home anyway. Out of the corner of his eye he saw someone reappear next to the doors of the library. Nikolas realized he was being watched. He walked down the hall until he was out of the line of sight of the library and waited.

Lasha cautiously opened the door of the library. She sighed, knowing that no plan was fullproof, and that she would have to leave sometime or Lucky would start to get worried. taking a deep breath she walked brazenly out the door and into the hallway.

"Hello Lana." Nikolas said, sneaking up behind Lasha. Lasha jumped, not expecting him to be right behind her. She decided to play the innocent idiot.
"Do I know you?" Lasha asked, her eyes thoughtful and confused. Nikolas was skeptical.
"We ran into one another a few weeks ago, remember?" he said, taking the safe road. It wasn't a good idea to start out with 'Did you once live with my family on a small island in Greece?'
"Oh. Right. Listen, I'm sorry, but I've really got to go," Lasha said, looking at her watch. She really did have to leave. Lucky would send out a search team if she wasn't in his hospital room within ten minutes.
"Oh, that's too bad. Well, say hello to my brother for me, will you?"
"Your brother? Do I know your brother?" Lasha feigned ignorance again, wondering privately why she always ended up acting like a stupid idiot.
"Lucky Spencer. I'm sorry, I heard you two were dating." Nikolas apologized.
"Who told you that?" Lasha genuinely wondered. She and Lucky had not been seen together in public, well, the last time they had been they weren't speaking.
"Oh. It's a small town," Nikolas realized he had said too much.
"Well I am going to visit him in the hospital. Would you like a lift?" Lasha felt daring all of a sudden. She could pretend she didn't know that Nikolas and Lucky, well, hated one another.
"A lift?" Nikolas was caught completely off guard.
"Well, I know you haven't been to see him yet and I thought you might just need a lift. Sorry, um, what is your name again?"
"Well, Nikolas, are you coming? Because Mom Spencer expects me there soon and I don't want to worry her." Lasha invented a suitable title for Laura off the top of her head.
"Sure, I'll come." Nikolas replied, to Lasha's shock. He figured that this would get him some time to try and get some information out of her and to relay the message that he would not reveal her identity.
"Oh. Okay, um, let's go." Lasha said, at a rare loss of words, as she fished her keys out of her bookbag.
"Lana! What took you so long? We were getting-" Laura stopped mid-sentence as she saw her other son accompanying Lasha. "Nikolas! What a surprise! Did you come to see Lucky?"
"I'm sorry, Mom Spencer," Lasha began, giving Laura a follow-my-lead-and-play-along look. "I was in the library doing some research and lost track of the time. How's Lucky?"
"He was starting to get worried I think. Would you go in there and tell him he has nothing to worry about." Laura prayed Lasha would know she meant Nikolas. Lucky for her, Lasha understood. As Lasha walked into Lucky's room, she could hear Laura trying to start a conversation with Nikolas.
"Good morning star shine!" Lasha said cheerily as she walked into Lucky's room, closing the door firmly behind her.
"It's five, Lasha. Where the hell have you been?" Lucky said quietly.
"I'm sorry but your brother was stalking me. I was stuck in the library for an hour waiting for him to leave." Lasha smiled sweetly in vase someone was watching her. Lucky looked past Lasha into the waiting room.
"So you brought him here?!" he exclaimed in disbelief.
"Actually, I had him paged over the loudspeaker, pretending to be family, but he just hid around the corner... What?" Lucky had started to laugh.
"Lasha, your daddy's an idiot. He wouldn't know to page Nikolas at the school!" A knock came at the door, interrupting them. "Come in!" Lucky yelled. It was Laura. Alone.
"Where's Nikolas go?" Lasha asked. Laura shut the door tightly behind her.
"He's suspicious. Give him forty-eight hours and he'll know," Laura said sadly.
"What? Why only forty-eight hours?" Lasha demanded, feeling very annoyed.
"He's as devious and determined as his father. It won't take him more than two days." Laura kind of smiled at this.
"So what will we do?" Lasha asked, very vexed with this new development. Laura bit her lip.
"The only thing to do is to tell him now and explain why he can't tell Stefan." Lucky stared at his mother in disbelief.
"Are you insane? He might turn around and tell Stefan everything!" Lucky cried.
"He might do that anyway when he finds out," Laura sighed.
"Laura's right. He'll be more likely to tell Stefan if we don't warn him first. Now, we'll also want to do something to occupy Stefan. Where's Luke?" Lasha asked, getting a strange gleam in her eye.
"He's around. He'll show up soon. Why?" Laura asked suspiciously.
"Is he not the great and powerful Luke Spencer?" Lasha smiled slowly. "Who else to perfectly distract Stefan than his arch nemesis?" Lasha raised one eyebrow as chills went down Laura's spine. The actions and tone of voice were purely Helena. Even the manner of speaking was Cassadine. Laura was thankful that Lasha had not been raised under Cassadine rule, else she probably would have become another Helena Cassadine.
