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Disclaimer:  I do not own these characters.  No infringement intended.

 

Title:  The Dream You Left Behind

 

Rating:  NC-17

 

Keywords:  Luke/Laura Romance, then Stefan/Laura Romance

 

Summary:  Luke leaves the dream he and Laura shared behind.  Something he could not control…and Laura has another chance at love, a love she’s had for a long time…Stefan Cassadine.

 

Author:  Paradise.

 

 

Laura’s Bedroom

11:14 AM

            Laura laid frozen, empty, disposed of.  The covers were pulled over her and she held them loosely to her with her bloody hands.  She didn’t know what time it was and she didn’t care.  If she could just stay like this forever, maybe she would die.  She prayed to God that he would allow her heart to stop beating.  Laura thought she heard footsteps, but she didn’t care what he did to her anymore.

            “Laura!” Luke opened the door to her bedroom and saw her.  “Laura?”

            She didn’t move.  Luke walked over and waved a hand in front of her eyes.

            “Laura,” he said again. 

            Then Luke noticed the blood on her hands, and how she seemed to be in a state of shock.  He tried to touch her and she moaned, wiggling her body away from him.

            “Oh my God, Angel…what…who did this to you?”

            “Stop,” she whispered, her foggy mind not yet able to recognize Luke. 

            “Laura,” he said firmly, yet gently.  Laura had unknowingly pulled the covers down, revealing her bruised and bloody chest.  “My God, Laura, who did this?” Luke said, panicking a little.
            She moaned, not wanting to talk about it.  She turned her head away but he cupped her cheek, urging her to look at him. 

            “Laura!  Who hurt you?” Luke pleaded, terrified.

            “Luke, just let me be.  Just go away.”

            “No!  Laura, my God, I walk into your bedroom and I see you like this, please, tell me what happened or tell me who I can get that you will talk to…”

            She shivered.  “Stavros.”
            Luke couldn’t have heard right.  “I beg your pardon?”

            She turned angry.  “You heard me, dammit,” she broke down crying.  “Stavros, he’s obviously not dead.  The bruises on my body are the proof of his ‘love’ for me!”

            She turned her face away from Luke, but he went around to the other side of the bed, kneeling to face her.  She was so beautiful.  Even beaten, she glowed.  Luke reached out to touch her, but pulled his hands back, then reached out again to comfort her and pulled back once more.  He was like a scared little boy.  Stavros Cassadine, who broke his neck years ago as he was raping Laura, was alive and had attacked her again?

            “Laura, are you sure?” Luke asked softly.
            “Does it look like I’m joking, Luke?!?  He came in through the window and raped me!  I saw him, I felt his body inside of mine.  I think I know who it was.”

            Luke felt something terrible wash through him.  He touched her face and she jumped, and then she saw it was Luke.

            “Laura, it’s me, and I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you.  I’m going to take care of this, and I’m going to take care of you.  You’re safe, alright, and I’m not going to leave you or let him do this to you again.”

            “He’s out there, he’s going to come back…” she started to cry violently.

            Shhh, Laura, look at me,” he said, holding her cheek with a firm grip so he could look into her eyes.  “Laura, I want you to trust me.  I am going to take care of you.  I will die before I let anyone hurt you again,” he said.

            She stopped crying then.  Luke made her feel safe. 

            “If you just let him do what he wants, maybe he’ll leave our children alone-“

“Laura,” he said sharply.

She nodded.  “Alright, alright…I trust you.  God, Luke,” she said reaching to touch his face, making sure that he was real.
            He lightly kissed her lips, and then cursed himself for being so thoughtless under the circumstances.  Laura didn’t jump or feel fear though, yet she was so dazed she didn’t notice Luke’s guilt.  He left the room for a minute to call Bobbie, careful not to go far in case Laura called for him.  He quickly dialed Bobbie’s number.

            “Barbara, get over here fast!”

            “Luke,” Bobbie said.  “What’s wrong?”
            “Just get over here, now!”

            “Where?  Your apartment?”

            “No, Laura’s house.”

            “Laura’s house, why?”
            Dammit Barbara, just get over here, I trust you, don’t tell anyone.”

            “Is it Laura?”
            “Yes.”

            “I’ll be right there.”

            Luke hung up the phone and dialed the Quartermaine residence. 
            “Dr. Quartermaine?”
            “Yes, Luke,” Monica said.

            Who in town wouldn’t know Luke?

            “I need you to come to Laura’s house.  It’s an emergency.  Please, come for Laura.”

            “Is she alright?  What’s wrong?”

            “She needs a doctor, and I trust two people, you and my sister.”

            “Tell Laura I’ll be right there.”

            “Monica?”

            “Yes?”

            “Can you bring some sort of rape kit?”

            “Laura’s…” she didn’t finish.

            “Just bring whatever you would bring for a patient who’s been raped, but that you can’t take to the hospital…yet.  And I mean badly…raped.”

            “I’ll be right there, just stay with her, and don’t let her bathe.  Tell her I love her and she’ll be fine.”

            “I will, hurry.”

 

            Monica got off the phone.  Alan came in.

            “Monica, what’s wrong?”

            Monica’s eyes were wide with fear for Laura.  “Oh, nothing, I have to go.”

            “Whoa, whoa, what is it?  Tell me,” he said, stopping her.

            “It’s a patient.”

            “At the hospital?”

            “No, I have to go to her, Alan, you don’t understand.”

            “Tell me.”

            “I promise to tell you soon, I’ve gotta get to her.”

            “Can I help?  Is it someone I know?”

            Monica shook her head.  She shouldn’t tell him, Luke said not to.  But she would later.  Edward came in with AJ.

            “What in God’s name are you two arguing about?  You’re disturbing my conference call!”

            “Oh, stuff it Edward, for God’s sakes, shut up!”

            With that Monica stormed out, driving to Laura’s after a quick stop at GH for necessities.

 

            Luke got off the phone and walked back into the bedroom.  He wanted to hold her, to kiss away the bruises, but that was impossible.  She was still, staring at the ceiling. 

            “Laura,” he said, but she didn’t respond.

            He reached and touched her and she screamed, wiggling and trying to move as he stopped her.

            “Laura, Laura, Laura!” he grabbed her shoulders to try to get her to stop struggling.
            “Stop it.  Don’t touch me.  Why doesn’t it matter to you that I hate you?” she hissed, her eyes closed.

            “Laura, it’s me, it’s Luke.”
            She opened her eyes and saw him, relief washed over her eyes but it was quickly replaced with guilt.  “Oh…I’m sorry, Luke,” she said desperately.

            “Don’t apologize, Laura.  I’m going to ask to do something that you may not like, so you just tell me no.  Can I look just to see how badly you are hurt?”

            He didn’t tell her he might have to take her to the hospital.  She might be even more terrified by that.  But just from looking at her hands, he wondered how bad the rest of her was.

            She didn’t seem to comprehend him.  “You mean my body?”

            “Yes, I just want to see what he did to you, how badly he hurt you, so I can help.  I won’t touch you, I promise.”

            She didn’t reply. 

“Laura--”

            “Okay,” she whispered quickly.

            He lifted the sheets very slowly, looking at her as she looked back, and he told her he wasn’t going to hurt her.  As her stomach was revealed, Luke saw many dark bruises, cuts, lacerations, and she had blood from some of the lacerations, and more blood on her legs.  The blood came from between her legs and it covered her all the way down to her knees. 

            She pulled the covers back over her body.  “I’m sorry,” she said.

            “Don’t ever say that,” Luke said, tucking her under the covers safely and sitting on the bed beside her.

            “I hate him…I always hated him.”  She turned her head away.  “Just please forget you ever saw this and leave.  I know he’ll come back, he wants me back.  He never loses.”

            “Laura, listen to me, he’s not going to come back and take you anywhere because I won’t let him.  He came into your house and raped you in your house.  This was not your fault.”

            There was a knock on the front door.  Laura didn’t hear it.

            “Can you wait right here until I come back?  I’m going to get you something to drink.”

            She nodded just barely.  Luke ran down the stairs and opened the door.

            “Barbara Jean, come upstairs and see Laura,” he said frantically.

            Monica was getting out of her car, and Luke waved her over. 

            “What happened to Laura,” Bobbie asked.

            “I don’t know exactly, but I think Stavros Cassadine raped her.”

            “What?” Bobbie asked.
            “Yeah, I know, he’s dead, but you’ll change your mind about that when you see what he’s done to her.  And if it’s not him, Helena’s got a damn good actor playing him.”

            “Where is she?” Bobbie said.

            “In her bed.  That’s where he raped her, she won’t move.  Please, Bobbie, you’ve got to help her.  I’m scared for her.”

            Bobbie pushed Luke aside and ran up the stairs.  She’d been raped enough times to understand Laura.  But then again, Laura had been here many times before also.  Stavros was her rapist for two solid years.  Bobbie knocked on the door.

            “Laura,” she called softly.

            Bobbie opened the door and saw Laura.  She hated what she saw, the look in Laura’s eyes.  Laura didn’t turn to face her.  Bobbie walked very slowly over to Laura.  She never wanted to see Laura like this.  Laura’s beautiful hair was tangled and bloody.  She quivered in fear.  Her face was a pasty, yellow color and her eyes were wide and frightened.

            “Laura, it’s Bobbie; everything’s going to be fine.  You’re safe now.”

            Bobbie came over and sat next to Laura on the bed.  “Can I take your pulse to make sure you’re alright?  Is that okay?”

            “Yeah,” Laura said, and Bobbie wondered if Laura even recognized her.

            “Thank you, honey.  I’m not going to hurt you.  I promise you we’re not going to let anyone hurt you.”

            Luke and Monica came in at that point and Laura saw them.

            “You called them,” Laura asked.

            “Yes.  I didn’t know what to do.  I got two people we trust.”

            “Monica,” Laura cried.

            Monica walked over and felt her head, taking her hand. 

            “Oh, Laura, I’m so sorry.  Though I know that doesn’t mean a damn thing.”  Monica paused before continuing.  “Can I examine you gently?”
            “Please don’t touch me,” Laura whispered desperately.

            “Monica--” Bobbie said.

            “Luke, why don’t you wait downstairs,” Monica said sharply.  “We will tell you everything, but I need to be alone with Laura.”

