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Scene 55

The sun was full and its warmth washed lovingly over her face. It felt good – it was a gift from God and she welcomed it. The hands were soft and they spread the warmth further, deeper. It tingled and rolled inside of her and it all became confused - pleasure, fear, hands, whispers, heat, safety…threat. No! The sharp pain hit her body and she was spiraling down in a swirl of hot colors.

Alexis’ eyes flew open in a panic, the bright lights flooding into them. Her body was still filled with heat and her heart raced like fury, the adrenaline coursing through her veins and feeling all too much like Sorel’s drugs had felt. Alexis stared at the white coat draped on the body standing quietly beside her. She blinked hard and fast, trying to slow her breathing down and convince herself that she wasn’t still dreaming.

“I’m sorry Alexis. I didn’t want to wake you.”

Question answered – she wasn’t dreaming. She swallowed and closed her eyes for a long moment, needing to get her bearings before forcing them back open. The voice above her was soft and warm and she knew the sound. It was comforting to her.

“You didn’t. I was just having one of those…falling dreams.”

“I hate those. Did you land?”

She nodded as her eyes drifted across the room. “Is Sonny here yet?”

“Nope. It’s just you and me. Are you okay? You look flushed.”

Her throat was dry and she found it hard to speak. “It’s hot.”

He pressed a hand to her forehead, mindful of the injury there. His hand felt cool against the warmth that had spread through her, and her eyes reflexively closed in response.

“I used to have falling dreams all the time when I was in med school, but I only landed during exams. You don’t have a fever. Is your heart racing?”

She nodded again and his hand moved away from her forehead and reached for her wrist.

“I’m fine, Tony. It’s slowing down some.”

He was silent, his face concentrated as his fingers studied her pulse. “Stefan told me about that fall you took when you were a child. You fell down a flight of stairs?”

“Apparently.”

“Were you dreaming about that?”

Alexis squirmed and Tony released her wrist. She didn’t answer.

“Do you think you were remembering something?”

“No.” Her tone was abrupt. “I don’t remember and I seriously doubt that I will after all these years.” She bit her lip and her eyes rose up to his face in contrition. “I didn’t mean to snap.”

“I didn’t mean to touch a sore spot.”

She shifted her weight with a slight groan, forgetful of the residual tenderness around her spine. “Speaking of sore spots, when is my back going to stop being one?”

“Bruising is tricky. It can look bad and hardly bother you at all, it can be minor but hurt a lot if it’s near a nerve, or if it’s very deep you may not even see it but you’ll still feel it.”

“Is that your way of saying ‘Damned if I know’?”

“Pretty much.”

She smiled. “Fair enough.” Alexis suddenly felt a slight tug against her arm and she looked down at the IV. The tube was moving and her ears were quickly met with the rustling sound of Tony’s coat as it brushed against the edge of her bed. Her head snapped up to catch his hands moving away from the IV bag.

“What are you doing?”

“Just checking it.” Tony looked down at her solemn face as her eyes traveled back down the length of the tube and settled back on her taped arm

“I thought you’d come to take it out. I’ve been eating as best as I can. I have witnesses.”

“I know – you’re been doing great. As a matter of fact, you’ll be unencumbered as soon as you’re on empty.”

She looked at him in vague disbelief. “Tonight?”

Tony nodded and smiled wide, pleased to be able to finally tell her something she wanted to hear. “Tonight. I’d say another couple of hours.”

Alexis flashed her dimples and sighed loudly, rubbing her bleary eyes with the heels of her hands. “I don’t suppose I can push my luck and get you to drop-kick me…”

“Don’t even think about finishing that sentence, missy! You’re being released tomorrow, end of discussion. Geez - give her an inch!”

Alexis shrugged and gave him an innocent expression. “You can’t blame a girl for trying.”

Tony crossed his arms and straightened his spine to loom tall over her. Her face turned sheepish.

“Well, maybe YOU can.”

“You are a handful, you know that?”

“I’ve been told.”

Tony cleared his throat and bent his knees to lower himself down. He leaned against the rail of the bed and looked at her in all seriousness.

“Alexis, will you do me a favor and just rest for the next twelve, fifteen hours? I know it must be a relief for you to finally feel like yourself again, but you are still recovering and you really do need to sleep because that’s when your body does it’s best healing. I mean it Alexis - I don’t want you to push it.”

“I’m not, Tony.”

