"Are you sure this is where you want to go?"
"Because wherever you want to go, you name it and I'll take you there."
"I DID - and YOU did."
Sonny sighed and cast his eyes up to the large, monosyllabic sign above the door, worried that Alexis was only asking for more grief. Alexis gently nudged him in the ribs, and he turned to find a knowing smile on her face.
"I can handle him just fine." She assured him.
"I've been handling him for years."
He stole a look at Johnny, who helplessly shrugged in response. Alexis frowned.
"No fair ganging up."
Sonny slipped one arm around her waist and turned her to face him.
"Honey, this is your first night out."
His other arm snaked around her, encircling her within his full embrace and pulling her close.
"And it's OUR first night out together. So I thought..."
Sonny blinked in confusion. "What?"
Alexis tilted her head and played with the edge of her pink cashmere scarf.
"This isn't our first night out together. Our first was a walk in the park on a crisp, clear, beautiful night."
Sonny grinned wide, remembering. "That was a beautiful night. But it paled in comparison to you."
She glanced at Johnny over her shoulder. "There he goes with the blarney again."
"Nothing in the world is more beautiful to me than you are, Alexis."
Sonny nuzzled the side of her neck, making Alexis scrunch her shoulders.
He gazed into her eyes with a wistful smile.
"That night in the park was like a sweet kind of torture. I got to walk alone with you, gazing at your face in the twilight, holding your hand, and listening to you tell me your thoughts and feelings. That couldn't have been sweeter. But having to hide what I felt for you was torture. Tonight, I don't have to hide."
Alexis released the pink fringe and took his face between her hands. She pressed her lips to his, kissing him fully, intensely.
"Neither do I." She whispered.
Johnny's face began to heat up. He bowed his head and began counting the tiny leaves scattered on the walkway, feeling quite the third wheel now that Sonny and Alexis had both come out of hiding. What a difference a day made!
"That's what I meant when I said this was our first night out together. It's our first night out as US." Sonny murmured between kisses. "So I just thought you might want to go somewhere a little...nicer."
Alexis let her forehead come to rest against his.
"I wanted to go somewhere familiar. Somewhere comfortable. And for whatever reason, in spite of the unfortunate name above the door...I'm comfortable here."
Sonny brushed his nose against her before kissing her again.
"Besides, there's a dart inside with my name on it."
"Well then." Sonny pulled back. "Johnny, you heard the woman."
"Huh?" Johnny looked up. "Oh. Right."
He quickly moved to the big wooden door and pushed it open, allowing the soulful, smoky sound of John Lee Hooker to wash over them. As Sonny ushered Alexis in ahead of him, Johnny mumbled in his ear.
"I'll bet there's a song in there with her name on it too."
"Oh that goes without saying, my friend."
"Hey." Alexis grabbed Sonny's arm and pulled him into the club. "Get in here."
"Okay, okay! Pushy broad."
Her jaw dropped as she took in a sharp breath, eyes widening like saucers. Johnny quietly shook his head.
"I'm kidding!" Sonny laughed. "Honey, I'm just kidding."
He planted a kiss on her cheek. Alexis took the opportunity to swat his behind. He took that as an invitation to grab HERS - albeit discretely.
"I'll just...be over at the bar." Johnny muttered, scratching at his blushing face.
Alexis began unbuttoning her coat. As he helped her slip her arms free, Sonny glanced around the room. He was pleased to find it wasn't a particularly busy night - not that he expected it to be crowded at 8 o'clock on a weeknight.
"Hey Claude!" Johnny yelled as he claimed a barstool. "You got customers and we're thirsty."
"Claude ain't here!" Luke's voice yelled out. "So help yourself."
Johnny shrugged, leaned over to grab a glass from behind the bar, and began filling it with beer from the tap.
"Works for me."
As Sonny hung her coat on the rack by the front door, it was Alexis's turn to peruse the room.
"Looks like we're early enough to get our pick of tables."
"How about one by the fireplace?"
"I knew you'd say that."
He kissed her quickly, before she could protest again. She gave his bottom lip a light nip.
"Lead on, MacSmartyPants."
Sonny took her by the hand just as Luke clumsily lumbered in through the open storeroom door, holding a large cardboard box that obscured his view. He craned his neck, looking for a place to unload.
"Where the hell's the bar?"
