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Scene 43

“I won’t leave you again…”

The words resonated in her head. She’d only half believed Johnny’s insistence that Sonny would come back at all…and yet there he was.

“Alexis? Can you hear me?” He took a small step closer to the bed.

She shifted her legs and nodded. Sonny could feel her hesitance, but he didn’t know its origin. He moved a step closer.

“Good, because I mean it. Not that I’m looking to be tested - because Lord knows you certainly DO test me sometimes - but I’m not leaving. Not even if you start hurling large objects and screaming four-letter words that would make a sailor blush.”

Her dimples began to etch into her cheeks as Alexis tried to turn her head toward his voice. Sonny quickly moved to her side, pulling the chair up close. The strange noise he’d heard before held steady in the air, but he pushed it from his mind. He was focused on Alexis’s face, waiting for her to welcome him back. She finally, slowly, blinked her eyes open and found his warm and open face smiling down on her. Her dimples deepened even more at the sight of him.

“I’m hardly capable of hurling anything BUT four-letter words. But that isn’t my style, so you can consider yourself safe.” She looked at him warily. “Sonny? What made you come back?”

Sonny didn’t answer – he was already elsewhere, allowing his gaze to venture away from her serious eyes and wander across her face. The faint stain of recent tears still lingered on her bruised, flushed cheek and he wanted to wash them away. The sight of them had taken the smile from his face and replaced it with an infinite sadness. Malloy’s description was still fresh in his mind - the image of her silently crying against the hulking man’s chest, her hot tears soaking through his shirt and rendering him human once again. Sonny knew she must have held them back so many times before finally letting them fall.

As Sonny’s distant eyes lay fixed on her face, Alexis grew more nervous under his study. She thought the pain in him was her doing and she wanted to make amends.

“I know that I hurt you before. I’m sorry.” There was no response. “Sonny? I was awful to you. Why did you come back?”

Sonny was brought back to life by the sense of something beginning to shift in her face, and he stiffened in anticipation.

“Ow…” Alexis groaned, her body tightening. Her bangs had already begun to cling to her forehead, and Sonny had to hold himself back from touching her. As the sudden pain dissipated, Alexis unburdened her mind to Sonny while she still had the energy.

“I didn’t mean it, Sonny. I’m sorry.”

“Shh…”

“I’m sorry…”

“Alexis, don’t.” Sonny finally moved his hand to her face, but she pulled away at the feel of it.

“No, please, listen to me. I don’t know…I don’t…” Her eyes squeezed shut and she swallowed hard.

“What? You don’t know what?” Sonny moved in closer, trying to ease her struggle to be heard. The faint noise that echoed in the room still tugged at his attention and he forced himself to ignore it.

“I don’t know what I’m doing. You and Tony are just trying to help me, I know that. I want to let you…but it’s hard.” She shivered and bit her lip.

“I know.” Sonny whispered.

“I know I’ve been dreaming without realizing it and waking up without knowing it. Even now, I feel like I’m in a dream but I just can’t make myself wake up. It’s just surreal.” Her frustration was palpable, and he fumbled for something to just make her smile.

“I think that surreal thing must be contagious.” He frowned and craned his neck, searching behind the bed. “Because they’ve either put you on some kind of new fangled invisible monitor, or there’s a waterless rainstorm in here.”

Alexis smiled.

“What is that sound?”

“That is the sound of my life…WAS the sound of my life - back when my life made sense. It’s on the floor somewhere. Ned brought it to me from home. Could you turn it off please?”

Sonny found it and did as she asked.

“I don’t think I want to associate it with this place - or this feeling. I’d rather keep it pure. Could you take it back home for me?”

Sonny was studying the strange, round contraption in his hands. “Sure. Did Ned bother you?”

Alexis shook her head. “No, he didn’t bother me.”

Sonny saw the wheels of her mind turning, but her legs pulled up in response to a new wave of cramping that took her breath away. Alexis covered her face with her hand, as if trying to hide herself from him. She looked so drained, yet still determined, and Sonny knew he’d need to do something drastic to get her consent.

“Sonny?” Alexis regained her breath. “When I asked you before if you knew what was wrong with me, I know that you only lied to protect me. But if you know why Sorel did this, I don’t want your protection from it. Even if the reason only makes sense to Sorel, I at least need to know what he was thinking.”

Sonny faltered. He wanted to tell her why - to unburden her. But he would only be laying down another burden in its place.