He frowned. “The floor nurse tells me that it was like Grand Central Station in here today.”

“Just Ned…and Stefan.”

“You mean, just Sonny and Johnny AND Ned and Stefan – in addition to Taggert. And allowing THAT was against my better judgement.”

“Taggert had a job to do.”

“I really don’t care. And if I’d have known how many people were going to be traipsing through that door I’d have put a restriction on your visitors.”

Alexis smiled and pushed herself upright. “I really don’t think I’m any worse for wear.”

“Excuse me, but what are you doing? I say rest and you’re sitting yourself up instead?”

She shrugged her shoulders and bit her lip. “Ornery, aren’t I?”

“Well, that’s ONE word for it.”

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Johnny’s face perked up at the sight of Sonny stepping off the elevator. The casual tone in Sonny’s voice on the phone had sounded forced, and Johnny held back from asking the questions that nagged at his mind. Sonny would tell him what he needed to know, but Alexis would surely ask.

Sonny’s hair still shone with residual dampness, and as he came closer, Johnny saw that the whites of his eyes were bloodshot and his face bore a distant expression. He’d changed into more comfortable clothes and carried a large shopping bag in his hand. Johnny wordlessly stared into his reddened eyes, but Sonny was oblivious.

“Alexis still asleep?”

“I don’t know. She was when Dr. Jones went in a little while ago.”

“What’s Tony doing?”

Johnny shrugged. “It’s been quiet.”

Sonny studied Johnny’s face and his eyes narrowed. He sensed there was more that Johnny wanted to tell him.

“Is there something I should know?”

Johnny shifted uneasily.

“Spit it out Johnny.”

“She was anxious – about you. She thinks you didn’t seem right when you left, and you’ve been gone a long time. She thinks that maybe you’re burnt-out on looking after her but you just don’t want to tell her.”

Sonny hung his head. “Oh man…”

“And she really wanted to stay awake until you got back. Boss, is Alexis right? Is there anything wrong that I should know about?”

“No! No, there’s nothing wrong. I just…I’ll talk to you about it later, in private. I need to let a few things gel in my head first. But it’s absolutely nothing that Alexis needs to worry about.”

“Okay. I tried to tell her that she was wrong about what you were feeling about her – I mean, that you weren’t tired of looking after her. I think she believed me, but...”

Sonny sighed and set the bag down on the floor. He rubbed at his face and ran his hands through his damp hair as Johnny fished in his pocket for something.

“Here – you could use some of this before you go in there.”

Sonny took the small bottle of eye drops from Johnny’s hand with a weak smile. Without a word he unscrewed the cap and tilted his head back, taking Johnny’s advise. He didn’t want Alexis to see the evidence of the emotions he’d allowed to overtake him in the privacy of bedroom, with her scarf pressed against his face.

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Alexis closed her eyes with a sigh. “I just want to wait for Sonny to get back from …wherever he went. Something wasn’t right with him and I need to make sure he’s okay.”

“Sonny’s not in the hospital bed – you are!” Tony’s face was all frustration as his voice grew firm. “No more visitors until I say so! I’m giving this order to Johnny too, and I’ll bet he listens to me even if you won’t.”

“You’re right about that.”

“Good! I’m serious Alexis. It’s late, you’ve had an incredibly long and stressful day, and I want you to go to sleep.”

“I’ve slept a lot today – honestly. And I don’t want to sleep so much – it just leaves me groggy and cranky. And it gives me a headache.”

“Remember what I said about ‘me - doctor, you – lawyer’? It still stands.”

Alexis let out a sharp, grumpy sigh and crossed her arms.

“Don’t fight me on this, or I may have to add something in here that you’re not going to like.” Tony tapped the half-empty glucose bag and he watched Alexis’ face go blank.

“That’s not funny.” Her voice was barely audible.

“It’s not meant to be.” The look in her eyes made Tony’s stomach churn. Alexis turned away from him and he dropped his head. “It’s not meant to be a threat either. I’m just making a point, and I’m afraid I’m doing it without much sensitivity. I’m sorry.”

She kept her head turned. “I guess it’s been a long and stressful day all around, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“So who was it, exactly, that made us think we had to be a couple of Energizer Bunnies?”

Tony chuckled, and Alexis finally looked back at him with a weary smile. “Physician, heal thyself. Go home Tony. I’ll rest if you will. Is it a deal?”

She held out her hand and he took it into his. “Deal.”

