Title: "The Love Song of Archie the Gardener"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: SAC, Skye/Coleman, mild language.
Disclaimer: Nope. I don't own them.
Summary: Should auld acquaintance be forgot? *Can* it be?

The crisp dollar bills are waved away and after a nod from the man behind the bar, there is no stamp applied to the back of her hand. They know her here. They know she'll pitch a fit if she has to scrub ink off her skin at three in the morning. They know it might just be enough annoyance to keep her from coming back.

"You came," he murmurs, his gravelly voice perfectly pitched to echo below the shouts of New Year's revelers gearing up for midnight. Perfectly pitched and faking surprise.

"You knew I would." She laughs, dryly, slipping off her coat and handing it back to him so he can put it, safely, beneath the counter. "What else was that performance at the Quartermaines' for? A party' at Jake's...the cover charge..." She rolls her eyes. "It certainly wasn't for Edward's benefit."

"You know what it was for, Princess." He tilts his head, smiles knowingly. She shivers, remembering those lips lingering on her skin. The eyes of her not-family lingering, too, as the blush heated her and she covered it up with embarrassment.

Of course he had to make it all the worse by slapping her rear. The man has no class.

"You gave Dillon a ride home on the off-chance you'd find me there and grope me? Why Coleman...I'm touched." But she is. She *was*. Her shoulder is still tingling, bared now as if to plead for an encore.

Maybe she has no class either.

"What about you? Coming here...? For what? The ambiance? My fine selection of booze?" He slides the soda and lime across the bar. "I'm touched," he mocks, softly.

He probably is.

It hasn't escaped her notice that she seems to keep coming back here. That he's always waiting. That he always reaches out, kisses her 'hello', reminds her of...of what? What they shared? Isn't that romanticizing a few months of highly ill-advised sex?

Highly ill-advised relationships seem to be her forte. "Luke," she points out, defensively. "I only came back here because of Luke."

"You still seeing that old cat?" He shakes his head. Something dark flickers in his eyes. Something that makes her breath catch. It looks like... envy. Jealousy. Isn't jealousy for people who care? "Where's Spencer now, Princess?" he demands. "I don't see him here. Unless you've turned into one of those psychic friend AA sponsors and he's gonna walk in any second."

No. Luke's not going to walk in any second. She knows that. As much as she'd like to say they've got something special...that she's more than a sponsor to him, more than a business partner, his disappearing act after Christmas proves that she can't. And she can't use him as her excuse. She doesn't know why she tried.

Instead of saying "I told you so," Coleman lets her own her silence, moving around to make sure no one is throwing up in a corner or starting fights. The big screen t.v. he rented from god-knows-where has Times Square in technicolor, with the big spiky ball inching down and Dick Clark making his deal with the devil for one more year of eternal youth.

The hands on her shoulders, warm and strangely comforting, are what signal his return...and he still doesn't give voice to whatever he's thinking. No, he just leans down and, this time, without an audience, she simply arches up, craving the rasp of his long hair against her throat as he kisses her cheek, her jaw, and finally her lips.

"You and *that*?" Tracy had asked, looking thoroughly disgusted, appallingly elitist. As if she'd never slummed in her life. Ha. Skye stammered and blushed and turned away rather than answer in the affirmative. "That". As if this man is less than human, less than dirt. If she was a braver woman, a stronger one, she would've turned to her dear not-aunt and said, "He's hung like a horse" or "He fucks like you wouldn't believe"...except that using words like 'hung' and 'fuck' in the hallowed halls of the Quartermaine mansion is strictly verboten...and she seems to need that family even if they don't need her.

There would've been five cases of apoplexy right there on the spot and maybe envy...jealousy...in Ned's eyes. But isn't jealousy for people who care?

"I think he likes you," Luke had said a few weeks before. Teasing inflection. No green-eyed monster on his shoulder. Nothing at all.

She twists on the barstool, curving into Coleman's arms...suddenly sick of sneak attacks from behind where she doesn't have to reciprocate, where she can still pretend it's against her will and paint a denial on her face even as her body says "yes." He's been good to her. Unfair to himself. Allowing her that illusion.

Still no "I told you so" from his smart mouth. No. Just the barest of satisfied sighs as she kisses him back with tongue and teeth and tenderness that only exists here. Between them.

Somewhere in the distance, people are chanting. Numbers. Counting down.

10...

9...

8...

She slides her hands beneath his shirt, laughing softly because it's grey and sedate--so unlike him--but the warmth, the strength is familiar. It always will be.

4...

3...

2...

"One," he whispers, pulling back just long enough to breathe. "Happy new year, Skye."

"Happy new year, Coleman." She's surprised that she means it. Even more surprised when she kisses him again. And again, until he's taking her hand and leading her some place where they can be truly alone together and naked.

She'll always come back to him. He'll always be waiting.

She'll take it for as long as he's willing to give.

It's who they are.

They'll allow themselves this illusion.

But they'll never call it love.

--end--

January 1, 2003.



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