Chapter One:
Return to the Shores of Port Charles

The sun was streaming through the window of Emily's bedroom. She rolled over and stretched luxuriously. Home..... She thought. It was good to be back in her own bed. On the plane on the way back, she had felt a knot of dread growing in her stomach at the idea of being back here. The possible disasters that could be looming at home.... The mind boggled. It was the Quartermaine mansion, after all. When she'd arrived, however, she'd found things to be eerily peaceful. Even Grandfather had been in a good mood. Apparently Ned had just saved him millions in the far east, and nothing could shake his good mood, not even the new clothes she and Monica had bought in Italy to fill out her wardrobe.

The truly miraculous moment had been the brief visit from her brother, AJ. He'd come to see her at the house right before she went to bed, to tell her (though the details were sketchy at best) that he hadn't fallen off the wagon while she was away -- in fact, he had never drank at all. Emily had pressed him for details, but he'd said that they were too personal to relate. He'd tell her later. The details weren't important to Emily, anyway. The important part was that AJ and she had made it all the way through the summer and now part of the fall, and stayed clean. She hadn't been counting the days since her last joint. Her drug counselor had advised against it. But now, looking back, she had to be proud of herself. She'd achieved something. She smiled to herself, lying in the sun in the late morning.

Sunday morning.

The knot in her stomach returned. Tomorrow she had to go back to school.

* * * *

Lizzie laced up her runners, quickly as she could. She'd wasted ten minutes trying to get a knot out of her laces and, finally giving up, had cut it out. She'd snuck into Sarah's pristine closet, found her trainers and "borrowed" her shoe laces. They were still white. Lizzie wondered just how any human being could keep even their shoelaces clean. It was typical Sarah.

She glanced at the watch Ruby was now insisting that she wear. It was almost 10:30. She was supposed to meet Lucky at the docks in half an hour, a date she was NOT going to be late for. Lucky's father had recently made a reappearance, so he hadn't been around the past few days. By some miracle, she'd managed to get him to consent to meet her to talk about Sarah and Nikolas. She rolled her eyes at the thought of the questions he'd ask. Had Sarah gotten his tape? Did she like it? Did she see Nikolas this week? Did he upset her? Were the getting close? Blah, blah, blah. It almost wasn't worth it.


She tied up the laces on her sneakers into neat bows, adjusting them, thoughtfully. She hoped Lucky would be impressed that she'd been out and running this early. Now where the hell was her cab?

* * * *

Em was wolfing down a modest breakfast under grandfather's watchful eye, despite the fact that he himself had eaten hours earlier. He surveyed her carefully as she hurriedly tried to make it through the absolute minimum sustenance Edward would let her get away with. She'd lost a bit of weight in Italy, and planned to keep it off. She was sick to death of baby fat. Monica had chastised her repeatedly during their shopping trips for complaining about her weight. She didn't understand how sick Emily was looking like a little girl. She was sick of being a little girl. She swallowed the last of the honeydew melon cook had served her, eying the crystal dish critically. It was just like the one the Fancy Feast cat ate out of. She let out an involuntary giggle. Grandfather eyed her severely over his newspaper.

"Something funny?"

She shook her head, and took a last bite of her dry bagel. To her surprise, Grandfather's frown faded into a sly smile. "Well, it's great to hear your laugh again, at any rate."

She smiled at him as she stood up, tossing her napkin on the table. She leaned over and kissed his forehead.

"Thank you, Grandfather. I've missed your smile, too." By the time she'd gotten the words out, however, his smile had faded into a disgruntled frown.

"Where are you going?"

Emily gestured to the back room "I want to take R--"

"Oh, I see" Edward, grunted. "You want to spend time with the mutt. Well, be my guest."

Edward buried himself in the paper again. Em watched him closely, evaluating whether or not she had been given permission to leave. She decided to take her chances, and silently slipped out of the room to fetch the leash.