            Luke reluctantly left.  He was so scared.  He wanted to make sure she was alright!  Lesley Lu came out of her bedroom and Luke realized how lucky they were that Stavros hadn’t touched their daughter!  He held Lulu in his arms tightly and went downstairs to watch a movie with her, praying that Bobbie and Monica would hurry up.  Was Laura alright?  And how many times would he have to reassure Lesley Lu before he knew?

Monica and Bobbie sat on each side of Laura.

            “Laura, Monica and I are here to help you, and we’re not going anywhere.  We are here and we won’t leave you,” Bobbie said, kissing her sister-in-law’s hand.  “Do you want to talk about it?”
            “Stavros,” Laura said, not looking at Bobbie.  She still stared at the ceiling.

            “Are you sure?” Bobbie asked.

            “I think I would recognize him.”

            “Of course you would.  You saw his face, though?”

            “Oh yes.  I saw his face.  He wanted me to know exactly who he was.”

            Monica still needed to do an exam on Laura’s body. 

            “Bobbie,” Monica said, telling Bobbie to prepare Laura.

            Bobbie understood and held Laura’s hand tighter.  “Okay, Laura, sweetie, look at me.  Monica’s going to check you out, but you know she loves you, and she’s not going to hurt you.  She wants to help, and I will be right here, holding your hand, keeping you safe.”

            Laura finally looked at Bobbie.  “My children--”

            “They’re fine.  I just saw Lucky and Liz.  Luke is with Lulu right now.”

            “Nikolas.”

            “I’m sure he’s fine--”

            “Get Luke to find him!  And tell Luke to tell Stefan that Stavros is alive!  Stefan can protect Nikolas!  Go Bobbie!  Make sure Stefan and Nikolas are okay!”

            Laura began breathing hard, becoming hysterical.  “Okay, okay, Laura, relax.  I’ll have Luke find them both and warn them.  I’ll be right back.  Monica’s here, you’re fine.  Alright?”

            “Go, please Bobbie,” Laura pleaded.  “And not just Nikolas, Stefan too.”

            Bobbie ran downstairs and Luke was off in a heartbeat, taking Lesley Lu with him.  He wasn’t leaving his daughter alone for a second!  And Stavros would not harm Nikolas.  Nikolas was the most sane of the Cassadines and he loved his mother.  So did Stefan, which was still a little unnerving to Luke.  When Bobbie came back upstairs, Monica was telling Laura some of the Quartermaine stories to cheer her up, to keep her from being frightened.  Laura actually laughed a bit but Bobbie couldn’t laugh, looking at what this man had done to Laura’s body.  It was used, beaten…raped. 

“Laura, you’re being so strong.  Don’t you worry about anything,” Monica told her as she did an internal exam.
            “I’ve had some practice at this, I’m used to Stavros doing this to me, but I was caught off guard this time.  That happens when you think someone’s dead.  He came in through the window when I was asleep,” Laura said.

            “Go on, honey,” Monica said, still examining her.

            “He woke me up with a knife to my throat, telling me he’d come back for me.  Come back from his sleep.  I couldn’t stop him…I couldn’t do it.  It was all so sudden, I didn’t know what was going on and I - he dug the knife into my throat when I fought.”

            “And he hit you,” Bobbie said.

            “Yes, so hard I could barely see.  Then he tore down my shorts and raped me.”

            Bobbie closed her eyes as a tear fell.

            “Did he explain how he is up walking around after his neck was broken?” Monica said.

            “No.”

            Laura struggled for a moment with Monica’s examination.

            “Laura, it’s okay.  All I’m doing is taking the evidence from your body and putting it with the rape kit.  Then I’m going to let you take a bath and if you want to, see your children.  But if you don’t, that’s fine.  Bobbie and Luke will watch them.  I’m almost through.”

            “I’m sorry,” Laura said, hating every minute of this.

            “Hey, did I tell you about Skye Chandler coming into my house announcing she was another of my husband’s illegitimate children?”
            Laura let a tiny smile touch her lips.

            “Let me tell you that bitch is more than I need right now.  I told Alan one bastard child is enough for one marriage, what do you think?”

            Laura smiled a bit more.  “I don’t know, it depends on the circumstances, but you raised Jason well.  You took him in as your own and loved him, and Alan should thank you every day.”

            That was the most Laura had said all day. 

            “Some days, Laura, I want to kill Alan, but there are other days when I can’t wait to get out of the damn hospital and pounce on him.”

            That was when Laura actually laughed.  Several minutes passed of the examination, and Laura said nothing.  Then there was a knock on the door. 

            “Is Laura okay?” a soft voice asked.

            “She’s fine, Luke.  We’ll be down in a minute.  Did you find Nikolas and Stefan?”

            “Yes, they’re fine.  So are Lucky and Lulu.  Laura, I called your mother, didn’t tell her what happened but just told her to come.  Can I come in?”

            “No!” they all said at the same time.

            “Thank you,” Luke said sarcastically and went back downstairs.

            “Alright, Laura.  Would you like to take a bath?”
            Laura looked at Monica.  “Yeah.  Am I okay, physically?”

            Monica sighed.  “Sweetie, there’s a little tearing that could get infected if you don’t go to the hospital today for a more complete examination, and you should take a morning after pill, but I think you could take a bath first if you’d like.”

            “Could I see Luke for a minute?”

            “Sure.  I’ll be right downstairs with Bobbie,” Monica said.  “We’ll eat all of Lulu’s cookies and watch some great movies.”

            Laura smiled a little.  They left.  Laura climbed out of bed, but she could barely walk.  She ached between her legs.  Stavros was always so brutal.  “I don’t want to hurt your body Laura, but since it’s mine, I’ll do as I please.”  Was any of this real?  Was Stavros going to do it all over again?  Hurt her and punish her?  He’d had a damn good start.  Laura hadn’t mean to cry, but two large tears slipped from her eyes anyway.  She wrapped the blanket around her body and headed towards the bathroom.  Luke knocked on the door.

            “Luke?”

            He popped his head through.  “Hi,” he said timidly.

            “I bet I look attractive,” Laura said sarcastically. 

            “Bobbie says we still need to take you to the hospital.”

            “Yeah, I’m just going to take a bath first.”

            Luke reached for her and she walked into his arms, crying loudly.  Within seconds her face hurt from the salty tears and she was completely red.  Luke tipped her face towards him.

            “You’re going to be fine, Laura.  I will be with you, and I’m not going to let Stavros take you anywhere again.  You’re not going to disappear and be a prisoner of any kind.  I promise.”

            She nodded.  “Please put your arms around me, Luke,” she said, frightened.

            He held her tightly and kissed her head.  “You’re safe, Laura, because I’m here, and I love you.”

            She licked her lips, not hearing him.  She was too dazed, almost in shock.  “What?” she said casually.

            “I love you.”

            She cuddled closer to him.  “I never thought I’d hear those words again.  Stay with me, Luke.  Just until I’m okay?  I need you with me.  I know he’ll come back--”

            “Whoa whoa, hold it!  I’m the guy who’s crazy about you who will always protect you, no matter how much you don’t need it.  That’s what I’m here for, to make you crazy to the point where you’ll have to throw me out!”

            “I love you, Luke,” she said softly, her eyes shut. 

            “I love you,” he said.  “Ask me anything, what can I do?”

            “Thank you.”

            “Are you in pain?”
            Laura looked up at him, ashamed.  “Yes.  My body hurts.  Help me,” she said and he helped her walk to the bathroom.

            Luke began to run hot water. 

            “Hot or medium,” he asked.

            “Hot, it’ll get the blood off of me faster.”

            Luke was the one who turned hot at that moment, hot with fury.  He wanted to free of mind of every memory of Stavros, replacing it with the life he should’ve given her; a peaceful, safe one.  He’d failed her so many times.  He had to change the subject.  This was hurting him too much and God knows what it was doing to her. 

            “You ready?”
            “Yeah.”

            She stood up and pulled her hair out of the clasp it was in, undoing her robe after stepping into the shower.  He knew there had to be pain involved in doing all of this. 

            “Do you want to be alone, Laura?” he asked her softly.

            “No, I’m afraid to be alone right now.  I just want to be safe,” she said half to herself.

            Luke sat on the closed toilet seat and kept talking to her about nothing in particular.  Laura popped her head out from behind the curtain and handed him the brush she’d finished using and he smiled, thinking how foolish he’d been to forget that she brushed her hair before showering.

            “My arms hurt from being restrained,” she told him.  “How’s Lulu, is she downstairs?”

            “Oh yeah, yeah.  I think Barbara’s having a grand time.  You know how much she misses BJ.”

            “Nikolas, where is he?”

            “With Stefan, he’s alright.  Lucky and Liz are there too, it’s a party over at Wyndeweird, and we’re invited!”

            Laura smiled at his attempts to make her smile. 

            “What did you tell Stefan?”

            “I…I told him that Stavros was apparently alive and that he attacked…you.  I told him to make sure Nikolas was safe and that you were going to be alright.  I don’t know what Stefan did or didn’t tell Nikolas, I hope that’s okay.”

            Laura licked her bloody lips.  “Yeah, I wish I could make sure Stefan was alright.  You have no idea Luke.  And my son, I wish I could help him-“

            “Hey, Stefan is with him, and you know Vlad is great with Nikki, it’s alright.  Stefan is worried about you, and so are the kids, I’m sure, so when you’re up to seeing them all, you will.”

            “Yeah, I will, I will soon.”

            Luke left her to bathe and sat back down, waiting for her to finish showering.  He wouldn’t leave her.  She looked down at her body, and began washing the blood.  But the feeling, the feeling of Stavros, how he hit her, what he said, it wouldn’t leave her.  Laura had to wipe the filth off her body.  She was fiercely scraping the blood off, so insistently that Luke heard her and pulled the curtain back a little to see her.  She didn’t seem to care if she removed her skin in the process of washing away the memories, and he knew she was crying.  She began to breathe heavily in and out.  He reached for her.

            “Laura,” he said.  She screamed and moved away from him.  “Laura, it’s me.  You’re not dirty, it’s alright.”  She turned to him, he and wiped the tears from under her eyes.   

            There was a knock on the door.  Laura grabbed Luke’s arms.

            “Laura, I think we better get to the hospital.  I’m sorry to interrupt.”

            Laura exhaled relief that it was Monica, and loosened her grip on Luke’s arms.

            “Laura, even if that had been Stavros, you would have still been safe.”

            “I know.  That’s why I reached for you.”

            She finished her bath, but as soon as she got out, she wanted another one.

