Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Scene 47

“Alexis! Stop this foolishness at once!”

Her body stiffened at the renewed sharpness of the voice behind her. She heard him take one step toward her, then another, the hollow tapping of his heels echoing across the open landing. He stopped his movement and Alexis took a deep breath. The thin cotton of her dress was still damp from the hand he’d held pressed to the small of her back, and as it brushed against her skin a chill ran through her within the mid-day heat.

“Honestly, Alexis! What would Stefan say if he could see you behaving in such an insipid and childish manner?”

The unexpected utterance of Stefan’s name lifted her eyes from the tiled ground below her, but her body wouldn’t move.

“My little brother thinks the world of you – I had hoped you would show me why. Can you show me, Alexis? Let me see what it is that Stefan sees - that which convinces him you have the makings of a true Cassadine woman. I would like to believe that it’s true.”

Stavros smiled at the success of his tact as Alexis slowly turned her head to steal a small glimpse of him over her shoulder - he had made her curious. But Alexis couldn’t understand why Stavros would concern himself with her at all. He’d never regarded her with anything but distain since the minute he first laid eyes on her. Stefan had quickly made her his own, and Stavros behaved if he she’d stolen the adoration of his younger brother away from him. The truth was, he’d never had it to begin with. As a boy, he would often watch from a distance as she and Stefan played in the gardens or splashed along the beach. He never joined in when Stefan had asked, but instead glared down at her in a way that promised another stretch of darkness in a small, locked place. But as Stavros had said, they were no longer children. The cruel and lonely boy had gone away to school and this young man had returned in his place…a near stranger to her.

Stavros tilted his body sideways to better fill her view, giving her a small wink before straightening his spine again. “Tell me butterfly – don’t you think yourself deserving of the attention of the heir? Or do you believe yourself to be the wretched, cowardly little peasant my mother always said you were? Who was right about you Alexis, Stefan or Helena?”

Alexis turned away from him as Helena’s cold and heart-stopping image flashed in her mind. She hated Alexis - that much was clear even to the servants. But Helena was NOT right about her. For Stefan to think well of her meant everything, and she would not prove him wrong, not even to Stavros. She was not a coward. Alexis lifted her head high as she turned on her heels to face him, her eyes fixing steadily on his face.

Stavros met and held her gaze. His stare grew hard and intense as he waited for her to weaken and pull her large, dark eyes away from his. But Alexis would not. His failure to intimidate her made his face flush with anger…and his pulse quicken with a primal thrill. He had always been adept at catching her. Now, he would have this butterfly within his net…and she would enter it willingly.

He finally broke a small smile at the defiant look on her young face, and the smile became a full-throated laugh as he allowed his posture to slacken within his mirth. Alexis frowned slightly, confused by his shift in demeanor.

“Ah!” He made a sweeping bow before her, and she took an unsteady step back. “Well done, Alexis! Strength of spirit is an essential quality for a Cassadine woman to possess. I think you are, indeed, worthy of my attention.” He took another step toward her. “I’m sure you understand that it is an honor for the Prince to regard your potential place within the family as being more than that of the lowly Davidovich station which you were born…and from which you were graciously lifted by the Cassadine noblesse oblige.”

He cocked his head and watched her expression as the humbling effect of his words took hold. Alexis slowly, unconsciously, lowered her eyes and bit down on her lip.

“Eyes up!” Stavros clapped his hands together as he barked his order, and Alexis quickly responded. “Very good. Lesson number one: an order from the Prince is to be obeyed.”

He smiled again and moved toward her. His gaze briefly darting to the torn ruffle at the neckline of her dress, the fruits of his recent burst of anger, then back to her wide-eyed face. She always did have the largest eyes. He stopped a few feet in front of her and lifted his arm to hold an upturned palm out to her. Alexis looked down at his hand and furrowed her brow. But soon, her expression changed to surety and she met his eyes once more.

“Is this an order from the Prince, or a request from my cousin?”

Her voice was small and soft, but Stavros was stunned by the boldness of this once-fearful child. Her veiled insolence revealed a mind more quick and clever than he would have suspected. Little brother was right after all.

“The latter.” He kept his outstretched hand aloft as Alexis studied his face, trying to read his morphing expressions. Stavros watched as she raised an unsteady hand upward, but instead of placing it in his hand, as he expected, she nervously pushed the hair from her face. He caught a small wince as her finger hit the reddened mark that his palm had painted across her cheek…more clumsy anger bearing more fruits. He dropped his hovering arm to his side.