* * * *

Lizzie paced the pier continually looking over her shoulder for any sign of Lucky. She had gotten to the pier FIFTEEN minutes early. She hated waiting. THIS was why she was perpetually late. It wasn't that she couldn't be on time if she put her mind to it. It was that, in her opinion, only chumps spent their lives waiting for people.

She ran in place for a few minutes, to get that "out of breath, post exercise" look, without the sweat, thank-you very much. She liked running, but she didn't want to show up to meet Lucky looking like she'd been dragged by a car. "Ok, that's enough." she told herself, and sat down on the edge of the dock. This was a strange place. There was a big sign behind her, claiming "Bannister's Wharf", like this was some place people were supposed to want to spend time. She wrinkled her nose at the scent of dead fish, wafting on the air. Port Charles had nothing on Colorado, that was for sure. She heard a gasp behind her, and turned her head to see Lucky, griping a pole for support.

"Alert the presses! The girl is on time!"

She smiled at him broadly. He was so cute. This was what Port Charles offered that no other place could. She was pretty sure that there was only one Lucky Spencer.

"You're early, too!" she pointed out, as she tried to get her heartbeat to slow a bit. It was no use. Every time she saw him, her pulse started racing. It blew her mind that Sarah wasn't interested in him... though at the same time if Sarah ever did change her mind about the sainted Nikolas, Lizzie would have her work cut out for her.

Lucky was looking at her like she had two heads. She realized she'd probably missed something he'd said.

"I'm sorry?" She ventured, hoping he'd repeat himself.

"Never mind. What's with you?"

"Oh, I guess I"m still recovering from my run. You know, nothing like a morning run to keep you mind and body in good working order." She stretched her arms up over her head, in an attempt to show off her physique.

"Uh huh." Lucky turned to look at the lake, and ran his fingers through his hair. "So how's your sister doing?"

Lizzie scowled. She'd hoped she could distract him for at least a little while before Sarah made an appearance in the conversation.

"She got your tape. I'm sure she'll call you."

"Uh huh." Lucky was still staring at the lake. He looked disturbed about something.

"Are you ok?" She asked, legitimately concerned.

"I'm fine."

Lizzie could hear the inevitable tension creeping into his voice. She sat down at the edge of the wharf and let her legs hang over the side.

"Ok." She said, with an uncharacteristic lack of malice. She could hear him shuffle around behind her, then finally he sat down beside her.

"I'm sorry. I just got some bad news yesterday."

Lizzie wasn't sure how to deal with that statement. She didn't like things to get too heavy. Something told her Lucky didn't exactly subscribe to that belief system, though... and if she could get him to confide in her, see how sensitive and caring she could be, then maybe he would forget all about Sarah and her Greek God boyfriend. On the other hand, every time she'd tried to get him to talk about why he hated Nikolas so much, he clammed right up. She cleared her throat, and tried to find the right words.

"Is it something that you want to talk about, or do you just....” she exhaled heavily, and brushed her bangs out of her eyes, “’Cause, you know, if you're really desperate or something, I have an ear." Ewww. She cringed inwardly, foreseeing his reaction to the jumbled sentence. Lucky looked at her, annoyed.

"I wouldn't want to burden your sensitive nature, Lizzie. It's cool. I'm fine."

Lizzie looked down, and murmured "I'm sorry", but Lucky didn't seem to hear her. His eyes were fixed firmly on the horizon.

* * * *

Raoul, in typical dog fashion, was apoplectic with joy at Emily's return. It had taken her almost ten minutes to get him off the grounds. He kept trying to leap up on her, and had managed to wind himself, leash and all, around her legs TWICE, before she even made in down the walk.

"Geeze, Raoul!" she laughed, as she was being half-dragged down the street. "You'd think no one walked you the entire four weeks I was gone!"

Raoul turned at the corner, heading immediately down towards the water. It was their regular route, when she had the time to take him on a really long walk. Down to the docks, along the piers, up to Kelly's, where she'd get him some water and her a soda, and then back through the park.

