The Path to Power

Chapter Fifty Two





Stranger in a Strange Land




The guys gather in the common area of the bunkhouse. Manny has already hauled out the school sized dry erase board. Bruno has been sending down the leftovers from the dinner party that wouldn't be left over for long. So they already know the menu. What they hadn't gotten was the commentary. That was going to have to wait until Dillon and Bruno got back.

Dillon is the one that walks thru the door and is surprised by what he sees. There is a big table set up and all the leftovers are on the table but nobody has eaten... okay so the shrimp and cocktail sauce are history but the rest is all there.

"Where is Bruno? We want to get started." Manny demands. He can feel his blood sugar dropping and if they didn't get started soon he would probably kill something.

"He had to drive my Mom and Jax back to the Hotel. Jax drank too much or something."

The guys look at each other but don't say anything. Mouse finally interjects. "I say Dillon has to give the commentary. I don't want to wait for Bruno. I'm dying here."

"Yeah, Dillon can do it." All of them say in a rush as they take their seats around the table. One of the guys starts around a bottle of wine. Dillon happens to notice it's the same kind as what was served up at the house.

"So first things first. Where was everyone sitting?" Manny grabs the main dish and gives himself a heaping helping before passing it on.

Dillon looks around and wonders what the hell but then shrugs and goes for it. He grabs a dry erase marker and draws the table. "Ned was sitting at the head of the table."

"Who was at the foot?" The guys all seem to be holding their breath waiting for the answer.

"Nobody. Faith put the flower arrangement down there."

"That's good. That's good." Mouse says around a mouthful of food. "I hate those things. You can't see the person across from ya. How can you tell if they're lying if you can't see their eyes?"

All the guys nod. "Where was Faith sitting?" One of them demands as he snatches a piece of garlic bread from the basket.

"Here." Dillon puts an X at Ned's right. "And I was sitting next to her. Jax across from Faith with my mom next to him, across from me."

"Break from the boy/girl." Manny's eyes narrow. "Faith doesn't like your mother much. She should have put your mother at Ned's left."

"No way." One of the other guys protests. "That would have put Faith and Dillon's Mother on equal footing, with Faith barely having the edge cause she was on the right side. She had to have the seat the furthest away from Ned and on the left."

Dillon looks around the thankfully round table as the guys chew on the dinner and the ramifications of the seating arrangements. He thought Bruno had been kidding. But at this rate it would be past midnight before they got around to discussing the dessert. It's a good thing he doesn't have school tomorrow.





"The person at the lumberyard said you could put it together in a weekend?" Skye questions skeptically as she collapses on the couch.

"I think we made a good start today. The weather is supposed to be decent. I managed to get the weekend off from Jake's. It'll work." Cole collapses next to her.

Sagging into the big comfortable chair, Kyle figures that his Uncle had gotten the weekend off just in case because of those pictures but he hasn't been alone with Coleman to find out what happened. "Are we going to eat?"

Skye looks at Coleman. "Yeah. Are we going to eat?"

Coleman looks at the two of them and then shakes his head. "Fine. Burrito bar. You chop up the fixings. You find some music we can all enjoy. I'll do anything that has to do with the stove."

"I'm going to clean up." Skye gives Coleman a pat on the thigh. She crawls out over him and toward the master bedroom. I'm going to be feeling this in the morning.

"Uncle Cole..."

"When we're all sitting down, Kyle." Cole tries to shut him down fast before Skye gets back.

"Then she was in the pictures?"

"Yeah. Keep the music mellow." Coleman hauls himself off the couch and over to the kitchen where he first sticks his head under the faucet and then quickly washes up scrubbing down from elbow to fingernails.

Skye comes up behind Coleman brushing up against him before opening the fridge. "My fridge is looking a lot different since you and Kyle moved in."

"You still have your bottled water and yogurt." Coleman quips. He reaches around her to grab some ground beef but not before wrapping an arm around her waist and nuzzling the back of her neck. He finally reluctantly pulls back and goes over to the cabinet next to the stove and pulls out a skillet.