“Alexis, you know why.” He tried to shift her attention. “And Zander did really well today, did I tell you that? He sends his love and he wants to see you as soon as you’re up to…”

“Sonny.” Alexis stared at him. He wasn’t fooling OR distracting her, not by a long shot. “Sorel wanted to get out from under a death penalty murder charge, so he took me to trade for the star witness against him. THAT makes sense…the other thing doesn’t. What else was going on that I don’t understand? Why would he go to such lengths and assume such a risk by…what did Sorel have to gain in doing what he did to me?”

Alexis couldn’t say the word and Sonny knew it. His face was set hard as he listened to her asking for the truth – another awful truth that she deserved to know and was his duty to tell her. His eyes began to sting as they filled, his shame swimming inside of them. He looked up at her and in the smallest voice he owned, Sonny gave her what she needed.

“What Sorel had to gain was me…in shreds. And he got it.”

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Ned loitered in front of Tony’s closed office door, pacing back and forth.

Though there were no more secrets for him to discover - the source of his ill-gotten information was a weight upon his conscience and the hallway felt like a much safer place to be. He’d waited longer than he expected to. Fifteen minutes had become thirty, and his paranoia was telling him that this was a bad thing. He would die if he’d caused her harm once again.

He sighed heavily and closed his eyes. The sound machine was a mistake. Alexis could feel he was pressuring her…or it could make her think of things that would now hurt to remember. She might not know what to make of his gesture at all and would simply be confused by its message. Why was he always making mistakes with her? Why couldn’t he just leave well enough alone…why couldn’t he make himself leave HER alone?

“Damn…” Ned cursed himself quietly as he turned to the wall and leaned his palms against it, dropping his head in frustration. He knew why he couldn’t leave her alone. Buried beneath his selfish want, there lingered the fear that Alexis might believe his heart had truly closed to her. Sonny had been right - in the wake of trouble, Ned’s behavior had taught her to expect first his embrace, and then his dismissal. He wanted that to stop. He wanted her to know that he was there for her, for real and for always…if it wasn’t already too late.

The sound of footsteps tapping their way toward him lifted his head. Ned was almost afraid to turn his eyes toward the sound, dreading the possible sight of the paper bag in Tony’s hands. Rejection. The footsteps stopped behind him and Ned pulled his hands from the wall. He turned slowly, his demeanor properly contrite as he faced an empty-handed Tony. Ned’s eyes widened, questioning.

“Tropical storm hits General Hospital’s intensive care unit. Film at eleven.”

Ned stared at Tony’s softening face, then burst into a tempered laughter. Tony’s expression scolded him.

“You’re still in trouble, Ned, so don’t be all that pleased with yourself.”

“No, I’m not. I was just worried that she might…I don’t know. I’m just grateful that she accepted this – what, peace offering? I don’t know what to call it. So does this mean that she forgives me for that I did? What did she say? How did she act when you gave it to her?”

Tony closed his eyes and sighed at the barrage of questions hitting his dead-tired brain. “Ned…this has been a really long and really crummy day. Take it down a notch, will you?”

“Sorry.”

“And you’ll get no answers from me until I get some from you. First and foremost: how the HELL did you find out that Sorel had been shooting Alexis up with heroin?”

--------------------------------------------------

“I don’t understand. Sonny, what do you mean?”

Alexis reached a trembling hand out to Sonny, but he pulled away from her. He folded his hands formally in his lap, as if he were about to give sworn testimony in a court of law. This would do it. This, if anything, would take her out of his life for good, and he would have no way to defend himself against the impossible loss. He couldn’t look at her as he spoke, keeping his eyes on his clasped hands instead. This was all about hubris and the kind of sick, visceral vendetta that she couldn’t even fathom.

“Alexis, Sorel did this to you for the sole purpose of getting to me. He had you, he was threatening you, and he knew that in the end, I would choose you if it came down to it.”

Alexis frowned. “He told me that…he said you’d choose me.”

Sonny shook his head. “But what he really wanted – what he’s always wanted - was to tear me apart, and he used you to do it. He hurt you in this terrible way because he knew how it would hurt me to see it and God help me, he got what he wanted.”

“You didn’t do this, Sonny.”

“It was because of me.”

“No. I made choices….”

“And you chose to sacrifice yourself! You shouldn’t have had to make such a choice, but you did because of me. This battle with Sorel was MINE, not yours. It should have been me.”

