Title: "Cold is an Absence"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: AC, Stefan/Lydia, language, adult situations.
Disclaimer: Nope. I still don't own them...even though I treat them better than GH does.
Summary: Fifth and final fic in the "Fire & Ice" series. Something has been missing from their lives...can Stefan and Lydia find it?

"Cold is an absence, an absence of heat, and yet it feels like a presence."
--John Updike.

Port Charles reaches a record high for May. 102 degrees. That's how she knows he's back.

He missed the christening. She, perversely, had it at St. Timothy's, knowing that generations of Greek and Russian Orthodox Cassadines were rolling over in their graves. It was still relatively cool that day and Masha fussed in her stiff white gown right up until Father O'Riley dabbed her with water from the font. She's a demanding little diva, just like her mother.

Lydia is thankful that she was spared the insult of her husband's lover taking the responsibility of godparent. Nikolas, it seems, has just enough breeding left. It was Lucky and Elizabeth who stood up for Masha...and she knows that Stefan would hate that with a fiery passion. A Spencer and his insipid girlfriend bound by God to care for his child. She's learned to tolerate it, as she's learned to tolerate so much.

Except the heat.

There has been no room for excessive heat in her life.

The air conditioning in the limousine is at full blast but the cotton of her tank top and the linen of her skirt continue to cling, wetly, to her sweat-sticky skin. Her insides are at status quo... frosted... but her body, her body rebels, conforming to nature's demands.

She called for the car the moment the temperature registered, tucking Masha into her bassinet with a kiss to her petal-soft cheek and telling Mrs. Lansbury to watch over her.

She remembers that, long ago, it was cold she couldn't stomach. That even the slightest breeze made her reach for a jacket and nights by a roaring fire with a hot body were her favorite way to unwind.

Now, Masha is the warmest thing in her life.

And Masha's father has taken rooms at the Port Charles Hotel.

She would never have known if it weren't for the phone call she took in Nikolas's study... the low, husky, voice of her doom and her salvation. "Mrs. Cassadine, I understand this news may be of use to you. Your husband's uncle has returned to town." Lorenzo Alcazar has been nothing but polite and helpful although they have still not be formally introduced. And, deep down, she knows that he does nothing out of altruism. He doesn't care about her broken heart, her loneliness, her perpetually empty bed. Some day soon, the other shoe will drop. He will demand blood for blood. Or, more appropriately, money for permanently altered DNA tests. Money for convenient amnesia.

She has that money now.

Irony of ironies.

She has the money to keep her secrets safe...exactly because of her secrets.

And she has no choice but to walk into the Port Charles Hotel, get into the elevator, and take it to the fourteenth floor.

There were so many nights where she paused outside his door... so many nights where she pressed her palm flat to that wood and tried to draw the chill from him...force him to open up to her. The chill came easily...the opening never came at all.

She'll make him open to her now.

She has to.

She knocks with conviction, glad that she didn't bring a purse because if she had, she might clutch it with whitened knuckles as the footsteps from inside the suite grow louder and that...that is unacceptable. She will not melt. She will not shatter. She is the ultimate ice sculpture.

And he is the one who created her.

Hewing away at her body, her soul...chipping at her defenses...with his cruel tongue and his kinder hands.

She feels him on the other side of the door. Breathing. Waiting. And after an eternity, the lock clicks and the barrier swings back. "Lydia."

Three syllables. Clipped. Husky. Accompanied by those piercing eyes ...eyes she hasn't seen since one shadowed night in another hallway.

And she sways, reaching out for the wall, for her resolve. "Stefan." Cool. Cold. Arctic.

He's lost weight. His cheeks are hollow, the fine bones sharp like icicles, and his trademark dark suit hangs on him in a way that tell her the body beneath is as corded, taut, as a length of rope. He's wound tight ... so ... beautifully...tight.

He stares back at her and she knows he's cataloging the changes in her as well. How her face is fuller...how her hair is cut short once again because the long strands were the first thing Masha fiercely tugged on just hours after birth...how her entire body is softer, rounder. Before, she was merely thin ...now...now she's what would politely be termed "voluptuous." She overheard Lucky say it far more rudely to Nikolas last week. "Man, if my wife had those *tits*, I'd seriously consider staying faithful."

Minutes tick by and the sweat trickles down her spine...but she can't make herself speak. All the things she had to say are drying up in her throat. Months worth of anger, of misery. The weather changed and she thought, "Fuck you." The first thing she was going to say was "fuck you."

