Title: "The House on Memory Lane"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: PG-13, future fic.
Disclaimer: Nope. They're not my characters.
Summary: Every year, around mid-summer, he disappears for a few days.

Every year, around mid-summer, he disappears for a few days.

She never asks.

Oh, he would tell her. She knows that. With that stark honesty in his eyes and that catch in his voice, he would tell her exactly where he goes. But, there is such a thing as too much information in a marriage. A little too much trust. Such a change from the times when there was never enough.

So, she watches the car pull out of the long, winding, drive...watching his hand flash in the window, the thick link bracelet at his wrist catching the sunlight as he waves 'good-bye.'

So, she shuts the door behind him and locks it when he returns...doesn't look too closely when he exchanges manly hugs with the kids...doesn't record the subtle winces, the creaks of his limbs...and pretends that the scars above his left ankle aren't red, raw, re-opened when he eases into the bed beside her at night. This small delusion is the only one in her marriage now.

One they share equally.

***

Both of her sons have their father's eyes. Dark, intense. Quick to humor and quick to temper, too.

"Mom...he's limping again. Are you sure he doesn't need to go to the hospital?" wonders her oldest, slouched in front of the wide screen t.v. and the Yankees game.

"It's just that old soccer injury," she reminds, automatically. "He'll be fine, Honey. It just always gets achy when it's hot out."

"Always?" he repeats, skeptically. He's not as naive as he used to be. He's seen too much. He's learned too much. The arch of his brow is painfully familiar and she has to turn and stare out the window as that choked 'my baby's all grown up!' feeling invades her throat.

"Michael, please."

He laughs, and it's AJ Quartermaine's laugh. AJ's laugh... but his uncle Jason's steady voice.

"Mom...I'm going away to school in August. I think I'm old enough to know what's going on." He mutes the baseball game, twisting to stare up at her. It's the only time he can do that now...when he's sitting down. He miraculously hit 6 feet when he turned sixteen. Probably courtesy of his grandfather Alan and his disreputable great-uncle Luke. Giants in their own time. "Did Dad do it?" he wonders, without rancor. "Break his leg? Uncle Jason? Somebody try to rub him out over territory?"

He speaks of the past like somebody who has watched "Goodfellas" too many times. His friends, his girlfriend, they have no idea he actually lived it. That he woke up to the sound of gunfire and shattering glass the way most of them woke up to the cat knocking something over or the imaginary monster in the closet.

"Sonny did not break Lorenzo's leg. Neither did Jason," she assures, checking the doorway to make sure Morgan is still in the den playing video games on the other mammoth television. Never let it be said that her boys aren't spoiled...and her younger son's loss of innocence will come in time. "This has nothing to do with your dad. You know we've made our peace." A hard-won peace. Never let it be said her boys aren't happy.

"You and Pops playing an annual kinky sex game?" he tries again, without missing a beat. "Whips? Chains...?

"Michael!" She's three years shy of forty and a successful businesswoman, but she can still blush. "What would you know about kinky sex? And, so help me, if you say you and Colby..." Her baby's all grown up and having *sex*...oh my God.

"Colby's on the Pill," he interrupts, quickly. "And Lorenzo all ready gave me the condom talk so...so you don't have to remind me." Now, it's his turn to blush. Right up to the roots of his dark red hair. He knows full well he was conceived in the upstairs room at a dive bar and it's one of those things he probably wants to forget. His Mom. Having sex. Turnabout is fair play. "Actually, he said if I got Colby pregnant, he'd castrate me and send me to a monastery," he adds, sheepishly.

She has to laugh. "That's because your stepfather was there when I gave birth to your brother. And before that, too, when I had an attack of false labor. He knew *nothing* about women. He thought I was dying. He was terrified." So was she. So many times... so many different ways...

Summer can't pass without her remembering.

Perhaps that's another reason why her husband takes his trip.

"Where is the old man today anyhow?" It took Michael a long time to warm up to the last in her parade of men...but now nicknames like "Pops" and "the old man" are affectionate.

'We bonded over our shared fear of you,' Lorenzo likes to joke. Apparently, something as grand scale as birth isn't the only thing that scares him. Basic PMS does it, too.

"He had a staff meeting at the university," she murmurs. "Something about course planning for fall." Academics still don't interest her much, she thinks, ruefully, moving to the desk and flipping through a few papers for the restaurant. She remembers it was a salsa club when they bought it...and he helped her turn it into an exquisitely beautiful Florentine cafe. "But he'll be back by dinner...or I'm going to castrate him and send him to a monastery."

Michael snorts with laughter, his shoulders shaking.

And he asks no more questions.

He has all the answers he needs for the moment.

He has his father's eyes... and her heart.

***

There is a beautiful house in a suburban neighborhood of Port Charles, New York. It is still standing empty after a decade. Sheets are thrown over the furniture that never got put in storage, cobwebs spin across the ceilings, and dust layers the floors.

Every year, around mid-summer, there are footsteps in the dust... and they lead to an ugly, faded, modern art painting with no soul. To what's behind it.

She never asks.

"I forgive you," she whispers, tenderly, sliding her arms around his waist, laying her cheek against the familiar hollow between his shoulder blades.

"I know." After all this time, he still cries easily. "But I'll never quite forgive myself."

"I know." After all this time, so does she.

But she also laughs.

And she lives.

A hard-won peace.

Never let it be said that she's not happy.

--end--

January 22, 2004.



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