 

General Hospital

Five Hours Later

 

            “Laura, I’m going to go for just a little while to check on the kids.  Do you want me to bring Lucky and Nikolas?” Bobbie asked her.
            “Thank you,” was all she said. 

Laura hadn’t heard that, otherwise she would have told her that she didn’t want to see her children now.  Bobbie left the room and Luke stayed a minute longer.

            “Now if there’s a problem, Bobbie’s right outside,” Luke said.  “Just yell for her.”

            “Okay.”

            Luke left. 

Laura had actually been a bit worse off than Monica had predicted.  She’d had to have a minor operation to repair a little internal bleeding in her reproductive system.  Monica gave the evidence to the police, and Laura took the morning after pill.  Laura guessed everyone wanted to believe the police could stop people like the Cassadines, but she had little faith in their abilities.  But the only thing that stopped them was a bullet.  She remembered the night she’d first slept with Stavros.  Was it sleeping with him, or was it rape?  It was a choice between her life or sleeping with him, so how could that be called consensual? 

            Lasha,” Stavros called out as he emerged from the closet of Laura’s room.

            Her hateful eyes glared at him as she sat halfway up.  “You’ve been in there the whole time?” she hissed, sitting up uncomfortably.

            “You seem to think that I would leave you, but you should’ve known I wouldn’t.  There’s no escaping our destiny together.”

            He was so sick, and he didn’t even realize it.  He moved closer to her.  “Don’t touch me,” she said, more disgusted than terrified.  “BOBBIE!”

            Stavros placed a hand over Laura’s mouth as she continued to try to scream.  She bit his hand with all the strength in her and hit him.  Stavros suddenly felt something sharp against him.

            “This is a surgical knife pointed directly at your spinal cord.  I will paralyze you if I have to Mr. Cassadine, and then you better pray that’s all I do to you.  Take your hands off of Laura.”

            Stavros did as he was told, but this was a game to him, he was enjoying it. 

            “That’s a good boy,” Bobbie said.  “Now step away from her, that’s it.  Dr. Quartermaine!”

            Monica came in the room. 
            “This is Stavros Cassadine,” Bobbie explained.  “The man responsible for putting Laura in this bed.  So would you make sure he is restrained by whatever means necessary?”

            Monica grabbed Stavros and turned him to her.  Dammit, it is you, and how the hell are you alive?”

            “You’re a doctor,” he said coldly.  “You know people have rebirths.”

            “Uh huh,” she said, completely unaffected by his attempts to upset or frighten her.  “Well, you’re about to have a re-incarceration.”

            Bobbie looked at Laura.  “Are you alright?”

            She laughed.  “No.  How do I look?  I don’t want Nikolas-”

            “You look beautiful.  I’m glad you yelled for me.  How long was Stavros in here?”

            “The whole time.  He was in the closet.”

            “He what?”

            “I don’t know why I expected anything different.”         

            “Well, Stavros is going to learn to expect something different.”

            The doors burst open and Laura’s face was covered with fear.  It was Luke, Lucky, Nikolas, Stefan, and Elizabeth.

            “Nikolas, oh thank God,” she reached for him and pulled him to her, hugging him tearfully, almost strangling him.  “Oh God, I was so scared, I love you so much.”

            Laura showered maternal kisses on her son and whispered her love to him over and over.

            “Mom,” Nikolas said.  “My father’s alive, and he put you in the hospital?”

            Laura nodded once.  Bobbie couldn’t imagine being in Laura’s place.  Stefan never thought he would see Laura like this again.

            Luke spoke.  “Hey, Nikki, your mom’s going to be fine, and you are not your father.”

            Nikolas had tears growing in his eyes.

            “But still, a part of me hurt you,” Nikolas said.

            “No!” Laura and Stefan said at the same time.  “No, you saved me.  This isn’t you.  I failed you Nikolas.  Your whole life you have saved me, you have been my savior, the love of my life, and I wasn’t there for you.  I know you love me, and I know that I love you, and I know you did nothing but give me joy, and you want to know how I know?

            Nikolas was quiet.  Laura smiled.  “Because you’re standing here next to me and you love me.  That’s all I need, and I hoped I’d get someone as precious as you in my life.  I look at you and I see everything perfect in the world.  I love you, Nikolas.”

            She held Nikolas and he clung to her so tightly that he inadvertently hurt her, putting pressure on her bruised skin.  She refrained from crying out in pain.  She felt his tears against her skin.  She pulled back and smiled at Nikolas, telling him everything was okay, caressing his face.

            “Mom,” Lucky said.

            “Hi honey.  I didn’t mean to scare you.”

            Lucky reached out and hugged her.  “You okay?”

            “Yeah, I’ll be fine.  Not in any pain,” she said believably.

            “You’re amazing,” Lucky said.

            Laura smiled, still holding Nikolas’s hand for reassurance.

            Elizabeth, thank you for coming, I’m sorry.  I love you, and I was thinking about the first time I ever saw you.  How you wanted me to hold you, could I have a hug?”

            Elizabeth gladly acquiesced and hugged Laura. 

            “Laura, I was so worried.  I’m so glad you’re okay.  We’ll talk later,” Elizabeth whispered to her so that no one else could hear.

            “Absolutely,” Laura whispered back. 

            “Laura’s going to be fine,” Bobbie said.  “She’s a strong woman.”

            “She shouldn’t have to be,” Nikolas snapped.

            “Nikolas, you know something?  I feel more safe than I’ve ever felt in my life with you here.  I want you to promise me you’ll stay with me, maybe take care of me.”

            “Mom, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you,” he said. 

            “Nikolas, can you come with me to check on Lesley Lu?  She’s supposed to be with Mrs. Webber and Amy, let’s see if they’re here,” Elizabeth said, wanting to give Laura some space.

            “Oh, that would be great,” Laura said, immediately agreeing with Elizabeth’s suggestion.

            Elizabeth took Lucky and Nikolas out, but stopped to say something to Laura. 

“If there’s anything I can do…I remember how I felt.  I remember all of it.  But it’s got to be harder being…it happening with someone you know.”

            “And someone you thought was dead,” Laura said sadly. 

            “Laura,” Stefan said, walking towards her.  She held her hand out to him desperately, and he instantly took it in his. 

“Hey, are you alright?” she asked, concerned for him.

            “Yes, I’m fine, I never thought I’d see you like this again,” he squeezed her hand, wanting to do so much more.

            Laura tilted her head back so that Stefan could kiss her on the forehead. 

            “I know, thank you for being here.  And thank you for being there then.”

            She brought his hand to her face, letting it rest against her skin.

            “When can I go home?” Laura asked Monica, who had just walked in.

            “Tomorrow morning.  We just have to make sure that all the bleeding has stopped.”

            “Bleeding,” Stefan said, a little alarmed.

            Monica wasn’t sure how much she should say.  “Well, often after…incidents like this, there’s slight internal bleeding.  Laura’s fine, we just need to make sure she stays that way.”

            Laura relaxed, still holding Stefan’s hand.  “I have all the people the world I love right here with me.  What more could I need?” she said reassuringly to Stefan.

            Lesley burst through the door.  “Laura!”

            “That’s what I need,” Laura said. 

            “I got on the first flight out and Lesley Lu’s with Amy.  Are you alright?”

            “Yes, now that you’re here.  I’m sorry if I scared you, Mom, I’m fine.”

            “Well, why don’t we all clear out and let Lesley see her daughter,” Monica said.

            “Come on, Vlad,” Luke said to Stefan and headed out.  Barbara, gotta talk to you.”

            Bobbie rolled her eyes and smiled, following Luke out.  Lesley pulled up a chair and held Laura’s hand tightly.

            “Is it true?  Stavros is alive and he attacked you?”

            “Yes.”

            “Oh God, my baby girl.  I’m so sorry.  Where is the bastard?  What can I do?”

            “I’m really tired, I want to go to sleep, but I really need to talk to Stefan.  Will you be with Nikolas, make sure he knows how much I love him?”

            “I will do anything.  And Luke should stay outside?”

            “I need to be with Stefan for a few minutes alone.”

            “Alright.”

            Laura was resting her head against the pillow when she felt Stefan touch her face.  She didn’t have to open her eyes to recognize his touch. 

            “Hey,” she said, looking at him.  “I’m sorry you have to see me like this.”

            “Doesn’t lessen your strength or your beauty.  What can I do?”

            Laura held out her hand to him, and he took it.  “I have to make Nikolas understand-”

            “What about you?  Think about you for a minute.  Laura, you have bruises all over you.  He hurt you…badly didn’t he?”

            She couldn’t lie to Stefan or even lessen the damage with her words.  He knew her too well.

            “Yeah.  He held a knife to my throat.  He was so violent that I was bleeding.  He…smiled that hideous smile where he was so arrogant and proud and…then I struggled…and he hit me, over and over and I couldn’t stop…”

            She said, turning her head away, but Stefan cupped her face lightly and comforted her.

            “It’s alright, but is he in prison now?”

            Laura laughed.  “And what’s that going to do?”

            “Whatever it doesn’t do, we will finish.  Not just for Nikolas, for you.  This is about you.”

            “It’s also about you.  I’m so sorry.  I know how much you hate him, how much he hurt you.  I haven’t forgotten.  I hate him for hurting you as much as you hate him for hurting me.  And you and I are the only ones who completely understand this.  And I am here if you need to talk to me.”

            Stefan kissed her hand.  “Go to sleep, Lasha.”

            She closed her eyes, holding his hand tightly.  When she’d fallen asleep, Stefan let go of her hand and went outside to get Luke. 

            “Why don’t you be there for her when she wakes up,” Stefan said.

            “Is she alright?”

            “Yes, she somehow always is,” Stefan replied with admiration.  

            “Alright,” Luke said and stepped into Laura’s room. 

            He held her hand and watched her sleep for hours until he fell asleep too, his head on her stomach.

 

Laura’s House

Three Weeks Later

 

            Luke had gone out to get Laura some Advil, but only a few minutes after leaving, he worried about her being alone, so he rushed back to her house.  She was gone when he arrived and the worst thoughts flooded through his mind.  Before he could do anything, she came through the door.  He grabbed her arm, angry.

            “You’re back,” she said, surprised.

            “Don’t you ever leave here without telling me where you’re going!  Don’t leave here without me at all!  Do you have any idea how scared I was?”

            “I’m sorry,” she said honestly.  “I just wanted to go outside.”

            He was still angry as hell, but he loosened his grip on her arms. 

            “I’m sorry, let me take you upstairs and take care of you.  You need rest.”