As Johnny got up to help him with his load, Luke found what he was looking for. The box was dropped down onto the wood with a loud thunk.
"Whew! Who knew bags of pork rinds could be so heavy?"
"I see the Iron Man competitors still have nothing to worry about." Alexis quipped.
Luke's face broke out in a big, cheesy grin as he caught sight of her.
"Natasha, Natasha!" He shoved the box of pork rinds out of the way. "You here to let down your long hair?"
He reached out to flip the ends of her hair. His hand was summarily blocked by Sonny's.
"Look, but don't touch, Spencer."
Luke's brow creased. "Buzz-kill."
He leaned his elbows on the bar and gave his head a jerk Sonny's way.
"What are you doin' with a buzz-kill, baby? A hot little number like you, Cassadine though you may be, oughtta hook herself up to a live wire - a buzz-maker!"
"I'm not here to buzz, Luke."
Sonny frowned as Alexis slipped from the circle of his arm and sidled up to the bar. Her eyes twinkling, she laid her folded her arms on the edge of the smooth, sticky wood. Luke smiled and set his chin into the palm of his hand.
"Then what are you here to do darlin', cause you know I aim to please. And I got damn good aim if I do say so myself."
Luke gave her a lasciviously arched brow. Sonny crossed his arms, disgruntled. But Alexis just grinned up at Luke with a sly tilt of her head.
"Well, I'm here to dance."
"I got the trappings. Just save a space on your card for me, twinkle-toes."
"And maybe have a drink or two."
"Vodka - chilled. Do I know my Russian Princess or what?"
Sonny bristled, sighing loudly. Johnny gave him a sideways glance while Alexis continued to play.
Alexis's gaze shifted toward the dance floor, and then slowly lifted and settled above the fireplace. Luke's eyes followed hers. He smiled when they found the painting of Helena, and nodded approvingly.
"Play a little Pin the Tail on the Trollop?"
Alexis grinned wide.
Luke slapped his palm flat on the bar and let out a loud whoop. Alexis vaguely flinched. Both men noticed. Their eyes briefly met as Sonny protectively moved up close behind Alexis.
"Welcome back, baby." Luke murmured with a wink. "I've missed ya."
Sonny came up behind her and ran his hand over her hair in an intimate gesture meant to send a message.
"Would you lighten up, Corinthos?" Luke scoffed, turning toward the small refrigerator behind him. "I ain't trying to steal your woman."
"As if you could." Sonny retorted.
"Excuse me, but I happen to be my OWN woman, thank you very much."
Sonny smiled. Alexis could be adorably predictable.
"And I happen to like my own kneecaps." Luke raised an icy bottle of Stoli Sonny's way. "Thank YOU very much."
Alexis slowly turned to Sonny's smiling face with a reproaching frown.
"What did you do?"
Sonny's eyebrows rose in innocence. "What?"
"What did you do - or threaten to do?"
Luke chuckled to himself as he poured the vodka into four shot glasses, all neatly lined up along the bar. Alexis spun back around.
"What did he do?"
Luke shrugged. "Same thing I would have done if someone was getting all up in my woman's face and giving her grief she didn't need."
Alexis's mouth opened, but she said nothing. Sonny scratched at his face, giving Luke a bit of a dirty look. When Alexis caught him, his expression morphed into one of guilt.
"Oh, you lighten up too, Natasha." Luke lectured. "And revel in the knowledge that nobody's ever gonna mess with you again while THIS one's walking two steps ahead of you with bared fangs, flexed muscles and a chamber of lead in his pocket."
Alexis stared, her mouth going dry as Luke set the first filled glass down in front of her. She finally blinked, and then lowered her gaze to the second glass being handed to Sonny. She swallowed as the third shot of vodka slid across the bar, toward Johnny. As Luke picked up the last small glass, Alexis found her voice.
Luke's hand halted mid-air. He looked down into her face and could tell that she knew he wasn't talking about Helena. And he wasn't going to insult her by pretending that he was.
"Look, Tash, there's no need to get your legal briefs all in a bunch. Your personal business isn't even a hint of a grape on the Port Chuck vine, if that's what you're thinking."
"How do you know what I'm thinking? How do you know...?"
Alexis felt Sonny's hand on her back. She turned her eyes to his and he looked into them deeply while giving her a small shake of his head.