"I'll grate the cheese." Kyle offers from the other side of the breakfast bar after turning on some easy going music and washing up.

Skye tosses a block of cheese from the fridge to him. Cole finds the grater and a dish to put it on. Skye brings tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and the rest of the burrito fixings over to the sink and starts setting up a platter with all of the veggies.

Skye catches Kyle mouthing "Now?" to Cole when she looks up.

"Now what? Do what now? Did you want to talk some more about your Mother calling? Cole? You really should have the phones forwarded here. That way you won't miss her calls."

"I'll take care of that Monday." Cole agrees but then he sighs. He checks some of the tortillas that are heating. "Kyle wants to talk about when you got the flat tire, Skye."

I already thanked Kyle for the help. "What's up?"

"Tell her." Coleman tells Kyle.

"The tire didn't go flat, Skye. It was slashed. It didn't sound right from the start. I sweep that parking lot now. There is never enough glass on it to slash a tire."

"You guys are kidding right?" Skye looks from one to the other. "This isn't funny."

"I didn't think so either. Kyle, keep an eye on this." Cole passes the spatula. He goes over to his coat and pulls out a couple of photo folders out of the inside pocket. Coming over to the breakfast bar he starts laying out pictures.

Skye is getting paler as picture after picture of her is set on the counter. At the paper, at the planning board meeting, at Kelly's, stopping by to see Lila. "Who..."

"Oh it gets better." Coleman keeps pulling out pictures. Pictures of Ric Lansing, Sonny Corinthos and Jasper Jax.

It's the first that Kyle sees the pictures. "He's not just stalking Skye."

"Yeah, and at this point I'd rather he had been."

Skye swallows hard. "Alcazar. Oh Gawd. Alcazar. That's the only person all of us have in common."

"That's what I figure too." Coleman agrees. "You mentioned to Bruno, kind of as a distraction at Fowler's funeral, that Capelli's strings might be being pulled. They did a little bit of research and found out you were right... but it wasn't Sonny or one of the regular players. It was an Alcazar alright. Lorenzo Alcazar, Luis' brother. And as soon as they found out about Alcazar..."

"Capelli was killed. Oh I'm really going to be sick." Skye goes over and sits down; she supports her head with both hands. "I didn't kill Luis. Okay so I didn't come forward right away but I didn't know what happened that night!"

"I don't think he wants you dead, Babe. I think he wanted an introduction. I got these out of Javier's room."

"The guy who changed my tire."

Cole nods.

"I should call the police."

"You could do that." Cole's voice is carefully noncommittal.

And that in itself is a giveaway. "But you don't think so."

"I think you should call Faith-- find out if there is any more information."

"And that's why you got everything for the deck. Today, all of a sudden, without talking to me about it. You want me to stay here this weekend. Give her time to do whatever she's going to do."

"Babe, I've been wanting to lock you in an ivory tower since Kyle told me that your tire was slashed. That was over a week ago. I've been showing a lot of restraint."

"You should have told me that you were suspicious! Damn it, Cole."

Kyle finishes up the seasoned ground beef and sets it aside to grab a tortilla. Might as well get something to eat. He wasn't going to wait for those two.





"You got it from here?" Bruno asks as he dumps a semiconscious Jax on the bed.

"Oh I can handle it." Tracy purrs. She loosens Jax's tie and then starts unbuttoning his shirt.

"Have a nice night then." Bruno practically double times it out of the room. Poor SOB, no matter how he'd ticked off Faith-- did anyone really deserve that?! And it wasn't like he was really drunk. If he was drunk he'd wake up in the morning and be able to convince himself that he hadn't been able to get it up. This way he was gonna wake up in the morning and not know if he had or not. "I'm never ticking Faith off again." And it had all been up to Tracy. Tracy could have just dropped off Jax at his penthouse but no, she'd insisted that Bruno leave Jax at her hotel room. Hell who was he to be telling Ned's mother no? "I was just following orders." Bruno mutters as he hits the down button on the elevator. "Poor SOB."