“But why should you reach out to me?” He touched the tip of his finger to the place where her teeth had cut into his lip, and Alexis watched him carefully. “I now understand that you didn’t mean to hurt me, just as I didn’t mean to allow my reflexes to get the better of me. But I suppose that would be lesson number two: as a woman behaves, so shall she be treated. Do you understand?”

He moved closer still and Alexis hesitated before nodding. Stavros raised his eyebrows questioningly and tapped at his ear. She smiled shyly. “Yes, I understand.”

“Good. Alexis - I shouldn’t have slapped you, and I apologize.” He took his finger away from the small swelling on his mouth, and Alexis swallowed hard. She really hadn’t meant to do that to him, but the kiss that he’d given her was new and she’s been startled by it.

“I apologize too. It WAS an accident. You…surprised me.”

Stavros tilted his head and looked her up and down with renewed curiosity. “And perhaps I…frightened you as well?”

“Yes.” Alexis looked down at the tiles.

“Even though I told you that there was nothing to be frightened of? That I didn’t want to hurt you, and that I only wanted to make you feel good? Well…”

He turned away and walked to the railing, holding tightly to the top bar of wrought iron. Without another word, he let his torso drop deeply over the bar as he sighed. Alexis took a step toward him, made nervous by his reckless expressions. She knew the rail was sturdy, but Stavros had now assumed for himself the same precarious position that he’d forced her into just minutes before. He was a daredevil, always, and he didn’t know when he was crossing the line - with himself or with others.

“Stavros, please…”

"So the little bit of ugliness is grown into a beauty, and she’s traded her fear of the dark for…what? Fear of affection from the cousin she’s known all her life. Is that the truth, butterfly?”

His words made Alexis feel foolish. She didn’t know what she was afraid of, other than the boy he used to be - the boy who sat outside the small, dark places…laughing and taunting as she screamed herself out of breath.

“Alexis?” His softened voice brought her distracted eyes back to him as he slowly moved away from the railing. As he approached her, his palm upturned once again. “I want to make amends. Stefan spoke the truth – you have the makings of a fine and proper Cassadine woman. My brother has done his part, in teaching and guiding you – now, I want to do my duty toward you as well. Certain things are, after all, the rightful place of the future head of the family. Stefan understands that…do you?”

“Yes.” Alexis lied, afraid to seem ignorant and beneath Stefan’s estimation in his brother’s eyes.

“Good. Then we can start re-acquainting ourselves with one another.” Stavros smiled and wiggled his fingers, entreating her to take his hand. She tried to hold back her innocent confusion as she looked down and slowly placed her hand within his. Stavros stepped up beside her and dropped his arm, their clasped hands giving in to gravity between her left leg and his right as he led her away from the bright colors of the landing that swirled their way down the stairway behind them.

“There are many things I can teach you, butterfly. You’re all grown up now - it’s time for you to learn.”

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

Sonny stirred lightly, his face brushing against the crisp cotton sheeting. His arm pulled into the plump softness of the pillow, curving further around it as a deep breath filled his lungs. He released it with a noisy sigh that awakened his ears and let his lashes to fluttering. As Sonny’s eyes blinked open, still drowsy with sleep, the awareness slowly came to him – it wasn’t Alexis that his arms encircled and held close. He lifted his head and turned, the stiffness in his neck sending a sharp pain through his shoulder.

“Ow...” He released his grip on the pillow and grabbed at his neck, working his fingers tightly into the muscle. Sonny’s eyes drifted up to find her face as a chuckle wafted toward him from the other side of the bed.

“Told ya.”

Sonny followed the voice and squinted at Charlie’s grinning face.

“Huh?”

“You think you’re stiff and sore NOW? If I hadn’t made you at least support yourself with that pillow, THEN you’d be knowing from stiff and sore!”

Sonny rubbed at his face, trying to bring himself back to full consciousness. He pushed the pillow from the edge of the bed and took its place, sitting alongside her. His newly focused eyes took in the fresh sight of her serene face as he touched the tips of his fingers to her lips. The tape was gone, the tube removed from her throat and her warm exhale floated gently over the back of his hand. Sonny smiled broadly as his eyes traveled down the length of her body, now blessedly free of all wires and patches but for the single IV still infusing her with what little nourishment that it could. The room was still, the machines behind her bed having finished their noisy night watch over her.

“It’s over.” Sonny whispered.

“It’s over – as of about five minutes ago. That’s some internal clock you’ve got there. I was just about to wake you.”