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“Thanks.” Sonny blinked hard, rubbing away the faint bit of wetness that escaped from the corners of his eyes.

Johnny slipped the eyedrops back into his pocket. “Sonny? Are you okay, really? Personally, I mean.”

Johnny’s directness took Sonny by surprise, but before he could even formulate an answer, the door to Alexis’ room opened and Tony appeared.

“Good – you’re back.”

Sonny frowned with concern. “Is she okay?”

“She’s fine, but for some odd reason she thinks you might not be. She’s waiting up for you.”

“I’ll talk to her.”

“Please do. And I don’t want her to have any more visitors until I say so. I want her to have an uninterrupted good night’s rest, got it?”

Sonny saluted. “Aye-aye, sir.”

Tony looked Sonny up and down. “I could give the same order to you too. Your eyes are all bloodshot.”

Johnny handed him back the eye-drops.

“There’s a second bed in there Sonny – use it. You’ll be of much greater use to her if you’re not dropping from exhaustion yourself.”

Sonny tilted his head back again and took another shot at eliminating the evidence of his last housr of turmoil. “Alexis is the patient Dr. Jones, not me.”

“I just reminded her of that myself, and it wouldn’t hurt if you’d put a punctuation mark on it. That woman is stubborn!”

Sonny grinned. “Yeah. But it suits her.”

Tony shook his head at the unabashed glow on Sonny’s face. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Johnny watched Tony’s back as it disappeared down the hall and around a corner. “He’s got a point.”

“What?”

“You need some real sleep as much as she does.”

Sonny smiled as he picked up the shopping bag and handed Johnny back the tiny bottle.

“Goodnight, John-Boy.”

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Alexis stared at the steady stream of liquid, counting down the time - in drops - until she’d be free of it. She felt somewhat foolish at the intensity of her hatred for it and the degree to which she’d harangued poor Tony. She knew how childish she must seem but she didn’t really care about her pride – it was the one last reminder that her body wasn’t her own…not just yet. A crackling sound from the door stole her attention away and turned her head toward the door, where Sonny stood watching her, his eyes and dimples flashing at full power.

“Miss me?”

Alexis felt her face flush as she grinned back. She pushed her hair back off her face with both hands.

“You came back.”

Sonny’s smile faded at the look of insecurity he saw in her face. His heart ached to see that she’d felt abandoned. It was bad enough to know that his abrupt and extended absence had made her feel she’d put too great a strain to him.

“Alexis, you knew that I would. Didn’t you?”

“I…I was worried.” She stammered, uncertain of what to say when she knew that Johnny had probably told him what she'd said. “You were gone a long time.”

“You and Ashton needed to talk – I wanted to give you your privacy.”

Alexis looked as if she wanted to say more, but she was hesitant. Sonny cocked his head and her.

“Is everything alright?”

“I was just going to ask you the same thing.” She began to lightly scratch at her arm as her eyes darted from Sonny’s questioning face to the floor.

“Everything’s fine. Why?”

“Well, for starters…you’re standing ten feet away from me and aren’t giving any indication that you plan on actually coming into the room.”

Sonny laughed lightly and strode right up to the bed with a revived smile. “How’s that?”

She gazed up at him shyly. “Better.”

“Good.” Sonny set his paper bag down on the floor and reached to pull the chair up close so he could sit.

“And for another thing, you weren’t quite yourself when you left. Don’t bother denying that something was wrong because I know that it was. If it’s…” She took a deep breath before continuing. “If it’s because of me, I’d like to know. You can tell me.”

Sonny stared at her, drinking in her face…that beautifully expressive face that let you see everything she was feeling. Sorel had wielded that unique, intrinsic quality of hers like a weapon – a weapon he would use to tear them both to shreds. Sonny tightened his jaw and ran his tongue across his teeth, while Alexis was lost in trying to read his signs. As her nails still dragged unconsciously across her skin, the movement distracted Sonny’s eye.

“Did you use the vitamin E while I was gone?”

She looked down at her arm and pulled her hand away. “N-no. I forgot about it.”

Her eyes followed him with concern as Sonny moved around to the other side of the bed and took what he was looking for out of the drawer.

“Your diversionary tactics aren’t going to work. You're dealing with the the master.”

Sonny smiled at her persistence as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He tried to take her hand but she wouldn’t let him. Still, he couldn’t meet her questioning eyes.

“Why are you so distant?”

