Title: "Indulgence"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: SAC, language, adult situations.
Summary: For the July Challenge at Imaginary (http://www.cruel-deception.net/imaginary). A Nikolas fic. Must include: a green shirt, a pitcher of beer, a TV remote Extra points if you include: a picture of Helena, any mention of Summer. Opening: "Nikolas held his breath and..."

Nikolas held his breath and the sharp intake was like the crack of a gunshot in the small, sterile cubicle. The needle hovered just an inch above his skin, a drop of black ink balancing on its tip like an acid taunt from his grandmother or Luke.

"Relax," the artist murmured, glancing over his head at Lucky, trading some imperceptible look that only a tattoo artist and a former client could share. Probably something that meant, "Boy, your brother is a wuss. Are you sure he's from some hotshot royal bloodline?" and "I got him drunk and dragged him here."

Not that he was. Drunk. No. Cassadines never overindulged. He heard that warning echo in Stefan's voice. Like he'd heard a million times outside the confines of his mind. Clipped and pompous. No, they never overindulged and that was why he'd only polished off half a pitcher of beer while his brother downed tequila shooters like there was no tomorrow. No, they never overindulged and that was why he was sitting in a hole-in-the-wall tattoo parlor off of Courtland Street, the sleeve rolled up on his perfectly-pressed green linen shirt, and preparing to get something permanently etched into a few layers of skin.

Lucky had suggested a likeness of Helena. Six shooters in an hour were the only thing that had kept Nikolas from decking him. Well, that and the fact that "Cassadines never overindulged" and punching somebody, especially your half-brother, was a sign of poor breeding. Specifically, he'd suggested the naked, mermaid-y, Helena that had once hung on the wall at Luke's. A swift, firm, *sober*, veto had been issued. Having a picture of one's evil grandmother drawn onto one's skin--a nearly naked picture, no less--now *there* was a sign of poor breeding.

Next on "Jerry Springer", Incestuous Greco-Russian Royalty And The Half-Siblings Who Love Them. It was enough to make him reach for the t.v. remote and flip to a documentary on horse-racing so he could contemplate Sheba and some wild Arabian siring a line of Triple Crown winners.

Except that he wasn't at home. There was no remote anywhere. And the inked needle was diving beneath his skin with the insistent buzz of an electric razor and a blinding side order of pain.

He had no idea how Lucky had sat for the black bird that spanned the space between his shoulder blades. If it had taken one sitting or two. Three. He couldn't fathom how anyone could volunteer for agony. He'd had enough, over the years, without doing it on purpose. Multiple head injuries, getting shot outside a nightclub, paralysis...so, the question begged to be asked...*why?*

It was simple.

Cassadines did not overindulge.

And, just once, he wanted to know what it felt like to do something illogical and wild, something that laughed in the face of convention.

Something soaked through in blood. Indelible. Permanent.

Something that meant "forever."

Like his love for Lucky.

Fingers closed around those that were clenched, tightly, around the handle of the chair. Reassuring. The slide of a thumb against his wrist, far more gentle than the artist's needle on his other. "I'm here, Bro'. I'm always going to be here."

Hours later, he removed the bandage that had been slapped, clinically, over the slightly-raised skin. The edges were still red, raw, and the mark itself stood out like a brand. He brushed his lips across the eternity symbol, the Greek letters Lamda and Nu housed in its loops, and smiled.

Cassadines never overindulged.

But they did indulge just enough for it to be wrong.

And so right.


July 9, 2003.

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