Title: "Bargaining With the Devil"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: SAC, dark themes, Stefan/Lydia-ish.
Disclaimer: I don't own this and the dialogue belongs to ABC, etc.
Summary: What if Luke hadn't interrupted exactly when he did? A broken Stefan's desperate choice.

His offer is the Devil's bargain. He knows that even as it leaves his lips and her eyes glitter with misery, with terror. She told him before...that even when he had a face, she would not have slept with him.

And now...now...they may never sleep again.

"All right," she whispers. "But...not like this. Not as an act of violence," she pleads, shaking her head slowly.

"No..." Violence. An act of violence. He draws back, feeling the horror choke him, seep into the raw wounds on his skin. "I'm no rapist," he assures, looking at her, meaning it. Hoping she knows this. That this, above all, is true of him.

And perhaps she does, because her voice gains just a little strength. "You know Nikolas better than anyone. If you're certain he'll agree to accept the child and raise it as his own...?" The question is not only in her words, but in her liquid dark eyes, in the bones of her body...what she is willing to sacrifice for the man they both love.

"I think he will." He's not certain. No. But the lie is easier.

"Then...I'll go along with this." Her own lie is easier, too. "If it's the only way for us to get what we all want."

So be it. "All right." He nods, shifts on the balls of his feet, murmuring, genuinely aggrieved, "Sorry about the restraints." He has never wanted to resort to this...tying a woman up, bruising her...being like Stavros, like Luke.

He kneels to cut her bonds. The delicate curves of her wrists, her ankles, tremble beneath the blade and he swallows regret, bile. She's afraid of him. It's come to this. Desperation. Fear. A madman in a tunnel with a half a face and even less hope.

She does not move while he shrugs off his trenchcoat and spreads it on the earthen floor. A mockery of a chivalrous gesture. Women should be taken on rose petals and silk...not like this. Never like this. She closes her eyes when he takes her in his arms...and he keeps the repulsive half of his features averted. She will not look...and he will not force her to.

It will not be rape.

Not an act of violence.

An act of love.

That is what he whispers to her when he stalls at the fastenings of her pants...when he freezes. "Shhh," she soothes...warns...pleads. And she is the one to finish undoing the buttons and zippers on their clothing...she is the one to manipulate his suddenly tentative will with artful strokes of her hand ...and her lip is bitten-through, bloody, by the time he drives inside her.

He tastes it. Tastes the copper and marvels at the tang. At how her mouth and her sex welcome him, again and again, simply for the sake of Nikolas. For the sake of a child.

She is, truly, every inch a Cassadine.

Now, just as damned as he is.

"Let her go."

The tears glinting in her eyes are matched by his own. He touches her face, her throat, with tenderness he didn't know he could still feel. He trails his palm downwards. She nods, just barely, but it is enough. It has to be enough.

"Let her *go*, Vlad."

As Spencer drags him up, back, throws him against the wall, he whispers what might have been a prayer, a plea, in another life. "I have. I have..."

He watches her run. She does not look back. He knows she never will.

And, then, he stares up at the Devil and smiles.

So be it.



October 11, 2003.

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