Ugh, she thought, maybe they'd skip the park today. She didn't feel like reliving her last experience there, when she'd ruined Nik and Sarah's date. Her face flushed with embarrassment. Why was she always doing that? She seemed doomed to be a third wheel. Just like the Barbecue, when Lucky ended up walking her home. She always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time here. Even with Alan and Monica, she always felt like she was causing trouble, getting in the way of an otherwise .... Ok, well, the Quartermaines wouldn't be peaceful, even if she had never shown up, but certainly they didn't need her adding to the dysfunction. She shook her head, trying to knock the bad thoughts out of it. Raoul had stopped at the end the block, allowing his leash to go slack for the first time. He was gazing back at her, a look of puppy perplexity on his face. She caught up to him, and kneeled down to scratch his ears.

"Oh, Raoul.... What am I going to do?" she asked, rhetorically. Raoul responded by licking her face. She laughed, but she felt tears well up in her eyes at the same time. Italy had been wonderful. She'd gone swimming, and had long talk with Monica. She'd taken walks, and they'd had picnics out in the country. It had been like an alternate existence. Coming home to find all the same messes she'd left behind still there waiting for her was harsh.

Raoul suddenly jerked his head up, and stared down the boardwalk that began at the bottom of the street. He barked loudly, then took off. The leash was pulled sharply, and Em lost her grip, watching helplessly while it dragged on the ground after Raoul, as he leapt up the steps, and took off down the boardwalk. She shouted after him, but the dog didn't stop. Emily pulled herself to her feet, and took off after him, calling his name desperately.

* * * *

Lizzie examined her fingernails intently. The silence was getting to her. Lucky was making no attempt to be sociable and it was beginning to tick her off. He'd appeared to be in a good mood when he'd first shown up, he always did. But somehow, she always managed to get on his nerves almost immediately. She heard Lucky clear his throat, and looked over at him, expectantly.

"So..." Lucky rubbed the back of his neck, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. Her heart melted, and she smiled at him, eyes wide. She was going to be receptive, open, sensitive... "How is Sarah doing, generally... I mean, does she seem happy, or is she -- you know, I see her at school, but that's not the best place to really get a feeling for how people are really doing. I mean, man, you know, transferring and all that stuff can be really hard."

Lizzie felt her heart land in her stomach with a thud. Oh, of course, things could be so hard when you were a sensitive little waif like Sarah. "Sarah is fine," she told him, coolly. "She's busy as a little bee with her school work, and Nik hasn't been around all week, so everything is fine, don't worry."

"Nik hasn't been around?" Lucky turned to face her. Obviously news he was glad to hear.

"No, Lucky, he hasn't. And don't ask me why, because I don't know. But she definitely hasn't been seeing him." She could feel her face getting flushed, and she turned away towards the lake.

"Well, I'm glad she's come to her senses." Lucky said, a new spring in his voice. She didn't respond. They sat in silence again. Finally, Lucky put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, Lizzie?" Lizzie froze. He'd never touched her before. Her breath caught in her throat, but she refused to turn her head back to him. Apparently this tactic was working. "Are you doing all right?" He asked. Her heart began to pound again. Suddenly the sun seemed brighter, the air warmer, the universe friendlier. "I know things haven't exactly been wonderful for you lately either.”

Lizzie couldn't help but smile. He had actually asked how she was doing!

"Ummm..." Her mind raced. What did he want to hear? "I'm hanging in there." she said finally. Strong, but vulnerable, that's the ticket, she thought, giving him a small smile. Lucky looked at her oddly. "What?" she could feel herself beginning to panic. "Is there something in my teeth?"

"Do you hear something?"

Lizzie stared at him, confused. She opened her mouth to respond, when suddenly, a large, mangy, overgrown mutt appeared out of nowhere, and tackled Lucky. Lizzie screamed, in a mixture of shock and horror. Lucky grabbed the edge of the dock, and just barely managed to stop himself from going into the drink.

"Raoul, man, calm down," he said, trying to push the dog away. "Hey, Liz, a little help?" Lizzie had jumped to her feet, and was backing away from the drooling creature snarfing all over Lucky.