What she hisses instead is close.

And not close enough.

"Fuck me."

She crosses the threshold, breathless, sliding her palm against his neck and pulling him close as she nudges the door shut with her foot. "Fuck me," she repeats, tasting the rough stubble on his unshaven cheek. "Come on...do what you do best...fuck me...fuck me over..."

His skin is so hot...so blazing hot...her tongue slides against his jaw and she feels the steam rise. His hands come up...to push her away, perhaps, but they pull her close...flush against him. "LydiaLydiaLydia..." he whispers, chiding...no...not chiding...wanting...just wanting...exactly what she has wanted herself all this time...

One kiss...just one kiss...is all it takes to set her on fire.

To remind her what it's like to burn.

***

He knew.

The moment he set foot in Port Charles, the toe of his loafers sinking into the melting asphalt of the airport parking lot, he knew she would find him.

He knew and yet he came anyway. He could not stay away.

It's inevitable. This. Her cool skin beneath his palms...her mouth opening beneath his. It has been nearly four months since he tasted her... even longer since he's taken her...and he's been starved for it. For her. For this instantaneous explosion of want and need.

He watched her in the tiny circle of the peephole...how her hauntingly lovely face was framed within that tiny sphere of glass...and then he opened the door to the actuality.

He opened his heart to it somewhere on the mountain.

Somewhere between leaving her and seeing her again just now.

"Lydia," he whispers again, damning himself...dragging them both into the deepest fires of Hell and Heaven. His palms slide down the straps of her top...to its hem. He yanks it up, away...baring her to his ravenous touch. A possessive, electric, thrill runs through him as he strokes the underside of her breasts, cups the new and yet familiar weight of them.

She whimpers...her hand moving down between them to work at the buckle of his belt, his zipper. Her delicate fingers, blood-red nails, caress the length of him and he remembers...he remembers the very first time he sank into her velvet depths. How there was no turning back from the firestorm.

Now she is the one struggling to be remote...contained...shielded by a thin layer of ice. Now he is the one heating her blood, melting her resolve.

He hikes her skirt up over her waist, locking her legs around his hips. He returns to her mouth, kissing her deeply, again and again, as he walks her backwards towards the suite's king-sized bed. Even as she begins, again, her bitter taunt of "fuck me", he falls beneath her...for her... fairly trembling as the last of their clothing is stripped away and she welcomes him inside her.

This. This is who they are. Fire and ice. Equalizing every time she takes him deep. Over and over. Again and again. This is what he has been missing...what he came back for. What she knew she would find when she knocked on his door.

Completion.

"Will you stay?" she asks, softly, drowsily. "Will you stay this time?"

"Your grandfather's will. If there is any taint of suspicion on us..." he reminds, lips brushing her forehead.

"On us?" Lydia laughs, turning her face into the hollow of his throat, muffling her voice for just a moment. "Stefan...Emily Quartermaine separated from her idiot husband shortly after you left. She's been rowing back and forth to Wyndemere ever since. I think we could have sex on the Elm Street Pier and nobody would blink twice."

His arms tighten around her, trying to ward off the cold that he knows is dancing at the edge of their bed. "Have there been...threats?" He chokes on the implication. "You? Masha? Are you safe?"

"Yes! We're fine," she is quick to assure. "We're better than fine. We've done very well despite the circumstances. Alcazar doesn't exactly want the sizable payment he received to default back to Grandfather's estate...so he's not talking. In fact, he's been very kind. I'm sure he'll blackmail us in the future...but that's the way of the world, isn't it?" she wonders, ruefully.

He echoes her amusement with his own chuckle of mirth. "It strikes me as ironic that a man who should be my enemy is now our confidante of sorts."

"You were my enemy once," she points out, eyes sparking.

He hesitates to ask. But he knows he must. He's traveled thousands of miles and an eternity for it. "What am I now?"

"Everything," she gasps, touching his face with her fingertips. Once again hot like the tips of matches. "You're everything to me, Stefan. You and Masha," she whispers, as their mouths meet and rekindle the banked fires of their mutual desire. Their mutual need.

Everything.

Everything they've ever wanted.

Right here between them. Where they least expected to find it.

So, as he has always done, he must look out for his family.

*His* family.

His *family.*

"Will you stay?" asks Fire.

"Forever," answers Ice.

--end--

October 9, 2003.



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