Title: "The Winter Palace"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: PG, LoCa/SoCa-ish, AU.
Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own them.
Summary: What if things were just a little bit different with the men vying for Carly's heart? An experimental idea that just popped into my head and had to be written.

It's a stand-off. Dark eyes meeting darker eyes...each daring the other to flinch, to blink, to look away.

"Aren't you going to tell me to stay away from your wife?" Mocking words, an arrogant shrug of shoulders, the hint of a dimpled smile.

A shrug. So casual that only she can sense the tightness beneath it. "Why should I? Carly makes her own decisions."

"And what if she decides to see me?" Challenge. Confidence. From her spot behind the wall, it still feels as close as when he held her captive... as when he stared at her across the table and made her feel vulnerable and so, so, naked.

Her husband leans close to him...as if he's about to share a joke... "She can 'see' you all she likes...but if you touch her...?"

"What?" The flash of dimples again. "You'll kill me? You think you have that much power?"

Fingers brushing the back of a stubbled jaw. She knows that touch. So gentle. He strokes her belly with those same two fingers when he bends his head and whispers 'good night' to their baby. "It's not about power..." he assures, quietly, as he traces a line across the other man's throat. "It's about love. I love my wife. I trust her. Who I don't trust is *you*."

Hands slightly darker than her husband's grab and yank away the threat...and a pulse doesn't even beat in his cheek to betray his concern. "You don't get it...she's mine now. It's just a matter of time before she comes to me."

"You're wrong, Sonny." She says it before she even realizes it, steps out onto the Pier before she realizes that, too. And she links her arm around her husband's, pulling herself close to his side. "I will *never* be yours."

Sonny Corinthos simply stares at her, with his icy black eyes, and it's like she hasn't even spoken at all. No, he just gazes at her mouth... at the line of her neck and lower... and she remembers how he asked her, over a hand of poker, if she enjoyed being a rich man's whore.

She shivers. She would be a rich man's whore if she went to him.

That much, she knows.

"Carly? Are you all right?" The warmth in her husband's eyes is enough to ward off the chill. "Cold?"

She shakes her head, tilting her head up and meeting his smile. The smile he reserves only for her and sometimes his students. "Take me home, Lorenzo. Just...take me home."

"No need," Sonny assures with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I'll go. I got other unfinished business tonight...but you'll be hearing from me."

And without a backward glance at her...*or* the man he was just locking stares with, he fades into the night.

Lorenzo laughs, softly, and it's like he has already forgotten the encounter, too. Something she'll never quite understand about the life he left behind but still can't escape. "So, how long were you listening?" he wonders.

"How long were *you* out here talking to him?" she shoots back, socking him in the side with a loose fist.

"I was simply strolling back from the university," he defends, indicating the leather briefcase on the park bench just a few feet away, "And Mr. Corinthos wanted to discuss our mutual interests."

"What? The Treaty of Ghent?" She snorts, rubbing her belly and soothing their daughter...who is only slightly worse than she is at staying calm. She envisions a little girl with her father's rich dark hair and love of old things and her own temper. "You were talking about me. *Again*."

He turns her, draws her into his arms, and her head fits perfectly beneath his chin. She always feels so safe when he holds her...except when he's exasperating. And running into people from his brother's business. "I will always be grateful," he reminds, "that Sonny Corinthos got you medical attention."

"I...I won't." She closes her eyes as he kisses her forehead. She still remembers how Corinthos threatened the doctor. *I'll rip you in half, you son of a bitch...I'll let you bleed to death slowly...* He didn't think she understood Spanish. He didn't think she would know he asked the doctor to save her at all costs. To save her...and let her child die. Because he needed her that badly...

"Carly?" Lorenzo half-shrugs out of his coat, pulling it around the both of them. The *three* of them. "What is it...?"

"He's a handsome man." It's automatic to say it. Because it's true. Sonny Corinthos is the kind of good-looking that would've made her forget Tony Jones and Jason and everything she once came to Port Charles for. But... "He's broken, Lorenzo. He's broken and frozen inside and I...I don't understand what he wants from me."

"Don't you?" Lorenzo laughs again. "Was I a history professor when you met me, Mrs. Alcazar? Hmmm?"


He was broken, too.

It took her years to glue his pieces together.

Even now, they don't quite fit. Like the leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jackets and the glasses that he sometimes wears to bed when he's grading papers... they sit crooked on the bridge of his nose.

"You were a good man, Lorenzo," she reminds.

Sitting in the darkness, mourning a woman she never knew and burning textbooks...ripping the pages from the spine and crumpling them. Cursing his brother, Luis, for involving him in drugs and weapons and persistent death.

"You were a better woman," he counters.

"Mmmm...no..." She was a single mother with a chip on her shoulder that weighed a ton. She lays her palm against his cheek as she leans up on her toes to kiss him. "I fixed you...you fixed me...we're even."

"We're even...maybe just a little uneven," he agrees, quietly. "And any cracks are not wide enough for that man to exploit."

"But you'd still kill him...?" she asks, only half-serious.

His lips quirk, knowingly. "I'd lecture him to death. The Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks."

She laughs, finally, the tension draining. "I *so* don't envy him that."

"I don't envy him at all." He brushes light kisses across her cheekbones, the tip of her nose, her jawline, and finally her lips. "Because I have everything I could possibly want."

"So do I," she sighs, winding her arms around his neck.

"Do you?" he wonders, absently, mouth trailing down her throat.

Cold eyes stripping her bare.

Goosebumps running up and down her arms.

*"I want her. Don't you get it, Doctor? I want her and if you don't save her, you're dead."*

Every once in a while... every once in a while, even a wife wants to be a whore.

But she won't be Sonny's.



Not in this life.

"I love you, Lorenzo. I love you so damn much, you hear?"

"I hear, Carly. I hear, and I listen."





She wakes up gasping and he reaches for her in the warm cocoon of their bed, pulling her back against his chest and whispering soothing things that she can't decipher until the fog lifts.

"It's just a dream, Carly...just a dream," he assures, as he has with every nightmare that has jerked her from peace over the last several weeks. "It's not happening. You're with me. Home. Where you belong. Whatever it was... was just a dream."

Only this time...this time, for some reason...the tender assurance only serves to make her uneasy. Sad. Heavy inside, as if she's about to cry.

*Just a dream*.


"What is it, Baby?"

"N-nothing. Nothing, just go back to sleep."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure."

Not in this life.

*Not* in this life.


September 3, 2003.

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