Lizzie turned to the sound of footsteps, running along the boardwalk. A tall young girl appeared from around the corner. She looked like she was right out of some sort of story book, like all the ones Sarah still had on her bookshelves back in Colorado. She was obviously the dogs owner, looking both relieved and horrified to see the dog molesting Lucky at the docks edge.

"Oh, no." she moaned, and dashed down the steps to the wharf. Lizzie reached out and grabbed her arm as she passed.

"Hey! Is this deranged beast your responsibility?"

"Lizzie.", Lucky called out from under Raoul, managing to pull himself and the dog away from the edge of the dock.

Emily stopped in her tracks, in shock. She stuttered a moment, then finally managed to get out "I'm sorry, I lost the leash, and then I tripped on the -- "

Lizzie didn't let her finish. "I don't care what happened, you should think twice before you let a menace to society like that mutt loose on the world, and another thing -- "

"LIZZIE", Lucky yelled, frustrated. She turned to him, annoyed.


"It is all right. I'm fine."

Lizzie opened her mouth to respond, but was cut off by Lucky. "Hey, Emily. I guess you haven't met Lizzie yet,"

Emily loosened herself from Lizzie's grasp, and rushed over to him, dropping to her knees, and pulling Raoul off of Lucky.

"I'm so sorry, he took off at the boardwalk, and I tried to chase him, but I tripped going up the steps. I'm such a klutz." She heard a snort from behind her, and turned to survey Lizzie, the pit bull who had attacked her on her way down the stairs. She was dressed in extremely sheer clothing, showing at lot of skin for the season. Her lip was curled up into a sneer, and the look of contempt she was giving Emily let her know, in no uncertain terms, that she had, interrupted something yet again. She looked back at Lucky, trying to ascertain his reaction to her entrance, but his expression was as unreadable as ever. She shook her head, and pulled Raoul up sharply on his leash. "I'm sorry. I'll just be going now." She moved towards the stairs, dragging a still overly excited Raoul behind her.

"Emily, man, wait up. I'll walk you home." Lucky managed to drag himself to his feet.

Lizzie stared at him, mouth open. This was incredible. She was finally getting somewhere with this boy, and now this bizarre kid shows up with a dog the size of Godzilla, and ruins everything! She surveyed her newfound competition for Lucky's attentions. She was overly tall, and a bit gawky looking. Her hair was straight, and completely unfashionable, in contrast to her very strange clothes. Lizzie narrowed her eyes. Make that very expensive, strange clothes.

"Lucky...." she growled, petulantly. "What about... the stuff we were talking about?"

Lucky looked at Lizzie blankly.

"What stuff?" Lizzie's eyes almost popped out of her head.

"Uh, what do you think?"

Lucky looked at her incomprehensibly for a minute, then the light went on in his eyes.

"Right... look, can it wait? I haven't seen Em in a while..."

"IT'S OK!" Emily's voice rang out from the stairs, with an obvious edge to it. "I can make it home by myself, thanks."

Lucky turned to her in undisguised shock. She had almost sounded annoyed. Even Lizzie raised her eyebrows. Great, she thought, so the girl's a brat, too.

A bit surprised by her own outburst, Emily cleared her throat and wrapped Raoul's leash firmly around her hand.

"I'm perfectly capable at making my own way home," she spoke slowly and carefully. "Thank-you for the offer, though." She turned to Lizzie. "It was nice to meet you." She spun on her heel, and pulled Raoul after her, back towards her house.

Lucky watched her leave, still surprised by everything that had just happened. He looked over at Lizzie, who had turned to him, smiling again, her eyes bright.

"Well, we have our privacy again. Did you want to ask me something?" Lucky felt a bit uneasy. He'd never seen Emily act that way before. Something had to be really wrong.

"Look, Lizzie... can we talk about this at school, or something? I should talk to Emily. I mean, that wasn't like her at all. Ok?"

