The Path to Power

Chapter Seventy Eight





The first week of school is new and normal at the same time. Everything falls into place quickly. Even the fresh meat isnít getting lost quite so often. Dillon is the campus celebrity with the camera crews still following him. Which is marginally better than constantly being the new kid like he had been every school year of his life up until now. There had been some accommodations made with the school district including some donations in order for MTV to follow him. Sure, they are more interested in Ned and Faith but Dillon is the demographic as he appears to be the Dawson Leery of Port Charles High. Course the camera crew knows more than the school does at this point. Dillon might come across as all Dawson Leery with Georgie Jones as his Joey Potter. But when he is not at school he is the one driving Faith around and getting to the shooting range three times a week at least.

Maxie and Kyle are the couple to beat for King and Queen of the Senior Class. All the drama has been rehashed but thru the filter of a summer and the fact they are still together. While Beavis had been sent to rehab over the summer and is still there. Their schedules had been carefully designed to not be together but close and with the same lunch period. Mac had appreciated that, well not the same lunch period but that they didnít have any classes together-- not even study hall. Maxie drives to school, giving Georgie a ride. It worked out better that way because Kyle has soccer after school. Course some days Georgie drove their car home and Kyle gave her a lift home or to Kellyís.

Lucas runs with his own crew. The guys from the baseball team with a bit of a cross over from the drama department. After all of his performances at nurseís balls over the years he is strong into both the theater department and the choir. And having a foot in both camps made him really popular at parties, all the guys on the team wanting to make sure that he invited the hotties from the other side of the Quad. He gets an extra study hall and accommodations made because while he has a golden ear and perfect recall for music his dyslexia make the heavy reading load of senior year a bitch.

The big push is on to get everyone declared to which school theyíd be attending the next year. Georgie had been dealing and fighting with them ever since her first standardized test. And with the world situation being as hostile as itís ever been the military recruiters had been coming around as well as the guys in the cheap black suits. Mac had been threatening to get her, her own post office box for all the catalogs and offers. Course the first time something had come thru from the World Security Bureau offering her a scholarship heíd taken that right back. He didnít read her mail. That would be illegal. But he read the envelopes and had her open the mail right across the table from him with the shredder standing by.

The high school kids arenít the only ones coming up on their final year, over at PCU Gia Campbell is well into her last year of law school. This is where all the specializing is going to come in. Course her decision has already been made for her in so many ways by the work sheís been doing first for Alexis but especially for Dara. The language involved in sports and entertainment law is already automatic for her. Drawing up a tight contract is already second nature to her. Sheíd seen too many examples of the other kind. Dara always seems to get called in to clean up someone elseís mess. It might be a little too Hollywood but that character on TV who said A vague disclaimer is nobodyís friend had clearly been written by someone whoíd gotten royally screwed. Course her load is lightened by the fact that she is still doing her homework over at Daraís office and thanks to the hiring that Mary had done there were people that made sure that she handed in the best looking papers. Course Mary billed her for those typing hours and it was deducted from the work she did for the firm. Oh to be back in the day when the fondest memory of school was recess.

Like Michael Corinthos over at Queen of Angels. School for him is the only way to define normal. Everything should have been okay when his mother got back from being kidnapped. Just like Lydia thought, sheíd only spent one night in the hospital and then moved back to the Penthouse. And he had too. Moved back to the Penthouse with Mama and Daddy.

But things had changed. Maybe not really maybe only Daddy had changed. Mama is the one who is angry but there is just something weird going on. Sheís mad about everything. That Lydia had taken him to Wyndamís already to get his new school uniforms. That AJ was being so reasonable. Thatís what she said. That AJ was being reasonable and she hated it.

Reasonable is supposed to be a good thing right? Heíd tried to talk to Dr. Cam about it but that was his last visit with Dr. Cam. And the other thing Mama is mad about. He spends every other weekend at AJ and Lydiaís and every day after school until dinner. But this way he got to see Rosie every day and get his homework done and everything. There is no way they could have a dog in their house even if Daddy said it was okay because there is no yard.

