“Against all expectations to the contrary, you really do make one hell of a decent couch potato - when you put your mind to it.”
“Isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? Putting one’s mind to zoning out?”
“Not for you. You put your mind to everything you do, including zoning out.”
Sonny reached for the remote control and snapped off the TV. Alexis blankly stared at him. The sudden quiet was striking, and he turned to see her eyes intent and demanding on his face.
“You just did it again!”
“You know what.” Alexis narrowed her gaze as Sonny’s eyebrows rose in a show of innocence. “You either insulted me or gave me a complement, and you deliberately clouded any distinction between the two.”
He grinned like the Cheshire cat. “And I’m sure you’ll have a swell time trying to lift those clouds, councellor.”
“You’re mean, and I’m going to bed.” She made a half-hearted motion to rise, and Sonny held his arm up across her waist to stop her.
“Oh, no ya don’t. Not yet. Where’s my amusing comeback?”
“Alright.” Alexis leaned back against the sofa and crossed her arms. “Two can play at this one. The next time you cook for me, you’ll need a polygraph to be able to tell whether or not I liked it. So there!” She returned his grin, with extra wattage.
“You liked the chicken and grilled veggies. I know you did.” He turned his head toward her and settled back into the sofa as well. They sat not a foot apart, her head just a weary tilt away from resting against his inviting shoulder.
She shifted against the cushion. “Yes, I did. But I said the NEXT time you cook, not the LAST time.”
“Right. I’ll consider myself warned.”
“You do that.”
He was pleased that he’d been able to intuit what she’d like, even if her appetite were still weak. He knew that it would strengthen with time, like everything else in her that had been compromised. But as she slowly nibbled and pushed the food around on her plate, Alexis seemed distracted and listless, and Sonny couldn’t help but wonder how much of that was owed to her phone call with Ashton, rather than the physical limits of her body. At least she gave it her best effort - and he was also grateful that she hadn’t rebelled against the bottles of vitamins that awaited her attention on the kitchen counter.
Sonny had ordered her to the couch after dinner – a big mistake. His response came in the form of Alexis stubbornly followed him as he cleared the table, a precarious plate in each shaky hand. She wanted to help, and help she would. And as she set her burden down upon the counter, the small cluster of bottles caught her eye. She stood and stared for a moment, as if debating which path her will would take. Sonny rinsed a dish, pretending not to notice her. He heard a cabinet door open and close, and then, the small snapping of a plastic cap. Alexis set the bottle of water down on the counter while she reached for the Potassium. Sonny was taken aback. He’d fully expected she’d need a nudge in the right direction toward all the pills that Tony wanted her to take. He was glad he didn’t have to.
But the single drug that lay among the innocuous supplements could prove to be an issue. He saw Alexis eye it with mistrust, and he knew that the chemical with an unpronounceable name was making her think of Sorel. To take it would be to remember, every day, that the heroin he flooded into her was still lurking in some cells of her body. Charlie hadn’t been able to take it all away, as she though he would. It wasn’t all completely over, as she thought it was. And the language of Alexis’ body told Sonny that it would likely take more than just a simple nudge to push her in the direction of the white tablets housed in the bottle with her name typed across the label. But for now, he would be content that Alexis was allowing all four vitamins to help make her healthy and strong.
Sonny sighed and his eyelids started to lower with heaviness. “Well, I’m glad you liked what I cooked tonight, because we’ve got plenty of leftovers for tomorrow. That ought to make Johnny happy - he likes this particular dish.”
“I hope he’s enjoying his night off. But I kind of miss him.”
Sonny laughed and rubbed at his eyes. “He’d be touched and boldly blushing if he heard you say that.”
Alexis grinned back with a vague expression of guilt. “Poor Johnny. I’ll stop teasing him, I promise.”
“If you do, he’ll be crushed.” Sonny rolled his head back against the couch as he gazed at her smiling face. “And we can’t have that, now can we?”