"Alexis, I swear to you..."
"Me neither." Johnny narrowed his eyes at Luke.
"Hey, this is Luke Spencer you're talking' about here." Luke defended. "I find out all kinds of things that ain't nobody had to TELL me."
Sonny moved in closer to the bar, giving Luke a loaded stare.
"You'd be wise to mind your own business where Alexis's business is concerned."
"Sonny." Alexis laid a hand on his arm. "I said, I can handle..."
"You're wasting your threats, former partner o' mine." Luke interrupted. "Your wom...attorney and I already had a little tête-à-tête about my respect for her business, and she knows she's got nothing to worry her pretty little chestnut head about."
Luke quickly tossed back his shot, eyes staying fixed on Alexis.
"Isn't that right, counselor?"
As Alexis looked up at him in confusion, he gazed back at her with a rare solemn expression. She suddenly realized what he was talking about - the verbal knockdown they'd had at her apartment earlier that week. He'd pushed her hard, demanding answers about Helena's whereabouts that she just didn't have, assuming it was Helena who'd hurt her. She'd pushed back harder, throwing his long ago threats back in his face.
Luke was horrified to know that Alexis had taken those threats to heart. She'd believed that he'd put her head on Helena's chopping block by revealing her true identity if it furthered his own agenda. Luke swore that he would never have done it. She wanted to believe him, but couldn't get the lingering doubt out of her mind. He was a Spencer...and she was a Cassadine.
His voice, intoning the same name that everyone but Luke called her, brought her focus back to the present - back to his solemn eyes.
"I ain't telling nobody nothing. You know that, right?"
Alexis sighed lightly. "What I know is that your grammar is atrocious."
"So's your taste in men."
Luke volleyed back, eyes quickly shifting Sonny's way. And then he gave a begrudging nod of his head.
"But this one loves fierce, and you deserve that. So grab it."
She reached back and cupped her hand against Sonny's head. "I already did."
Sonny smiled and firmed his arm around her waist, pulling her closer against his chest.
"Good." Luke grinned. "Now are you people gonna drink those Stoli's or what? They're on the house - and that's something you ain't gonna hear outta me ever again so I suggest you take me up on it while you can."
Luke raised his glass.
"Here's to good aim and good women!" He downed his shot and then plopped a handful of darts down in front of Alexis. "Now lemme see somethin' fierce from YOU, darlin'!"
Alexis bit her lip and turned to Sonny, who lifted his glass to her.
"To something fierce, from the BEST woman."
She picked up her shot glass and eyed it warily.
"Maybe I should throw first, then drink? I don't want to hurt somebody."
"I say you drink first, then throw, then drink some more." Luke quipped. "Then you won't care if you hurt somebody."
Alexis shrugged and quickly downed her shot. Sonny did the same, and then leaned in to plant a kiss full on her lips.
"Go get her, spud."
She grabbed up the darts. "I will."
"I'll just be back here with Johnny - well out of the line of fire."
He kissed her again just as her mouth began to open in protest. And then he pulled back with a wink.
"Bawk." Alexis teased.
Sonny broke into a wide grin. "You know it."
With a toss of her head, she turned on her heels and headed toward the wall bearing Helena's portrait. Luke scurried out from behind the bar in hot pursuit of her, a gleeful expression on his face.
"Now, you wanna keep your eye on the prize. Keep the target directly in your focus."
"I don't need you to coach me, Luke."
"And don't get too close or it's just gonna bounce off."
"Would you leave her alone and let her throw?" Sonny barked.
Luke's eyebrow arched. "What's your rush? The quicker she throws, the quicker you get her on the dance floor so you can cop an acceptable public feel?"
Sonny slipped off his barstool, but Johnny laid a hand his shoulder to stop him.
"Don't take the bait, boss. You'll spend all night pulling his hooks outta your mouth."
"Well said, Johnny." Alexis tossed over her shoulder. "Now will you all simmer down and let me have my fun, please?"
Luke took a few steps back and eyeballed her shapely rear view with unabashed appreciation.
"Your fun is MY fun, darlin'."
Sonny crossed his arms and gave Luke an unseen dirty look as Alexis let fly with her first dart. Luke winced at where it hit.
"Well that's one landing point the old bat would have appreciated, had your ex-husband been the one to nail her there."
