Title: "A Touch of Frost"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: AC, Stefan/Lydia
Disclaimer: Nope. I don't own them.
Summary: His pragmatism is perhaps his greatest blessing and his greatest curse.
Notes: Thanks to Rebel for the inspiration and for asking the questions that got this story where it needed to be!

He presses, gingerly at the faded bruise that stretches between his eye and his temple. The skin is still tender beneath the barely-healed cut. Ice taken from the sideboard is a swift solution and he hisses as the cold cubes make contact and do their duty. As if observing professional courtesy, they do not begin to melt immediately.

He is a cold son of a bitch. He knows this to be true. Both because of his natural body temperature and the loins he sprang from as an unsuspecting, innocent, infant.

He has worked hard to maintain the thin layer of frost that coats every single inch of his skin.

He spent a glorious summer in Tibet, on the mountain, where the air was crisp and cool and it moved through his hands as he practiced his forms in the morning.

And then reality intruded. Reality with short red hair and an acid tongue and a billion dollar inheritance. He froze over colder than the Himalayas, than the hills that had become the home of his heart, and did what had to be done.

Now, too, he does simply what must be done. Clinical application of medical aid on his wounds. Practicing lies under his breath to tell the child he loves so dearly.

His pragmatism is perhaps his greatest blessing and his greatest curse.

Nikolas must produce an heir within the year to secure the Keranin inheritance. The lack of throaty echoes in the corridors of Wyndemere tells him that the sought-for goal is far, far, away.

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

He softly calls for Mrs. Lansbury to turn up the thermostat. Warmth is not a luxury he can afford at the moment. It serves many purposes to keep the halls of Wyndemere cool. A constant reminder...a constant reminder that no Cassadine must be too comfortable. A perpetual chill to unsettle interlopers. And, of course, it keeps his crystallized veneer intact...so that even he, himself, cannot feel his heart beating.

The east door slams open, pronouncing his quarry's entrance. "God...this place is a *tomb*...a walk-in freezer!" she cries, dramatically, as she drops her expensive purse on the coffee table and her equally expensive body onto the sofa.

"Lydia." He makes no note of her observation, simply nods, curtly, and moves towards his desk, where a sheaf of bank statements await.

"What happened to you? You look like Hell," she says to his back. And if he is not mistaken...there is perhaps just the barest modicum of concern hidden in the affected boredom.

Something he can exploit. Something he *must* exploit.

"Our creditors are not happy with the delays," he murmurs, dispassionately, shuffling papers without even looking down at them. "They say that, next time, they may break my legs." A smile just barely pulls at his lips. "Amusing, isn't it? These barbaric tactics?"

"Oh, yeah. Having your limbs broken is a real laugh riot." Lydia rises, smoothly, from her careless sprawl, and crosses to him. When she grasps his face, her fingertips are hot...like the tips of matchsticks. "Why are you doing this, Stefan?" she asks, as she studies the network of bruises across his temple. "It's insane. Are the 'Cassadine finances' really that important?"

He does not shy away from her touch...even though it sears him, begins to turn the ice into water. "Have you forgotten that you, too, are to benefit from this arrangement?" he reminds.

"Before or after you get yourself and Nikolas killed?" she counters, acidly. "It doesn't sound like much of a benefit if my husband dies before I can have a child and inherit my grandfather's fortune. That is if Nikolas stops mooning over that poor little girl long enough to even sleep with me."

"Miss Quartermaine will cease to be a problem in one fashion or another." Practical. He's practical above all things. A young woman languishing in a hospital bed means nothing to him. Not when there is so much more at stake. "I assure you, Lydia, we will have your inheritance."

She yanks her hand back, shivering, and he knows his cold has reached her. Has risen up and counteracted her fire. "You're an unbelievable bastard."

"You have no idea." He is lucky she is not an unattractive woman. Her skin is the soft, milk-white of a true redhead. Her body is taut, slender, like that of a dancer's. And her mouth...will no doubt taste like ripe strawberries. It will make what he must do far easier.

He brushes the backs of his knuckles against her cheek, catching her flinch. "You know, for years, I assumed Nikolas was my son...and I positioned him to be the Prince to insure his safety. There were tests done and I believed them."

"Wh-what happened?" she wonders...and when he deliberately strokes her jaw, this time, she doesn't pull away.

