Title: "Still Nodding Night"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: 'PG-13' for language and adult situations. Coleman/Courtney.
Disclaimer: Not my characters.
Summary: Set during the summer of 2002. It's a good night. As Whitman would say...a "mad naked summer night." One of the few before Coleman loses everything.

The stage lights were off, the house lights dimmed as Eddie ran the sweeper and he did the last go-round looking for spilled beer or a missed bottle or that always wonderful hidden pool of puke.


A good night.

The place wasn't wrecked and he didn't have to clean off his shoes and the take was more than decent. Enough to pay off Mickey Five Hands...again.

Coleman had no clue why he still borrowed money from Mickey. One of the small-time sharks for the Five Families, everybody knew that the reason he got his name was because he kept the hands of the first five guys to welsh on their loans in a box under his bed. But, hey, it was a done deal. He'd lost cash on the ponies, he'd had to ante up...Mickey had the funds... and the club usually made enough dough to work things out until the next time he fucked up at the track.

Even more now that he had Daisy working.

Now...now they were actually in the black instead of the red most nights.

And all she wore was white.

For a few minutes anyway.

He wandered back through the dressing rooms, kicking a feather boa and something he hoped was a clean G-string or a piece of dental floss. He was going to holler at Wy' when she came in tomorrow. The woman couldn't pick up to save her life. And she'd been getting some major airs since Daisy had started her whole Norma Rae routine...equal pay and equal rights for strippers. Wa-hoo!

Daisy. He had to make a mental note to stop calling her that in his head. *Courtney*. She was Courtney. She was a pain in his ass. A pain in his ass that looked like every cheerleader he'd wanted to bang in high school. Blond and athletic and perfect...with legs that just didn't quit.

He wondered what she'd say if he told her she was born to ride a pole.

Naw. He didn't have to wonder. He knew. She'd drop him like a sandbag. He'd seen her knock out a guy trying to paw her just a few nights ago. She didn't even know her own strength. The asshole had been seeing little birdies flying around his head even before Tommy tossed him out onto the pavement.

Maybe he needed to get her some leather and sell her as the Warrior Princess or something?


Coleman sighed, flipping off the row of lightbulbs above the mirror. He didn't want to sell her as anything more than what she was. Something fresh. Something pure. Something nobody could touch. Not her loser husband. And not him.

He'd never seen a girl before who could take off her clothes and still be completely covered.

Nobody really saw Courtney Matthews naked.

But he tried his best to stay locked in his office anyway.

Not like that cat Morgan...who'd just started coming around on his big bad boss's say-so. Morgan stood out there in the pit for every show. Every routine. Every minute. And he watched. Didn't even blink those cold blue eyes.

Coleman had been called every name in the damn book...he'd had his momma and papa insulted up and out the wazu and been told he was some kind of sinner for having a club where girls shook their tits...but he knew...he knew he could still *feel*. He knew how hard some of his girls worked just to put food on the table. Hell, Teresa's boy was in fourth grade and her last gig had paid for him to be on the PC peewee football team. Jerseys and all. He never watched Teresa dance either.

There was no way Morgan was human.

Coleman would rather be some kind of sinner than be that fucking empty inside.

As he turned to leave the dark dressing room, there was a crashing sound. Followed by an "ow!" and a string of swear words that a nice girl could only pick up from an Atlantic City casino.

"Courtney?" He quickly flipped the lights back on. "What are you still doing here?"

Normally, she was gone by now. Escorted back to her apartment by the meathead Enforcer.

He sucked in his breath.

Still hopping around on one foot as she glared at the fallen coatrack and at him...all she wore was a towel. She must've been using the club's shower while he was closing. Normally, she waited till she got home to scrub the filth off her skin. But now, here she was, wrapped in a fluffy pink towel, her skin practically the same shade, and her hair damp and loose around her shoulders.

"Somebody knocked their drink all over me as I was getting off stage." She clutched the towel to her like a shield. It covered more than what she wound up wearing at the end of her routines, but where his traitorous cock was concerned, she might as well have been as bare as the day she was born. "So, I thought I'd clean up before I left...and once I was in there..."

"Once you were in there, you took off two layers of skin trying to get the stink of this place off." He swallowed hard, trying to tear his eyes away. Miles of leg. The curves of her breasts. Her street clothes were closer to him, on the rack, and he blindly reached out for her shirt and jeans.

"Here." He tossed her clothes at her, stalking back out to the house, where Eddie was pushing the stools by the bar out of the way. "Get gone," he snarled at the kid, who flinched and dropped the last stool on his foot. "I'll finish up."

Luckily, Eddie was used to his moods. Instead of whining about workman's comp, he hightailed it out. Minutes later, Coleman heard the rumble of his bike as he peeled out of the parking lot.

He moved behind the bar and took down the Jameson's. He twisted off the automatic pourer and sloshed almost two shots worth into a tumbler. He'd write it up on the spill list in the morning. *Later* in the morning.

The whiskey was a welcome burn. An old buddy. Someone he could count on. Sometimes the only thing that got him through the hours between 2 and 7 AM. Professional hazard. You owned a bar and you became a functional alcoholic. But at least he didn't go around crashing his car into buildings...

"Coleman...?" Her hair was all ready drying. It looked like a shiny halo in the low lights. She had her arms wrapped around herself like her blue jeans and her oversized t-shirt weren't enough protection. From what? From him?

He downed the rest of his drink and poured himself another. "Yeah?"