"What exactly was that you had Tasha make for dinner?" Nik asks curiously. He sits comfortably watching Penny move around the room-- a woman on a mission. He'd already tried to stop her once but Penny hadn't been able to sit still.

"Saimin-- quick and easy. I grew up on the stuff. You could get it anywhere-- even at McDonald's." Penny does some last minute straightening up. Tomorrow Mrs. Lansbury would be coming down to clean and the place has to look presentable.

"I've been to McDonald's with Lulu-- she insists. I've never seen it on the menu."

"You would in Hawaii. Just like if you go to McDonald's in Texas they have breakfast burritos. I went easy on you, Nik." Penny laughs. "No squid balls, spam, or fish cake-- just a little egg flower and green onion. Tasha would love fish cake.... it's pink."

Nik shudders and gags. Pink food is just unnatural.

"Don't knock it until you try it." Penny threatens. "And I can find it. I used to get homesick sometimes and would go down to chinatown to get some or gawd..." Penny groans. "Li hing mui. Every day after school I'd pick up some to eat on the way home. I miss li hing mui. Didn't you have anything like that?"

"I had tutors until I came to Port Charles. The closest would probably be a chiliburger and I don't crave those-- or cheese fries."

"What about patty melts?"

"No. I don't crave patty melts. Beautiful women who make them for me but not patty melts."



"Better." Penny wraps an arm around Nik's shoulder. He wraps both arms around her low at the waist. "Tell me what you kind of food you like and I'll teach Tasha how to make it for you."

"Anything you make will be great."

"Squid balls?" Teasing, Penny grins up at him.

Nik swallows hard and sighs. "Even squid balls. Whatever the hell they are. As long as you're fixing them I'm sure it will be great."

"Oh if you could see the look on your face." Penny brushes a hand against Nik's cheek. "You're giving me too much power, Nikolas. I like trying new things, you will regret saying anything will be great. How about instead... you'll try anything but if you don't like it you don't have to do it again. That's fair right?"

"Does this only apply to food?"

Penny shakes her head. "Life. All of it."





Jax wakes with a groan and slowly opens his eyes. His head is killing him. He hadn't gotten this wasted since he'd seen Brenda go off the cliff and not been able to get to her. Once his eyes are open he realizes a few things in quick order: this is not his bed, this is not his room and he is not alone. He bites back the quick curse as he realizes that Tracy Quartermaine is snuggled up to him with her head pillowed on his shoulder, pinning him to the mattress. He lifts the covers and smothers a groan. Tracy is wearing a negligee but he's not wearing anything at all.

I'm going to kill Jerry. This is all his fault. I have no idea how. But it is. Oh I know how it is. He never told me how to get out of this one.

Then it's like he can hear his brother's very amused voice, 'cause Lord knows that Jerry would get a kick out of him being in this predicament. "Well Golden Boy, you've got one of two choices. You can either wake her up with a kiss and then run like hell. Or you can amputate and run like hell. Your call."

It all started to make sense now. The reason why a wolf would chew his own foot off to get out of a trap.

"Good morning, Darling." Tracy murmurs as she wakes already reaching for Jax.

The choice taken out of his hands, Jax jumps out of the bed as if burned and grabs the pillow to quickly cover his assets. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"





"Maxie! Mighty Dong is on the phone! Isn't it bad enough that we have to see him Monday thru Friday?! Why the hell is he calling on the weekend?"

"Georgie, hang up the phone. I've got it." Maxie waits for the click and then says. "Hello? Kyle?"

"You know any other Mighty Dongs?" Kyle says wryly. "I'm sorry for calling so early on a Saturday. I was just wondering if you wanted to come out to the lake? Give you a break from everything. Hell bring Georgie if you have to. It's going to be a nice day."

