Title: "You Choose A Life"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: PG-13, LoCa-ish, AU-ish.
Disclaimer: Nope. They are not mine. Not in any timeline.
Summary: This is another experimental story. And it isn't as CarLo-heavy as you might think, lol.

Lorenzo Alcazar is a man who prefers to remain in the background. Whenever possible, he lets others get their hands dirty while he watches from the shadows.

*Be my eyes, Enzito...please...just this once*.

There are only a few times in his life where the use of his childhood nickname have spurred him to act on his brother's behalf...and the end results have been disastrous.

He still has scars from the whipping he took when they were twelve because Luis broke a neighbor's prize mare. Literally. Two million American dollars gone with one bullet when she was put down. And, of course...there was Sophie. Whom he lost. Because "I need you, Enzito" had seemed more important than "I love you, Lorenzo. Come with me."

Knowing that, Lorenzo should never have agreed to come to Port Charles, New York.

*Go there...tell me if they miss her...tell me if she has a life to return to.*

Brenda. Brenda. Brenda. His brother thinks of nothing else but that spoiled, petulant, little girl who spends most of her time in a drugged out haze, coming out of it only to scream like a wildcat in his bed.

Lorenzo has grown bored of their antics at the compound...of shipments and figures and the efficient handling of Luis's many enemies...so this almost, almost, feels like a vacation. This inconsequential little burg in northeastern New York state...so small, so unassuming...and yet so ridiculously important.

He left the dossiers in his fourteenth floor suite at the aptly, and unimaginatively, named Port Charles Hotel, but it does not matter. He has always had a head for facts, figures, dates. Only this is his brother's war, not Waterloo. Sonny Corinthos. Jasper Jacks. Brenda's ex-lovers. He will find them. He will watch them. He will take copious notes. And then he will spend a very long weekend in Florence, drinking fine Italian wine and contemplating his favorite works of art.

He asked the concierge for a recommendation on local nightspots... summarily dismissed the police commissioner's failing restaurant and a local blues club--having little to no tolerance for that particular genre of American music...and now he has found himself at the newest "It" spot in town. Club 101, a vibrant party in the middle of an industrial warehouse district. "It's owned by Carly...*Corinthos*," the older gentleman had whispered, lingering on the last name as if it were scandal.

"Corinthos?" he'd murmured, feigning alarm. Even an international businessman has heard the name, the reputation, of the man who not only controls the shipping rights on most of the Eastern seaboard, but several interests in Miami and Puerto Rico as well.

"Not to worry...she and her husband are...*divorcing*. I read it in the society column of 'the Herald', Sir." This, too, in a stage whisper. "Club 101 is a safe establishment, fully endorsed by the staff of the Port Charles Hotel and one of our most generous guests, Mister Jasper Jacks."

Well, with a rousing endorsement like that...and the accompanying gossip...how could he not take advantage? Perhaps he can be in Florence even sooner than expected.

The tequila is imported, expensive, and perfectly flavored. Just sharp enough. The bartender knew better than to ask if he wanted a salt shaker...simply placing cut lime on a bar napkin and returning to patrons demanding artful uses of Curacao and Midori. That, in itself, speaks of Carly Corinthos's business savvy. Quality liquor and efficient employees are a combination that must be demanded, not simply assumed.

He has not seen the subjects of his research expedition...nor the woman of the hour.

*See for me.*

So far, he has seen nothing save young women in tiny blouses and impossibly tight jeans and boys barely old enough to shave who have somehow slipped past the massive man checking identification at the door. Raucous laughter echoes above the strains of music...radiating from a slip of a girl in the center of the crush...a diminutive blond in a pencil-thin silk skirt and a scooped-neck blouse.

His eyes return to her periodically as he sips at his tequila and bides his time. She is bathed in a faint sheen of sweat that translates to a glow beneath the lights and when she turns her head towards the bar, he notes that her eyes are dark and old...impossibly wise for her years. Sophie had eyes like that. Eyes that were closed far...far...too quickly.

"Carly!" The bartender shouts, suddenly, over the grinding rock soundtrack. "Carly...phone!", pointing a tiny cell phone caught against his palm.

Lorenzo is startled when it is the girl...the shining girl...who mimes "Who?" as she comes off the dance floor. trying to catch her breath. Club 101's illustrious, scandalous, owner... here all along.

"It's your son. He can't sleep," the bartender says, amused.