She stopped a few feet from the bar. "Wynona said you wanted me up first tomorrow?"


"Why?" She was no dummy. She knew the men all came to see her and that meant saving her for last.

"Felt like it." He shrugged, staring down into his glass and swirling the amber liquid around. "Figured you might like to get off early. But, hey, if you wanna stay till 2--"

"No," she interrupted, hastily. "No, that's great. Thank you."

'Thank you.' He blackmailed her into stripping and she *thanked* him for it. She'd thanked him on her birthday, too. Coleman closed his eyes, trying to remember what it was like to breathe.

His brother was an accountant, for Christ's sake. An *accountant*. He had a wife and two kids who didn't even know they had an uncle.

At this rate, the entire bottle of Jameson's was going on the spill list.

As he sloshed in shots five and six, a hand closed around his wrist. She was so pale against the weather-beaten farm tan that had burned into his skin. So pale and clean.

"Why do you do this?" she wondered, quietly. "You're not that bad a guy."

"Why do you?" He shrugged, righting the bottle again. "You got no choice, right? You either do this or I send AJ to jail, right?" He stared down at her fingers. She didn't remove them. "Booze and woman is all I know, Miz Daisy. It's what I'm good at. I ain't got a fancy college degree...Hell, I dropped outta high school. I'm never gonna be a lawyer or a doctor...but my Oasis is where I'm the big shot." He smiled, bitterly. "Surrounded by naked chicks every night... it's a life most cats would kill for."

Courtney leaned against the bar, staring down at his hand like she could read his lifeline. And maybe she could. "If it's so great...why don't you ever watch us?"

"I watch all the time! Wy' gives me lap dances whenever I want!" he pointed out, finally having the sense to yank his hand out of her grip.

"She's your ex-girlfriend." Courtney's lips twitched. Almost a smile. She didn't smile much around here. "She told me you two still get together whenever you're lonely."

"And that makes me 'not that bad a guy'?" He snorted, making a mental note to tell Wynona to shut her yap. "Yeah. I'm ready for fucking sainthood. Go home, Fresh-as-a-Daisy. Go home to your dog and your man and your safe little life and come back in eighteen hours to shake your ass. I promise I'll watch the whole gig."

She stared at him with those eyes...those eyes that always went somewhere far away, all the way to paradise, the minute she stepped on stage. He remembered...he remembered auditioning her in his office, ordering her to take off her clothes because it would save them both embarrassment if she got her shyness out of the way right then. He'd whirled his chair around to face the wall before her blouse even hit the floor.

"You promise?" Disbelief. Sarcasm. And before he knew it, her fingers were grasping the hem of her t-shirt and yanking it up. "Liar," she whispered as he turned to put the Jameson's back up on the top shelf.

"What are you tryin' to prove? Do you even know?" He could see parts of her reflected in the glasses. He tried to focus on her face.

He was a fool for thinking the bar and his back could be any kind of shield. She flipped up the partition...and then her hand was on his shoulder. It burned worse, hotter, than the whiskey. "I'm trying to prove...that you can let me go."

Then she was a fool, too.

A fool that looked like every cheerleader he'd wanted to bang in high school. Blond and athletic and perfect...with legs that just didn't quit.

"I can't let you go," he assured, throat constricting...jeans, too. "And if you don't quit touching me, Sweetheart, you're going to see just how tight I can hold on."

Her shampoo smelled like flowers. Herbal fucking Essences.


"Go. Home."

He counted to five in his head.

She was still behind him. He could hear her breathing. He could *feel* her. Both hands on his shoulders now. Squeezing, massaging concentric circles, loosening the knots that he'd thought were permanently embedded. A groan escaped his lips before he could stop it. Pure pleasure, pure heat, spread through his muscles.

What in God's name did she think she was doing?

Maybe she thought he'd let her go if she gave it up to him...and maybe she was a million times more naive than he thought. Worse...maybe *he* was.

Her thumbs met over his spine and he hissed "hell" and "damn" before he spun and yanked her against his chest. He only waited a split second ...barely enough time for her to sandbag him or cry "no"...and then he kissed her. Probably the biggest mistake of his life. Next to being born in the first place.

He wanted to kiss her slow and nice and easy...but her mouth was so damned soft and warm and she wasn't pushing him away...no...she was kissing him back, just as wild. He had no clue why...but he wasn't about to stop and ask. He threaded his fingers through her hair, pushing it back from her face so he could taste her jaw, her cheek, her eyelids, before he came back to her lips. She made little whimpering noises deep in her throat, like she wanted this as badly as he did. Like she was starved for it. He kissed her again and again...stolen shots that wouldn't be going on any list.

Any minute now, he was going to snap out of a booze-induced stupor and realize she'd never come out of the dressing room. That this was all a fantasy and what was so soft and curvy under his hands was really the floor and he was gonna be hurting like hell in a few hours.

Courtney Matthews Quartermaine was too good for him. Something fresh. Something pure. Something nobody could touch. Not her loser husband. And not him.

He rubbed his palm, gently, against the side of her face before he pulled away...but she followed him...backing him up against the well. Bottles rattled as they hit the backs of his knees.

"Coleman," she whispered, and the way she said his name was so damn beautiful, so sweet, that it couldn't possibly be sincere.

"We do this...we do this and I ain't *ever* letting you go," he warned.

"Liar," she said.

And, this time, he didn't have the chance to look away before her shirt came off. Or her blue jeans. One snap, one slide of zipper.

All she wore was white.

For a few seconds anyway.



October 4, 2004.

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