"Kyle, I don't think that is such a good idea. There is absolutely no way that Mac would okay it. And that would just be causing more trouble for you."

"Tell him Skye will be here. And I'll be busy with my Uncle Cole. He's putting a deck on the side of Skye's house. Seriously, Maxie, it would be just a chance to decompress and not worry about whose minding our business. Just kicking by the lake. You don't even have to talk to me. If you can make it great. If you can't I understand too. I'll see you Monday." Kyle gets ready to hang up.



"I'll ask but I don't think it's going to happen."






"Who was that on the phone?"

"Coleman." Faith puts the phone back on the cradle. "He's invited us over to help him build a deck on Skye's house."

"Build a deck?" Ned snickers. "Why on earth did he call us?"

"Because it's an excuse. Something is up. Considering that we're living in Skye's house it might be... polite to show up."

"I should really give Jax a call. Check up on him. I've never seen him get that wasted before." Ned counters.

"If he can't hold his liquor he shouldn't be invited over. Really Ned, I think he's a poor example to have around your little brother. Or maybe he's a good example of a bad example." Faith shrugs righteously. "Whatever. I'll take Bruno and Dillon. Alice and the baby will want to go... they haven't had any duck time since this whole blow up with Helena."

"I'm going. I'm going." Ned knows when he is beat. For someone with no kids-- Faith really knows how to lay on the guilt. He climbs out of bed. So much for sleeping in on the weekend. "But just to let you know... wood shop wasn't offered at boarding school."

"Either was Rock Star 101 but I'm sure you managed." Faith counters. "I'll make sure Bruno packs the first aid kit."

About twenty minutes later, Bruno and Dillon are packing the trunk of the Lincoln Continental. Dillon puts in Kristina's stroller, her blanket, her necessary bag. "All of us traveling together, maybe Ned needs to get an SUV or something."

"Maybe we should talk Alice into customizing a bus for her next project." Bruno suggests. As the last of the items makes it into the trunk, he slams it down. "Shot gun!" He tosses Dillon the keys.

"Why'd I know you were going to say that?" Dillon smirks. Then he asks the question that had been nagging him since the night before. "Are the guys always like that? Analyzing every seating arrangements for goodness sake?"

"Ah it's just entertaining." Bruno shrugs. "You want to really drive them nuts show them a picture of The Last Supper and let them go on that one. It's setting a scene. You're into movies... you know how important it is. Even if you don't know dick about it, haven't made a study of it like the guys... when you're sitting in that chair you just know where you are in the scheme of things, you know? Faith had you sitting next to her... not your mother. And it gets even more tellin' if there isn't a seating chart... if you see the way people group together. Just kinda fall together you know?"





Lucky is ready to pound on whoever is knocking on his door. He'd been up all night doing research on the lab trying to find out exactly what they'd been working on for whom and it felt like he'd only just fallen into bed-- his very lonely bed over Kelly's. Liz is totally moved into the apartment over the Outback. She'd be fine there as long as she has raiding the kitchen privileges and enough paint to keep her busy until they... he could do something about Ric Lansing. "Oh hell, maybe it's Elizabeth." Lucky leaps out of bed, jumping into his jeans the same way a fireman would if the fire bell was ringing, and grabs the door open. "Do you know what freaking time it is?"

"Nine?" Nik looks at his watch. "I was waiting down in Kelly's until a decent hour."

"A decent hour on Saturday is noon." Lucky growls. He runs both hands thru his hair. "What do you want?"

"You know your way around Chinatown right?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"I need to pick up some things at a grocery store... an oriental grocery store, I think."

"You are going to a grocery store." Lucky shakes his head in disbelief. "I think I must still be dreaming. Some weird kind of dream where you're a normal guy doing normal things. Next thing you know you'll be changing the sparkplugs in the Jag or something."

"What's a sparkplug?" Nik keeps a straight face when he's teasing his brother.

"Oh that is just so wrong. You better be kidding." Lucky pauses in the process of pulling a t-shirt over his head.

