The next morning:

Nikolas is the first to awaken. He sits up, groggily rubbing the sleep from his eyes. His clothes are rumpled; he’s unaccustomed to such primitive surroundings. He sits up, pulling the blanket around him. His eyes fall on Elizabeth and Lucky. They lie side by side, Liz’s arm strewn across Lucky’s waist, her head resting on his chest.

He sits, silently observing them. I never realized how pretty Elizabeth is, he thinks to himself. He shakes his head. Stop it. She’s with Lucky.

Across the room, Elizabeth starts to stir. She yawns, her eyes fluttering open. She looks puzzled, before recognizing her surroundings. She reluctantly sits up, not wanting to give up her position by Lucky’s side. She smiles at Nikolas.

"Have you been awake long?," she asks sleepily.

"Not really," he says, smiling.

She smiles. "I’m glad you stayed."

"I’m glad as well."

"Did you and Lucky have a good conversation while I slept?," she asks hopefully.

Nik shrugs. "We didn’t fight. It was an unusually tame meeting between us. I don’t hate Lucky," he confides. "I want you to know that. We are half-brothers, and we share a sister. At some point, I’d like to put the animosity between us. Leave it to Uncle and Luke," he adds.

Unnoticed by Liz and Nikolas, Lucky starts to awaken. He lies still, listening to their conversation.

"It would be great if you two could become friendly," she says softly. "I hate seeing Lucky so separated from his family, and knowing I’m partly to blame."

"How are you to blame?," Nik asks, puzzled.

"When you told Lucky that his father raped his mother, I think he reacted harsher than he would have if he hadn’t been helping me through this. Does that make any sense?" She bites her lower lip nervously, and starts staring off into space. "He saw what I was going through, and all the pain I was in, and he took it out on his father and mother. I know rape is rape, but there has to be a reason that Mrs. Spencer forgave Luke. They got past it, and though I don’t think I will, she was able to move on." She smiles bittersweetly. "Lucky is scared that he’s ‘wired’ like his father. When he was a little kid, he always looked up his dad. Now, he hates him…." Her voice trails off. She looks at Nikolas. "What Lucky doesn’t understand is that he’s the way he is now because of them. He helped me through my pain because that’s the way he was raised. They made him the wonderful guy he is today, and nothing in their past can change that. Rape isn’t in the DNA," she says softly. She gazes over at Lucky, who’s doing his best to fake slumber. "He needs his family. Luke, Laura, Lulu. He needs to be living in the same house with them, not out here in the woods. He needs to see his Aunt Bobbie. And I think he needs, at some point, to stop hating you because of your DNA."

Nik shrugs. "Lucky is like his father in many ways. They both hate based on the past. Luke hates my family because of the past, and now Lucky hates his father because of the past. I don’t think rape will ever be something they have in common," he says softly. "Not after you." Elizabeth looks away. "Lucky hates me because of who my father is."

"He doesn’t even know you!," Elizabeth says. "I mean I don’t really know you either, but you’re easy to talk to. You’re trustworthy… you didn’t blab about what happened to me, and you really tried to help us out."

"Not your typical Cassadine traits, hmm?," Nik smiles. "I really wish it had been Murty," Nik says, slowly, "for your sake."

Liz nods, returning her gaze to Nikolas. "I wish it was too. I needed to hate someone, to blame someone… He was so convenient. So logical. So wrong," she mutters. "I don’t know where I am now. On one hand, I want to move on. I need to get past this. I want to be a real girlfriend to Lucky, but on the other hand, I’m scared to death."

"Of who? Lucky?"

"No!," Liz exclaims. She glances quickly over at Lucky. "Never of Lucky. He makes me feel safe, and peaceful. When I’m with him, I don’t think about what happened to me. At least not as much as I usually do. He’s my friend, and my protector, and my soulmate," she smiles. "But sometimes if we get too close, I panic, and I flashback to that night. I hate myself for it, and I hate when it happens, because the look on Lucky’s face breaks my heart," she whispers. "He blames himself, you know."

"For your attack?" Liz nods. Nik looks confused. "Why?"

"Because he should have known I had a crush on him. And he should have been there to protect me. It wasn’t his fault, and no matter how much I try to convince of that, I still don’t think he believes it."

"Do you hold him responsible?"

Elizabeth shakes her head. "I hold whoever did this to me responsible. Lucky didn’t do this. But that’s why this was so important to me. I wanted to hear Murty admit that he raped me. Then he’d be arrested, and maybe I wouldn’t get scared so much. And maybe Lucky would be able to forgive his parents and we could move on, together." She sighs. "But Murty didn’t rape me, and I may never know who did. And I still get scared. I’m hoping though, that maybe Lucky will give you a chance after all your help. Maybe he’ll even try to make up with his parents." She shakes her head. "I just want things to get better. For all of us."

Nik smiles. "That certainly would be nice." He stands up, stretching. "I should probably get going. Uncle will be in court today, and I should be there to support him."

"Good luck," Elizabeth smiles.

Nik nods. "I appreciate that, and I’m sure my Uncle will as well." He jerks his head in Lucky’s direction. "Tell Sleeping Beauty that I enjoyed the hospitality."

Elizabeth laughs. "You have a sense of humor," she smiles.

"I’m a Cassadine, I’m not dead," he smiles. "Have a nice day, Elizabeth." He walks out of the boxcar.

Elizabeth turns to Lucky. "You can stop faking now, he’s gone."

To be continued…