            He helped Laura up the stairs, knowing she didn’t need his help, but he wanted to give it anyway.  He didn’t know how she felt about sleeping in her bed anymore.  A dead man raped her there.

            “You want to sleep in Lucky’s room?”

            Laura shrugged, trying not to show the pain she felt.  Luke’s gaze turned to need, and she looked back at him with fear, yet need as well.  He touched her face, and then gripped the back of her head as her mouth dropped open, and he leaned in to kiss her.  She closed her eyes and then moved aside. 

            “Laura-“

            “I can’t, Luke.”

            She turned away from.  Then he realized what he’d done.  She’d been raped three weeks ago by a man who did every dirty thing possible to her twenty years ago.  Why would she ever want anyone to touch her after that?

            “God, I’m sorry,” he said. 

            She turned back to him, the glistening trail where her tears had been shone with the lights in the room. 

            “I made you remember,” he said.

            She frowned, confused.  “Remember what?”

            “Stavros.”

            “Oh no!  No, that’s not what you did at all.”

            She reached for him, trying to make him feel better, and he grabbed her hand, pushing her back, but restricting movement on her part.  She sucked in a breath, and something washed through her body at that swift movement.  She looked at him with her thick lashes blinking from confusion.       

            “Luke?”

            “Are you sure I didn’t bring back any painful memories of that island?”

            “I’m positive.”

            She broke their eye contact and tried to move past him.  He stopped her, holding her waist in both his hands.

            “Then what?”

            “Excuse me,” she said.

            “Laura,” he said.  “Don’t lie to me.”

            “Are you okay?” she said.

            “No, I’m not, I need you.”

            He touched her face and tried to pull her close to him.  More tears slipped down her face as he kissed her.  She tried to pull free.

            “No,” she cried.

            “Laura, please,” he said pulling her back so she was facing him.  His eyes were watery too.  Searching, and in pain.  “Please don’t walk away.  I won’t touch you like that but don’t leave me.”

            “Would you stop?  This has nothing to do with Stavros or this room or anything.  If it did I would tell you that!  I don’t want you to stop touching me because I feel soiled.  I’m afraid, alright?”

            He hugged her as she cried.  She gripped the back of his head and hugged him back.  She touched his face, looking up into his eyes, showing him that she needed him too.  He kissed her neck, and she felt him shaking from his tears and from his need.  She held him as tightly as she could, crying and telling him she loved him at the same time.

He stepped back enough to roughly pull his shirt off and quickly pull her back in his arms. 

“He didn’t stain me, Luke.  I didn’t let him.  And I do need you, I’ve always needed you,” she cried against his lips as she kissed him. 

She sobbed lightly as he took over her mouth.  He pushed her back up against the full-length mirror and undid the buttons on the front of her dress.  He pushed it down over her shoulders until it fell to her waist.  The glass felt cool against her hot back.  She felt her body grow tired but he supported her.  She pulled free for a minute to breathe, and he tilted her face back to him.

            Luke felt her skin as he pushed the dress the rest of the way down, slowly touching the silkiness of her hair that glowed in the dim light of the room.  He kissed his way down her chest, sucking her nipples as he went, down to her stomach, her navel, and the tops of her thighs.  She leaned back against the mirror, her hands buried in his hair, pulling him more closely to her as he kissed her intimately.  She moaned with pleasure, her legs collapsing beneath her, forcing Luke to place her knees over his shoulders, keeping her perfectly positioned with his strong hands for his mouth and tongue to plunder her deeply.  Her breaths were long and uneven; she was mindless, the pleasure he was giving her the only thing she could focus on.

"Luke," she yelled in a whisper.  Her body stiffened and stars flashed behind her eyelids.  She was weightless, and she couldn’t stop feeling as he drew her into his arms, her body tight and liquid. She then felt a little frightened to go to that bed, even though she’d made love to Luke a hundred times there before. 

“I’m still afraid he’ll…I just…want to hide somewhere,” she said.

            “Don’t hide from me,” he said, gently guiding her to the ground with him.  “I will keep you safe.”  He caressed her face.  “And I’m going to hold you, and I’m gonna take care of you, and I’m going to protect you, no matter what.”

            “Don’t go anywhere.  Don’t let me go.  Hold me tighter Luke,” she said, and he obeyed.  “I love you, I love you.”

            She pulled him to her with a kiss.

 

Two Weeks Later

Laura Spencer’s House

4:14 PM

 

            Laura was arranging her furniture, waiting for Luke to come home.  He’d gone out to lunch with Bobbie, he’d had to talk with her about something important, and Laura hadn’t wanted to intrude.  Laura insisted that she wasn’t afraid of Stavros, she trusted Luke, and Stefan, and everyone else helping with the situation.  Bobbie seemed upset, and Laura thought it was about Roy, and she would go to Bobbie later herself to offer her support.  There was a knock on the door.

            “Come in,” Laura called.

            “Laura?”

            She turned to see Stefan, damn near tears.  He opened his arms to her. 

            “Oh my God, Stefan…what’s…what’s wrong?”

            He came to her and hugged her, holding her tightly.  Something was wrong...  Fear rose inside her. 

            “Oh God, no!  Tell me it’s not Nikolas,” she said grabbing his suit tightly.  “TELL ME MY SON’S ALRIGHT!”

            Nikolas came through the door, every bit as afraid as Stefan.  Laura didn’t notice.

            “Nikolas!” she said flying into his arms.  “Oh thank God, you’re all right.”

            “Mom,” he said caressing her hair.       

            Stefan came to her, taking her hand.  “What…what, Stefan.  Just tell me.  Is it Stavros, Helena?”

            Stefan brushed his hand against her face.  “Laura, it’s Luke.”

            Laura’s eyes widened and she became very still, though her eyes seemed slightly brighter and more intense in color. 

            “He’s…he’s gone, Laura.”

            Laura was confused.  “What?  Where did he go?”

            “Laura, Stavros killed him.”

            She backed away slowly, searching his eyes.  “What are you trying to do to me,” she whispered.

            “Laura, Luke is dead,” Stefan repeated softly.

            He came to her and she jumped back.  “No.  No!  NO!”  Stefan caught her, holding her tightly.  “You’re lying, why?  Why do you want to hurt me?  Why Stefan!” she was tugging at his suit, her nails digging into his skin.  “Where is he?  Where’s Luke?  Oh my God, where’s Bobbie-”

            “She’s-”

            “WHERE IS BOBBIE???”

            “Barbara’s fine, she wasn’t hurt-”

            “Where is she?”

            “Laura!”

            Bobbie came to the door, her face completely drained of all color.  Laura then knew it was true.

            “No,” she whispered firmly as Stefan held her.  “No, dammit!” she sobbed as he kept her from crumbling to the floor no matter how hard she struggled. 

            “Laura-” Stefan started.

            “Where is he?”

            Bobbie came over and held Laura.  Laura began to hyperventilate.  She used Bobbie to stand, and Bobbie was numb by this point.  Laura began to choke, to keel over.

            “Bobbie,” she coughed.  “Tell me he’s wrong, tell me he’s lying.”
            Bobbie looked at Laura’s face, more desperate than Bobbie had ever seen.  She just pulled Laura’s head to her shoulder.  Laura froze for a moment before sobbing loudly.

            “I know,” Bobbie said.  “Oh, Laura, I know.”

            “Oh my God,” Laura sobbed.  “He died because of me…”

            Just then Lucky and Elizabeth came through the door.  Nikolas ran over to them.

            “What’s wrong with Mom?” Lucky said.

            Nikolas clutched his brother to him. 

            “What, why is Mom crying?”

            “Lucky, Luke is dead.”

            “What?” Lucky said, and Elizabeth clutched a hand to her heart, wanting to comfort Laura and Lucky.

            “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry, little brother.”

            “How do you know?  What the hell are you talking about?”

            “Stavros shot him.”

            Lucky looked over at Laura and Bobbie, tears streaming down his face.  Stefan came to help Bobbie support Laura. 

            “Come, sit down, Barbara,” Stefan said.

            He helped Bobbie sit next to Laura on the couch and he kneeled in front of both of them to comfort them.

            Laura grabbed the collar of his shirt.  “You’re telling me that Stavros shot him and I didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye!  That Luke is gone and he can’t wake up for two seconds for me to tell him I’m sorry!”

            Stefan didn’t say anything.  He just tried to hug her.

            “I hate you,” Laura said, hugging him back, just needing to say it to someone, but really saying it to God.  She made threats to him louder and louder, and Stefan just held her, moving her to the couch when he thought she was going to choke on her own tears.  She was crying too violently and Bobbie saw this.  Bobbie wiped her face and gripped Laura, shaking her harshly. 

            “Laura, he loved you.  He died to protect you!  Stavros is gone!”

            “Jesus, what have I done?  I killed him.  I never even got to say goodbye to him, tell him I loved him!”

            “Oh…he knew,” Bobbie told Laura, having a hard time speaking herself.

            Wha…what happened?” Laura whimpered.

            “Luke swore he would protect you and Stavros shot him…Luke shot Stavros too…and there was nothing I could do.  Nikolas and Stefan came just then, and Stavros was gone.  Stavros tried to attack me because I told him to stay away from you.  He knew I was the next best thing.”

            Laura began to choke again, and Stefan said, “Lean over, that’s it, deep breaths.”  Laura finally came back up, her face dripping with large tears.  “Where…where is he?  I have to see him--”

            “No!  You don’t want to see him.”

            “Why not?”

            Bobbie cringed, crying also.  “Because half his brain is gone…just like BJ…”

            Stefan came over and pulled Bobbie into his arms.  She cried desperately.  The only man who ever truly loved her was Luke.  And she had to watch him die. 

 

 

Luke Spencer’s Funeral

Five Days Later

 

            Laura dressed in a black dress, her hair down and fluffy, and sat with the tears clouding her eyes.  She didn’t look tired or pale, actually.  She was completely made up and her face was bright and full of color.  There was not a change in her facial expressions though.  Most of Port Charles was at his funeral, including Scotty.  He was there for her.  Mac showed up, and so did Felicia, who chose to express her regrets to Laura respectfully.  She and Bobbie sat together.  They were keeping each other strong.  Alan and Monica sat behind Laura, and in the same row, Lesley, Lucky, Nikolas, Elizabeth, and Lulu sat. 