The burly security guard is waiting at the back gate; they eyed the front doors of Queen of Angels from the time school let out until Michael reached the house. "How was school today, Michael?"

"Really good." Michael passes thru the gate to the backyard where Rosie is already waiting for him. He drops his backpack and starts wrestling with the dog.

"Michael!" Lydia calls from the back door. "Youíre going to ruin that blazer!"

"Sorry." He gets up from the grass and races up to the house with the dog on his heels. He shoves his book bag at Lydia as he goes racing by her and up the stairs to his room to get changed into his play clothes. Once changed he races back down the stairs and takes a seat at the kitchen table. He and Lydia have snack together while Lydia looks at the folder the teacher sends home every day. She never signs it because she thinks either AJ or his mama should but she always looks.

"The school wants you to do some volunteer work." Lydia looks up from the note that had come out from Father Frank.

"I told Sister about delivering the ice during the black out and checking on people to make sure they were okay but then she asked what had I done for God lately. Sheís a hard case. Daddyís afraid of her. She doesnít just want ten percent of my allowance for offering; sheís into deeds. Even Father Frank is afraid of her, and he talks to God all the time." Michael accepts a napkin from Lydia and automatically wipes at the crumbs and milk moustache left after snack.

"I seem to remember your great Grandmother Lila talking about her Garden Club doing something called Second Harvest?" Lydia looks at Sally.

"What a great idea!" Sally agrees. "Itís run out of the Senior Center because that is where they do the Meals on Wheels. And weíre already coming up on the season where there will be a lot more delivered. Maybe Michael could help put boxes together."

"Michael, I think you should call your grandmother and ask her." Lydia suggests.

"Ask Grandmother what?" AJ asks from the doorway. Since Michael started back to school heíd adjusted his hours at work so that he and his son both get off at the same time. It meant being careful to not wake Lydia in the morning but being there in the afternoons and evenings.

"If she needs help with the Second Harvest because Iím supposed to do volunteer work, Sister says so."

Lydia tilts her head back to accept AJís kiss and then slides him Michaelís folder after he is seated next to her and across from Michael. "I do think itís a good idea. Especially if itís something that Michael thinks is important. You both have met these people that would be receiving the baskets. Or if itís the wrong time for Second Harvest, maybe something to do with dogs."

"Michael is very good with Rosie." AJ agrees absently as heís reading. Michael sits up a little straighter at that. The way AJ had said it. It was like something he would say even if he wasnít right here. Like something he said all the time. AJ looks up at his son and then holds out a hand. Michael grabs a pen and hands it to AJ. AJ signs the folder on half the space available leaving room for Carlyís signature. He hands the pen and the folder back to Michael. The boy tucks them back in his book bag. Heís got his signature covered now even if Mama forgets. But Mama never forgot now, not after the first time she saw AJís signature alone and knew sheíd missed a day. "About half an hour for homework?"

Michael nods consideringly before reply confidently. "Itís just math."

"Okay, that will give me time to get changed out of this." AJ refers to his suit. "Lydia wants me to figure out what to do with the attic before the weather gets cold."

"Itís going to be a play room, Michael, and since the baby..." Lydia pats her stomach. "...wonít be using it for 3-4 years you are in charge of the decorating. Sally set up some easels with artist renderings of what the space could be. But you and your father have to decide. You for you and your father for the baby."

"Donít you get a say?"

"Too many stairs and I got my say already on the nursery for the baby. Besides I picked out the designer who made the drawings. This will be for the guys, Iíd say." Lydia stands when AJ does. Tucking an arm around each othersí waist, they head upstairs for AJ to get changed and for them to have a bit of private time while Michael does his homework.

"Theyíre going to be kissing and stuff."

