Chapter Four: The Ways of War
Lobby of PCU Library.
Emily exits an elevator, carrying an impressive stack of photocopies. She flips through them as she walks towards the door, pausing when she notices an out of place article. She attempts to organize them in a thin file folder as she walks. The papers begin to slide, and she makes a valiant effort to stop them, but they fall from her hands and scatter across the floor. She swears at herself under her breath, then drops to her knees and begins to collect them. An elevator opens behind her and Nikolas Cassadine steps off. He spots her and, after a moment's hesitation, walks over to her, just as she scoops up the last of her research.
Em: (startled) Nikolas! Hi! (She leaves the papers on the ground, and leaps to her feet to hug him) I haven't seen you in forever! Where have you been?
Nik: (pulling back) The hospital, mostly. I'm doing a work placement there. It's more practical than spending all my time in classes learning things I already know.
Em: I'm surprised they didn't just hand you a degree after your placement tests. What do you have, a year left?
Nik: One more semester after this one. I should be finished here by next winter.
Em: (sighing) Must be nice. And I'm still stuck at PC High. I should have taken Ned and Monica up on those private tutors they offered me.
Nik: Speaking of which, what brings you here so early on a Saturday?
Em: English symposium. I borrowed Lucky's library card. He's going here part-time now, did you know that?
Nik: I'd heard.
Em: (deciding to drop the topic) Well, it's a better selection than the public library and the hours are good. I want to get everything I need to do today so that I'm not swamped tomorrow. (Looking somewhat apologetic) Lucky's day off.
Nik: So you two are still .... (searches for the right word) friends.
Em: (knowing what he means) Yeah. We had a few rough spots, but we're still together. We have so much to catch up on. I have no idea what you're doing -- do you have time to get a coffee? I have to drop Lucky's card off at Luke's but if you're-
Nik: (uncomfortable) I don't think that's a good idea.
Em: The club isn't even open. Lucky's the only one who will be there, and it will only take a second. But he needs the card. (giving him a very sincere look) I'd really like to talk to you a bit.
Nik: (knowing he'll most likely regret this) Alright. Let's go. (Emily grins at him, then scoops up her papers, quickly stuffing them into her bag. Nikolas opens the door for her and they both start out into the surprisingly mild winter weather.)
Em: I can't get over this weather. It's like spring already.
Nik: Global warming.
Em: Oh, I don't care. It smells like things are changing. (Breaths in deeply) See?
Nik: (Shakes his head at her, amused) Are you looking for a change?
Em: (self-conscious) I don't know. Last year of high school, and all. I guess it's on my mind.
Nik: That's understandable.
Em: What about you? Is your life perfect.
Nik: (a bitter laugh) Oh, yeah. Ideal.
Em: Are you still living out on the island?
Nik: Not for much longer. I -- (voice falters slightly) I can't do it anymore. It's too... since Katherine.... (Emily stops walking and turns to face him)
Em: (softly) I know. It's hard to live with so many memories.
Nik: And my uncle, he's devastated. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have stayed as long as I did. But he has no one else. He tries to act like he's accepted it, but ... he never will. How do you accept murder?
Em: Is the case still open?
Nik: (an angry edge to his voice) The police are determined to pin it on my uncle. They won't consider any other possibilities. And since he didn't do it, the real killer will probably never be brought to justice.
Em: (shivering at the thought) I'm sorry, Nikolas. I know she was really important to you.
Nik: (staring down at the ground) She was. She still is. (He takes a deep breath, and looks back at her, his face now a mask, betraying nothing.) Anyway, that's old news. (Emily bites her lip, looking at him with concern. He looks away) How have you been?
Em: (slowly) I'm fine. There's nothing to tell. Are you sure you're Ok?
Nik: (determinedly) No, sorry. We're talking about you now. (He reaches out and pulls her bag off of her shoulder, and tucks it under his arm. He begins to walk along the sidewalk towards Luke's again, and she, after a moments hesitation follows)
Em: I'm just... devoting my life to the pursuit of higher education. It's kind of exhausting, but it'll pay off in the end.
Nik: (nodding) Lucky must not be thrilled with that.
Em: (uncomfortable -- in the beginning it was much easier to navigate Lucky and Nik's relationship. Now, however, she can never figure out what one thinks of the other. She proceeds carefully) He's dealing with it. He knows it's important to me. And, you know Lucky. He's always got something of his own going. (she knows full well that this time, he doesn't.) He's also got PCU and the club, so it's not like he has a totally open schedule. It's really Ok. Everything's fine. (becoming aware that she sounds far too desperate to convince him, she takes a deep breath) You know what? I'm not one of my favorite topics of conversation these days.