Lizzie looked at the ground, brow knitted. "Oh, yeah sure, that's just fine with me --"

"Thanks, Liz. See you tomorrow." Lucky dashed up the stairs two at a time, and was gone before Lizzie could protest.

"You're Welcome, " she yelled after him. It was no use. He was long gone. Lizzie kicked at the ground in frustration. "Unbelievable," she muttered, "Who the hell was that chick?"

* * * *

Emily walked double-time down the boardwalk. Her blood was pounding through her veins. Why did this keep happening? First Lucky and Sarah at the Barbecue, then Sarah and Nik at the park, now Lucky and .... Lizzie? Speaking of which, who was that girl, and where exactly did she get off? Now that she wasn't starring her down, Emily felt a hot flush of anger. So she was a klutz, so she'd lost her dog! She hadn't done it on purpose. Why did her spine always return after the confrontations? Why did she always act like such a wimp? Everyone in the family was always telling her how strong she was. They didn't have a clue, she thought grimly, they said she was strong, because they wanted her to be. Emily thought she was the weakest person she knew. Behind her, she heard footsteps, someone running towards her. She knew immediately who it was.

"Leave me alone." she spat out, as Lucky caught up to her. He kept walking along side her, all the same. Part of her was glad to see he had persisted, though, despite the fact that she'd really had enough of his garbage over the last few months. At least she was still somewhat important to him.

"What is going on with you?" Lucky was out of breath, but he managed to get his words out without too much difficulty. "I just wanted to talk to you for a minute. I mean, we hardly spoke all summer. You were acting weird at the barbecue, then I don't see you for, like, two months. I haven't even run into you at school. Are you avoiding me, or something?"

Emily stopped in her tracks, and gaped at him. So much for being important.

"Please tell me you're joking, Lucky. Because if you're serious -- " Her throat closed up, and she could feel tears coming. No, she thought, I will not cry again. I'm not going to give him the satisfaction.

Lucky looked at her with real concern. "Hey," he said, his voice gentle, a tone she hadn't heard from him all year. "Are you Ok?"

"Like you care," Emily said tightly. It was no use. The tears welled up in her eyes. She tried to blink them back, but they overflowed, and ran down her face. She choked, and bowed her head, trying to hide behind her hair.

"Is this about the Barbecue? Did I do something that night....?" Lucky's voice trailed off. He seemed to sense that he wasn't helping. Awkwardly, he put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Em. I know I haven't been the greatest friend to you lately." Emily wanted to lean against him, to cry on his shoulder the way she used to be able to, but she couldn't let herself be that vulnerable in front of him anymore. She didn't want him to know how much he'd hurt her. She jerked on Raoul's leash and lifted her head, trying to look composed.

"Don't worry about me Lucky," she spoke with impressive clarity. "I'll be fine." Again, she turned to walk away, pride, she hoped, intact.

She hit the boardwalk with an equally impressive thud. While she and Lucky had been talking, Raoul had managed to wind the leash around her legs again. Maybe, she thought to herself, if I lie really still, he'll just go away."

"Oh my God, Em, are you Ok?" Lucky took Raoul's leash from her, as she pushed herself up onto her knees. Emily covered her face with her hands, and began shaking violently, emitted a high-pitched squeak. Lucky pulled Raoul back from his clearly disturbed mistress, and tried to think of what to do next. He'd heard about Em's "episode" from Jason, and he couldn't help but worry that she had gone off the deep end again. After all, she hadn't been acting normally in months. "Em?", he spoke carefully, "Are you Ok? Can you hear me?"

Emily began to shake harder. She let her hands fall from her face, and keeled over onto the walkway, dispatching peals of laughter into the air. Lucky felt a mixture of embarrassment and surprise. He wasn't sure if he should be relieved yet.

"What?," she finally managed to gasp, "Did you think I'd flipped out again?"

"It crossed my mind," Lucky said defensively, "I mean you're acting like a nut."

"Is that unusual behavior?" Em asked, before collapsing into fits of giggles again. Raoul, excited to see his owner in such high spirits, started to lick her face enthusiastically. Emily yelped, still laughing, and tried to push the dog away.