“And she’s alright? Everything was okay?”

“She’s perfect, and everything went fine.”

Sonny’s dimples blazed as his fingers drifted from her soft lips to the curve of her jaw. “You hear that, Alexis? You’re perfect.”

Charlie chuckled again. “You know, you might want to be more careful about the kinds of exaltations you whisper in her ear that she could use against you at a later time.”

Sonny glanced up to see Charlie wink at him slyly. “We’re not sure how much people can understand when they’re coming out of anesthesia, and you know how women are – minds like steel traps!”

Sonny laughed. “Tell me about. But that’s okay. I love this woman’s mind.”

“Yeah, right - you love this gorgeous thing for her mind. Go tell it to Gloria Steinhem, ‘cause you ain’t fooling me one little bit, no sir. Charlie knows better!”

Sonny shook his head with a grin. “You’re too much.”

“It’s all a part of my charm.” Charlie reached down and took hold of Alexis’s wrist, checking her pulse. Sonny watched and waited until Charlie laid her hand back down on the bed.

“Good?”

“As Sonny and Cher used to sing – the beat goes on. Hey – Sonny! I don’t suppose you were named after…”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so. Just thought I’d ask.” Charlie ran his fingers down her forearm, tracing the map of puncture marks there.

“Will her arms be scarred?” Sonny was almost afraid to ask if Alexis would be reminded daily, just by the sheer sight of her own body.

Charlie shrugged. “Hard to tell. It all depends on a person’s skin type and individual healing ability. I expect these’ll fade out altogether, in time. Vitamin E is great though – just break open a capsule and rub in on her arms a few times a day. And you might ask Tony if there’s anything prescriptive to minimize scarring.” He looked more closely at the two tiny rips in her skin, frowning. “She pull out the IV?”

Sonny hesitated – he didn’t know why though. For some reason, he purely trusted this man. “Alexis was having these…nightmares. I don’t know what else to call them, but she was kind of half awake and half dreaming. She didn’t know what she was doing.”

“Poor kid.” Charlie shook his head. “What a thing to do to a sweet soul like this.”

Sonny’s head turned sharply toward Charlie, who nodded decisively. “I may not know her, but I can tell.”

“Did Tony tell you that she saved a boy’s life?”

“No, he didn’t.”

Sonny’s eyes moved back to her face, still unmoving as she lay within her deep sleep. His fingers stroked her face, sliding back into her hair in the way that he knew was comforting to her. The bruises on her cheek and throat seemed lighter that they had that night, the colors both fading and transforming. He hoped that by the time Alexis finally caught a glimpse of her own reflection they would be all but gone.

“Charlie?”

“Hmm?”

“W-would herion cause such nightmares…or the kind of altered state that she was in?”

Charlie took a deep breath and sighed. “Sonny, you have to remember that Alexis had an infection and a very high fever. She was severely dehydrated and probably very weak, physically, seeing as how she hadn’t really eaten for a few days. So medically - yes, that combo could have had such an effect. But you should consider yourself – and her – lucky. If you factor in the drugs and the flat-out fear that she must have been going through while being held…she could have just as easily ended up lying in the psych ward as lying here in the ICU - being a wiseacre.”

Sonny’s face questioned.

“Tony’s word. He thinks she’s a hoot.”

Sonny smiled sadly, his hand blazing the same trail, sifting through her hair. The feel of it made him drowsy all over again as the soft layers slipped through and around his fingers like soft baby kisses. Charlie was right - she was very much a sweet soul.

“I think her mind is unearthing some very old things.” Sonny’s voice was a whisper, as if to give the words breath was to give their content strength. “Tell me Charlie – will they sink back underground, now that it’s almost over…or should I be prepared?”

Charlie looked down at her and sighed again. “I was a boy scout. You know the motto.”

Sonny nodded. “That’s what I thought.”

“Alexis should see someone anyway – it’s always recommended after detox. I’d strongly advise that you make her do it.”

Sonny smiled wryly. “MAKE her? Oh, would you get an earful if Alexis could hear you say that! Making her isn’t going to happen. Convincing her…well, what’s life without a challenge or two?” Sonny tilted his head, the continuing stillness of her body suddenly making him concerned. “When is she going to wake up?”

Charlie looked at his watch. “She could start to come around in as little as twenty minutes, or it could be twice that. Everybody has their own level of tolerance for this kind of anesthesia. And everyone comes out of it a little differently, so don’t let how she may be alarm you. Patients will wake up disoriented, confused, angry – it can be a strangely emotional experience for them. You ever been under?”