Nik: Neither am I. I guess we'll have to talk about the weather.
Em: (distantly) We already did. (Searching her brain for anything neutral to comment on) Oh! You know what? I got a letter from Lizzie yesterday.
Em: Yeah. She's a terrible correspondent, but she drops me a line from wherever she is to let me know she's having way more fun than I am.
Nik: (shaking his head) I never really understood how you two became friends.
Em: To be honest, neither did I. But ... I don't know. We understood each other. I don't know if we ever really liked each other, but we understood where we were coming from. And besides, she knew exactly how frustrating Lucky could be. (thoughtfully) I actually really miss her. She was... you could rely on her for an honest opinion. Brutally honest, usually. (they fall into silence. Finally Emily clear her throat) She said Sarah is doing well at school.
Em: (disapprovingly) Nikolas.
Nik: (a slight laugh, covering extreme bitterness) Excuse me. I just have no interest in what Sarah is doing these days.
Nik: I'm sorry.
Em: That's fine. (they walk along in silence, Emily wondering when it was that they came to have so little to talk about. When she and Lucky had started going out, she'd been determined not to let him effect her relationship with Nikolas. But the fact was, over time, she and Lucky got more and more caught up in each other, and she had slowly drifted to the very edge of Nik's life. The stupid part was, Lucky wasn't even at Nik's throat anymore. They had a sort of unofficial cease-fire, partially because Lulu was now old enough to know what was going on between her brothers. Actually, the fact is, Nikolas has been coolly distant to everyone since the one-two punch of Sarah's leaving town and Katherine's death. She forces herself to smile, and think good thoughts). Ok... Nikolas, tell me about your job at GH.
Lucky is counting the main till, getting ready to open in about an hour. As the club is closed, Hannah and the piano player are taking this opportunity to rehearse. They are going over (and over and over) the same song, because Hannah feels she keeps going flat towards the end. Lucky's barely paying attention, until Hannah finally calls for a time out and goes over to the bar).
Hannah: (heavily) It's too early for scotch, right?
Lucky: (Not looking up from his counting) What happened to a clear head?
Hannah: I'm testing another theory. On second thought, I could really go for something with caffeine.
Lucky: (beginning to count change) Behind the counter. (he gestures with his head. She walks around the counter, goes to the coffee machine, and pours herself a cup)
Hannah: Do you have any milk?
Lucky: (still counting, takes a moment to register the request) Bar fridge (resumes counting)
Hannah: Thanks (Pulls out milk, opens it, and is almost knocked over by the odor) Oh! Wow, how old is this? (Lucky continues to count, and she checks the expiration date) This is four months old! (Lucky tosses down the remaining quarters in frustration and looks over at her)
Lucky: Then throw it out. I'm trying to work here.
Hannah: (abashed) I'm sorry. I was caught off guard. (She puts the milk on the counter, and opts for black coffee, out of guilt)
Lucky: I'm not a morning person. I'll have a lot more sense of humor about everything this afternoon.
Hannah: You won't have to. I'll be out of here. Rehearsal only runs to twelve.
Lucky: (sighing heavily) I'm sorry, I'm in a rotten mood today. There's cream, it's probably Ok.
Hannah: It's fine. (She takes a sip of the coffee, and makes a face) Or not. I'll get that cream.
Lucky (magnanimously, forcing a lighter demeanor) Allow me. (lucky turns to get the cream. The door opens, and he tosses a look over his shoulder to see Jason Morgan. He freezes, then continues with what he's doing, like nothing's happened. Jason leaves his body guards by the door, and walks slowly over to the bar. He nods at Hannah. Lucky turns around with the cream)
Lucky: (with extreme casualness) Hey. What's up. (Jason looks at him. Lucky clears his throat) Want to see the books.
Jason: Yeah. (Lucky nods, and looks over at Hannah)
Lucky: I'll be right back. (He leaves for the back office. Hannah looks over at Jason and smiles. Jason nods. She pours the cream into her coffee, as if it is something that takes a great deal of concentration. She looks sideways towards the door at the men in suits. She feels suddenly very cold. This is all very familiar. Every day, she feels, she stumbles upon yet another reason not to be here. Before she can consider this in too much detail, Lucky reappears with the books) Here you go. (He drops them in front of Jason, who opens them and gives them a cursory glance. Then he looks over at Hannah, and back at Lucky questioningly) Oh, Jason. This is Hannah Hargreaves. She's singing here now.