“Alexis, it’s not because of you. I told you, you wanted some privacy with Ashton and I gave it to you. I took care of some business, I went home to shower and change, and I came back - end of story. Oh, and Emily was visiting Zander so I asked her to pick out a few things she thought might be comfortable for you to wear home tomorrow. As much as I would have enjoyed rifling around in your drawers, trying to find those silk P.J.’s for you, I figured you’d rather I have Emily do it instead.”

Alexis blushed at the sly grin spreading across Sonny’s face as he finally looked up at her. “Such the gentleman.”

Sonny laughed out loud. “I try.” He reached for her again and she allowed him to take her hand.

“I didn’t mean to pry, if whatever’s bothering you is personal.”

Sonny shrugged. “You’re worried about me. I kind of like that.”

She watched his face intently as he paused, staring down at the marks on her arm while holding her hand gently within his. She saw the tension in his face and felt the invisible wall begin to rise up between them once more. He looked reluctant to touch her, and when he did it was different…tentative. Alexis closed her eyes and Sonny felt her muscles stiffen under his fingers as he carefully worked the vitamin E into the puncture marks on her skin. Again, Sorel’s smug face and taunting words invaded his head. He gazed at her face – the furrowed brow and the lip pulled between her teeth, and Sonny couldn’t help but wonder if behind her closed eyes, Alexis was remembering.

He hadn’t realized that his fingers had stopped moving until Alexis abruptly pulled her arm away and opened her eyes. He was unprepared for what he saw inside of them – the vague spark of mistrust that they held. Sonny knew that he wasn’t fooling her, that Alexis was too sensitive to not feel his distress. He just couldn’t bring himself to tell her what he’d really done while he was gone from her side, or what weighed upon his soul. It WAS about her…it was all about her.

“I can do it myself, Sonny.” Her eyes drifted down to the blanket and she waited for him to respond. Sonny swallowed and his ears began to ring. He wanted to protest, to plead with her to allow him to tend to her just a while longer. It was all he could do to keep himself from confessing what smoldered beneath his surface...the depth of the passion that she fed. Instead, he handed her the capsule with a single, dispassionate word.

“Okay.”

She shifted as she took it from him in silence and tried to do as Sonny had done, but it hurt. He saw her wince and his spine straightened.

“Honey – not so hard.”

Alexis paused and looked up at him, feeling awkward. “My co-ordination’s not quite one hundred percent yet.”

She resumed her efforts more gingerly, but Sonny could see from the slight stiffening of her jaw that she was still hurting herself. He let he be, until she was done. He took the capsule back and stared at it mutely, and Alexis felt a flutter in her stomach. She cleared her throat nervously against the uncomfortable silence between them. She’d never seen Sonny this way and she was helpless to ease whatever pressed on him. And, selfishly, it hurt that he was shutting her out.

Sonny was sure that the thumping in his chest was echoing through the room, it was that strong within him. He sighed and lifted his head, deciding it was best if they both call it a night. But before he could speak, his hand reflexively reached out to brush a wisp of hair from the corner of her eye. His eyes lit upon the scrape that lay hidden behind her bangs.

“I almost forgot about it again. Your hair is covering it.”

Alexis pushed roughly at the strands that kept slipping back over her ears. “My hair is driving me nuts.”

She laughed lightly as Sonny raked his fingers up through her bangs, lifting them away from her skin. His light touch tickled and it sent a small tingle through her face.

“Almost done.”

He squeezed the last drop of oil onto his thumb and touched it to her reddened forehead, his fingertips resting alongside her temple. As she watched his eyes follow the gentle movement of his own hand, Alexis felt oddly exposed, as if her wounds had been unseen and untouched by him until just that moment. A contented smile began to grace Sonny’s face and Alexis felt the tension in her shoulders release. Her insecurity lifted as Sonny seemed at ease with her again.

“How come it doesn’t hurt when you do it?”

Sonny’s eyes drifted down to hers as she relaxed even more against the pillow. He gave her his biggest dimpled grin and ran his tongue across his lower lip as he cocked his head.

“Cause I got finesse.”

Alexis opened her mouth, but quickly closed it again as a bright twinkle sparked in her eyes.

Sonny raised his eyebrows at her. “What, no snappy comeback?”

She slowly shook her head. “Disappointed?”

He held her intoxicating gaze for a long moment, then moved his eyes up to the thumb he now held still against her skin. His work was done, but his hand lingered. Alexis didn’t seem to mind.