            Even the people that couldn’t stand Luke came just for Laura.  Stefan said he would be there for her afterwards, but wouldn’t invade her mourning for Luke publicly.  Laura trusted him.  She didn’t know he was in the back, watching unnoticed.  She wore high-heeled shoes she’d worn with Luke often on their ten years on the run.  Her legs curled up, crossed tightly as if to keep her together.  She’d chosen to sit next to Bobbie instead of her mother.  She knew Bobbie was the only one who loved Luke as much as she did.  And she owed this much to herself, to Bobbie, and to Luke.  Bobbie walked up to the stand to speak about Luke.

            She took a deep breath and blinked, pursing her lips.  Laura nodded at her, telling her silently that she’d be okay.

            “I think all of you know my brother.  Some of you love him, and some of you can’t stand him.  That’s the way it was with my brother.  You either loved him or you hated him.  Most of you that loved him still hated him.”

            She looked down, nearly choking from her tears, but swallowed them and continued.

            “Luke always blamed himself for not being able to save our mother’s life.  Luke never forgave himself for that.  And so it was just the two of us against the whole world.  I knew he loved me, and that there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me.  He was the best big brother anyone could’ve ever had.  I loved him more than my own need to have my own life apart from him.  He made me whole, he forced me to love myself, to survive, and we never ever let each other down.  But we both wanted more than our family, our family was perfect, Ruby and Luke and me…but he always wanted to make something more out of the life we were given.”

            She swallowed, and then her gaze turned to love.  “And then there was Laura.  She did everything I never could.  She made him look at the world, and she let him see beauty.  Maybe Luke thought I had to love him…but Laura was the one person he knew he could never have, so when she saw him it was miraculous.”

            Bobbie looked down, and Elizabeth scooted to Bobbie’s place to hold Laura.  Laura didn’t wanna be held, though.  All eyes were on Bobbie, and the eyes that weren’t on her were on Laura. 

            “Luke had a different pair of eyes when Laura held his hand, and I think she saw things in a new way too.  It is a miracle to this day that they had that kind of love, and he knew that.  Back in 1979, he used to tell me that we didn’t have the right to breathe the same air that she did.  And to know that my brother was lucky enough to love and be loved by his “angel”, Laura will always be my reminder, and Laura will always be the love of Luke’s life.  And I will be with her and her children to see Luke in them.”

            Bobbie’s voice broke and she held onto the stand for support.  Laura stood up and walked over, gripping Bobbie’s hand for a minute.  Laura cupped Bobbie’s face and wiped away a tear with her finger tips and urged her to continue.  Stefan was amazed that they could bond over this.  Through Bobbie’s words, he and everyone else understood Luke and his hatred for certain things better than before.  Laura sat back down when Bobbie was alright. 

            “And you know, I think the only true times that Luke went back to the angry boy he was, was when someone would hurt Laura.  That’s what his hate really was.  Fear for her, or for anyone he loved.  Me, his children, his friends.  He might’ve been a crazy man, but he was loyal.  He was so protective of me that he would have given more than his life for me without a second thought.  He would for anyone he loved.  Luke lived his life with excitement.  He always embraced every day as if it were the last and there was nothing he would turn down if it meant living,” she said, smiling, pointing at Laura.  “He craved it with you.  I saw the good in Luke, but through your eyes everyone saw the good in him too.  I never had a love that made such a difference, but you did.  And he did, because of you.  And to this day, I keep hoping that someday someone will look at me the way he looked at you when you walked down that isle.  I looked at all the good you’d done in my brother’s life.  You gave him peace and happiness.  You gave him a purpose.  Now I know you didn’t always love his purpose, but until his last breath, he believed his purpose was to protect you.  And I will be with you always because I know that’s what he would want.  And Lucky and Lulu will never forget him because of the two of us.  I…really thank you all for coming, and being with me…with us.  I…I have something that I wanted to share with you.”

            Bobbie smacked her lips together to keep from crying as she pulled out a piece of paper. 

            “This uh…Luke wrote this to me when he was out for a few days trying to get some money.  I was a hooker and he was trying to get me to not need to do that anymore.  This was just one example of Luke really looking at me for me, when the rest of the world didn’t.”

            She opened the letter.  “Barbara Jean, I will take care of you, and I will make sure you don’t have to do this anymore.  I want you to know how beautiful you are, inside and out, and know that you are still a virgin.  You are still pure, and beautiful, and good.  No one can take that away from you, and you are not a hooker.  You’re a survivor.  You have more strength than any ten people put together.  Don’t let your customers make you feel the way they say you should, I will take care of you.  I’ll be back soon, take care of Ruby, and remember that I will let the world see the real you, I will make sure you don’t end up like Mom.”

            Bobbie folded the letter again.  She looked up at the sky.

“I love you, Lucas Lorenzo, and you were everything to me.  You are the love of my life, you are my constant.  And you loved me more than anyone else ever has.  Thank you for loving me.  Please wait for me.”

Laura stood up and reached for Bobbie as Bobbie stepped down.  Bobbie took Laura’s hands and she ducked her head, tears slipping from her eyes.  A collective stab of pain went through Monica, Laura’s children, Stefan, and Sonny Corinthos.

            “I love you,” Laura said.

            Bobbie held her.  While they were in their embrace, Scotty went up to the stand.  Laura, when she saw this, became a little nervous, but Bobbie told her to sit down, and she did. 

            “Most of you know this already but…Luke Spencer married my wife.”

            There was a laugh then, including one from Laura.

            “But I’ve always known that Luke must’ve had something…otherwise my wife wouldn’t have married him.”

            Laura smiled, God help her through this speech. 

            “Though Luke and I have hated each other for about…twenty-two years, I think I always knew that he was something.  And I think I saw that all along.  I’m, of course, much better looking,” he joked.  “But Luke did have strength and courage, and despite the stupid mistakes he made, he most of the time took good care of those he loved.”

            Scotty stepped down, and Laura stood up.  “You are so crazy, and I love you.”

            Lucky went up next.  He looked at his mother, who smiled at him and said, “You can do it, Lucky.”

            Lucky swallowed.  “I learned a lot from my father.  I learned to give your life--to give more than your life for those you love.          I learned from my mother to express that love in a tender, emotional way.  And I think balancing those two out is what we all need to do.  My father always treated me like an equal, except when I didn’t deserve it, which in the last few years was pretty often.  But I don’t think in one moment I ever doubted his love for me, or his love for my mom.  And I hope he can hear me now when I tell him I’m sorry.  My father never denied me anything, yet never gave me what I didn’t deserve, despite certain people’s opinions.  Everything good I learned was from my parents.  And I want my dad to know that I saw love every day of my life, the love he and my mom shared.  I never wanted for love, for compassion, for belief.”

            He paused.  “There were days when my mom and dad forgot I was in the room and I’d seriously have to wave my hand in front of their faces to get their attention.  My parents were very expressive with their love, as many of you probably know, and I never thought I’d have that love.  But I did because of what he taught me.  And I will forever be grateful to him for teaching me that it’s worth it to love.  I love you, Dad.  I’ll be with Mom for you.”

            A few others spoke, but then…it was Laura’s turn.  She didn’t move, she didn’t even realize.  Elizabeth touched her hand.  Laura wiped her face and Nikolas helped her stand up.  She walked very slowly up to the stand.  She looked at all the faces, many crying, but they didn’t have a damn clue.  She coughed and patted her chest, swallowing the waterworks. 

            “Yeah, I’m the one that married Luke at the mayor’s mansion in ‘81?” as if to make sure everyone knew her, but instead everyone laughed with her.  “Wow…I really don’t know what to say.”  She paused, looking around.  “Luke…Luke…” she couldn’t think of anything to say.  “Luke was an idiot,” she finally said and everyone laughed again.  “I don’t think he ever knew how much I loved him.  I don’t think he knew how much anyone loved him.  I think that’s the reason he never felt safe in a house, because he might have to face things he didn’t want to.  That I might not have really loved him.  But to be honest, I loved being on the run.  Every minute on that Cassadine yacht twenty years ago was wonderful.  Robert was the only sane one there!  And all the other crazy adventures, I don’t regret a minute of it.  I cherish it, and I am lucky to have experienced it all.”

            She coughed her tears away.  “And every night for the rest of my life, when I lie down and go to sleep, I will think of him dragging me everywhere, or when we just stayed put and laughed at everything together, and him taking me in his arms and telling me how much he loved me.  And I believed him.  There was no way I couldn’t, when he looked at me, and he held me.  Over the years he’s saved me more times than I can remember.  And I saved him.  We were equals.  I was his partner in life.  Any pain was worth the way he looked at me.”

            She looked around the room at the various faces. 

            “Many of my close friends asked me how Luke and I kept the marriage alive as long as we did.  I don’t really know, but somehow nothing ever died.  Not the love, not the humor, not the passion, nothing.  And that is why throughout all of the pain, I never regretted a minute of staying with him.  Bobbie!”

            Laura smiled with love at her, pointing.

            “This woman stood up here and said that I made him whole…well she was the best thing Luke ever had in his life.  I was young…and stupid, didn’t know what I was doing half the time but Bobbie never let him fool her and he never got away with anything with her.  Now, believe me, I learned, but she was the one who kept him in check.  He trusted her, he loved her.  Bobbie was the strongest woman Luke ever knew.  I don’t think a day went by when I couldn’t look in his eyes and know he was thinking about Bobbie.”

            Laura smiled and looked down, feeling a little lightheaded from how much she’d cried.

            “So you have got to know that I might’ve done those things you said, but you kept him alive in more ways than anyone has.  You are the love of his life and you have no idea how much I mean that.  You were what he lived for.  You kept him sane and happy and proud and thrilled.”

            Laura shifted her weight and looked down.  “I will think about him every hour of every day, and I will tell him that I love him, because that is truly all he ever wanted from me.  He always doubted my love and I am here telling all of you that I did love him.  You all know how he could just make you so crazy and then say something and you’d be on the floor laughing.  When I was having Lesley Lu, the doctor was holding my hand, and I remember Luke saying, ‘Excuse me, I’m her husband, if there’s any handholding to be done I’d like to do it,’ and had I not been in the middle of having a baby I would’ve laughed a lot harder.  Even now,” she said laughing, “I just remember him and I laugh.  I will never let him go, and a part of him will live inside of me.  And wherever I go, there he’ll be.  I know that’s where he lives, even if I can’t feel it yet.  That’s the grief blocking it.  Luke taught me to grow up, to face things I didn’t want to face, but he taught me what it was like to live.  To really feel.  And he taught me to love myself, truly love myself.”