Jason: Yeah. Luke mentioned that.
Lucky: Hannah, this is Jason Morgan. (Hannah can't help but notice the strange timber of Lucky's voice. He doesn't want to be doing this. She gets a strong impression Lucky wants to talk to Jason alone. That also gives her a creepy feeling, and she studies Lucky's face. She's struck again by how young he actually is. She looks back at Jason's body guards, vexed.)
Hannah: (with forced politeness) Nice to meet you. I have to get back to rehearsing.
Jason: Alright. (Hannah gets up, leaving her coffee behind, and goes to confer with her piano player. Jason turns his attention back to Lucky). She's nervous.
Lucky: You have that effect on people.
Jason: (looking back at the books) Profits are up.
Lucky: The nervous woman attracts a crowd. Word's getting out already.
Jason: (closing the books) Good. (He reaches into his pocket, and puts a slip of paper on the bar. Lucky stares at it). It's your choice.
Lucky: Sure. I'll let you know. (Jason nods, and stands up, leaving the paper behind).
Jason: Tell your Dad I'll be around tonight.
Lucky: No problem. Later.
Jason: (looking back at Hannah) She on tonight?
Lucky: Nope. Out of town band. (Jason nods, and turns silently away, leaving with his guards. Lucky waits until he's left, then looks quickly over to Hannah, who he catches watches him. He leans back behind the bar, casually, and she looks away, continuing to discuss arrangements with the pianist. When her back is turned he picks up the paper off the bar, and opens it, reading the name, numbers and locations. He folds it quickly, and slips it into his pocket. He grabs the ledger, and stashes it under the bar, then continues his counting, as if nothing's happened. After a moment the piano starts up, and Hannah begins to sing again, facing the pianist, her back to Lucky. As the opening of the song plays, the door to the bar opens and Emily and Nikolas enter. Emily looks quickly over to the Hannah, then catches Lucky's eye, and smiles at him. He looks over her shoulder towards Nikolas, who is making a point of not looking at anything in particular, and looks at Em questioningly. She walks across the room towards him, and slaps his library card on the bar.)
Em: Thanks a million. I got more than enough research done.
Lucky: What's the prince of darkness doing here?
Em: (ignoring the nickname -- she's aware that it's how Lucky attempts to protect himself) We ran into each other. We're just going to grab a coffee. (as she says this, Hannah begins to sing "Dolphins".)
(Nikolas looks up, and watches her, surprised by the voice coming from the other side of the room. Emily also listens, and turns back to Lucky and smiles)
Em: That her? (Lucky nods)
This world will never change
(As she sings this part, she turns sideways, and Nikolas immediately recognizes her as the woman he caught gazing out at Wyndemere a few weeks earlier. His jaw drops, and he struggles to make a connection between her being on the docks, and being a singer at Luke's... He's suddenly disturbed by how effected he is by her voice).
I'm not the one to tell
This world will never change.
(Emily has already turned back to Lucky, waiting for the song to end so that she can talk to him. Lucky is watching her, trying to focus on her presence, rather than Nikolas's . He flat out doesn't know how to behave around Nik these days, so he usually opts to ignore him. The song fades, and Nikolas, still standing near the door, continues to watch Hannah, who doesn't notice him)
Em: Are you here all day?
Lucky: In and out. Why?
Em: Just wondering when you're getting off. I'm done my research so I actually have some time today.
Lucky (groaning) figures. I have no idea when I'll be free.
Emily: Well, I'll be home in about an hour. Just give me a call when you're done. I have lots of work I can do.
Lucky: Alright. (looks back at Nikolas. Emily notices this, and tries not to feel any hope. She's seen Lucky look at his brother with this mixture of regret and vulnerability a dozen times. Nikolas never sees it himself, and nothing ever comes from it. She's long since given up on trying to encourage any change in their relationship. He looks away from Nik, who is still watching Hannah. He looks back at Emily.) Have fun.
Em: Oh, I won't. (she leans across the bar, in what is quickly becoming a ritual, and kisses him, a little more deeply than usual. She touches his hand lightly, then pulls away from him, still looking into his eyes, letting him know she misses him) See you later.
Lucky: Ok. (Emily turns away, and goes back to Nikolas, who tears his gaze away from Hannah. Nikolas looks over at Lucky and their eyes meet briefly, both of them quickly looking away. Emily turns back and waves. Lucky watches her leave with Nikolas, then returns to counting his change.)
(Dolphins was written by Billy Bragg, and can be found on his "Don't Try This At Home" CD.)