Carly races into her room and straight to the shower. She glances at her watch as she before she sets it on the counter. "Got to be ready for dinner or it will be all screwed up." Stavros had made some adjustments to the Cassadine habit of dressing for dinner. Rather than going for formal gear things were abit more casual after Carly put her foot down. Evidently the habit before had been for children to be neither seen nor heard at the dining room table but instead to have their dinner with the nanny.
With everything being so different, Carly had wanted Michael to have all his meals with her... well, except breakfast. That meant an early dinner and on the light side. The adult time was after Michael was already in bed. Carly rushes thru the shower and blow drying her hair. Wrapping her towel around her, she walks into the dressing room and grabs something appropriate in a random fashion. While she is still fastening her earrings she goes over, unlocks the door and opens it. Right on time.
"Mama!" Michael comes racing down the hallway.
"Hey Mr Man! How was school?"
Michael makes a face. "Boring. I would have rather gone sailing but we couldn't go cause we didn't have a big enough boat for me, Stavros and Nik and Gia."
"You can always go sailing tomorrow if the weather is decent." There had been few days where the weather hadn't been great for sun and fun down at the cove. "You better get changed for dinner."
"Okay." Michael goes racing into his room. He changes into his dark slacks and a white dress shirt. He stomps on his dress shoes. He never unlaces them cause it's a pain to tie them again. "I'm all ready."
Carly straightens his collar. "You look so handsome."
"Aw mama." Michael protests Carly's fussing and then grabs her hand and starts tugging her toward the door. "Dimitri said cause I did so well on my math I could have strawberry ice cream for dessert tonight. He's gonna tell cook."
"You didn't tell me you did good on your math!" Carly praises him.
"Math is easy!" Michael rolls his eyes.
"But strawberry ice cream! That's really great. You must have been wonderful." Carly walks into the living room where Stavros, Nik and Gia already wait. "We're having strawberry ice cream tonight because Michael aced his math."
"Dimitri told me you did well today." Stavros nods. He brushes a hand over Michael's head. "He thinks it is because he is such a good teacher. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it is something you and your mother have in common. She has an intuitive feel for numbers and angles. You have it too."
"What's intuitive?" Michael asks as he carefully takes a small wine glass filled with sparkling cider. They always had drinks before dinner it was like a rule. Stavros said it got everybody in the mood for dinner. Made it special.
"It means it's something you just know." Stavros turns to Nikolas. "Was there a subject like that for you?"
"Music." Nik admits.
"Ah. Yes, you played at the... nurse's ball?"
Carly nods explaining for Stavros' benefit. "Lucy Coe ropes everyone into them. It's for the care of people affected by HIV-- making sure they stay healthy while all the big charities work on researching a cure. Nik sponsored it one year. I've been in a few too. Normally in the chorus line. I love music but I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket."
"How do you carry a tune in bucket? Do you put a radio in it?" Michael asks curiously.
"Dang. I should have thought of that. I probably could then." Carly slaps herself on the forehead.
"Mama, you are so silly." Michael giggles.
A servant comes to the doors of the living room and opens them. He makes eye contact with Stavros who nods. "Dinner is ready." He sets down his glass. Michael sets his next to Stavros and starts toward the door. "Michael." There is a corrective tone in his voice.
Michael stops in his tracks and frowns. "Oh yeah. Sorry." Michael walks back over to Carly and offers her his hand. Carly takes it and Michael walks with her into the dining room. He pulls out her chair for her and then starts pushing her chair in. Carly gives him a little help. As soon as Carly and Gia are seated the gentlemen take their seats. Stavros at the head of the table and Nikolas at the foot. Gia to Nik's right. Carly to Stavros' right and Michael across from her.
The first course is individual servings of shrimp with cocktail sauce on the side. Michael watches Stavros before starting. Stavros picks up the proper fork casually showing it to Michael and then begins. Michael takes the fork and stabbing one of the shrimp dips it in the sauce like the rest of the party does. He takes one bite and then spits it out on the plate. "Too spicy?" Stavros inquires with a smile.
"It's gross." Michael complains. "I hate spicy. I like sour."
"Just eat the shrimp, honey. They're really great." Carly pops one of the shrimp into her mouth.