"The Jag is taken in for regular maintenance." Nik shrugs. "If that makes you feel better."

"It does." Lucky finishes pulling the shirt over his head. "Why do you need to go to an oriental market?"

"I think Penny is feeling homesick. Things changed rather abruptly when she won the money... I just..." Nik shrugs. "I just wanted her to feel more at home."

"I'm not doing this for you. You get that right? I wouldn't do anything for you before noon on a Saturday. This is for Penny-- because I'm so grateful for her putting up with you." Lucky grabs his coat. "I'm going to need a cup of coffee. You want to know what my dad found out?" Lucky ushers Nik out of his rooms.

"Did he find Helena?" It was too much to wish for that this would be over already.

"He found the lab where she was cooking up her spiders." Once downstairs Lucky goes directly behind the counter and pours his own coffee in a to go cup and feeling generous pours Nik one as well. He hands the waitress some money and then starts putting on the lids that will surely break at the most inopportune time.

Nikolas waits until they are outside and walking toward the Jag to comment on Lucky's good news. "Excellent, Uncle will want to ques.... The lab has been destroyed." Nik realizes glumly as he reads his brother's expression and the shake of his head.

"Blown sky high. Supposedly with everyone in it. Same day as that woman was put in the hospital. I was up all night trying to figure out what else they are... were working on."





"Hi, Uncle Stuart. Just calling to check in. How is everything going?" Skye sips her coffee while standing out on the front deck and doing her weekly check in with her Uncle Stuart. It's one way of keeping up with everything in Pine Valley without the stress of actually visiting. And the lovely thing about Uncle Stuart is that you always got the news with a shiny aspect to it-- since Stuart never seemed to see anything but the good.

"Skye!" Stuart's cheerful voice comes over the line. "It's wonderful to hear your voice! I looked at the Herald Online just like you said and it's really pretty. I showed it to Brooke and Edmund and they said so too." Stuart says very proud of his niece's accomplishment and letting her know by telling her he'd shown it to the two people who'd know best in Pine Valley, the owner and editor of Tempo Magazine.

Skye can't resist asking and she really should know better by now. How many times did one person need to get kicked in the teeth before they figured it out? "Did you show it to Adam?" Evidently one more time.

Stuart changes the subject quickly sort of. "Adam and I are ready to take our summer trip to Canada to go fishing. Marian is looking forward to it too. She says she is going to take Liza to a spa while we're gone-- Colby too. Marian says it's never too early to start pampering yourself."

Marian would. But at least it's spa pampering rather than gathering boytoys like she did before she married Uncle Stuart. "That sounds really good for everyone, Uncle Stuart."

"What are you doing? Do you want to go to the spa with Marian and Liza?" Stuart offers generously.

"No." Skye says quickly but then adds. "Cole is putting a deck on the lake house this weekend. And his nephew Kyle is still staying with him... um us, while his mother is out of town. Besides it's really too soon for me to be leaving the paper for an extended period of time."

"Marian gets upset with me if I spend too much time working in the gallery. She doesn't mind if I'm painting-- she knows I can't help that-- but she thinks I should spend more time with her."

Skye hears the warning in what Stuart is saying and nods. "Cole isn't one to be ignored, Uncle Stuart. And I do try to make sure that our hours match so we spend time together." Skye sees a car pulling up the drive. "It looks like I'm going to have company in a minute, Uncle Stuart... tell everyone hi for me and I'll talk to you next week."

"Have fun, Skye. Maybe me and Adam can come back thru Port Charles after we go fishing to see your new deck."

Great idea. Adam will never go for it. "That sounds great, Uncle Stuart. And I'd love to see you. Even if you can't make it with Adam after the fishing trip, you could always come and see me. I'd really like you to meet Cole."

"I'll look forward to it. Bye Skye." Stuart signs off.