Alexis shuddered with both her own pain and with Sonny’s. “You can’t possibly thin that I would blame you…for any of this?”

Sonny raised his eyebrows and cocked his head.

“Well that’s just insulting, Sonny. Don’t you know me better than that?”

He did. But his guilt was simply uncontainable and it sought a second home in her. Alexis watched Sonny’s face grow red. She’d seen him own the sins of the world before, but she refused to be one of them.

“Don’t you dare use me as an excuse to torture yourself, because that’s simply unacceptable. So you understand me?”

Sonny slowly raised his head but kept his eyes cast down. He wanted to answer her, to look at her – a sharp cry of pain fro her made him jump. He instinctively grabbed her hand and she tightly wrapped her fingers around his as she counted down the seconds until it was over. He saw her body begin to relax, but her hand still held firmly onto his. Her chin quivered as she tried to re-focus through the stars flashing before her closed lids. Finally, she had her voice back.

“Why do you insist upon demonizing yourself? Don’t other people do that to you enough already?”

Sonny placed his left hand upon hers, cupping it in both of his, holding her within his warmth until the tension in her hand released. He smoothed her fingers out flat and lowered his face down to them, laying his face to her soft palm. He closed his eyes as he felt her fingertips brush against his skin.

“I mean it Sonny. I don’t want your guilt.” Alexis whispered softly, and Sonny sighed. His wet, smoldering eyes opened, lifting up to meet hers and locking into them in a way they’d never dared before.

“Do you have any idea…how much you matter to me?” His words barely breezed through his lips. The ache she caused in him had left him breathless.

Alexis stared back, paralyzed. The intensity of his gaze was hypnotic and they held silent with each other, connecting in a way that needs no words. She felt as if she were drugged again – dizzy, falling through space. She could hear nothing but her own breathing and the sound of it suddenly became too much. She held her breath and pulled her eyes from his, closing them tight as she shivered.

“You saved my life – twice. Even risking your own to do so. And I daresay you’d do it again.” Alexis bit her lip and shifted, still feeling the heat of his eyes on her face.

“That does tell me a little something.”

It didn’t tell her nearly enough. But Sonny simply smiled and held it all inside. If she didn’t yet know what she stirred in him, then it was for the best. But her eyes left him with a hint of doubt…he thought that they’d spoken to him too.

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Ned frowned as he entered Tony’s office. He was not looking forward to this. Tony automatically headed for his desk but stopped himself. He shook his head, then turned back and moved toward the couch.

“I’ve got to get horizontal before I end up that way NOT of my own accord.” He plopped himself down and stretched out, settling into the couch with a tired sigh. He looked up at Ned, still standing in the middle of the room as if he didn’t know what to do with himself.

“So – please tell me that you didn’t break into the hospital computer system to look at Alexis’s file.”

Ned glanced at the computer, sitting innocently atop the desk, then sat in the chair facing Tony. “I didn’t.”

Tony narrowed his eyes. “Then are you saying that Monica or Alan did it for you, because I don’t see how you could have come up with the truth any other way.”

“No – no, neither Monica not Alan had anything to do with it. In fact, Monica told me point blank to leave Alexis alone and let her come to me.”

“But nooo…” Tony shook his head mockingly.

“Okay, I’m scum! I admit it! Now do you want to hear what happened or not?”

Tony folded his arms across his chest. He was ready to listen.

Ned slouched back in his chair. “I almost – ALMOST – broke into her file. But I didn’t. I had come in here looking for you, to beg you to throw me some kind of bone. You weren’t here, but you were already logged on to the system.”

Tony closed his eyes, angry with himself for being so careless.

“I stood staring at the screen for what seemed like hours, wrestling with myself. I chose to respect it. I didn’t want that kind of betrayal between me and Alexis – not now or ever. But even though I’d decided to walk away, I couldn’t help but read what was on that screen. You know my family’s history Tony. Do you think an article on addiction – ANY addiction – wouldn’t get my attention?”

“And then you walked in on Alexis in an altered state, saw the fresh track marks on her arm…”

“And I knew. Talk about a rug being pulled out from under you.”

“Yeah.” Tony sighed. “Tell her about it.”

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As Sonny bathed in the feel of her hand, still held gently against his face, Alexis suddenly took in a quick, surprised breath.