Stavros looks toward the servant who'd blanched when he was Michael's action. "Young Michael would prefer less spice and more sour."
"Of course, sir. I will indicated his preferances."
"This is excellent." Gia interjects wondering if Stavros was going to have the guy beheaded or something. "I didn't start liking spicy things until I was a teenager." She looks over at a grinning Nik and points a finger. "Don't you say a word."
"Would I say anything?"
"My mother still talks about when Stefan had some of Ruby's chili for the first time... and last time." Carly laughs.
"It's a mixture of beans tomatoes meat and chilies-- hot chilis. There is a secret ingredient but Ruby never told me. It has the consistency of a stew. Anyway Stefan was being Stefan." Carly sits up straighter in her chair and gives a haughty expression. "He wanted to talk to Mama and when the waitress walked up he ordered the special without even asking what it was. And of course Mama was ticked at him and didn't warn him. One bite. His face turned white; he broke out into a sweat and was reaching for the icewater."
"It is." Nik agrees. He feels disloyal laughing at Carly's mocking of Stefan but it had been so accurate. "But when it's February and the high temperature is below freezing without factoring in the wind-- which is brutal... Chili is the perfect dish if one can acquire a taste for it."
Carly's story had broken the ice. Throughout the salad and main course the rest of the meal is filled with story telling. Nik tells of going ice fishing with Lulu and Lucky. Gia tells a story about her mother and living in Brooklyn. Stavros tells stories about growing up on the island. Carly answers with a story about growing up in Florida. She is just getting to the punchline...
"MY GAWD, Caroline! What have you done?!" Bobbie says before Carly can.
"Grandma!" Michael pops up from his seat and runs to Bobbie giving her a big hug.
"Hello Mr Man. Well don't you look handsome and like such a big boy."
"Oh hell." Carly mutters again. She glares at Nik. "This is all your fault."
"You are just in time for dessert." Stavros says calmly.
"Mama, what in the hell are you doing here?"
"I think I asked first." Bobbie retorts sharply.
"Come sit by me, Grandma. We're having strawberry ice cream." Michael tugs her toward the table and holds her chair for her then slides back up on his own. "Where is Uncle Lucas?"
"He has school tomorrow."
Stefan hesitates and then takes a seat down by Nikolas and Gia. The servants come out and set more places for the second night in a row. "Please prepare rooms for my brother and his wife." Stavros orders.
Bobbie who had been shifting to allow the servant access freezes. Stefan quirks a brow in Stavros direction. "You are so not funny." Carly blurts.
"But Caroline..." Stavros drawls ready to drop in his own punchline. "You know..."
"Cassadines don't divorce." Carly, Nik and Stavros say together.
"We're gonna need a bigger boat." Michael tells Stavros. Carly chokes on that one. "Grandma, do you want to go sailing tomorrow with me and Stavros?"
"No." Stefan breaks his silence. "Your grandmother won't be staying that long."
"Caroline's mother is welcome to stay as long as she likes." Stavros counters. Carly kicks him under the table. Stavros doesn't even wince just looks at her with a grin and a mischievious glint in his eye.
"You are so not funny." Carly mutters. "Damn it, Stavros!" Carly's voice is low but fervent.
"Ah! Here is the Strawberry ice cream." Stavros announces.
"YEAH!!!" Michael hollars out startling Stefan.
"Michael's tutor is rewarding him for excelling in math today." Nikolas explains.
"Stavros says I'm intuitive like Mama." Michael says proudly between bites of icecream. "That means I just know things."
As soon as Michael is finished with his ice cream, Carly makes her move. "Honey, lets go get you cleaned up."
"I'll go with you." Bobbie suggests.
"Oh no. Finish your tea, Mama. We'll be right back." Carly insists. She rises from her seat and takes Michael's hand. Making sure that the dining room doors are shut after them. Carly races to the study and grabs the laptop computer from the desk.
Michael races after her. "Watcha doing, Mama?"
"Getting the computer and putting it in my room. So I can play games tonight after you are in bed. Come on! I'll beat you to your room."
"No, you won't!" Michael takes up the challenge and races up the stairs gaining and then passing Carly. "I win! I win. What do I get."