Skye hangs up the phone and watches as everyone climbs out of the Lincoln Continental: Dillon from the driver's seat, Alice next to him, Bruno riding shotgun and in the back are Ned, Faith and the baby. Skye goes back to the front door and calls inside. "Cole? Faith and Ned are here."

Cole comes out of the house and cupping his hand at the back of her neck leans over and grabs her mug of coffee from the top railing of the deck. He takes a sip and watches them off load everything that had been put in the trunk for the baby. "Was there a rocking chair on the roof?" And starts humming the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies

Skye gives him a quick elbow and chokes back a laugh. "Did you want me to fill Faith in while you and Ned go make manly noises about the deck?"

"You okay with that?"

"I think you pulling Faith aside is going to make Ned just a little suspicious." Skye says wryly.





Walking into the oriental market is like stepping into another country. Lucky looks around him in fascination. It had been awhile since he'd been down here. He's already decided to forgive Nik for coming around too freaking early. "You understanding any of this?" Lucky eavesdrops on a conversation between the person behind the counter and a little old lady with short grey hair.

"No. It seems my uncle was remiss in the language lessons. Five different languages and not a single Asian one. What do you think? Chinese? Vietnamese? Korean?"

Lucky shrugs and grins. "It's all Greek to me."

"If it were Greek I could understand it." Nik mutters before saying loud enough to be heard by the older man behind the counter. "Excuse me, I was hoping you could help me find something?"

"Yes, how may I help you?" The man says politely smoothly transitioning to English.

"I'm looking for something called... Li Hing Mui?" Nik has no idea if he is slaughtering the phrase or not having only heard it twice the night before.

"Right this way." The proprietor comes out from behind the counter and goes down the cookie and candy aisle.

Lucky watches the exchange as the proprietor hands Nik a small cellophane package that had been hanging on a peg on the wall. "What is it?"

Nik is clueless; if he isn't mistaken, they are prunes dusted in something....

"Sweet salted plums." The owner explains. "May I help you find anything else?"

"I think we're just going to wander around abit." Nik replies. But he reaches to the same place on the candy rack and takes down a couple more packages. Penny would probably share with Tasha. And since Tasha liked anything Penny did, they'd quickly be gone.

Lucky waits until the owner is gone to lean into Nik and quickly comments once they are alone. "There are dried seahorses in the display case up front."

"They're supposedly an aphrodisiac."

"Haven't these guys ever heard of Viagra?"





Kyle had retreated to the back yard as soon as he'd seen Faith. That's all he needed was for his Uncle's friend to start spilling family secrets while Dillon was here. The last thing he needed going around the school was that he used to wear a bra on his head and that there were pictures out there somewhere to prove it. Would have been nice to know they were coming over before he'd made that call to Maxie. Although with Dillon around maybe Georgie would give him a freaking break. If they even showed up.

Soon enough he is joined by Ned, Dillon, Bruno and Uncle Cole. All examining the bones of the deck. They'd got that much done the night before. Now it's a matter of putting down the planks. The railings would be last because of needing to get the hot tub on the deck... as well as having a door put onto the deck.

Alice throws a blanket over her shoulder and strings along the necessary bag and starts hiking down toward the lake hoping to find some ducks but always staying within calling range of the house... just in case.

"Okay, so the guys are gone. What now? Are we supposed to bond or something?" Faith demands.

"No." Skye makes it clear. "Cole thought it would be better for me to tell you while Ned is distracted."

"Well a deck isn't much of a distraction so talk fast." Faith demands.

Skye goes over to a kitchen drawer and picks out the two packets of pictures laying them out on the counter. "A week ago I got a flat tire outside of Jakes. Cole found these in the room of the guy who fixed the tire for me."

"Shut up." And unlike the current teen age vernacular, Skye knows that is exactly what Faith means and falls silent giving her time to look at the pictures. Faith looks up and her face is tight and furious. "Alcazar. You know what this means?"

"The guy who fixed my tire probably slashed it."