            Then Laura cracked.  She covered her mouth with her hand.  “I’m so sorry, Luke, I wasn’t the angel you said I was because I couldn’t keep you alive,” she whispered.  “God…” she clenched her hands and tried not to keel over.  Lesley and Monica wanted to help her.  Roy was the one who did though, walking up to the stand and placing his hand over hers as she cried silently.  “I love you, Luke,” she said.

            Laura looked in the distance and saw Stefan, and felt safe again.  She showed him her love with her eyes.  She wanted him to feel it.  Yes, she loved Luke, but she wanted Stefan to know, to really know that Luke didn’t own all of her heart.  Laura walked down with Roy holding her, and then they began the ceremony of Luke’s burial.  Bobbie knew Luke would want a party afterwards, and Laura knew as well.  Bobbie watched Laura.  This was going to be the hardest part for Laura.  Bobbie played ‘Fascination’ as they buried Luke.  Everyone gathered around his grave, and Laura stood there, watching curiously.  Then the tears began to fall.  Laura began to move towards the people lowering the coffin.

            “Stop, stop!  Stop it!  My husband’s in there!”

            Laura went to the coffin and tried to open it. 

            “Luke, Luke, it’s Laura.  Everything’s going to be fine.  I love you, I love you, just wait a minute and I’ll get you out-”

            Alan Quartermaine came over, grabbing Laura’s arms.

            “Laura, Laura, Luke’s not in there-”

            “Stop it, Alan, I have to get him.  I never told him…I never told him I loved him-let go of me DAMMIT!”

            She wiped her nose and eyes and pushed Alan.  She fell to the coffin, tears streaming down her face.

            “Oh Luke, I’m sorry, I will save you, just let me, please, Luke, I love you!”

            Bobbie turned away, near fainting.  Lesley took Lulu aside, despite how much she wanted to help her daughter, Laura would not want Lulu to see this.  Stefan watched Laura from a distance, crying himself from her pain.  He didn’t know how much he could take of her living through this.  And he couldn’t go in there and help her like he had on the island.  Mac came and grabbed Laura as she continued to talk to Luke.  He shook her.

            “Laura, Laura, LAURA!”

            “Mac…” she sobbed.  “Mac let me go, I have to save him.  Do you know how many times he saved me?  Do you know what he did for me?  Please, Luke, I’m going to take care of you, this time I’m going to take care of you, please Mac, let me go-“

            “Laura, Laura, listen to me.”

            He let go of her hands and moved her face so she was looking at him.

            “Luke is out of pain now, he’s safe, he’s not in that coffin-”
            She pushed him away.  “Get away from me!  Dammit, how can you believe he’s dead!  Was I dead?  Luke wanted to save me and we told everyone I was dead!  So I have to save him so I can tell him I love him-”

            “Laura, he knows!”

            Roy, oh my God, Roy help me, please, for me, help me save him.  You weren’t dead and neither was I and neither is HE!”

            Monica, Mac, and Alan stepped forward along with Roy.  Sonny shoved Roy out of the way.  He remembered how Laura helped him when Lily died.

            “Laura-” Monica said.

            Laura went back to the coffin.  “Luke, you always took care of me, I’m not going to let you leave me!  I’m not going to!  I love you, listen to me, I lied.  I lied about everything, I’m sorry, please-”

            Sonny yanked her from the coffin, shaking her harshly. 

            “Laura, Laura, stop it!  Look at me, look at me, honey, Luke’s dead-”

            “Please Sonny, please just shut up,” she sobbed weakly.  “Please, tell me he’s alive.”

            “He’s alive in you.”

            “No, no you don’t understand, he’s going to die if I don’t get him out of there-”

            “No, he won’t.  He lives inside your heart now.”

“No, you don’t understand.  My husband is running out of air in there-”

“Laura, look at me.  Luke knows you love him.  Luke knows you need him, and he’s here.  He needs you just as much as you need him.”

            Laura pointed to the grave.  “But they’re going to bury him and I’ll never see him again.”

            “Yes, you will.”

            Laura then fell into Sonny’s arms.  “Oh God, why wasn’t I there...” she sobbed, throwing a hand over her face.  She sobbed over and over as he held her.  “Sonny…” she tugged on his jacket.  She looked at Alan.

            “Alan, you’re a doctor, you’re a brilliant doctor.  You can save him.”

            Alan shook his head.  “I can’t save him, Laura.”
            Alan gripped her arm, and she collapsed, passing out.  Alan caught her, and held her to comfort her.  Bobbie came over to Laura.  Alan held her close in his arms.  “Laura!  Look at me.”

            Laura looked at Bobbie with drugged eyes, and she thought Bobbie would tell her to stop crying, to get over it, but she just said, “I know.  Oh, Laura.  I know,” and Bobbie held her. 

            “We lost him,” Laura said, pulling Bobbie close, holding her so tightly Bobbie couldn’t breathe, but she barely noticed.  “You and I, we lost him,” Laura whispered.

________________________________________________________________________

Four Hours Later

 

            Laura sat in a chair, numb, as a few people surrounded her.  Luke was dead.  Dead and buried.  Bobbie then played a song by Reba McEntire entitled, ‘Forever Love’.  The words touched Bobbie.

 

            “The first time I laid my eyes on you, I knew,

            We’d spend this life, side by side.

            I still feel that way though you’re so far away.

            I swear that you’ll always be mine.

            Forever love,

            I promise you…

            Someday we’ll be together, forever love.

            I won’t give up, no matter what,

            I’ll be waiting for you, forever love.”

 

            Laura eyes flashed to the past when Bobbie came over, held out a hand and said.

            “Laura, would you dance with me.”

            Laura looked at Bobbie, and stood up.  Finally admitting their undeniable love, the things they shared in common, they clung to each other through the painful song.  They walked to the middle of the room, as everyone watched, Bobbie held Laura, and together they cried.  They cried silently, too tired to do anything but allow the tears to slip down their cheeks.  They would go on without Luke, though he would be impossible to forget.

 

            “Minutes and hours and years may go by,

            By my heart knows nothing of time.

            So don’t cry just keep me right there in your dreams,

            And hold onto these words of mine…

            Forever love, I promise you,

            Someday we’ll be together, forever love.

            I won’t give up, no matter what,

            Someday we’ll be together, forever love.

 

            After the dance, Roy came to Laura, held her and danced with her to the next song.  The next thing Laura felt was Elizabeth tapping her on the shoulder.  Lesley, Nikolas, Bobbie, and Lucky were there too.

            “I’m sorry I lost it,” Laura said to them.

            “Oh, honey, who cares,” Lesley said. 

            Laura was exhausted, but reached desperately for Bobbie’s hand.  “Bobbie, please be with me, you are a big part of what Luke was, and I need you.”

            “I need you too.  I’m going to go home though, to my house and be with my child.  You do the same.  I’ll come see you first thing in the morning, call me, if you need anything.”

            Bobbie hugged her and left.  Laura looked at these people and in this moment, there was nothing they could do.

            “I’m…I’m going to go to bed.”

            “Want me to come with you?” Elizabeth asked.

            “No, thank you, honey.  I love you all.  I promise tomorrow I’ll make some more sense.”

            Nikolas held his mother.  “I love you, Mom.  If there’s anything I can do-”

            “There is something.”  Laura held her son’s face in her hands.  “Know that you and your brother and sister are the best things I ever did in my life.  Know that you are all the most precious things I have.  Do not compare yourself to Stavros, you are my life.  You have always been more beautiful than any kind of paradise.  I wanted you, and I didn’t just have a baby, I had you.  You are such a beautiful, wonderful creation that I am lucky to call my own.  I brought you into this world and I watched you - the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  Your strength and love is stronger than all the pain and all the challenges you’ve faced.  You’ve taught me so much.”

Nikolas had tears in his eyes for his mother.  He wanted to do something more, but she turned away.  Laura walked up the stairs and took off her dress, putting on a nightgown, her face cold and plain.  She climbed into bed and lay there, praying that when she closed her eyes the emptiness would dissolve.  There truly wasn’t any hope.  There was never going to be a time when he came back into her bed.  He was gone, and she didn’t say she was sorry, hell, she didn’t even yell at him like she’d always wanted to.  But what was the point now?  What was the point of trying to feel?

            Laura threw the covers off and headed downstairs.  She wore a black gown, her hair thick with large, bouncing curls.  The air was thick with humidity, and she remembered being trapped on the island with Luke.  That was one of the best times of her life, she and Robert and Luke.  Laura drove to the beach after checking on Lulu and letting Lucky and Elizabeth insist on watching over her for Laura.  She didn’t even think about changing her clothes.  Right now she couldn’t think about anything but the pain, and she hoped that didn’t make her a terrible person.

            She blasted the radio and rolled down all the windows.  It was a slightly long drive, but she wouldn’t have minded if it were longer.  Silent tears came unexpectedly down her flawless face, as her black lashes thickened slightly from the gathering moisture.  Songs played - all love songs of course - and each spoke her heart perfectly.  Goddamn fate. 

            A while later when she arrived, she didn’t care about any laws; she pulled up on the sand and opened the door, climbing out.  The moon reflected on the crashing waves, and each wave seemed to echo the throbbing in her heart.  She didn’t know what to do, what to feel.  By now the tears had stopped.  She suddenly felt nauseous and she dropped to her knees and threw up.  The next thing she knew she was in a deep sleep…

 

            Laura was sitting in a chair at some…party.  She wore the dress Mikkos Cassadine had given her in that compound underground.  Ice Princess Island, 1981.  She was younger though…wasn’t she?  She didn’t know.  None of these thoughts really stuck in her head.  As she sipped the champagne, the room was empty, and all the knowledge of her love with Luke was inside her.  And he came out holding his hand out to her, and for some reason she just let him pull her up from the chair and dance.  She tried to speak, but she physically couldn’t.  And then she didn’t need to.  The dance ended with them laughing together, and suddenly they were back on the beach.  So many things happened in that dance, she didn’t remember.  It was all too fast, and all she could feel was that feeling of being swept into the happiness she felt with him when he was alive.

            “Luke,” she said, touching his face.  “Oh my God, please tell me you’re alive, please Luke, please tell me.”

            “Laura-”

            She pushed him as hard as she could.  “Tell me, dammit!  Don’t make everything I ever did come down to your death!”