"A surprise but later not right now. Maybe not even tomorrow. But it's a BIG surprise and you'll love it, Mr Man." Michael grimaces delayed gratification is just not his thing. "Go on. Go wash your face so we can go back downstairs and visit with your Grandma." Michael races off at the one speed he has-- high. Carly takes the time and looks around the room. Where to stash the computer? There is no doubt that her room would be searched by someone in the next couple of days and it wasn't like she had a safe anyway. Carly goes over to the panel that hides the access to the cave and pushes on it. Once it opens she stashes the computer right on the inside of the door. Hearing Michael on his way back, she slides the panel back. "You all ready?" Michael lifts his face up, closing his eyes for his mother's examination. "Yep. No strawberry on you. Oh wait... what's this?" Carly leans over and start peppering Michael with smooches. "Nope. Not strawberry. Must have been freckles"
There is an awkward silence in Carly and Michael's absence. Everyone had been putting on a good face not so much for Carly but for Michael. "Shall we retire to the salon for coffee?" Stavros finally suggests. He wipes his mouth and beard with the linen napkin and rises. As the closest one to Bobbie he offers her his hand.
There is a long pause before Bobbie takes it and goes with him to the front room where there is a view of the moonlit water and a baby grand piano. Stefan is next in the room making sure to keep his brother in sight. Not that he truly believed that Stavros would act out... not in front of Nikolas and other witnesses. "We need to talk." Stefan demands.
"Not now, Stefan." Stavros sighs. "He is really so impatient... and rude." Stavros says to Bobbie. "Here we are in the company of beautiful women and he wants to fight. How did you tolerate him? Why did you marry him at all?"
"He caught me at a weak moment." Bobbie says wryly.
"I suspected as much." Stavros laughs. "Caroline has told me so much about you. I feel as if I know you already. Our meeting in Port Charles was much too short."
"Well you kinda had other things on your mind at the time.... blowing up the world or something?"
"Just the lab." Stavros shrugs. "It's purpose had been served."
"Considering I was in the lab at the time..."
"You weren't supposed to be there." Stavros admits. He takes a coffee from the servant and hands it to Bobbie. "There were quite a few crashers at that particular party. Or rather you ran into my mother's agenda. What did you do to annoy her so?"
"Decked her in the middle of my brother's club?"
Bobbie's answer is so unexpected that Stavros roars with laughter. "Really?! Did anyone take pictures?" He looks around to Stefan and Nik and Gia.
"Now I know you've been hanging around my daughter too much." Bobbie quips.
"Are my ears burning?" Carly comes into the room with Michael holding onto her hand. Michael releases her and runs over to where Nik and Gia are sitting together at the piano bench. "Badmouthing me already, Mama?"
"Just your habit of taking pictures of everything."
"That one is Jason's fault. He took pictures of Michael every day that I was ..."
Bobbie interrupts sheepishly. Her eyes plead for Carly's forgiveness. "Right. Of course. It's not a bad habit; I was just kidding. It's one that's been a great comfort to me since you left town."
Stavros takes Carly aside. "Explain." He orders softly.
"I was locked up in a nut house for six months after I shot the guy who kidnapped my son. The people running it wouldn't let me have any mail or pictures. Jason took pictures of Michael every day so I wouldn't miss anything. He had them put in albums for me when I got out."
"Why didn't he buy you out of the charges?"
"I shot the guy in a full courtroom after Alexis got him off, kinda hard to make it all go away. You might know him.... Tony Jones?"
Stavros nods. "A puppet of my mother. She must have already known that she would need him for my awakening. Mother is a meticulous planner when not distracted by her libido."
"And Jason did buy me out of it eventually. He got a judge to order my release over the protests of the nutcase in charge of the asylum."
"Then I owe Mr Morgan a debt." Stavros brings Carly's hand to his lips. "Come lets make our guests... comfortable."
"Damn it, Stavros. This is going to mess everything up." Carly hisses at him.
"You are the one who suggested luring Stefan out. He's dropped himself in our laps and left his base of operations exposed."
Carly grins at the realization and reaches up to run a hand over the side of his face stroking his beard. "What do you need?"
"Uninterrupted time to make a few phone calls and for them to be here for... a few days?"