"And probably was the one that blew Capelli's brains all over the sidewalk." Skye swallows a gag. She didn't need to know that. Didn't want to know that. It takes her a second to realize Faith isn't done talking. "Cassadine went down to South America and talked to Alcazar after I found out about Capelli. Cassadine wasn't even back when Capelli was taken out." She gets back to the present. "Cole searched his room?"

Skye nods. "Javier evidently lives in one of the rooms over Jakes."

"Figures." Faith nibbles on her lower lip. "And he wanted to meet you?"

"I was one of the last people to see Luis alive." Skye reminds Faith. "I have no idea why... Luis hated Sonny and Jax because of Brenda. I don't think that his brother would hate me."

Now that she'd had a second to think about it... "Well these are actually a relief to me." Faith shoves the pictures back in the envelopes. "Even though it sucks to be you. No pictures of the baby, or the house. Not even a picture of spoon island which would relieve Ned since he still worries about the nutjob. I'm not normally one to go running to the cops, they do nothing but muck things up anyway... but hey hand them the pictures and say they were taken by a cop killer... and this guy won't last any longer than Capelli after his cover was blown." Faith hands the pictures back to Skye.





"Are you sure?" Lucky asks.

"I should have had you over before this. I do trust you, Lucky. You just have to remember that this is Tasha. I don't know if Alexis even comes out anymore... maybe some in her sessions with Dr. Lewis. Everything was just so unsettled... I needed to focus."

"I get it, Bro." Lucky still takes a deep breath. It couldn't be worse than their Mother's catatonia. "At least it's here and not up at the big house."

"The ankle bracelet actually gives Tasha free rein of the entire island. Tasha spends the time when she is not in lessons with her horse, in the pool or down here. Penny has been giving her cooking lessons."

"Oh really?" Lucky grins at that.

Nik opens the door. "Penny, you around?"

"We're in here." Penny calls out. Nik walks thru the kitchen but that isn't where they are. Instead Penny and Tasha are seated at the table in the eating nook. There is stacks of paper in front of them. "In addition to cleaning house, Mrs. Lansbury also had one of the men bring down my mail."

"I'm running the shredder." Tasha declares proudly.

"That's great, Tasha."

"Who is he?" Tasha points at Lucky who is standing behind Nikolas.

"This is my brother, Lucky. Lucky, this is Tasha."

"Good to meet you, Tasha."

Tasha gets a cagey look that has both of Laura's sons wondering what is up. But they don't have to wait long, Tasha has yet to learn delayed gratification. Whatever she is thinking is soon shared. "Nikolas is my nephew and he brings me presents. If you're his brother then you're my nephew too."

"Mrs. Lansbury heard you talking that way and you'd be in so much trouble." Penny rebukes.

"But Nikolas does bring me presents." Tasha protests.

"Today I brought a present for Penny." Nikolas wants to nip this in the bud before Tasha goes into a full-fledged tantrum. They rarely happened but it seemed he was the one that always got pushed or punched when they did.

"You did?" Penny stands up from the table. "You shouldn't have, you and your family have already done too much for me."

"It's something little."

"Really little." Lucky interjects with a grin. "He didn't break the bank on this one."

"Close your eyes." Nik demands. It wasn't like he'd had time to get the seeds gift wrapped. "And hold out your hands." When Penny does so, Nik lays the packages of Li Hing Mui in her cupped hands.

Penny opens her eyes. "Nik! Thank You. You knew I wanted these."

"What is it? What is it?!" Tasha demands getting up from the table and coming over to stand next to Penny.

"It's... hard to describe. It's not really candy... it's not really fruit.. You want to try one?" Penny rips the package open and grabs one for herself and starts nibbling on the edge of the plum. Back home she'd nibble on the li hing mui until the seed was nearly exposed and then suck on the seed to get the last bit of flavor-- and then spit the seed as far as she could. But hey that was when she was a kid.

Tasha had been watching carefully as Penny had started nibbling on the seed and does exactly the same. She makes a face as she takes the first little bit and wrinkles her nose.