“What?” Sonny was alarmed, but Alexis laughed lightly as her fingers curved into him.

“You shaved!” Her laughter grew.

Sonny smiled wide. “You asked me to shave, I shaved.”

“Wow. I guess I really do rate, huh?” Alexis’s teasing was bittersweet. Her laughter took him away from the real world for one brief moment, and he melted at the sound of it. But Sonny soon felt her hand begin to stiffen against his cheek…and then, her body jolted as if she’d been kicked in the stomach.

“Ow! Oh God…” Her arms pulled in against her abdomen and she turned her face into the pillow, trying to muffle her cries. Her poor, frail body was wracked with shaking and Sonny could see that the air was frozen still within her lungs. He couldn’t take it any more.

“Alexis, you have got to stop this, and I mean now!” He watched as her head rolled back slightly and her muscles went limp. He leaned in closer.

“Alexis?”

She had been rendered unconscious, and Sonny now truly understood why Johnny was so frantic - this couldn’t be the first time the pain had overwhelmed her to the point of passing out. Sonny waited, hovering. He took advantage of her relief and pushed the damp hair from her eyes, his hand lingering. She felt so warm again. As he moved to sit beside her on the bed, Alexis stirred at the downward tilt of the mattress beneath his weight. She turned her head against its growing heaviness.

Sonny smoothed the blanket up over her, taking care to leave her arms free. “Honey, can you hear me?”

“Hmm?”

“Can you hear me? Open your eyes Alexis. I need to talk to you.” His voice was commanding, but the heavy feeling in her head was settling throughout her whole body and she didn’t want to move. The slightest movement might set off another wave of something she was too tired to fight yet again. Her refusal to obey him sent his fingers back to her face and it sent a dreaded chill through her center. Sonny felt it and lifted his hand briefly.

“Alexis, please. Open your eyes and look at me.” His tone strengthened as he set his hand back down on her again.

“Don’t.” Alexis turned her head away, breaking the unwanted contact.

Everything was intensified. A light touch on her skin was suddenly feeling like fire. Her eyes finally struggled their way open and found Sonny’s solemn stare. He looked hurt, and she knew she had caused it. She hadn’t wanted to pull away from him again, but she couldn’t help it.

“It’s not you. Everything is…too much. It hurts.”

Sonny’s jaw clenched, knowing it was time for him to take this to a new and serious level. He gathered all his fortitude. Sighing loudly, he abruptly pushed himself up off the bed, the springs squeaking at the force of it. He took a few steps away, then turned back to her with a hard and angry face.

“I think you’re a hypocrite! You tell me not to torture myself – you ORDER me to not use you to do it, and yet here you are doing the same damn thing. WHY?”

Her mouth went dry at Sonny’s sudden outburst. She answered in a small whisper. “You know why, Sonny.”

“No, I don’t!” His voice rose sharply and it made her flinch. “You’re afraid of what might happen to you while you’re asleep? Please! What are you going to do, Alexis? Force yourself to stay awake for the rest of your life, because I really don’t think that’s humanly possible.”

Alexis closed her eyes and turned her head away from him. Sonny moved in and slammed his hand down on the bedrail, jarring her eyes back open.

“Don’t DO that! Don’t ignore me, Alexis. I won’t be ignored and I’m NOT going away!”

Alexis shrank down into the bed. The fire in Sonny’s eyes, the sudden explosion of his anger was like Sorel’s…she could almost feel the strong hand clamping around her neck once more.

“P-please…don’t y-yell at me…” Her voice faltered as the air stuck inside her tightening throat.

Sonny moved in close to her, his eyes boring into hers with all that he had…and Sonny yelled.

“Then stop being a coward! Show me an Alexis Davis that I can recognize!”

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As Ned stared at the floor, Tony thought of the woman who lay suffering, but embracing her pain as if it were a life jacket.

He’d felt in his gut that she was likely to shut down in the wake of such trauma, but leave it to Alexis to surprise him. She would go against the tide and seek refuge in a way that defied all common sense…this most uncommon woman. The few silent tears he’d seen her shed had come purely from the pain in her heart, not her body, as she listened to the comforting sound of the rain Ned had brought to her.

“Tony?”

Tony opened his eyes.

“What about the heroin? I did some reading in Monica’s medical books and I also did some searching on the Internet. Is it really possible for Alexis to be addicted after so little time?”

“Ned – she IS addicted.”