She rolled her head toward him, mirroring him, and gave an earnest smile. “Absolutely not.”
Sonny could have fallen asleep right there, slouched into the comfortable cushions with Alexis safe beside him. The tumultuous day was hitting him like a wall, and he wondered how Alexis was still standing - or, slouching, as the case happened to be. And still, Sonny yearned for his lonely shoulder to be visited.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t more hungry tonight, after all your hard work. It's no reflection on you - you’re still a very good houseboy. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be easier.”
“I’m sure it will.”
“The only easy things for me today were leaving that hospital room behind, and submerging myself in a sea of bubbles.”
“Nothing.” It was something alright. Sonny was contemplating the luck of those bubbles - and the image of Alexis submerged in them. But he covered his guilty tracks well. “That houseboy thing just cracks me up.”
“An amuser’s work is never done.”
He smiled softly. “Are you really ready to go to bed, or were you just pouting before?”
“Pouting? I do not pout.”
“Yes you do. But its’ cute.”
“I am not…” She’d been played like a violin. Alexis huffed, then pouted. “I’m going to bed.”
Sonny laughed. “Poor baby, I’m sorry. You’re right – I AM mean. If you do want to go to bed, that’s probably a good idea. But if not, if you want to watch some more TV…”
“No more TV.”
“I’m glad you said that. And remind never to watch ‘Jeopardy’ with you again, because it’s just plain demoralizing.”
Alexis sat up. “Now there’s a thought.”
“What? Demoralizing me?” Sonny stuck his lower lip out and shifted. “I’m going to bed.”
Alexis playfully slapped at his arm with a reluctant laugh. “Shut up! My thought was…maybe the horror of seeing a Cassadine on a game show – even if it is only the bastard Cassadine – maybe it would be enough to finally send Helena to her well-deserved and long-overdue grave. Nothing else seems able to fell her.”
Sonny closed his eyes as he shook his head. The things that came out of her mouth never failed to stupefy him. “I think there must be a much more fitting demise in store for the kind of monster that woman is. Sorel too. Fittingly slow and painful.”
The look in his eyes scared her. She’d seen that look, and often – the cold, hard look that the thought of Sorel inspired. It put her somewhat in mind of the way Luke would look at the mention of Helena, minus the edge of perverted sexual subtext.
“Sonny, you promised me that you wouldn’t do anything stupid. I need…I need you…to not…” Alexis stammered, unable to finish her sentence. The thought of him being arrested made her panic swell.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He mumbled, his gaze still hard and distant.
“Taggert is a very principled man. In spite of whatever unsettling pact you two may or may not have formed, he has his limits.”
“So do I.”
He quickly turned and grabbed her hand.
“I told you, Alexis – I’m not going anywhere.” His eyes warmed as they took in hers, and her panic finally began to fade. “And I’m not going to do anything to make me break that promise. I may have my limits, but I don’t break my promises to you, remember?”
Sorel had put everyone’s limits to the test – hers, Sonny’s, Taggert’s, Johnny’s, Ned’s, and even Thomas Malloy’s. Alexis loosened her hand from Sonny’s and turned away as her thoughts were pulled back to Thomas, like a magnet. His clear blue eyes swam in her head, telling her of questions still unanswered. She just wasn’t sure what they were. The feel of Sonny’s fingers brushing against her shoulder startled her.
“Hmm?” Now it was she whose gaze was far away.
“You’re not starting to doubt me now, are you?”
“No! No, I’m sorry. I was just thinking.”
“Maybe that’s not such a good idea.”
“I can’t help it.”
Sonny smiled. “I know.”
Her expression had grown studious and he watched her body stiffen as she formed her thoughts. He wished he could turn her mind off, like a switch, and give her a break from the relentless dissection he knew had only just begun. Alexis wouldn’t let it go until all those fractured pieces had been re-constructed.
“Why didn’t Thomas tell me he what he was going to do? If he was intending to help me, why didn’t he just tell me the truth?”