"Probably." Sally agrees. "Take your time on the homework and make sure itís all done perfectly. And youíve got time to call your Grandmother Lila and check in with your mom too. You might want to wait about telling her about the attic though. Really not fair to brag since they donít have an attic over there."

"No attic. No yard, so I canít have a dog." Michael sighs and pulls out his math folder. "But Daddy is a better cook then you are."

"Iím okay with that." Sally shrugs. "If youíre a good cook then you get stuck cooking all the time. I like doing all kinds of stuff."





Itís good to have an online campus. Most of the heavy tomes are either online or only on reserve at the library. So much of the research is done with the law search engines. It doesnít eliminate books but it does allow a dayís books to fit in her messenger bag. Now its all about the laptop and how good a charge on the battery. Gia sighs and pulls her hair back for what seems like the millionth time. If it wasnít actually more work to take care of it short, sheíd have it all cut off. Finally she grabs one of the skinny braids and uses it to lasso the rest of her hair to the base of her neck. She takes the stairs up to Daraís offices which now take up the whole second floor of the building. Mary set everything up over the Labor Day weekend. Well the landlord had done a little painting and such. Everything else had been delivered and put together over three daysĖ three long and crazy days that had culminated in an exhausted pizza partyĖ delivered.

Gia nods to the new people as she goes by but doesnít stop. She almost makes it to her new office at the back of the floor when Mary calls her name. "Gia!" Gia stops in her tracks and with a sigh goes back to Maryís area at the hub of the firm. "Here are your messages."

Gia groans. "Iím handling one client for Dara. One. Not even the legal work, just the client and I have messages every damn day! What the hell are they doing over there?"

"Well itís an organization not an individual, and they are trying to get a bond measure passed."

"It was a rhetorical question."

"Youíre going to have to stop asking those." Mary says cheerfully as she hands over the pink slips. "These are just the messages from the people who refused to leave a voice mail."

"They better get used to leaving a voice mail because that is what Iím answering first." Gia declares. "I have at least three hours of reading."

"Are you going to need dinner ordered in?" Mary asks disapprovingly.

"Zander said heíd stop by after work and bring something."

"Any messages for me?" Cass Winthrop asks from behind Gia.

"You can have mine." Gia offers cheerfully.

"Here you go, Cass." Mary hands over a smaller batch of messages. Cassís clients havenít caught up with him yet. His pending cases in Port Charles are just the Corinthos matter and keeping an eye on the Radcliffe matter as well. "And Charley called. Three times."

"Iíll call her at school."

"Uh... you might want to try her on her cell first. Sheís not at the school. I tried to call you on your cell..."

"I was in chambers with the presiding superior court judge doing the new guy in town thing." Cass grabs for his cell phone and hits messages. Leaning up against the wall he closes his eyes as he hears that his pride and joy has gotten booted out of another school. "Thanks Mary. Iíll take it from here." He heads back to his office.

Mary calls up an online travel service and starts finding the best ticket to the closest airport to the boarding school.

"Probably not the time to tell him about the time I ran away from Columbia and was hiding out as a Nanny here in Port Charles?"

"Is that another rhetorical question?"





At the lockers, Dillon gives Georgie a quick kiss. "Iíll call you tonight when I get home from the range."

Georgie isnít used to the constant cameras and she doesnít make eye contact with Dillon let alone anyone else. "Sure."

"Are you ready?" Maxie asks from behind Georgie. "Mac sent me a text. The Mayor has roped him into some political BS tonight. So heís going to be home early to do the touch base thing and get some real food.."

"So what?" Georgie looks over her shoulder. "Are we going to stop at the Outback and pick up some real food?"

"I actually like that idea." Maxie agrees with a laugh. "See you tomorrow, Dillon." Maxie drags Georgie out of the way and toward the doors.

Dillon grabs what he needs and shuts his locker. The ever present crew follow him out to the parking lot. Since itís a day they are going shooting he expects to see the Porsche but it isnít there. Instead his grandfatherís Bentley is parked in the fire lane. "What the hell?"