Ned swallowed hard. He rose and began to pace again. “So, Sorel made her a heroin addict. And this was what, her punishment for being too damn good a lawyer? For getting Zander Smith’s murder charge shifted to Sorel instead?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay…okay. I can’t think about that right now anyway. She’s free of him, he’s in jail, and she’ll be okay.” Ned stopped his pacing as a thought struck him. “She’s been free of him for almost a day and a half. Wouldn't she be starting to withdraw yet?”

“Oh yeah.”

“What are you doing about it? Are you giving her methadone?”

“No.”

“Well…I read something about this assisted detox thing…”

“We’re not doing that either.”

Ned stared at Tony, who lay with his eyes glued to the ceiling.

“Okay, well, I didn’t get to do all that much research on it. What did I miss? What ARE you doing for her?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? What do you mean ‘nothing’?”

Tony swung his legs over the side of the couch and sat himself back upright. “Ned, Alexis has chosen to go through the withdrawal process naturally and without assistance, except for the most basic of medical care.”

Ned smiled nervously. “Excuse me?”

“No methadone, no rapid detox. Her choice.”

“And you’re going to let her do that?”

“I can’t NOT let her.”

“So I assume that the withdrawal is less severe for her than if she was a regular…addict?”

“She IS a regular addict. And it’s the same for her. She’s hurting pretty bad right now, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.”

“And she knows this?”

“Yes”

Ned felt the blood drain from his face. The thought of Alexis in such pain and nobody doing anything about it was unacceptable.

Ned’s smile grew into incredulous laughter. “Okay, clearly you’re not explaining it to her as well as you should be, or else Alexis is NOT in her right mind!”

“Ned…”

“Maybe that high fever of hers did something to her sensibilities? Maybe she's just not well enough to make this decision? Why would she CHOOSE to go through this if she didn’t have to?”

“The fever is gone and she's fine in that respect. Alexis has her reasons, and she has the right to refuse treatment.”

“Not if she’s compromised, and I don't believe that she's not! You don’t have to stand by and let her suffer. You can do something about it if you want to, Tony. You can get a court order if you have to! You can force her to…”

“I will not force Alexis to do ANYTHING!” Tony was on his feet and in Ned’s face. “My God, Ned! She’s had enough taken away from her already. I will NOT rob her of what little she has left!”

He turned away and angrily strode to his desk. It suddenly struck him as an amazing thing that even in her tenuous condition, Alexis still had the instinctual clarity to immediately push away the two men who would seek to take control of her – her brother and Ned. Pure self-preservation. The only one she knew who'd let her be was Sonny…and Sonny did just that.

Ned hung his head. “You’re right. You’re right.” His voice was soft and defeated. “She hates being told what do to – and she’d fight you like nobody’s business anyway. And win.”

“You got THAT right.” Tony turned back around and sat in his swivel chair, releasing a deeply held breath. He frowned at the computer monitor and curtly snapped it off.

“Alexis has already been pushed, and it was too much too soon. Unfortunately, time is not on our side here. But I made it clear to her that I’m backing off and that any treatment is her decision.”

Ned shifted. “What about Sonny? Do you think he might use some of his new-found exclusive influence over her for good instead of evil?”

Tony hesitated. “I really can’t say. Alexis wasn’t too pleased with either one of us earlier today. We made our peace, she and I, but she asked Sony to leave and I haven’t seen him since.”

Ned’s eyes widened. The gleam in them sang of pure hope. “Sonny’s out? I KNEW it! I knew she’d wake up and see him for what he is.” He touched his hand to his forehead. “That’s right…I didn’t see that Johnny guy in front of her door when I was waiting for you down the hall.”

“Johnny was in the room with Alexis. After Sonny left, he stayed with her.”

“What does that mean? Is Sonny keeping her guarded from Sorel’s people, or is he guarding her from me?”

“If Alexis wants to see you, you’ll know. She’s already allowed Stefan in, so my feeling is that it’s just a matter of time for you too. Neither Sonny nor Johnny would keep you away from her if she wanted you.”

Ned raised a doubtful eyebrow.

“They wouldn’t. I know you hate hearing this, but they’ve been astonishingly devoted to her and would do anything to help her heal. Even if that was you.”

Ned didn’t want to hear of Sonny’s devotion to the woman he loved. But he knew he should probably be thankful that Alexis allowed SOMEONE to support her. It just hurt that it wasn't him. God, he hated this. He hated Corinthos.