            She clenched her eyes shut, crying.  He reached for her and she slapped him, angry that he wouldn’t tell her what she needed to hear.  He reached again, but before he got a firm grip, she made a leap for her purse.  Luke saw her pull out a gun and aim it at her head.  Her eyes were closed and she breathed in and out.  His hand came firmly over her hand on the gun.

            “Luke, let go.”

            “No, you let it go.  Laura-”
            “You can’t stop me-”

            “Oh, yes I can.”

            Her eyes were still shut.  “You told me you’d never leave me, and you’ve done nothing but leave me!  So you don’t have a damn choice in the matter.  I love you.”

            “I love you.  That’s why I’m not going to let you leave your children.”

            “You left!”

            “To make sure you were safe.”

            “I’m not safe!  I don’t know what the hell to do and I’m so damn tired of trying to make everything alright for everyone else!  Why can’t I do something I want to do!  Let go of the gun, I don’t need your permission!  I’m not going to listen to you anymore, you won’t come back.”
            He ripped the gun from her grasp and pulled her up.  She moaned as if in physical pain.

            “You can do anything, and you will.  Laura, look at me,” he said tipping her face to look at him.  “Laura, I always knew that if I lived to be a hundred, it would never be long enough to be with you.  So I am waiting for you until you reach where I have reached.  Where there is no time.  And when you get here, it will be forever.”

            She sniffed.  “Yeah well, while you’re up there I’m stuck here feeling time, feeling the emptiness, and the pain.”

            “But that’ll fade.  Not completely, but it will.  And you will have other beautiful things in your life.  Your life is not over.  And I am asking you to forgive me for walking out on you.  Please, let your guilt go.  You did not kill me.  I killed Stavros and gave my life to do so.  He will never touch you again.  But you have love with someone, and now I want you to have that love that you kept hidden inside you for so long.  I love you and I know you love me, and it’s okay to love someone else now.”

            He was dancing with her as he spoke.  She clung to him. 

            “I love you,” she said digging her fingers into him, clinging to him.          

            “I know, and I will be with you.  Every step you take, I will be loving you, telling you that you are perfect.  You always were.  Look at me.”  There was just enough moisture in her eyes for them to almost appear to be glass as she stared at him with such raw emotion that he thought he would disappear into her love.  “So you be with whomever you love.  I know now that you need happiness, even if it’s not with me.  As long as you are happy.”

            “I can’t be happy without you.”

            “Yes, you can.  You were once, and you will be again.”

            “What does that mean?  When I died you just fell in love with Holly and all the pain stopped and you were fulfilled?”

            He smiled at her, caressing her face.  “Not all of the pain, but I felt I could live again.  But it was only right for that time.  You are the one for me.  You always were.  Laura, you know what’s different about you and me?  You have such an ability to create and feel love, you can love anything.  You were the only person in my whole life that made me see the good, but you’ve had others.  Don’t shut them out, whoever lessens your pain.  Never.”

            Laura slowly rested her head against Luke’s chest.  He felt so warm, so real.  She looked at her hands.  She was nineteen, in her pink dress, the jewels on her.  Her hair was thick and shiny. 

            “Just hold me a little while longer, and please visit me in my dreams.  I know you can’t always hold me, so let me dream that you are.”

            He kissed her deeply and slowly on the lips.  “I will.”

            He slipped an arm underneath her legs and lifted her up, holding her close. 

            “I love you, Laura.”

            “I love you too, I’m-”

            “Don’t say you’re sorry.  There is nothing to forgive.  There never was.”

            Laura fell asleep in his arms, and woke up in her bed with Elizabeth holding her hand.

 

 

Laura Spencer’s House

9:12 PM

 

            Laura and Bobbie sat on the couch with empty glasses of scotch in their hands. 

            “Bobbie, have you seen Luke in your mind?”
            “I’m not sure.  Maybe.”

“Tell me,” Laura said.

            “I really don’t know.  I remembered before you, when Luke and I were children.  I remember mother dying.  We saw her on the floor, we wondered why she was looking straight at us and not saying anything.  Luke told me I was her favorite and she’d speak if I asked.  And at seven years old he got me across the country, safely, without ever being hungry.  Even out of the garbage cans, he made sure I was the one that was fed.  Before you, he didn’t want to be in love.  Because he thought he’d ruin it.  He swore he’d die saving me, or trying to.  And then he’d be free of Elm Street.”

            Laura closed her eyes.  “Free,” she whispered.  “Free.”

            Laura then dropped the glass to the floor and jumped up.

            “Laura, Laura what are you doing?” Bobbie said following Laura outside.

            “Get in the car,” Laura said.  Dammit, Bobbie, get in the car!  I need your help!”

            “Calm down, what are you talking about?  Help with what?  We are tipsy Laura!”

            “Fine!  I’ll get in the car and do it myself!”

            “Do what?”

            Bobbie hopped in the car while it was moving; luckily she slipped in before it was too late.  Laura swerved dangerously.

            “Holy shit!” Bobbie said.  “And we’re driving like a bat out of hell because…”

            “What you said,” Laura replied. 

            “Laura, translate.  And slow DOWN!”

            “You said Luke wanted to be free.  How could I not remember that!  How could I be so selfish!

            “Laura--help.  What the hell are you talking about-oh my God, watch the road.”

            Laura came to an abrupt halt.  She opened the car door and was gone before Bobbie could say anything.  She was still in shock from the drive.  They had come to Luke’s grave.  Bobbie locked the car and found Laura.  Laura was in the dirt digging with her bare hands. 

            “Laura!” Bobbie knelt beside her. 

            “Oh good!  Help me get him out!”

            “No, Laura, don’t.  Stop!  Why would you want to take him out of his grave?”

            Laura, frustrated, turned to Bobbie.  “Don’t you see?!?  Luke wanted to be free and I should’ve just thrown his ashes to the wind!  Not confine him underground!”

            Laura went back to digging.  When Bobbie tried to stop her, Laura pushed her.  Bobbie noticed someone in the distance.  She ran over and saw that it was Mac.  Bobbie brought him over.  He watched Laura.

            “Laura?”

            “Who’s there?”

            Laura turned to see Mac.  She jumped up from the grave.  “Oh thank God!  You can get him out of there!  As the police commissioner you can help me!  Please Mac.”

            “May I ask why you’re trying to dig him out of the ground?”

            “He needs to be free!  Mac, I made a big mistake!”

            “Laura,” he said, holding her dirty hands.  “Luke’s not in that body-”

            “Would you stop?  I realize he’s dead and that he’s not coming back.  I got all that.  Thank you, but I swear if you don’t help me get him out of this grave I will find someone who will!”

            “Laura, it doesn’t matter now-”

            Laura sighed and moved away from him.  She saw Stefan in the distance.  She ran to him and grabbed both his hands.

            “Please, Stefan, please help me!”

            “Alright, Laura, what, what’s wrong?”

            “You’ve got to get Luke out of that grave.”

            Stefan cupped the back of her head.  “Why?”

            “Because I need to cremate him and set him free.  I’m trapping him underground.  I have to let him go.  Please, just believe that I have to do this?  Please?”

            “Okay, alright.  We’ll do it.  You and me, together, it’s alright.”

            Laura sniffed.  “Thank you,” she whispered. 

            They left, leaving Laura’s car there and he took her away.

            Mac looked at Bobbie.  “She’s turning to him for comfort?”

They hadn’t heard what Stefan and Laura had said.

            “Stefan has been there for her.  He was there the last time Luke died, and they were very much in love once,” Bobbie said.

            “What the hell happened?” Mac asked.

            Bobbie sighed.  “She misses Luke, and she still wants to do what she thinks is right.  And she doesn’t want me to help her right now.”

            “So she wants Stefan?”

            “Maybe he’s doing what she needs.  Maybe she doesn’t have to pretend in front of him.  I don’t know.  He always seems to be able to save her heart.”

            “How?”

            “Mac, I don’t know anything, okay?  Laura just needs to do what she’s going to do.  And I need some Excedrin.”

            She got in Laura’s car and went home. 

________________________________________________________________________

Laura’s House

Two Days Later

 

            Laura sat and stared into nothingness.  She had Luke’s ashes…she now had to finish this. 

“Thank you, Stefan,” she said silently. 

There was a knock at the door but Laura didn’t reply. 

            “Laura, it’s me,” Elizabeth said.

            Laura didn’t reply.  Elizabeth came inside and sat down on the floor in front of Laura.

            “Can I help?”

            “No, thank you though.”

            Elizabeth took Laura’s hand.  “Well, can I be with you?”

            Laura for the first time looked at Elizabeth.  “I have to go to the beach.”

            “Why?”

            “These are Luke’s ashes.  I have to let him go.”

            “Yeah, Stefan told me.  He actually was the one that who asked me to check on you.”

            Laura didn’t reply to that.  She was very still. 

            “Well, are you going to do it now?” Elizabeth said.

            “As soon as I possibly can.”

            Elizabeth looked down.  “You don’t have to let Luke go.  You can let the pain go, but he wants you to keep pictures of him out and remember.”

            “Oh I know that,” Laura said softly.  “I just…I don’t want to let go of any of it.”

            “I know.  Do you want me to go with you?”

            “No,” Laura said quickly.  “No, I’m going to do it with him.”

            “Will you promise me you won’t jump in the ocean with him?”

            “Thought had crossed my mind,” Laura said seriously.

            Elizabeth nodded.  “Of course it did, but we need you too.”

            “Thank you.”

            “I love you,” Elizabeth said, hugging Laura.

            “I love you too.”

            Elizabeth looked at Laura for a minute, and then reluctantly left. 

 

            Laura stood on a bridge that looked over the beautiful water that opened into the ocean.  She breathed in the salty air, making the tears sting against her face.  She set Luke’s ashes down on the railing and took out a piece of paper.  Memories fluttered through her mind, yet none of them lasted more than a few seconds before going to another memory.

            “We had so many dreams, dreams someone could say we ruined or didn’t fulfill.  I don’t believe that.  I look back and I was blessed to have you in my life.  And whenever I see anything, I will see your face and remember that you were right there for me.  Now I will just dream…and I will dream about you flying and soaring and instead of just reaching…I will see you being everything.  But I’m going to hold a piece of you with me ever step I take.”

            She laughed.  “You showed me how to be free, and I’ll always remember the strength you gave me.  I owe more than my life to you.  I owe so much to you for teaching me all the things I know now.  Promise me that you’ll stay with me.  Please Luke, please forgive me for not being there.  In my heart there will always be a place for you.”