Sonny paused. “Yeah. I had surgery, a few months ago. I woke up out this really vivid dream…” The vision he’d had of Lily and his unborn children was clear as day – it always would be. “I thought I had died.”

“Then I guess I don’t have to explain it to you.”

“No.”

“Okay then. Why don’t you go get yourself some coffee? You look like you could use it.”

Sonny shook his head. “No, I’m not leaving her. I don’t want her to wake up and I’m not…”

“Sonny, trust me – she won’t wake up for at least another fifteen minutes, and this is a medical fact. Go on. There’s a machine just past the nurses station, so you’ll be back in five.”

Sonny looked at his watch and stifled a yawn. “Yeah, okay.” He stretched his limbs as he rose from his perch, then leaned own near her face. “Alexis, I’ll be right back. I’m going to go torture my palate with some of that nasty hospital coffee. Now don’t you wake up until I get back, okay?”

He pulled his hand away from her and stiffly made his way to the door. As he opened it and stepped outside, he heard Charlie’s voice following after him.

“Black, one sugar for me thanks!”

Sonny grinned. “You got it!”

The sight of Johnny’s empty chair was a shock – he’d almost forgotten that he wouldn’t be there. He thought it sweet, how he’d protested leaving. Sonny couldn’t have made it through all this if it hadn’t been for Johnny. He was a Godsend, and Sonny would have to make sure that he knew it. He checked his watch and made a mental note to call him when Alexis was fully awake…or maybe an hour or two later. He wanted Johnny well rested, as he deserved to be.

Sonny trudged his way down the hallway, a second yawn breaking through unsuppressed, and it stopped him in his tracks. He spied the coffee machine and fished in his pocket for change. He was anxious and the jingling of his coins fueled it. It couldn’t come too soon that Alexis would open her eyes and all he would see in them was her – no hurt, no fear…just Alexis. He smiled in anticipation and listened to the tinny sound of his quarters tripping down the slot, soon exchanged for a paper cup sliding into the holder and a steady stream of dark liquid pouring into it. In spite of himself, Sonny was enticed by the smell of it and he breathed in deep.

As he waited for the second cup to fill, he turned his head and leaned it into the cold façade of glass, his eyes drifting across the nurse’s station and finding the unexpected sight of Ashton. He was sleeping, stretched out on the small sofa in the lounge. His legs were too long for the makeshift bed and they hung over the edge with his feet nearly touching the floor. The way that he lay, half twisted on his side, Sonny knew that Ned’s back would be feeling it the same as Sonny’s neck.

Ashton was not giving up. A wave of empathy came over him as he stared at the visage of rumpled, worn down, love-damaged fortitude. Sonny knew the man’s heart had been hurt by what Alexis had done, but he just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way enough to keep it all from blowing up in his own face. Ashton hadn’t learned, five wives and countless other women later, how to read his lovers. He should have known how Alexis really felt – he should have seen it. She was doing the wedding for him, not herself, because it was what he wanted. He was so blinded by bliss that he couldn’t see Alexis was falling right in front of his eyes. Sonny saw it…but it wasn’t his place to speak.

Without even thinking, Sonny’s legs carried him toward his eyes’ focus. He stopped at the head of the sofa, then leaned down to set his own cup of black coffee on the table beside it. As he began his path back to her room, Sonny heard a groan and the rustling of fabric. He turned to see Ned’s face in a pained grimace as he tried to roust himself into an upright position. He squinted at Sonny against the harsh lights, blinking rapidly.

“What’s going on? Is Alexis…”

“Fine. Alexis is fine. The detox went well – it’s all over and we’re just waiting for her to come out of the anesthesia.”

Ned rubbed at his bloodshot eyes. “How long will it take her to wake up?”

His face has an expression of pleading that made Sonny look away. “Half hour, hour maybe. But she’s fine and I wanted you to know. Drink your coffee Ashton – you look like hell.”

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

Charlie checked her pulse again – still going strong. “So…you saved someone’s life, huh?” He turned his head toward the door. “He sure does seem proud of you…among other things. Your Mr. Corinthos must be one lucky man.”

One lucky man…

The voice floated deep within her head. Her heart went still, the words ripe with promise. Sorel’s face crystallized in her mind, grinning smugly, knowing he’d gotten to her. His simple mention of Ned’s name was terrifying.

