Laura and Stefan discuss Nikolas' Birthday

[At the Port Charles Grille. Laura walks into the restaurant.]

Maitre d': "Your party's already here, Mrs. Spencer. This way." [He leads her to Stefan's table. Stefan sees her and stands up. They look at each other.]

[Stefan moves the glass of wine for Laura to taste. She does.]

Laura: [Looks at waiter and nods.] "Fine." [The waiter pours wine and leaves.] "Thank you." [Stefan raises his glass. Laura puts up her hand.] "Please don't do that." [Stefan lowers his glass.] "You promised me that the next approach would be mine. I told you that wasn't going to happen, and I meant it. The only reason I知 here tonight is because you said that we had something important to discuss, so...?"

Stefan: "It appears that Nikolas and Lucky are on some secret quest together."

Laura: "Quest?"

Stefan: "They were on their way to use the computer when you came down from the guest room the night of the storm. They'd made a similar visit several days earlier. They also took a day trip to Manhattan in the company of Emily Quartermaine and another young woman."

Laura: "I had no idea."

Stefan: "I thought it best that you be informed."

Laura: "To be honest, as long as they're not strangling each other, I知 delighted that they're spending time together." [Pauses.] "And while I知 very happy to be informed, you know, this isn't something that we couldn't have discussed on the telephone, so what else?"

Stefan: "Next Friday is Nikolas' birthday."

Laura: [Softly.] "I know."

Stefan: "No matter what celebration I have planned for him in the past, it's always been a bittersweet day for him... missing the one thing a child wants most." [Laura closes her eyes.] "I've always preferred to believe that wherever you were, you were with him in thought, that you would set aside time for him."

Laura: "I never missed one. I made a ritual of it. Every year, that day, I managed to slip away so that I could be by myself, so that I could be free to think about him, to imagine him... what he looked like, where he might be, what his laugh might be like." [Sighs.] "And more than once I picked up the phone, thinking of dialing, you know, hoping that by some quirk of fate he might actually answer the telephone and not one of the servants, and I would get to hear his voice. Then I would hang up, of course. And I never did it." [Takes a breath.] "Because I knew that I wouldn't be able to hang up. And I was afraid that, in that silence, he would know it was me." [Tears form in her eyes.]

Stefan: "You never did that? Call and then disconnect?"

Laura: [Shakes her head.] "No."

Stefan: "The phone would ring. No one would be there. I always found myself believing it was you. My ritual has been to recall every detail of the first time I saw him." [Smiles.] "Do you remember?"

Laura: [Smiles.] "Oh, yes. I was lying in bed, and I was holding him." [Flashback.] "You had to wait outside for Stavros to leave. And I knew that was killing you. And then you came in. Then we looked at each other. Then you saw him. I asked you if you wanted to hold him." [End Flashback.]

Stefan: "I know you don't want to speak of our love." [Laura looks down, then back at him.] "But I can't help but see it every time I see Nikolas. We created someone remarkable. And I was thinking that perhaps this year we could give our son what he's longed for his entire life."

Laura: "What exactly do you mean?"

Stefan: "A birthday celebration, for Nikolas, at Wyndemere. One that includes his mother, his sister--"

Laura: "And his father?"

Stefan: "His uncle. It would mean a great deal to him. Or if your schedule allows, perhaps we could do more. We could accompany him to New York or London for the weekend. 'Troilus and Cressida' is opening on the West End."

Laura: [Smiles.] "Nice try." [Laughs.] "But talk of New York and London isn't going to make me any more inclined to accept this invitation to the 'supposedly innocent' little birthday celebration."

Stefan: "I just don't like putting Nikolas in the position of having to choose between the two of us. Or feeling awkward making explanations to one so he can rush to the next celebration with the other. It's not fair to him."

Laura: "I agree with you about that. But, you have an agenda. And I知 not blind to it. You know, we might end up giving him a birthday that he would never forget, but not [laughs] for the reasons that you're thinking. You know, I don't think it's such a good idea for us to spend time together in his presence."

Stefan: "I値l wear dark glasses." [Laura laughs, and Stefan smiles.] "Surely we can hold whatever it is between us in check so that the child we both love might celebrate his birthday in the way that would make him most happy."

[The waiter clears the table.]

Laura: "Thank you."

Stefan: "You've spent the entire meal avoiding a direct answer. Will you participate in Nikolas' birthday celebration at Wyndemere?" [Laura looks at him.] "You know, there was a time when you would have entrusted me with your very life. Now a mere dinner party gives you pause."

Laura: [Sighs and shakes her head.] "No, our, um, recent interaction gives me pause. You know, you are referring to a time when I thought Luke was dead and that you were my only friend. I--I don't just owe you for the way that you have raised Nikolas. If it weren't for you and your constancy in my life when I was pregnant with him... I was so sad, grieving for Luke. Even with that new life growing inside me, I still ached. And you were my lifeline."

Stefan: "No matter what happens between us, isn't it possible to find a bridge back to that trust we once shared? Doesn't Nikolas deserve that? For us to trust one another. Can't we, for his sake, put the past behind us and move forward?"

Laura: "I don't trust you enough to put the baggage down."

Stefan: "What would it take to inspire your trust?"

Laura: "For you to tell me the very things that you've tried to keep secret from me."

[Flashback. At the Cassadine Island.]