"What is it, Laura?" Lasha asked, staring at Laura, who in turn, had been staring at Lasha strangely.
"What? Oh, nothing. What? No 'Mom Spencer' anymore?" Laura laughed.
"Oh. I figured that if I had really been living with you for so long, I probably would have given you a name like such." Lasha waved away the matter with her hand.
"What about Luke?" Laura asked.
"Yeah, what about me?" Luke repeated, sauntering in.
"Do you really want to be called 'Dad Spencer'?" Lasha asked, laughing.
"'Dad Spencer'?! It sounds kinda like Papa Smurf," Luke retorted.
"Seriously, Luke, I need you to do me a favor. You probably know Stefan the best of all of us... at least the Stefan of the present. You need to distract him to the point that he doesn't really give a damn about the girl who looks like his former wife. I know you will be able to do it because somehow you have managed to escape disembowelment from the Cassadines thus far." Lasha said, beginning to remind Luke of Helena now.
"Well I don't know, sweetheart. Don't want to break a winning streak."
"Don't then. All you need to do is distract him. Plant some evidence of your presence and let him do the rest." Luke shook his head suddenly, as if shaking out of a trance.
"All right, Lasha. I'll do it. Laura, a word!" he walked out of the room. Laura followed.
"What the hell was that?" Luke exploded.
"You noticed it too." Laura sighed.
"Noticed it? I thought I was talking to the Queen of Darkness! Lasha is exactly like Helena. It is downright frightening."
"Thank God Nicole had the sense to get her out of their clutches or you would have been talking to 'the Queen of Darkness'. There's no denying Helena's presence in her, but Lasha is compassionate and kind. As long as we keep her away from them, she'll stay that way and the Helena in her won't take over."
"I hope it works." Luke sighed. Laura looked in the window. Lucky and Lasha were talking, Lasha sitting very close to him on his bed. She sighed.
"Me too."
Lasha arrived home from a long day at school She threw her bookbag onto her bed and her keys onto her desk before she went back downstairs to check the messages on the answering machine.
"Hi Lana, it's Lucky. I'm coming home and I expect a party- finals or no finals! Come by soon!" Lasha smiled and reminded herself to pick up Lucky's Welcome Home cake.
"Hey Lash. It's Mom. Call me." Lasha sighed and picked up the phone, dialing the familiar digits.
"Keia Peters please." Lasha put on a Southern accent.
"Speaking." Keia smiled, recognizing Lasha's voice, Southern or not.
"Hey, Mom. What's up?" Lasha laughed, returning to her normal voice.
"Just called to say hi," Keia said.
"Really? How's Dad? Oh, someone's at the door. Keep talking, though. They have a cordless!" Lasha walked over to the door as Keia talked about different things. "Hold on a sec, Mom." Lasha opened the door.
Keia Peters paused in the middle of her speech about how "Dad" was. She could hear Lasha talking on the other end.
"Hello? Excuse me, Ma'am, but do I know you?" Keia got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Lasha! Shut the door! Lasha!" she yelled. But she couldn't be heard over Lasha's scream. And then the line went dead.
"Oh my God." Keia Peters' face white white. She whipped out her cellular phone and dialed. "I need a jet to Port Charles. New York. Now!" She barked into the phone.
Laura helped her son into their home. The house was dark and empty.
"Go on upstairs, Lucky, I'll see if Lasha left a note." she smiled as her son walked upstairs, but in her heart she was worried about Lasha. The doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" Laura called, running to the door, praying that Lasha had forgotten her key. A strange woman stood at the door, her long blonde hair tied tightly back in a bun, her face lined with years of worry, her sharp blue eyes seeming to penetrate into your mind. Although Laura had never seen this woman before in her life, the woman seemed familiar. As a result, Laura stood there rather dumbfounded.
"Laura, there's not much time. They have her." the woman spoke quickly, walking into the house. Laura gasped.
"Nicole!" The woman sighed.
"I should have known. Even after all these years, I should have known that you would know me. Where is your family?" Nicole inquired, half-smiling as she looked around the empty house.
"My son is upstairs, my daughter is at her aunt's, and Luke is around here somewhere. Wait! What do you mean 'they have her'?"
"Nikolas is here?" Nicole stated, surprised.
"No. My son Lucky. Nikolas is living with your husband a few miles from here. Forget all of that, though! Who has Lasha?!" Laura demanded.
"The Cassadines. I was on the phone with her. She answered the door. Then she screamed and the line went dead. I called my cousin Jerry and told him to get me here now. I looked up Luke and Laura Spencer in the phone book and came over here. Now why in God's name is Nikolas living with my ex-husband in Port Charles?" Nicole questioned her longtime friend.