Carly winces. "The things I do for you. This is going to be complicated."
"I know. Don't you just love it?"
"I bet you played with fire as a child. Come to my room tonight. I hid the computer there."
Bobbie watches Stavros and Carly with their heads together and the hair goes up on the back of her neck. "My Gawd, Caroline, what have you done?" Bobbie mutters. Virginia's, Carly's adoptive mother, prayer for divine intervention had become her own.
"That is an association that will not end well." Stefan says from behind her.
"Tell me something I don't know." Bobbie answers. She doesn't look at Stefan but keeps her focus on her daughter. "Carly's never picked the easy path. But he did get all the charm in the family didn't he?"
"You would think so. I don't think of it as charm." Stefan says grimly. "Unless you find cobras charming. He's enjoying this and is up to something. I know my brother. Don't be alone with him."
Stavros overhears the last as Carly and he walk up on Stefan and Bobbie. "What? Brother, are you afraid that I will seduce your wife? Like you did mine?"
"Laura was never yours!" Stefan takes a step closer.
"Or yours but that didn't stop you." Stavros matches the step forward.
"Mama." Carly tilts her head to the side. Bobbie catches the hint and tugs Stefan away from the fight coming. Carly elbows Stavros. "Our kids are here, remember? If you want to beat the snot out of him do it on your own time. Like after Michael is asleep and can't be scared by it."
Meanwhile. "Damnit Stefan!" Bobbie curses. "How could you start something now?!"
"Stay away from him, Barbara."
"I can take care of myself and have been since I was way younger than Nikolas. I said he's charming not that I'm stupid. You burned out all possiblity of me getting suckered by a smooth talking Cassadine again. And I am not going to be used as a Laura substitute. Been there and done that." Bobbie adds grimly. "And my daughter isn't either."
"Enough!" Bobbie takes a step away. "I am going to spend some time with my grandson. If you fuck this up who knows when I'll get another chance." She stalks toward the piano where the kids are noodling on the keys. Nikolas is showing Michael a simple combination of keys and watching as he practices.
Stefan winces. Barbara seldom resorted to gutter language only when totally furious. She'd fought hard to smooth out the roots of her misspent youth. Stefan bypasses the silver coffee service and heads to the bar pouring himself a brandy. Carly walks over to him and watches as he tosses back the first one. He pours another. "I don't set many rules around here but I have one."
"What's that?" Stefan says nonchalantly contemplating his brandy snifter and not paying much mind to Carly.
"Nobody gets trashed around my kid. You toss that brandy back like you did the first one and you'll be sleeping out in the stables."
Stefan laughs derisively. Memories of the past hitting him of Stavros drunken assaults on Laura and others. "And my brother agreed to that-- sleeping out in the stables?"
Carly shakes her head. "Oh hell no. I told him the first night here if he tanked it up in front of Michael that we were out of here. And then I explained to him what AJ did to me, did to his brother. He's got the brains to know why it would bother me."
"You are a fool. You are a bird in a cage. He will never let you go."
Carly maintains eye contact with Stefan but calls out loud enough for Stavros and the others to hear. "Stavros, maybe Port Charles this time of year would be nice."
Stavros guesses Carly is up to something even if he doesn't know what. "I'm quite busy here right now but shall I have the jet fueled for you and Michael?"
"Nah. Thanks for the offer though. I'll wait until you can go too." Carly leans in. "Who is the fool now? Look at yourself. You make this too damn easy. I told Stavros that he wouldn't have to do a thing to you. You make yourself more miserable than he ever could." Carly waves a hand in his direction and then goes over to the piano. Michael is in the middle of Nik and Gia. He is making a motion over and back rocking his little hands over the middle black keys. Nik winks at Gia. Taking the higher keys, he starts noodling out Heart and Soul. Gia takes the lower keys and matches him note for note. Gia adds a little peddle to the mix for some verbrato. They finish in grand style.
"We're playing piano!" Michael exclaims as the Carly, Stavros and Bobbie applaud. "Play more." Michael orders Nikolas.
"I don't know. It's been awhile." Nik protests.
"It's just family here, Nik. It doesn't have to be perfect." Carly replies.