"Thanks, Kenny," she says, wryly, in a woman's voice. Low, modulated, wry, as she flips open the silver phone. "Michael? Yes, it's Mommy...Honey, I'll be home soon...what? No, no, I'm not going to sing to you right now. Do you want Mommy to scare everybody at her club?"

Her side of the conversation filters to him from her automatic cleared spot at the bar just a few feet away...and he shakes his head, laughing, softly. He didn't expect to be surprised at all tonight. Much less intrigued.

And he hopes little Michael is nothing like his brother...or he'll have his mother singing an entire collection of lullabies in public.

"You have school tomorrow, Baby. Sleep and I'll kiss you goodnight when I get in."

She hangs up, the victor, sliding the cell phone into a section of her skirt instead of returning it to behind the bar. A smart choice. But his note of the act is perhaps not so smart...

"What're you staring at?" she snaps, the gentle tone of a doting mother replaced by brass, suspicion as she notices him. Her eyes flicker over his suit, perhaps checking the quality, and the cut of his hair. He has always worn it just a little longer than fashion...and his beard has grown out to cover his entire jaw. At first glance, he looks threatening, unapproachable...not someone whose attention anyone would want to invite.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs, instantly, averting his eyes even as the smile tugs at the corners of his lips. "I just...you don't look old enough to have a boy in school."

"I was twenty when he was born. He's six now." She says it defiantly, hands on her hips, daring him to condemn her even as her body unconsciously moves back into the rhythm of the dance she just left.

"Forgive my rudeness. I didn't mean to intrude," he assures, quietly.

"But you meant to stare," she accuses, settling into the empty seat beside him.

The response is easy. Perhaps the easiest thing he has said in years. "Because you're very beautiful." And the most honest.

The ring on the fourth finger of her left hand is turned inward so the stone does not show, and she twists it as she weighs his compliment. First one way. Then the other. Will she say she is married? This, too, is intriguing.

"Thanks." She chooses "thanks" instead. "Mister...?"

"Lorenzo." He politely offers her his hand. "You can call me Lorenzo."

"Carly." A firm shake. Held just a few seconds too long. "You can call me Carly."

"Can I call you tomorrow?"

And his brother's war is suddenly the last thing on his mind.

***

But, of course, that's not how it happened.

That's not how they met.

***

Lorenzo Alcazar is a man who wants, simply, to teach. To share. He gets the utmost joy from the simple act of explaining a treaty or a war to a rapt group of listeners.

Sadly, this particular group is anything but rapt.

"All right, class...the average grades on these tests I'm about to return...? Poor. This was a VERY poor showing. Highest grade was a B-...lowest was the lowest possible F...Ms. Benson, I would appreciate it if you could see me after class to discuss why you're *in* Western Civ if you insist on writing grocery lists on your answer sheets."

The part-time student has been the bane of his existence since the beginning of the term. A smart-mouthed blonde who always has something to say... and little to contribute in terms of historical discussion. "Hey...isn't it *rude* to announce somebody's test grade in class?" she wonders, crossing her legs and leaning forward.

"Isn't it *rude* to file your nails while sitting in the front row, Ms. Benson?" he counters, acidly. "The cosmetology college is across town. This is Port Charles University and I expect *all* of my students to get an education."

Her eyes glitter. "You can give me an education any time you want, Professor Alcazar." Her mouth, too. Soft and promising.

The other students burst into laughter...but her eyes...oh, her eyes are so serious. Serious... and something more.

"After. Class," he grinds out, turning away from the taunting expanse of her bare legs...the saucy tilt of her head. Back to the blackboard. To the Medicis.

"After class," she echoes, softly, with challenge in her voice.

***

But that's not how it happened either.

Definitely not.

***

Lorenzo Alcazar was an international businessman. Above all, he valued the game, leverage, and wise decisions made with a cool head.

Then, a door slid open and there was a woman chained to the wall in a tiny cinderblock room.

She stared up at him...frightened...and then needy...and then gorgeously furious.

And he left her there.

***

That's how it happened.

"And that's why...why I can't love you," she whispers, fingers lingering on his cheek. "Not the way you want me to."

He catches her...holds her for an instant. Just a few seconds too long. "I know."

And then he lets her go. Back to her husband. Back to her sons. Back to her life.

Because, above all, Lorenzo Alcazar is a man of his word.

--end--

October 1, 2003.



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