"Change in plan." Faith walks over and hands him the keys. "The Old Man got a lead on a hot property down on Charles St."

"Does he know Iím going to be driving?" Dillon asks suspiciously.

Faith grins.





Even with a shower after soccer practice, Kyle can feel the grunge setting in. He takes another shower when he gets back to the Lake house and starts a load of gym clothes. There is no way he is going to be able to see Maxie tonight. Not with her dad getting off work early and then going out to some fund raiser thing. Not having a computer in his room anymore cut down on a lot of the things he could be doing instead of homework. Course that could be part of the master plan.

"Kyle?" Skye calls out by the slightly ajar door. She pushes it open with her foot because her hands are busy fastening diamond earrings.

Kyle takes one look at his Uncleís well dressed girlfriend. "Maxieís dad got roped into the Mayorís dinner too."

"Donít tell your uncle." Skye says quickly. "Iím not the one roped into this thing. I knew about it weeks ago. Heís the one feeling roped. If he finds out Mac is going heíll probably try to palm me off on Mac to get out of it."

Kyle comes over and taking the matching necklace from Skye goes around her and starts concentrating on the clasp, could they make them any smaller? "Why do you have to go?"

"Owner of the Herald, Quartermaine, the Stadium, Registered Voter. All of the above?" Skye touches her necklace to make sure itís laying flat. "Thanks. The Mayorís already gearing up for his re-election. The pressure will really be cooking by next year when his election is. But it isnít just the Stadium bond issue coming up in November. He doesnít get what he wants now, it will be that much harder for him next year."

"Do we care?" Kyleís voice is a curious combination of wry and bored.

Skye turns around so that she is facing Kyle. "Itís not just the bond issue. That one is really too big for even the Mayor to mess with. Thatís more on a state level. The Governor is happy about the stadium therefore AJís in the clear. But the Mayor could make Mac Scorpioís life hell. He could make your uncleís life hell. All heíd have to do is point a few fingers about the evils of your local bar..."

"And my business would be through the ceiling. Iíd have to take on extra help and probably have to put in more tables." Coleman tells both Skye and Kyle. "You worry too much, Babe."

"You donít take him seriously enough!" Skye protests. "Heís already proven he is bought and paid for! I want to know who is pulling his strings."

"Babe, they are all bought and paid for."

"You sound like Grandfather."

"Hey! None of that." Cole protests quickly as he unbuttons another button on his dress shirt. "And Edward is the most likely to be pulling those strings."

"Or it could be Lorenzo Alcazar. Heís back now too you know. It could be Sonny and Jason. Why isnít Ric Lansing buried under the jail? What is up with Scott Baldwin calling a press conference to say Carly Corinthos was playing kinky sex games with her husbandís brother, and he isnít going to press charges?! You know Mac would never go along with that. If he had the Mayor backing him then he could trump Scott Baldwin. There were chains and a crib in that panic room. Thatís beyond sick."

Even though Skye owns the paper, the most Kyle normally reads is the sports page and the movie section. This is news to him. "Damn. Michael doesnít know about that, does he? The kid is already seeing a shrink. Heís the one who is going to need a trust fund for therapy."

"AJ says Carly pulled Michael from going to Dr. Lewis."

"Scott Baldwin could very well believe Carly Corinthos." Colemanís voice is quiet. "But it doesnít matter. He hates Sonny and Jason more. Heís using Carly as bait for Sonny to kill Lansing. Lansing would be dead. Sonny would be in prison. Win-win for the DA."

"That is why, Kyle, I am going to this dinner." Skye says grimly. She stalks out of the room.

"Itís a really good thing youíre going with her, Uncle Cole." Kyle tells his uncle. "I think sheís in an ass kicking mood tonight."

"Good point." Cole agrees with a sigh. His only hope now is to get Skye out of there early.