“If Alexis does want to see me and I somehow miss the message - accidentally on purpose – you’ll make sure I know?”

“Absolutely.”

“Because I’m still planning to hang around here just in case, but I promise I’ll keep my distance. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that she’ll change her mind and accept treatment.'' He hesitated. ''Maybe Stefan could…”

“Alexis has to do what she has to do, and she’s not going to bend to anybody else’s will. She’s had to do enough of that and she’s not going to do it any more. But in a way, that’s a good thing. She’s being the Alexis Davis that I know.”

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Alexis froze.

Sonny’s words had stunned her, his sudden rage sending her heart racing with panic. She felt disoriented, as if she were having another horrible dream. She blinked hard, trying to wake herself up.

Sonny had never seen such a look on her face and to have put it there himself made him ill. But he held to his purpose, his face firm and his eyes intent as he stared her down. Even is she hated him all over again, he had to make her consent. He watched the color drain from her face as her eyes filled with confusion. She wasn’t breathing.

“I…I’m n-not a coward. I can d-do this…” She struggled to force the words from her mouth, but couldn’t hear herself speak through the sound of the blood pounding in her ears.

“That’s a crock! You DON’T have to!”

“I’m n-not…not weak.”

“And you think that this is STRENGTH?”

She inhaled sharply against a cramp. “I can do this…”

Sonny was unrelenting, hitting the bed rail once more. “WHY?”

Alexis flinched again, her hand nervously scratching at her arm. “I AM strong.”

Sonny’s eyes followed her hand’s movement as her fingernails assaulted her already beleaguered arm. His legs began to tremble at the emotional assault he’d just unleashed on her himself, fearing it had only served to make things worse. He felt his legs begin to give way and he wrapped his hands around the bed rail, abruptly dropping to his knees on the floor beside her.

“W-what are you doing?”

Sonny turned his face upward as his hands tightened their grip on the cold metal. His eyes were so close to hers…they were so full of fear. His chin now quivered and he whispered to her as gentle as a breeze.

“I’m showing you what I know to be strength. The kind it takes to get down on your knees and beg for what you know in your heart and soul to be right.”

“Sonny don’t…”

“The kind it takes to look a woman in the eye and beg her not to make you watch her suffer, because your powerlessness to stop it is abject and terrifying.”

Her eyes began to well in kind with his. “Please…get up.”

“The kind it takes to not give a damn what you look like or what anybody else thinks because you would do anything – ANYTHING - to prove how much she means to you and to make her believe that you’ll keep her safe at all cost.”

Sonny’s eyes were brimming and he didn’t care. “The kind it takes to feel, and be truthful…and to let go. Please, Alexis…please let go.”

The flood of emotion in Sonny’s face beckoned her, and she tentatively reached out to him. The first faint touch of her hand sent the spring falling down his flushed cheeks and onto her fingertips. Sonny held his eyes to hers, waiting.

“I want to.” She whispered back. “I’m still afraid.”

“I know you are. Do it anyway. THAT is strength, and that is the Alexis I know.”

She pulled her hand back from his face and studied the glistening tears that she carried away from him. The wetness sparkled like stars against her skin and she was transfixed. A quick shudder ran through her and she groaned. Sonny lowered his eyes and tilted his head. He was sure he had failed.

“No matter what you decide to do, I’ll be here - if you want me. That I promise.”

Once again, his soulful eyes rose to claim hers, and Alexis felt herself sinking under their pull. She wanted to let go…but she didn’t think she could stop, once she began. But he promised.

“I meant what I said, Sonny.”

Sonny furrowed his brow. “What?”

Her words faltered and her chin quivered like fury. “If you l-let them tie me again…that’s it…between us. I don’t care if I try to s-set myself on fire in my sleep. You got that?” She frowned at him and bit her lip, and looked all of eight years old.

“Yeah, I got it - loud and clear. If you set a fire, I’ll…get the marshmallows.”

His dimples danced at her as Alexis hugged her arms against her chest and tried not to smile back. She didn’t want to encourage his making fun of her, but she could never help herself. He did it too well. But she still had something important to say and she needed him to hear her.

“Sonny?”

He rested his chin on the edge of the bed as he smiled up at her. “Alexis?”

This time, it was Alexis locking her dark, wet, solemn eyes into his.

“You matter to me too.”