"Weird isn't it? Try a little bit more." Penny urges. "It's salty at first and then it gets sweet." She offers some to Nik and Lucky. They both take one to be polite and that is what it ends up being... just to be polite. The dried plums are too salty, too sweet. Maybe you had to start when you were a kid to like them.

"We have to go up to the house and talk to Stefan." Nik tells Penny after discreetly spitting the seed into a napkin.

"Okay." Penny nods looking from one brother to the other. Something is up. "Tasha, how much longer do you think it is going to take to go thru the mail?"

"Hours." Tasha exaggerates. She's already popped the seed in her mouth and is making a face while sucking in her cheeks.

"It'll be awhile." Penny agrees. "We'll meet you at the pool after we finish our business."





Mac hadn't believed it when Maxie had come to him asking to go to Kyle Radcliffe's house. The instinctive... "Not only no, but hell no." had left his lips before his brain had even engaged. So it's kind of curious how he'd ended up driving the girls out to the lake. Maybe it was to verify that the little snot hadn't been lying when he said that Skye Quartermaine would be there. After seeing the way that Skye had worked Kyle over, she could be trusted around the girls.

As he pulls up to the lake house he observes all the vehicles, there is Skye's SUV and three other vehicles. If he isn't mistaken the Lincoln town car belonged to Faith Roscoe... Ashton. He parks the car, the girls are already climbing out.

"See you later, Mac."

"I think I'll just have a little chat with Skye and Radcliffe's Uncle. Make sure that everything is on the up and up."

"Do you have embarrass me?" Maxie protests. "Fine."

"I think Dillon's here." Georgie tells Maxie. "That's the car he used to drive to school before he got grounded. But where is everybody?" The sound of music comes from the side of the house.

The girls take off around the side of the house and Mac follows more slowly. If this ended up being a teenage orgy his girls would not be staying... and those little scamming punks would be bunking together down in lock up. Mac comes around the house in time to hear Kyle tell Maxie and Georgie both...

"We're going to be working on the deck. If you guys want to go hang by the lake you'll probably run into Alice and the baby."

"Kristina is getting some duck time." Dillon explains to Georgie knowing she'll understand since that is the way that they met.

Mac sees Cole, Bruno, Ned, Skye and Faith up by the bones of a deck. It looks as if everything is on the up and up-- other than Faith Roscoe being there. Skye sees Mac and glances at Faith. Faith shrugs. Skye walks up to Mac. "Hi. Kyle told me that he'd invited Maxie and Georgie out."

"I'm just making sure there is adult supervision."

"Oh yeah." Skye smiles. "We have them seriously outnumbered. And there won't really be too much play time. Unless you count the girls keeping the baby entertained. Cole wants to get the deck finished this weekend."

"Gimme a call when the girls are ready to go home." Mac finally relents.

"Sure." Skye looks over her shoulder. She knows that she is the best one to do this. Cole and Faith didn't exactly have a good rapport with the police. Especially Faith. "I was wondering if you could take a look at something for me in a professional capacity...." Skye leads Mac back around to the front of the house.

Cole pulls an elastic out of his pocket and ties his hair back at the base of his neck in a stubby ponytail and then pulls out a bandana. He gets out all the fun toys he'd picked up at the home center: the cordless rechargeable screwdrivers with extra batteries, the saws-- stuff that it made more sense to rent than to buy. "Let's get this sucker done. I got an electrician coming on Monday to put in the wiring for the hot tub."

Faith sheds her jacket to reveal the black camisole that is tucked in neatly to the black twill walking shorts she's wearing. She grabs one of the cordless drills. If it looks like a gun then it's the tool for her. "I only have one question..."

"What's that?"

"When is our landlord going to install a hot tub at our place?"

"Yeah." Ned looks at Cole. "I was wondering that too."

"Don't ask me. " Cole shrugs. "I'm not your landlord."

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