If there is anything that Cassadine knows how to do well itís presentation. Nik and Stefan are both perfectly dressed for the Mayorís dinner in the private banquet hall of the Port Charles Hotel. Penny and Dara had excused themselves just as soon as theyíd arrived to do the last minute check.

"I know why Iím here." Nik looks around at the local version of the movers and shakers. "Why are you here?"

"I ask myself the same question. These... things are irrelevant." Stefan sniffs.

"Youíre here because I had to be here." Dara slides a hand around the crook of Stefanís elbow.

"Your partner was supposed to be here rather than you. You were supposed to have the evening off." Stefan grumbles. On a lesser man it might have been considered a whine. But with his stiff and precise diction is come across more like an accusation. "He has been in your office for less than two weeks and already he is burdening you with his obligations."

"It was a family emergency, Stefan." Dara reminds him again. "Cass will be back day after tomorrow."

"There is no excuse..."

Dara interrupts, really not wanting to hear this lecture again. "Nikolas, I wasnít paying much attention back in the day but when you moved to Port Charles you were under eighteen and supposed to be staying in Switzerland right?"

"Youíre on your own, Uncle." Nik takes Pennyís arm and heads to the other side of the room.

Dara turns so that she is facing Stefan, standing close and keeping her voice low. "Itís none of your business but cut Cass some slack, Stefan. He is the single parent of teenage girl. He did exactly what you would have done, have always done for Nikolas and now for Tasha.





In the very private and well swept bunk house safe from the prying cameras and microphones. "Mouse."

"I donít know, Faith." Mouse answers quickly. He already knows what is bugging his boss. "It doesnít make sense. Nothing the guy has done has made sense since he sandbagged his wifeís custody of her son."

"That made perfect sense. Heís a selfish prick who believed his wife was banging his brother. This is what doesnít make sense. Now he knows itís not true and yet Lansing lives. Baldwin did exactly what he was supposed to do. It should have worked."

"Blood thicker than water?" Mouse shrugs.

"That brat sheís carrying is blood too. Youíd think Corinthos would have killed Lansing for that alone. I hate paying for plans that donít work." Faith bitches bitterly.

"He was cheap. He wanted to do it anyway. He would have done it anyway if he would have thought of it. Arenít you suppose to be going to the Mayorís thing tonight?"

Faith shudders. "Iíve already done my good deed for the day. I spent the afternoon with the Old Man. Ned is taking his mother. It makes her happy and I donít have to see the scrawny crow."

"And it keeps her away from Dillon." Mouse agrees with a nod. "You know, Faith, Iíve got the hair on the back of the neck thing."

Faith stops pacing and sits down on the corner of Mouseís computer station. "You too."

"Someone else is playing in the sandbox. This should have been simple enough to connect the dots. Baldwin lips off to the press. Sonny orders a hit on Lansing. Jason does the hit. They both go down for killing Lansing. Lydia and AJ get custody of the kid after Sonny gets convicted and Carlyís been tarred as a nympho. It was a no brainer that even Morgan could have followed."

"What could have been more of a distraction than the DA calling that dumb bitch a cheating whore at a press conference?! There isnít a better mind fuck than that."

Mouse shakes his head. "Someone found one, Faith. It should have worked."

"Well then find me that someone."





"Well that is interesting." AJ murmurs.

"What?" Skye looks around after greeting Lydia with a genuine hug and two air kisses that wonít muss either of their makeup. With the skill of long practice both ignore the flashes of the cameras from the various press services who are immortalizing the event. Normally in the size of a berg like Port Charles there wouldnít be an international press presence but Lydia is just the latest addition. Jax is probably around here too somewhere.

"Alcazar is here."

Skye looks around to find Cole. He is over by the bar getting them drinks. He comes back with two flutes of a mimosa looking beverage his own drink. After he distributes the flutes to the ladies, he takes one look at Skyeís face and knows something is up. "What?"