"There were new tests. I believed them as well," he shrugs. "I accepted that he was, truly, Stavros's child. Truly the Prince. And, to this day, I still protect him."

"And what does that have to do with anything?"

"It means, Fair Lydia, that we Cassadines have no qualms about raising one another's sons...because we are all of the same blood."

There is barely an instant between when his meaning takes root and when he pulls her into his arms. He cuts off her yelp of outrage with a calculated, unyielding, assault on her lips. She shivers, tiny fists balling up and pushing against his chest to no avail as he deepens the kiss.

He is a cold son of a bitch.

He has worked hard to maintain the thin layer of frost that coats every single inch of his skin.

For this, he must thaw just a little.

He has not been with a woman in quite some time, but his powers of seduction are no less sharp. He slides his hand up her back, beneath the impossibly brief scrap of blue silk that she calls a blouse. Even as he nips at her tongue, punishing its habitual brutality and lack of tact, he draws gentle circles between her shoulder blades...the kind that give rise to a different shiver. One born of heat, not cold.

She moans, low, in her throat, and her fists are beating against him with less force... almost half-hearted, as she swears at him, calling him things he is all ready certain are truths.

"Is this what you long for, Lydia when you are alone at night in your empty bed?" he wonders, pulling back just enough to kiss her pale throat, "To be touched? To be held? To be taken?"

"N-not by you, you unfeeling asshole...!" she cries, twisting away, lashing out as if to slap him. "Not by *you*."

"Unfeeling? Am I?" He catches her hand, covers it with his, moves it lower, to the irrefutable evidence of his desire. "Is this the response of someone who can't feel?"

"I...I don't want you..." she manages to gasp out, even as her fingers close around his length through the cloth of his slacks.

"Then who? Nikolas? You no more want him than you want a shiny new bauble to wear around your neck." He strokes the neck in question, linking his fingers around it as if to strangle. "He's a means to an end. Lucky? Perhaps, yes. Perhaps you do want him... but he is from the wrong side of the family for a close DNA match...and he's a mere boy." He laughs, softly, as his thumb dances against her pulse. "Do you really think a boy can give you something a man cannot?"

"Y-yes!" she snaps, defiantly, as their lips come crashing together again...as the heat suffuses his body, melts his carefully-erected cool, and names them both liars. He buries his fingers in the flames of her hair, holding her head in his palm as she tugs at his belt buckle, frantically hissing, "Yes, yes, yes," and not even knowing, now, to what she is acceding. She reaches up on her toes...brushing her mouth over the cut, the bruises, at his temple, and making them sting far worse than any antiseptic, making him groan with need.

He lifts her, easily, and she winds her legs around his waist as he swings her down to the desk, sweeping aside papers and pens and folders in his haste to have her beneath him. If his heart has stopped beating, he does not know it. If there is ice in his veins now, he does not feel it. All he knows is his purpose ...this woman...her flat belly bared to his mouth, his hands, in anticipation of the child that will soon be growing there

"Y-you're so noble..." she laughs, breathlessly, tugging at his hair, urging him back up. "Im-impregnating me for the sake of the Cassadine empire..."

He sheds his jacket and tie, tossing them to the floor, and works the buttons on his shirt. "Are you complaining, Lydia?" he asks, when he is finally stripped naked before her. When his so cautiously thawed skin is burning under her gaze.

"No." Her eyes are dark and smoky. "No..." And if he sees just a hint of loneliness there ... just a bit of a mirror's reflection..."Touch me," she pleads, softly, and he complies...removing her blouse with the utmost tenderness, tugging her low-slung skirt down over her hips. "Hold me." And he gathers her close, kissing each shoulder, the hollow between her breasts, before returning to her lips. "T-take me," she demands, surging her hips upwards and engulfing him in her scalding depths. "Take me, Stefan..."

He doesn't ask her where. They simply go. Together.

Spiraling, higher and higher, where the air is crisp and cool and it moves through their bodies as they slam against the desk.

Afterwards, he calls, softly, for Mrs. Lansbury to adjust the thermostat once more...and he traces the frost tipping Lydia's eyelashes as he takes her upstairs to bed.

It does not escape him that the child they will conceive...he, too, will be a son of a bitch. But not cold. No...*not* cold. Anything but that.

Ultimately, Stefan Cassadine is not quite pragmatic enough.

His greatest blessing.

His greatest curse.


September 17, 2003.

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