“No.” He murmured. “I’m not disappointed.”

He was overwhelmed. The doubts that Sorel’s vicious words ignited did battle with the language her body spoke to him. She was relaxed, accepting, and looked at Sonny with nothing but trust. But Alexis was awake and not in pain – soon, she’d be back in an unprotected sleep where all the faces, voices and touches would blur. His hand suddenly slipped away from her and his eyes followed it as it came to rest on the bed. He remembered the sight of Sorel’s blood on that hand and felt a flood of shame – for doing too little and doing it too late.

Alexis studied him. The stillness of him, the distance in his eyes moved her hand to touch down on his.

“Sonny? I’m sure I must seem pretty useless at the moment. But I do have two ears, two shoulders and one heart that are all in perfect working order. And they’re all ready, willing and able to be of use…to you.”

Sonny closed his eyes and smiled, but his upped body took a slight, convulsive jerk. Alexis swallowed and her breath caught in her throat.

“My God…” She reached up and cupped her fingers around the curve of his jaw. The touch was too much for him and he tried to turn away, but Alexis firmed her hand.

“Please don’t do that.” She whispered, refusing to allow him to close down on her. She felt the muscles in his jaw tense and she slid her hand further up his cheek, all pressure on her part gone.

“Don’t you think I know you by now? You may tell me that nothing’s wrong, but I know that’s not true.”

“Alexis, it is.”

“Look me in the eye and say that, and maybe I’ll believe you.”

He sighed and opened his eyes, turning them into hers. “Nothing is wrong.”

Sonny was looking through her.

“I don’t believe you.” She murmured, her voice tinged with sadness.

Sonny’s gaze darted from her face to the wall behind her head and he shrugged his shoulders, stammering. “Well, I…I can’t help that.”

Alexis ached for him. Sonny was so much like her – too autonomous and stubborn, assuming their total resilience to any and all things devastating…adept at hiding the chink in their finely crafted armor. But Sonny had found hers, and she could find his too.

“Alexis, you really should…get to sleep now.”

Sonny’s eyes still avoided her, and Alexis stayed silent as she stared into his face.

“Tony…he was insistent that you have a restful night. Okay?”

He slowly moved his hand up to pull hers from his face, and the air felt cold against his skin with the sudden removal of her warmth. His head turned softly to watch her long, delicate fingers lowering within his hold. Alexis saw the conflict in his face as his eyes lingered on her hand, then trailed up along her forearm. The vein in his neck stood out as the muscles there tightened.

“Maybe now I am useless in your eyes.”

As her remark registered, Sonny’s head snapped to attention and his eyes looked at her – looked AT her. “What?”

“I’m hardly the picture of the Alexis that you knew – the tough, assured, sharp-edged attorney…the Alexis who engendered complete confidence from her clients.”

“Why are you talking like this?”

“Why? Look at me. The hospital bed, the peek-a-boo gown, the IV stuck in my arm, the bruises, the track marks, the waking up with a few screws rattling around loose in my head…”

Sonny grimaced. “Alexis, don’t.”

“Why not? It’s what I am to you right now, isn’t it? A victim? Something you feel responsible for and that you need to fix?”

“Stop it Alexis! This is crazy talk…”

“It’s the truth! But…maybe if you closed your eyes and tried really, really hard, you could erase the me in front of you from your mind and imagine the me that you used to know. The one who wore a black power suit and had unmarked skin and make-up on her face - and don’t forget those studious-looking glasses on the bridge of her nose. And it would probably help if you could also imagine a little clock ticking in the background to represent all those billable hours. I’m sure that would add to the strong, no-nonsense, professional image I used to have that’s now been shot to hell.”

Sonny stared into her flashing, angry eyes. Her face had flushed and she looked at him as if he were a stranger. He couldn’t take much more without breaking.

“Do you think you can do it, Sonny? Can you conjure up the Alexis that you used to trust and depend on and could talk to? Can you pretend that I’m not simply the pathetic end product of Sorel’s sick little game?”

The mention of Sorel’s name made Sonny visibly shudder and his fingers tightened around her hand. His chin began to tremble and he spoke roughly through the desert in his mouth.

“Honey please stop talking like this.” He pulled his eyes away from hers - Alexis saw that she’d touched something in him and would keep pushing.