Guard: "Mr. Cassadine, I assume you heard about Luke Spencer?"

Stefan: "That he's alive? Yes."

Guard: "Prince Stavros has made it clear his wife is not to be told."

Stefan: "I understand." [He goes into Laura's room.] "Good. You're off your feet. The physician will be pleased." [He sits in front of her.] "I've missed you."

Laura: "I thought you were never coming back."

Stefan: "I brought you something." [He hands her a gift and smiles.]

Laura: [Smiles.] "Just having you here is all I need. So, what's it like in the outside world? Any news I should know about?"

Stefan: [Pauses.] "The only developments worth noting are taking place right here in this room." [He puts his hand on her stomach. She covers his hand with hers, and they entwine their fingers together. End Flashback.]

Laura: "You see? Your mind just jumped to some secret that you don't want me to know about. So are you going to tell it to me? No. You say that you want to inspire my trust. So why don't you just tell me? I dare you."

Stefan: "You ask things of me you never asked before."

Laura: "Honesty?"

Stefan: "You got that from the father of your other son?"

Laura: "There's no point in this, is there?" [To waitress.] "Excuse me. Can you get my coat, please?"

Stefan: "You trusted me then. You didn't ask if I was trustworthy. You didn't test me or suspect me or anticipate betrayal. You looked at me and told me everything. And I never gave you reason to regret it."

Laura: "I may have told you everything, but you never did the same. Look, I went to Spoon Island in the middle of a thunderstorm to see my son, and who was there? Only you. Until he and my other son Lucky walked in. I'm not going to agree to a birthday celebration and be ambushed again."

Stefan: "What is it you want me to tell you, Lasha? Ask me anything. I will lay myself bare to you." [Silence.] "You see? The secrets I keep are the ones you would prefer not to hear." [Laura rolls her eyes.] "Now, as for Nikolas' birthday celebration, would you like a crowd? He has quite an assortment of friends from, most improbably, Lucky, to millionaires and models. If you like, you need hardly speak a word to me."

Laura: "So, where were you when Nikolas turned 4?"

Stefan: "Normandy."

Laura: [Smiles.] "Oh."

Stefan: "Our son loves apples. There are no apples like Norman apples at harvest time."

Laura: [Laughs.] "Really?"

Stefan: "He had apple candies, applesauces, apple butters, apple custards, apple creams, tartes tatine." [Laura laughs.] "Apple confections of every sort." [He smiles.]

Laura: "So what did he wish for when he blew out the candles on top of his apple cake?"

Stefan: [Sobers.] "He was only 4 years old. I wasn't ready to have him learn there are things he could wish for and never have. Let life teach him that later, as it does us all. You'd been gone for so long, I--I壇 had no word. When we went home, I had my brother's rooms unsealed -- the study, the wine cellar, all of it. Helena had closed them off after he died as if to enshrine the very litter he left behind. Finally, I found it -- the portrait of you that Stavros had commissioned. The one we brought with us and hung over the fireplace at Wyndemere. Nikolas couldn't take his eyes off of it. It was not his mother." [Laura listens with tears in her eyes.] "It's not his wish come true. But it was what I could do. And the wish I made for him then -- that time would do the rest [he smiles] that has come true."

Laura: [Whispers brokenly.] "Excuse me." [She gets up and leaves the room. Stefan is visibly upset.]

[Laura is crying. Stefan sits next to her.]

Stefan: "I would not have you think our son's childhood was unhappy. It was his nature -- it may be mine, too -- that marked him and set him apart a little, not your absence."

Laura: "How can you say that? He was abandoned by his mother. I promised to return, and I never did. I mean, there were reasons--it just doesn't seem to absolve me of my guilt. Oh, my God, if there was another way -- I just never found it."

Stefan: "Lasha... who blames you now? Not Nikolas. Not I. Wasn't it you who said, 'Revenge never clears the slate, love does'? And you love him, our Nikolas." [Laura's face crumbles and she reaches for Stefan's hand.] "And we are free to be together again. You can name the terms. All you have to do is say what you want."

Laura: "Is that all?"

Laura: "You don't make this easy for me, you know. I'm not made of stone. And I was in love with you once. I'm not going to deny that. And nothing was over between us, nothing. And then all these years later, suddenly you appear. Stronger, more confident. And you take up residence in my life. You bring me my son, who is a magnificent young man now. And you tell me that you've always loved me. I don't take that lightly. I mean, do you think it's easy for me to turn down your invitations? Especially when you make your home feel like a home to me and my home is empty."

Stefan: [Quietly.] "I have no wish to cause you pain. I only mean to offer you an end to pain, to confusion, betrayal. Now, I believe that we could be happy, you and I and Nikolas. Have you forgotten happiness, Lasha? Have you disallowed it from your plans? It could be so simple. Isn't it time?" [Stefan looks at her for a moment and then gets up, hesitating for a moment and then continuing out. Laura watches him leave.]

I won't weigh you down
With good intentions
We'll make fire out of clay
Or other inventions
Will we burn in heaven
Like we do down here?
Will the change come
While we're waiting?
Everyone is waiting...
And when we're done
Soul searching...

[Laura is deep in thought. She turns her head and sees Stefan. He walks over to her and places her coat on her shoulders. His hands linger comfortingly. She looks up at him. He walks away, but turns back to look at her. Laura smiles. Stefan nods and leaves. Laura is lost in thought.]