"Alcazar is here." Skye nods in Alcazarís direction. He happens to catch her glance and raises his glass in a silent toast.

Skye isnít the only one that hears Coleís growl. Lydiaís eyes get big and she takes an instinctive step closer to AJ. Skye rolls her eyes. Then grabbing Cole by the jacket front she gets right in his face, her heels bringing them eye to eye. "Youíre my lover-- not a fighter remember?" She gives him a quick hard kiss. "Besides Iím the one person in this town who doesnít have to worry about Alcazar. Still, itís very strange for him to be here."

Cole turns Skye around so his arm is wrapped around her waist and his body pressed close to her back. He takes in the situation at a glance. Like Skye had said earlier, he is a lover not a fighter even if heíd gotten into his own share over the years. Working the seedier side of town for most of his life he can pick up the dynamic of the room the way other guys worked a chess board. "Interesting."

"What do you see?" Skye whispers as she leans back into Coleman.

"Corinthos can walk into any General Hospital Function because of the wings heís bought for the hospital. But there is no way after all the stuff you were telling me about the Mayor earlier, that he would have... tainted money at his fundraiser: No Sonny, Jason or Ric. Not even Faith and sheís been keeping it squeaky clean since she married Ned. And yet thereís Alcazar."

"You think heís bought himself out of it?"

"If the DA doesnít press charges against Lansing, how can he press charges on Alcazar?" AJ wonders aloud. "Even if he wanted to. And if youíre right, and I think youíre right, Alcazar has probably been lining not just the Mayorís election fund."

"But no proof right? We can all know itís true and have no proof." Lydia looks from AJ to her sister in law and then to Skyeís lover.

"Which is exactly why my job should be the definition of hell." Mac says from behind all of them. "All of you, well with the exception of you Mrs. Quartermaine, at one time or another has used that to your advantage. Now Alcazar is. But the facade always chips." He eyes Alcazar grimly as he watches the guy glad hand both Mayor Floyd and Scott Baldwin. Even posing for pictures, itís enough to make him want to go back to his office and write up his resignation. The only thing stopping him is wondering who would be in his job next. Commissioner is a political appointment and with the state of things he wouldnít be surprised if Alcazar managed to put someone in his spot. "The Quartermaineís seem to be well represented here. Are Mr. and Mrs. Ashton going to be attending?"

"Faith said Ned is bringing Tracy." Skyeís voice is very neutral.

But it is the first that both Cole and AJ have heard this news and there is a chorus of groans. "Babe, you owe me. Big. Huge."

"Not so much. Faith owes Lydia and AJ; they are going to be sitting at the Quartermaine table. Weíve got our own table with the Herald."

"Next time we buy our own table too." Lydia tells AJ.

"I really didnít want to give that much money to the Mayor." AJ reminds. "Itís bad enough that technically heís my boss."

Lydia sighs. AJís job is the least of the reasons they are here. With her money coming in second to the bottom for the list tonight and she knows it. They were here because of the Quartermaine name and for the Stallions Stadium which would be a huge feather in the Mayorís cap without the blowhard raising a finger. "Well fine then. Lets get it out of the way, go have a little chat with your boss. Beat him up with the prospect of not giving him any of our money and remind him that having the Stadium break ground while he is mayor is as much as heís going to get from us. Hopefully my appetite wonít be totally ruined."

"Itís okay if it is, Darling." AJ gives her a kiss on the temple. "The food at these things always sucks. But at least having it at the Port Charles Hotel weíve got an in with the chef and room service for later."

"Iíll go over with you two." Mac decides. Hopefully trying to pry open Lydiaís deep pockets would keep the Mayor out of his hair. "Let me know if there is anything I should know." He tells Skye and Coleman.

Coleman nods, knowing that Mac is talking about the kids. "No problem." They start over to their table, so Skye can touch base with her crew and network with the other press services. It doesnít mean that their picture isnít taken a number of times as being part of the story.

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