“If you don’t like the way I’m talking, you don’t have to listen. Whatever it is that you think you owe me, you don’t. You’re free to leave.”

The blunt words and flat carriage of them sent Sonny’s jaw dropping. He looked at her in disbelief, his eyes narrowing as he watched Alexis continue to look right through him. He wanted to scream out that she was wrong – that HE was the pathetic one, unable to protect those he loved. He wanted to tell her that she would always be the strong, capable woman to whom he’d entrust his life, and for whom he’d lay it down. He wanted to grab her face and stop her mouth with his own, and his dark eyes shifted from her own deep brown pools…to that mouth.

“I’m not leaving you.” He whispered. “You can talk all the garbage you want – none of it is true, but you are NOT pushing me away.”

“You’re right, I’m not. And I haven’t.”

Sonny felt her other hand clasp around his as his eyes stayed level with her mouth.

“You’re the only one I didn’t push away, and I don’t really know why that is.” Alexis frowned and looked away as she tried to form the thoughts that would keep pulling Sonny out of his darkness and back to her.

“It’s a horrifying thing for someone like me – or you - to be so thoroughly needful. I haven’t felt this helpless and weak since I was a little girl.”

Sonny’s spine stiffened again, and when his eyes found hers he felt himself go liquid inside. His last visit with Cassadine had put images in his head that could have been from his own childhood, but they were from hers, and it was all too surreal. Alexis felt a light tremble in his hand but she didn’t change her focus, keeping her eyes trained on a bouquet of pale pink roses across the room.

“I never wanted to need anyone in my adult life, and here I was needing not only you, but Tony, Johnny, Charlie…and I hated it.” A faint smile crossed her face. “God, it was so frightening to admit that I couldn’t survive this thing without trusting all of you completely, and allowing you to help me.”

“Not without a bit of a fight.”

Alexis turned her face to his weak smile. “Why won’t you trust me back? Why won’t you allow me to help you?”

“I’d trust you with my life.”

“You’d trust your lawyer with your life. What about your friend?”

His face softened as Alexis leaned toward him, her eyes never leaving his. “I don’t want us to be one a one way street. I don’t want to take and not be allowed to give. Please, Sonny, let me give.” Her hand moved back up to his cheek.

“You got down on your knees and begged me to let you take my pain away. I would do the same for you…only I don’t think I could get back up by myself, and it would pretty much kill the effect if you had to help me.”

Sonny laughed, his eyes welling with wetness and adoration. It was suddenly crystal clear what Alexis had been doing, and he pulled her hand up to his face to boldly press her palm to his lips.

“You’re good. You’re very good.” He murmured.

She smiled and bit her lip, giving him an impish look of expectation – Sonny was a goner. He was weak and incapable of refusing her anything. The purity in her face made him finally feel cleansed, redeemed…safe in telling her some truth. She was owed.

“You do know me, Alexis.” He whispered softly. “Something is wrong.”

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, leaning forward until he felt his forehead come to rest against hers. Alexis waited, giving him time. Her pushing was over, and the rest was up to him. She laced her fingers with his and pulled their joined fist against her body, tucking it under her chin. The gesture forced an abrupt exhale from Sonny’s throat and he knew he had to just say it.

“I went to see Sorel.”

Alexis was still…silent…stunned. She hadn’t expected it – not that. But now his mixed signals made some sense, and she was grateful that his conflict wasn’t over her. Or so she assumed. Sonny’s heart pounded as he slowly dared to pull his head back and lift his eyes to hers, trying to read her as she tried to read him. The childlike fear and uncertainly Alexis saw inside of this man made her want to weep.

“Oh, Sonny…why?”

Sonny vaguely shook his head. He didn’t know where to begin. A strange fear began to creep inside Alexis’ heart and a crease set into her brow as she stammered.

“Did…did something happen that you’re a-afraid to tell me about? Did Sorel m-manage to do something…oh God – Carly. Did he get to Carly or, or Michael?”

Sonny let go of her hand and took hold of her face, gone pale and filled with stark panic.

“No! No, Sorel did NOT get to them – he didn’t get to anyone and he never will again.”

Alexis stared at him, her face and voice still frozen.

“Alexis, do you understand me? Sorel will never hurt anyone – he will never hurt YOU ever again!”

His eyes bore deeply into hers and her frown deepened at the wild intensity with which he looked at her and the firmness of his hold on her face. His fingers pushed painfully into the bruise on her cheek, but she didn’t say a word. Her mind raced as she tried to hear what his eyes were telling her that his mouth had held back. She couldn’t move, couldn’t tear herself away from his hold until his confession was complete.