"Man, Raoul, give the girl a break." Lucky chastised the animal, pulling him back. Inwardly he couldn't help be think how much better behaved Foster was than this monster. "Sit!" he finally stated, sternly. To his great surprise, Raoul obeyed, and dropped onto his haunches, still wagging his tail eagerly. "Oh, man. It worked."

"Of course it worked." Emily said, between giggles. "He's been trained by the best. He just doesn't do what he's told unless he thinks you're serious, just like all Quartermaines."

Lucky shook his head, then knelt down and offered Emily his hand. She grinned and took it, letting him pull her to her feet.

"You're not having a great day, are you?"

Emily shrugged. "Just another day in Port Charles. My life was never this strange before I came here. And I made it through an entire month in Tuscany without falling on my face, and then today I take a header twice. Must be something in the air."

"Tuscany?" Lucky looked at her quizzically. "When were you in Tuscany?"

"I've been in Italy for the last month, genius. I guess if you'd ever tried to call me, you'd know that." Emily couldn't help but be amused by Lucky's shocked expression. She bit her lip to keep from laughing again.

"I call you," Lucky protested. Emily rolled her eyes. "Sometimes. Hey! You never call me. It works both ways, you know?"

"The last time I called you .... " Em let her voice trail off. There was an awkward silence. Lucky rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, a habit he was fond of whenever he wanted to appear cool and detached from he situation.

"Yeah," he said, quietly. "I remember."

"Well, no point in digging that up."

"I guess not." Lucky held out Raoul's leash. "Well, look. At least let me walk you home, and repent my sins."

Emily surveyed him warily. He seemed to be sincere, but she still felt uncomfortable.

"I don't want to pull you away from... what's-her-name,"

"Who, Lizzie? Not a big deal. I'm sorry she was so..."


"Hey. Watch your language there, woman." Lucky smiled at her, his eyes twinkling. "She is though, isn't she? It's like every person she meets, she immediately rubs the wrong way."

"No kidding. I thought she was going to eat me for breakfast." Lucky laughed.

"Nah. She's all bark," he said, "At least I hope she is. Are you going to take the leash or not?"

Emily sighed, and held out her hand. Lucky hung the loop of the leash over her wrist. She grasped it in a tight fist, and smiled at him. Lucky felt his heart warm. Emily had a smile that stopped time. She always had. That was why he'd felt so protective of her when they first met. She had to be the sweetest, most innocent person he'd ever met, with the exception of Lulu, and she kept getting stomped on. He fell into easy step beside her, noting that Raoul also hung back, running back and forth right in front of their legs, threatening to trip them both a few times before Emily sternly yelled "Heel!"

"So...," Emily said, when they had reached the end of the boardwalk, "How did you meet Lizzie?"

Lucky furrowed his brow, as if he was trying to remember just how that bizarre girl had entered his life.

"She works at Kelly's. And she's, like, in every class I have at school. It's crazy."

"Ah," Em smiled slyly, examining the ground as they walked.

"And she's Audrey Hardy's granddaughter."

Emily looked up, surprised. "Audrey? Are you kidding? Is she Sarah's sister or something?"

“She claims to be.”

"Wow." Emily stated, after a vain search for something more intelligent to say. "I never would have guessed that.... Oh my God!!! She's that Lizzie!" Lucky looked at her blankly. "When I first met Sarah, we went out to this juice bar, and she was telling me all about her sister, and what a pill she was. I remember, she told me right after we.... Oh." Emily stopped short. Lucky raised his eyebrows.



He groaned, irritated. "Come on, Em. What?"

"We just...." she exhaled heavily, rushing through the sentence. "We ran into Nikolas."

To her surprise, Lucky didn't say anything. He just looked straight ahead.

"Yeah. There's a lot of that going around." he sighed, finally. "He's, uh... he's going to our school now, too."

Emily stopped, in shock.

"You're kidding. How did that happen?"