            Laura looked up to the sky.  She closed her eyes.  “Forgive me, Luke,” she whispered to his ashes.  “I’m setting you free because this is the way you’d want it to be.”  She threw the ashes into the water and watched the water take him to eternity.  She watched the ashes disappear and flow beyond her.  And she forgave him and herself, she just prayed he did too. 

            “I love you.  You’ll always be my husband.  God Bless you for loving me.  I trust you.”

 

Three Weeks Later

Laura’s Bedroom

11:14 PM

 

            Laura stood, looking in the mirror, ashamed of what she saw.  The candles were lit around the room, and through the emptiness of her heart and mind, she planned to go to sleep while the candles burned everything around her, and eventually the flames would swallow her as well. 

            Laura smiled, and even she knew her mind was not completely intact.  But did it matter?  Why did anything?  She felt nothing except drugged, drifting.  She pulled the hair clips out of her hair, allowing the sparkling locks to tumble down.  She brushed her hair and applied dark makeup very slowly to her skin.  She’d felt like this once before, and she’d done this ritual the last time Luke had died.  The room was dark and it reminded her of where she was nearly twenty years ago. 

            Lasha,” he said cautiously.

            Laura didn’t turn, she didn’t have to.  Somehow she’d known that he’d show up sooner or later.  No tears fell; the thought of Luke seemed to fall deeper into her heart and a feeling came over her that allowed her to look at this man and remember him without guilt.  And Laura knew it was Luke giving her freedom.  Laura wore the white nightgown and matching robe she had many years before.  Stefan pulled her to him, and she leaned her head against his shoulder.  Then the tears welled up inside her and a lump attacked her throat.

            “Stefan,” she breathed, loosely wrapping her arms around him.

            “I know,” he said.  “And I’m here.”

            She didn’t move, but silent tears slipped down Laura’s beautiful face and onto his chest.  He wore a plain shirt, yet he still had the Cassadine necklace on.  She felt it in her hands and suddenly ripped it off. 

            “Be you around me, be you without the Cassadines.  You don’t need them,” she commanded softly.

            She held him against her, and it was almost as if she were the one comforting him.  She turned back and looked up at him. 

“I hadn’t felt hatred in years, and then Stavros raped me.  The physical pain, the fact that I thought he was dead, and that he came into my house and raped me when I was not that little girl who was a prisoner - I will hate him forever for that.”

            She didn’t cry, instead she felt like she’d been set free and she was ready to love this man in front of her, forever, finally.

“It’ll take time for you to let Luke go,” he said touching her face.

            “He’s already gone.  He’s different where he is now.  He’s not the man you hated.  He can look at you with his own eyes instead of the eyes of the man that lost his wife for two years to the Cassadines.  I saw him in my mind, he took me into the past and I saw the truth.  I understand now.  And I am free.  I just feel strange.  How many deaths and how many resurrections can you and I handle in one life time?” she asked with a smile.

            “I don’t know, Lasha,” he hugged her tighter and she trembled. 

She didn’t want him to hug her, she didn’t want him to feel pity for her or comfort her, especially when she had betrayed him so badly.

            “Hey,” she said trying to be cheerful.  She looked up at him.  “Nothing’s broken but my heart.”

            “What can I do?”

            She smiled a little.  “I don’t want you to do anything.  You owe me nothing.  I owe you everything.  And God, I want to give it to you.  I want to give you everything I ever was and everything I will ever be.  I want to share myself, my happiness, my love with you, this love that I have had since the first minute I saw you on that island.  That spark I felt when you touched my hand, that surge of love I will never be able to deny and I don’t want you to think I could ever use you again, or that I am now, but…I’m not going to make you think I could take advantage of you now, or even allow you to be with me because I don’t deserve you.”

            “Do you want me to leave?” Stefan asked her.

            She couldn’t say that.  She tried to but, it was too late, and he knew.

            “Then I’m not going to.”

            “No, I can’t do that to you.  I’m not going to recreate the past-”

            “Is that what you think you’d be doing?”

            “No.”

            “You love me,” he said softly.

            She looked up at him with love in her eyes, washing over her, melting her.

            “Yes, I love you so much I look at you right now and I just want to savor this moment, the way you’re looking at me, and freeze time transforming it into eternity.  But you always deserved better than me.  I…I am not someone who deserves someone like you.  I never did.  You loved me for a reason I will never understand nor deserve, and there is no way I can prove to you that you’re not second choice.  I love you and I always have and I believe that there was a time I was supposed to be with Luke, that I was supposed to have his children, but I was supposed to be with you too, and I hurt you.  I don’t deserve another chance and I shouldn’t have the right to even look into your beautiful eyes and see your love reflecting there.”

            He took hold of her hands and she sucked in a breath, feeling their chemistry when he touched her.  She looked down at her hands, amazed at the charge coursing inside her body.  She couldn’t let him do this if there was any chance she could ever hurt him again in any way.

            “Stefan--”

            “Don’t push me away.  You don’t want to hurt me?  Then don’t push me away.”

            She shook her head with doubt.

            “Stefan, I…I can’t tell you that I don’t love you, I never could.  I could never say those words.  But you deserved me to tell you that I did.  That I loved you in the minute you held me when Nikolas woke up from the fall down the stairs six years ago, from the minute you handed me that photo of Nikolas, and every moment afterwards.  But I never had the intelligence or the guts to show it.  You asked me if the kiss I gave you before I walked into the exploding building was goodbye, love, or gratitude.”

            She looked at him as if she was reading every layer of him. 

            “It was all of those.  I looked at you for one minute and tried to tell you I loved you.  And I swear I regret-”

            “Please stop regretting.  If you can’t regret Luke, or Lucky or Nikolas you’ll regret me?  Why?  What’s the point?  Revenge and guilt don’t heal, love does.”

            “I know.  The necklace,” she murmured.

            “What?”
            Laura pulled free of his grip on her hands and walked over to her jewelry box.  She pulled out a very heavy necklace with perfectly cut diamonds enclosed in the shiny silver surrounding it.  She held it in her hands and walked back over to him.

            “You gave me this when I told you I was pregnant with Nikolas.  I brought it home when I came back.  And I also kept the writing that Helena goaded you with, I took it with me when I came back.  I know Luke loves me, I know I was his life…but I also know that I…was yours.  And you were also mine.”
            He looked at her with his dark eyes.  They were slightly alert, searching her face for permission to touch her. 

            “And I was the luckiest person in the world because of that.  Because of you.  You really loved me…and I have always returned your love.  Despite whoever else was around in my lifetime or despite my denial.

            She moved closer to him, the necklace still in her hands.  “And I still do.  I don’t feel guilty for that.  And I want to go on…with you.  But I don’t want you to think it was you against him…I had a life before you, that I was stolen out of, and I returned to it, but I had a life before I returned, and that was with you.”  She whispered this all very softly, her lips a millimeter from his own.  “Put this necklace on me, Stefan.”

            She handed it to him, and turned around, lifting her beautifully scented hair.  He clasped the necklace around her neck and turned her back to him.  They both knew that she would always love Luke, that he was her hero, but now that he was gone…why should she deny what was always there?  She didn’t want to, and she held Luke as she held Stefan because Luke told her to love again.  She felt Luke inside of her and she believed him. 

            “Laura, I always dreamed there’d be a day you’d look at me…” he cupped her face with both hands and she looked at him.  “…like you are now.”

            Laura smiled softly.  “I always looked at you like this, whether you knew it or not.  Luke was my adventure, but you were my mystery.  And you made me see the strength I’d forgotten I had.  The love never completely uncovered between us made my heart flutter.  My pulse increased whether we hated or loved each other because of the unspoken words that we say through our silent connection.  We still haven’t repeated most of the things we went through…and I don’t think we have to.  You never looked at me with anything less than desperation.  All the days you hated me, I knew why.  But I’m here now, and I’m willing to do more than try, and I am going to prove how much I love you for the rest of my life.  I don’t want you to give me anything, let me give.”

            She looked at his lips and then back in his eyes.  He leaned in and kissed her.  It had been a year since they’d kissed.  And when they did, all the pain, all the lies and all the hatred was gone.  Stavros was gone, and so was Helena. 

            “I love you, Laura,” she heard both Stefan and Luke say at the same time.

            Laura’s eyes flashed open at the sound of both their voices.  Luke was inside her, Stefan was right beside her.  It initially frightened her, but that was also another sign, a sign of forgiveness.

            She lowered her eyes again to his mouth and felt his arms surround her swiftly.  He bent down and captured her lower lip softly between his as he pushed the white robe slowly off of her shoulders.  Her tan skin glowed in the candlelight as Stefan’s hands caressed her back and firmly touched the burning skin beneath his fingers.  There was pain in her, but she chose to use that in her passion, just as she had on the island.  He recognized that but knew that this was different.  The straps to her nightgown fell off her shoulders, only remaining intact from the support of her breasts.  Stefan’s lips became more demanding as he played with her lips, forcefully, and breathed her in. 

            Laura’s hands pushed Stefan’s shirt up and off his body.  He threw it to the side and gathered her lightly in his arms, kissing her deeply as she arched her body.  He pulled her off the bed and into his arms, his hands moving down to her thigh.  He caressed it lightly, and then his fingers trailed to the inside of it, pressing it down so her legs were slightly parted. 

            “Are you sure?”

            She smiled.  “How long are you willing to wait?”

            She pulled his face down to hers to kiss him intensely over and over as she pressed her body further into his.  Laura quickly unbuttoned Stefan’s pants and pushed them down.  He pushed her beneath him and peeled the gown down below her breasts.  He kissed them softly, feeling them tighten quickly.  He encircled his tongue around them, cupping them with both hands before kissing her in the cleft between her breasts.  His hands then reached down to push her legs loosely apart while his lips returned to hers.  Stefan slipped his fingers into her delicate center, feeling her moan into their kiss. 

            She pulled free of his kiss trying to speak.  “Please, just take me now.  I’ve waited for you for so long.”

            “Are you sure?” he asked again.

            Her eyes were glowing.  “Yes.”

            Stefan pulled her to him and slipped inside her.  They just laid there for a moment, looking at each other.  Her mouth hung open just slightly as his hands held her head firmly.  Her hair was everywhere.  Stefan mouth lingered on her lower lip before moving quickly down to her neck.  She wrapped her arms around him, feeling him take care of her again, feeling him need her and feeling herself need him.  She pulled his torso towards hers.  She hugged him desperately. 

            “Please make love to me, Stefan,” she said.

 

~The End~

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