Lucky was coming downstairs and had heard Nicole's explanation of where Lasha was. He crept back up the staircase and went into his room. He wrote a note to his parents and snuck out the window. He arrived at the docks silently. Walking over to the pay phone, he checked the phone book and dialed the Cassadine number.
"Hello?" Stefan answered the phone.
"Mr. Cassadine?" Lucky disguised his voice in a falsetto. "This is Lana James. Is Nikolas there?" Stefan smiled, believing that Nikolas was doing a good job of fooling his half-sister, or, as Nikolas believed, his cousin.
"Hold on." Stefan went to get Nikolas.
"Hello?" Nikolas said, confused. He knew that Lana would not call here.
"Nikolas it's Lucky. Lana's in trouble. Meet me on the docks in ten minutes and don't tell Stefan." Lucky said in his normal voice. Nikolas, though surprised, did not change his facial expression.
"Okay Lana. I'll be there." Nikolas hung up the phone. "That was Lana, Uncle. She needs to talk to me. I'm meeting her at the Outback in five minutes." Nikolas lied smoothly to his uncle's inquisitive face. Within seconds, Nikolas was on the boat headed for the docks.

"What is it?" Nikolas asked curiously after following Lucky to a deserted area.
"Where is she?" Lucky demanded.
"You know who I'm talking about. Dammit, we were going to tell you!" Lucky fumed.
"Tell me what? I don't understand. Who is she?"
"Lana! Where is she?!"
"I don't know where Lasha went." Suddenly Nikolas' face went white as memories came pouring back. Lucky looked at his brother's face in alarm.
"Hey! Nikolas! Are you OK?"
"I can't remember." Nikolas bit his lip.
"Remember what?"
"Lasha was in the boat. I fell overboard. Someone grabbed me and I saw Nicole beside me and Lasha, all by herself in the boat."
"Did Stefan grab you?"
"No. I can't remember!" Nikolas' eyes became very wide. "Helena. Nobody else but Helena would take her."
"Where is Helena?"
"Probably Greece."

"Nicole, how did you escape? I mean-"
"Laura, that doesn't matter. Right now, we need to save Lasha. Now, if I call my cousins, I can get them to help with transportation and funding. We just need a lead."
"Nicole, who else would take her?"
"I didn't want to think about that." Nicole sighed. "I guess I have no choice." She met Laura's eye. "I think we're going to have to go back." Laura turned white.
"No. No, no, no. Not Greece. Not that island."
"Laura, we have no other options here! My daughter's gone, and there are only two people who would have taken her, and I distinctly heard her say 'Excuse me, Ma'am, but do I know you?' Laura, that bitch has my baby girl and I need your help to get her back."
"Call your cousins," Laura whispered. Nicole leaned over to get the phone when the door opened like a shot. Both women whirled around in fear.

"Darlin', why haven't you been answerin' the phone?" Laura sighed in relief. She turned to Nicole.
"It's only Luke." Luke raied an eyebrow and shut the door behind him.
"Well, thank you very much." Laura's eyes widnened as what Luke had said sunk in.
"Wait, you've been calling here?" She leaned over and checked the downstairs phone. "The ringer's turned off, but Lucky would- Oh no." Laura raced up the stairs two at a time. Luke turned to Nicole in alarm.
"What the hell is going on- Whoa, wait a second, who are you?"
"He's gone!" Laura cried.
"WHAT?!" Nicole yelled. Laura handed Nicole a note. " 'Dear Mom and Dad, I heard Mom and Nicole talking. I'm going to find Lasha myself. -Lucky' Oh crap." Luke realized who the woman was.
"Hold it! You're Nicole? As in, Ex-Mrs.-Count-Vlad Nicole?" Nicole began to laugh.
"Count Vlad? What is he, a vampire?"
"That has yet to be proven!" Luke grinned. Nicole turned to Laura.
"Are we talking about two different people here?!" Laura smiled sadly.
"Yeah. Stefan and Stefan Cassadine."
"No, he's not-"
"Hell hath no fury like a man betrayed, Nicole."
"Hey! Can you two stop talkin' in subliminal messages here?" Luke cried suddenly.
Someone knocked on the door. Luke, without thinking, turned around and opened it.
It was Stefan.

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