"How should I know? Maybe he's been planted in the school system so that he can take notes on the behavioral pattern of American teenagers, as part of another plot to take over the world." Though he was obviously joking, his voice was heavily laden with acrimony.

"You know Lucky...." Em's words were hesitant, "Nikolas isn't really all that bad."

"Emily," Lucky warned, "Don't go there, Ok?"

"Ok. I know you don't like him."

"It's not just that I don't like him, it goes deeper than that."

"Because he's a Cassadine?"

Lucky growled in frustration.

"Because he's stuck up. Because he thinks that he's better than anyone else, because --"

"Because he thinks he's better than you?"

Lucky stopped dead. He looked at Emily, fire in his eyes.

"Nikolas Cassadine is not better than me, or anyone else.”

“I know that, Lucky. But he's not worse, either. I mean, his family, yeah.... they have some problems, but Nik is really -- "

"Oh, don't give me another lecture on the admirable character of the Great Nikolas Cassadine. I don't think I could take it on an empty stomach. I couldn't take it on a full one either, for that matter."

"It must have been really hard to find out your mother had another son," Emily said, her eyes meeting his. Lucky was struck dumb for a second, then slowly, methodically, his voice just on the edge of emotion, he began to speak.

"Do you have any idea what it's like to find out that... I mean, your whole life, you think you're one thing. You know? The oldest son, the first born child. And that you're special because you're the kid that made your parents into parents. You have a role in the family. You have a place, and you know what it is. Then all of the sudden, some kid shows up, and every time your mother looks at him, you see tears in her eyes. Mostly it's pain, but sometimes it's joy... and you realize that every day of your life, she probably looked at you, and wondered where he was, what he was doing. And when you mess up, it's like “Would he do that?”. I mean, he's never had the chance to let her down. So you're the default child now, the replacement for the kid lost. And then when he shows up, he gets to swoop down out of nowhere, and save your sister's life, just because he had the right genes--" Lucky broke off, his voice cracking. He looked away, and didn't speak for a long time. Emily stood quietly, and waited for him to calm down. She always knew that Lucky's "cool guy" persona was an act. In actual fact, Lucky wasn't very cool. He was hotheaded, and easily provoked. It was one of the things she'd liked about him. She felt like it proved he had a big heart, despite that fact that he could be mind-numbingly insensitive at times.

"Lucky?" She said, finally. He didn't turn to face her, but she heard him make a ragged exhalation of breath. "You know you're special anyway, right? I mean, your parents love each other more than any two people I've ever met. And you're their child. That makes you special in both their eyes, no matter what. And besides, I've never met anyone like you. You know, even though we haven't really been speaking, you're still the best friend I've ever had. You were there for me when I really needed someone, after my Mom died. I mean, the only people I knew were Alan and Monica. And you gave me Raoul, even if he is a brat sometimes."

"I wasn't there when you started taking drugs." Lucky's voice sounded choked up. Emily wondered if he was crying. She put a hand on his shoulder, gently.

"You had to be there for your family. I mean, I understand that now. And I wanted to do those drugs. You couldn't have given me what they gave me. I just didn't want to feel anymore. Nobody could do that for me."

"Matt could."

"Matt could give me the drugs. And he didn't judge me. But neither did you when you found out I was doing them. When you came to see me that day, I began to feel like maybe I could just be Emily again, and it wouldn't be so bad. I mean, you liked me sober, right?"

Lucky turned around to face her. There were tears in his eyes.

"You're pretty special, too, Em" he said finally. "I'm sorry."

Emily felt her own eyes well up again, but she ignored them, and smiled at him. "You're forgiven."

On impulse, Emily put her arms around him. Lucky returned her embrace, hugging her back with surprising ferocity. Emily held her breath for a moment, then let herself relax, feeling that for the first time in ages, she was really happy. She hugged him tightly, and closed her eyes. She realized that, once again, Raoul was winding his way around their legs, so she jerked the leash again, harshly. Raoul yelped, then flopped down in the dust at their feet.