Alexis turned to him with a deeply creased brow.
"You're so disgusting."
He cocked his head and batted his eyelashes with a flourish. "It's why you love me."
"Like a hangover."
"Aim a little higher this time, baby." Luke critiqued as she turned her attention back to her target. "Make her cry instead of beg for more."
"If you don't shut up and let me do this MY way, I'm gonna aim a little lower and make YOU cry."
Luke grinned. "You aim lower, I'll cry AND beg for more."
Alexis rolled her eyes.
"That's it..." Sonny muttered under his breath.
"Don't, boss." Again, Johnny quietly stopped him. "Like Alexis said, it's familiar."
Alexis launched a second dart at Helena's image...and then a third and fourth in quick succession.
"Hey!" She turned excitedly. "Look what I hit - three times."
All three men squinted at the target.
"Bulls-eye!" Luke pointed at the three darts sticking straight out of Helena's face. "Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!"
He raised his palm in the air.
"Well done, Natasha."
"Thank you." She returned his high-five with a smile.
"See?" Johnny whispered in Sonny's ear.
Alexis handed Luke rest of her ammo and headed toward Sonny and Johnny with a proud, satisfied smile. Sonny slipped off his perch and welcomed her into his arms with an equally proud face.
"Very impressive. Where'd you learn how to throw darts like that?"
She kissed him lightly, with a mischievous arch of her brow.
"Oh, I have all kinds of hidden gifts."
"I don't doubt that." He kissed her back, not so lightly. "And I can't wait to unwrap every last one of them."
Luke snorted. "Get a room!"
Alexis's cheeks turned pink, which made Johnny shake his head with a smile. The blush was finally on the other cheek. It was sweet to see, in more ways than one.
"For now, a table will do just fine." Alexis
"Table...chair...floor...chandelier...whatever floats your boat."
Alexis sighed heavily. Sonny opened his mouth to give Luke what-for, but Alexis quickly grabbed him by the hand.
"Ignore him. It's the one sure way to make him mad."
She pulled him across the room to a choice table by the fireplace, right alongside the small dance floor. Luke wandered back toward the bar, grabbed the bottle of Stoli and raised his empty shot glass to Johnny.
"Ain't love grand?"
"Yeah, it is. So would ya stop pushing Sonny's buttons so Alexis can just relax and have a good time tonight? If you really DO know certain things, you know she needs it."
Luke eyed Sonny and Alexis, where the two sat holding hands across the table like a couple of shameless teenagers, oblivious to the existence of anything and anyone around them. The way they looked at each in the flickering glow of a single candle, other put a sharp pang into Luke's stomach. He knew the feelings that stirred such a look. Sometimes it felt like only yesterday that he and Laura were newly in love, gazing at each other with every feeling laid bare to each other and the world.
He poured himself another shot and downed it quickly, needing to dull the pain of seeing his own lost joy in someone else's eyes. Yeah - Alexis deserved fierce love. So did Laura. But he sure as hell didn't, and neither did Sonny. They weren't good enough for the women who were foolish enough to love them back. And Luke hoped Alexis wouldn't pay as heavy a price for her foolishness that his angel had paid for hers. He rubbed at his nose, vodka bottle still in hand.
"I got some work to do. Help yourself to whatever you want, my man. I'm putting you on the honor system."
Luke frowned with a sudden thought.
"Hey. You ain't driving, are you?"
"Two's my limit - and I'm gonna eat."
"Good, 'cause I don't wanna get sued."
His eyes avoided the table by the fireplace as he headed for the office, where he could be alone to drown in the bittersweet memories of his past and grieve for the unmade memories of a future that wasn't meant to be. But at the threshold of the doorway, he heard Alexis laugh above the cry of a blues guitar. He couldn't help but stop...and turn...and smile sadly.
Luke lifted his gaze to the painted image of Helena's former beauty, now dart-riddled, and then back to the table where two faces glowed with love laid bare. He scratched at his unshaven face. The old bat had lost a lifetime of rounds where the bastard stepdaughter was concerned. And Joseph Sorel was totally down for count. Little Natasha was one hell of a survivor. Luke shook his head, muttering to himself as he made his slow way back to the bar.
No Cassadine was gonna make a Spencer look defeated in comparison. Not even the cuddly one.