“Your Mr. Ashton is a very lucky man…”

Sorel would hurt anyone. She wouldn’t let him. She’d keep him safe and sound…she’d do anything Sorel wanted.

Charlie could sense that she was trying to break through. Her breathing had suddenly quickened and he thought he saw a tremor in her hand. Just as Sonny walked through the door, Charlie called her name.

“Alexis? Are you wanting to wake up?”

Sonny set Charlie’s coffee down on the table and sat on the bed. “What’s she doing?”

“Her breathing’s changed. I think she’s trying.” He tickled the palm of her hand to elicit a reflex response and stimulate her brain. “Come on Alexis, it’s time to wake up.”

Her hand twitched, her fingers moving inward toward his as they brushed her palm.

“Atta girl! Come on now, you can do it.”

He ran his hand along the inside of her arm, seeking new ground for her nervous system’s response. Sonny sat up straight as he saw another twitch, this time in her shoulder. Charlie glanced over at him.

“Feel free to jump in any time.”

Sonny nodded, his hand lightly touching down on her arm in a mimic of Charlie’s lead. “Honey, open your eyes for me. Alexis, it’s Sonny.” He felt a slight movement beneath his fingers and he smiled. “I know you’re in there…come on Alexis – wake up. Please? I know how much you like it when I say ‘please’.”

Sonny couldn’t help teasing her when given the opportunity, even if she couldn’t really appreciate it. But as he leaned in closer to her and moved his hand to her face, he saw a glint in the corner of her eye. He touched his finger there and it was met with a thin, wet stream that traveled down her temple to the pillow beneath her head. As he moved his hand up through her hair, a small, strangled sound came from deep within her throat and a crease formed across her brow.

“Alexis, it’s okay.” He remembered Charlie’s warning of how she might be. “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay to wake up now. Alexis, please open your eyes.”

Sonny felt his own eyes begin to fill as Alexis’s chest suddenly heaved and another, deeply embedded sound hit his ears. He looked to Charlie for assurance.

“Maybe we should leave her alone? Maybe she’s not ready to wake up and all we’re doing is scaring her?”

“No. She’s ready.” Charlie slid his hand underneath her head and turned it toward him. His voice was strong and insistent. “Alexis! It’s time to wake up. Come on, sleeping beauty, don’t make us wait all day now!”

Her body lightly convulsed once more, and a fresh stream of tears flowed from under her closed lids. Her head began to move against Charlie’s hand and a quiver set forth in her chin.

“Here we go…” Charlie was prepared.

Sonny was not. “Don’t, honey. Please, Alexis, don’t cry.” He pulled her hand up to his face and kissed her palm before wrapping his fingers around hers.

“She’s okay Sonny. Don’t be afraid of it.”

Alexis groaned and squeezed her eyelids tightly shut as the sound of her dry, shallow breathing filled the quiet room. Her hand began to wriggle within Sonny’s grasp. He laid it back down onto the bed and ran his fingers across her wrist.

“Don’t…” Her rough, ragged voice barely carried. She turned her head away from the feel of Charlie’s hand and he withdrew it. As she tried to swallow, her face tightened and her neck arched. “Ow…”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Alexis, your throat is going to be kind of raw right now, but it’ll feel better soon.” Charlie met Sonny’s frightened eyes. “Five hours of a tube down your throat and you’re going to be a little sore.”

Her limp hand wandered up to her throat and the tears spilled down her face, a choking sob wracking her body.

“Oh God…” Sonny whispered to himself, feeling as helpless as he felt sick to his stomach. This was supposed to be over for her and he felt cheated at the illusion he’d created and held onto out of need. But Charlie’s voice was smooth and calm – the voice of reason and experience.

“Let her come through this however she is. Just respond. You’re doing fine.”

Sonny took a deep breath and sighed. He was now hesitant to touch her and deepen her distress. “Shh, it’s okay. You’re safe, Alexis. I’m here, and Charlie’s here…and we’re both waiting for you.”

Her fingers found the diamond and as they wrapped around it she swallowed again with a grimace, trying to speak through the waves of emotion within her.

“Don’t…hurt him. Please…”

“Nobody’s hurt, Alexis. You’re fine – everybody’s fine.”

Sonny’s reassurance went unheard as Alexis still fought against her thrashed voice and the burning dryness in her throat. “Please. I…I’ll do anything…”

As Sonny wiped the wetness from her face, the touch of his hand sent her eyes struggling to open. “Shh - come on, you can do it. Open your eyes.”