“Sonny…what did you do?”

“Too much - and not enough.”

“Please tell me that Taggert isn’t going to be dragging you out of here in the middle of the night.”

Her eyes were pleading and Sonny smiled, sliding his fingers back from her face and into her hair. “Taggert and I have an understanding about Sorel.”

She squinted at him. “You and Taggert couldn’t have an understanding about the earth being round. And you didn’t answer my question – what did you do?”

“Not as much as you’re afraid I did. Not as much as I wanted to do.” She watched his eyes roam across her forehead, down her cheek and come to rest on the side of her neck.

“For every mark he put on your body, for every fear he put in your soul…” His eyes began to well again and his mouth grew dry. “I wanted to give it back to him in spades.”

“Why now? Why today?”

“You. Today you heard my voice but it was still him you were afraid to wake up to. You have nightmares with that son of a bitch’s face invading your head and he won’t go away. I…I needed to see that face for myself. I needed to put my hands on it…and destroy it - to make it go away in the only way that I could. For you.”

A quiet trickle of tears slid down each hot, ruddy cheek as he stared into the bottomless well of her soulful eyes. He would never tell her of the venom Sorel spewed – of his intent to use her to the full extent of the law to shred Sonny’s heart. There was no need. It wouldn’t happen.

“My own dragon slayer.” Alexis whispered softly, as if she were sharing a secret. The corners of his mouth turned up as she reached out and brushed away the salty trails from his face. Sonny gently slid his fingers away from her hair and rubbed at his face. He was unashamed at what he’d shown her. In fact, to have done so made him feel strong - more strong than any vengeance he exacted.

“But Sonny, don’t let Sorel lead you into a place from which there’s no return. This has to end somewhere – let it be here and now. Please.”

Sonny reached for the pitcher of water on the table. She’d asked him for a promise he just couldn’t make. He poured a glass of water and handed it to her without being asked.

“How did you know?”

Sonny grinned and watched her down half the glass. She handed it back to him and he finished the rest himself. “Tony would have my hide if he knew I’d kept you up like this. Don’t rat me out.”

“I won’t.”

“Now go to sleep.”

Alexis smiled. “I will. And I’m not afraid to. I have a feeling that Sorel wouldn’t dare invade my dreams tonight.”

She settled back against the bed, grabbed a handful of the covers and pulled them up to her chest.

“Not if he knows what’s good for him.”

“And Sonny – you have your own bed in here, so please sleep in it tonight instead of all hunched over the side of my bed. It’s really bad for your back.”

“Whatever you say.”

“I’ll remember that, you know.”

“I’m sure that you will.” Alexis reached over and grabbed the penguin from the side table, handing it to him. “Here. He’ll keep you from being too lonely.”

Sonny laughed as he took it from her. And then, he impulsively leaned down and kissed her softly in the middle of her forehead. Alexis reflexively closed her eyes, stifling a nervous laugh deep down in her throat. She felt like a child again – a child who was rarely kissed good night and didn’t know how to respond.

“You must miss having Michael to kiss goodnight.”

Sonny turned away, hiding his twinge of sadness from her view as he moved toward the door. “Yeah. I miss the little guy.”

“I’m glad you can bring him and Carly back home soon, once Sorel is on death row for good.”

Sonny’s movement slowed. Michael and Carly were already home - with Jason, as it should always have been. But Alexis didn’t need to know that yet. He reached for the light switch and dimmed the brightness, just bit. Alexis frowned.

“Don’t you want to turn them out?”

“Not all the way, no. Sometimes, I still feel a little afraid of the dark – like I was as a kid.”

Alexis sighed and turned onto her side, watching as Sonny’s weary body dropped onto the cot. “Mmm. Me too.”

He turned on his side as well, facing her, the penguin in the crook of his arm. “Is this okay? The lights, I mean.”

She nodded. “Fine.” Her eyes closed and Sonny resisted the impulse to reclaim his chair by her side and rest his head at her fingertips. She felt so far away.

“Goodnight, Alexis. Nothing but sweet dreams allowed, okay?”

The room was silent, and Sonny glanced over to find she’d quickly gone off to sleep with a smile of sweet dreams already on her face. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to go with her, hoping that Alexis would hold a new face in her head tonight…his.