The convulsions in her chest began to slow as his familiar voice began to register in her head. She turned toward the sound of it as her lids fluttered halfway open. The vision of his face was blurred through the watery sting that filled her eyes, and her mind was still swirled in confusion. She loosened her hold on the necklace, her hand shaking as her fingers allowed the diamond to drop back against her neck. Alexis closed her eyes once more and a fresh wave overtook her.

“What, honey? What’s wrong?”

“H-he's hurt.”

“Who?”

“He hurt him…”

“Who, Alexis? Who’s hurt?”

“N-Ned. H-he hurt him.” She pushed her hand against her face as she turned away from him, tears rolling down her face and flirting with her hair.

“No! No, Alexis, Ned’s fine! Nobody’s hurt him.”

“He wasn’t safe…I tried…”

“Alexis listen to me! Ned IS safe – he’s just fine. Nobody has hurt him, I swear it.”

“I’m sorry. I tried…” She would not be consoled. The dream world held possession of her reality and it wouldn’t let go. As her body shook with her mind’s fear and grief, Sonny felt as if a knife had been twisted into his side. He would make it go away. Charlie’s head turned in surprise as Sonny abruptly bolted through the doorway.

“Ashton! NED!”

Ned’s head snapped to attention, his eyes frozen wide as they followed the shouting of his name. Before he could tell his tired body what to do, it had already taken him to her door. Sonny held his palms up to Ned’s chest, wanting to allay the fright he knew he’d caused.

“She’s fine...but she’s waking up and her mind is telling her that you’re hurt, somehow. She won’t believe that you’re not, so I think she needs to see for herself that you’re okay.”

Ned craned his neck to look over Sonny’s shoulder.

“Just be calm with her.”

Ned nodded, and Sonny stepped aside. Charlie watched in curious silence as Ned approached the bed and gazed down at Alexis’s tear-streaked face and shaking body with the same kind of pain that lived in Sonny’s eyes.

“Alexis?” Ned’s voice was soft as he sat in Sonny’s empty place. “Sweetheart? It’s me. It’s Ned.” He lightly touched her face, the sudden feel of it stirring the recognition of his voice. She held her next breath, waiting to hear it again…waiting to see if it was real.

“Can you hear me? Alexis, it’s Ned. I’m here, and I’m fine.”

He touched her again, more boldly, but careful to avoid the fading purple bruise on her cheek. He didn’t want to hurt her. Alexis slowly released her breath and turned her face, the flow of her tears finally halting.

“I’m not hurt, sweetheart. Just missing you like crazy.” He laughed lightly, nervously, and the sound of it opened her eyes to him. She stared through the haziness has he gently brushed the salty wetness from her face, smiling at her for all he was worth. She swallowed, her breathing slowing back down as her hand moved once more to her throat.

“N-not hurt?”

“No, not hurt.”

“You’re safe?”

“I’m safe. And so are you.”

He watched her heavy lids drop back down as her body squirmed beneath the covers. He wasn’t sure how much she understood right then, but as her fingers pressed his diamond against her skin, he was sure that Alexis knew he was there. She sighed contentedly and her hand slowly slid away from her neck, her arm falling limp across her chest. Ned looked to Charlie with concern.

“She’s asleep.” Charlie looked to Sonny, who stood rigid and expressionless in the open doorway. “We’ll move her out of the ICU now and into a regular room.” He looked to Ned, then back to Sonny. It was none of his business, and they could figure it out themselves.

“I can only allow one of you to stay with her, for now. Sorry.”

Ned sighed as he looked down at her flushed, damp face. He knew what was right…for now. He softly took her head in his hands and pressed a kiss to her forehead. As he lifted his face, he whispered to her.

“I love you, Alexis. Don’t ever forget that.”

He closed his eyes and pulled himself away from her, then turned to face Sonny.

“Thank you.”

Ned stared as Sonny with a weary face. “It’s not your place to thank me for giving Alexis what she needs. Just as it’s not my place to thank you for making sure she got what she needed.”

Sonny shrugged. Ned dropped his head and gazed down at his hands, still damp from her. He pressed them against his own face to bath himself in her. Smiling, Ned turned back to look at her one last time.

“She still loves me – I know she does.”

Sonny’s eyes lifted from the ground and drifted back into the room. The knife twisted in his side once again, and the knife was his own. He could feel her slipping through his fingers. Sonny was losing her - though he'd never really had her to begin with.

It was just an illusion he’d created and held onto out of need.