Because she’d been under the influence and out of her head. She could have done anything or said anything - whispered or screamed any secret she held and gotten the both of them killed. Sonny KNEW why, but he closed his eyes and lied.
“I don’t know.”
He watched her gaze dart back and forth as more questions hammered at her. He ached to tell her more truths and relieve one part of her mind, but the burden would only be shifted and further weighted wherever else it would go.
“I wonder what it was that made him turn. What did Sorel do that finally made Thomas say ‘enough’?”
“Alexis, please.” Sonny whispered, wanting her to stop. Alexis would not.
“And Taggert. What line did Sorel cross that made him…”
Sonny pressed his fingers to her mouth, quieting her. “Please. Put it away for tonight, okay?”
Alexis swallowed, feeling guilty for burdening Sonny with so much grief. “I’m sorry. You don’t need all my stream of consciousness babbling in your head. I think I’ll just shut up and go to bed.”
Sonny set a hand down on the top of her thigh as she began to move. “Put it away first. You don’t need it in YOUR head, especially not before trying to sleep.”
“Right. You're right. And like I said, I’ll shut up.”
She sat still and quiet for a long moment. But soon, she widened her eyes and glanced at him sideways. He knew something else was coming.
“Except to say that when I wake up in the morning, I’m pretty sure I’m going to think that the part about you and Taggert throwing in together was either a dream, or you two pulling one hell of a twisted practical joke on me.”
Sonny laughed. “You know what they say about the truth being stranger than fiction.”
She tilted her head and nudged him in the ribs, teasing. “You and Taggert.”
He laughed out loud. “Yeah. Me and Taggert.”
“He’s a good man. Often irritating, but good. Like you.”
Sonny felt his insides flutter. He wanted that – to be a good man in her eyes. Alexis’ glib references to him as morally challenged were once the candid opinion of a stranger, but had since become the teasing jest of a friend. But in the back of his mind, Sonny wondered if his life still made her consider him a less than decent man. He wouldn’t blame her if she did, but it would grieve him to know it.
“No offense to Johnny, but I think it was good that you had Taggert around to give you some balance.” Alexis smiled. “And to provide a distraction for you, as I’m sure he did.”
“He was a pain.” Sonny made a show of grumbling. “A big, huge pain!”
Her smile softened. “I had no idea what Sorel was putting you though. I’m just glad that you weren’t alone.”
Sonny’s throat closed in on him. “I…”
“It seems that neither one of us really was.”
His mouth closed. He wasn’t sure if she was talking about him or Thomas Malloy, and his jealousy took an unexpected breath. “You weren’t alone, Alexis. I was with you every minute that you were gone.”
“Yeah, you were. Hearing your voice on the phone, the day it all began, grounded me. It helped me stay strong.”
His eyes clouded over. Hearing her voice the day it all ended leveled him. It helped him stay enraged.
“Is something wrong?”
His tone was resonant within that one, earnestly spoken word, but his expression told another tale. Sonny looked into her eyes for a long while, then reached to take her hand from its resting place within her lap. He held it gently between his palms, wanting the feel of her to obliterate the awful memory twice unearthed that day – the feel of the syringe he pulled from Sorel’s plain brown envelope. He closed his eyes and focused, allowing the cold hardness to fade while the warm softness took over. Alexis followed his slow movement with her eyes as his fingertips ran across the back of her hand, turned her palm upward, and continued their journey there. It was blissfully hypnotic, and she soon grew languid from the light, rhythmic touches on her skin. It took all her focus and sent a strange tingle up her spine.
But the spell she’d surrendered to was broken as Sonny opened his eyes and moved against the cushions. She raised her heavy-lidded eyes to his face and saw that a shift in his mood accompanied the shift of his body. She cleared her throat and tried to sit up straight while shaking off her sensory daze. Sonny assumed a look of solemn intent and she waited patiently for him to do or say what he needed to. He ran his tongue across his teeth and cocked his head, staring down at the feminine hand still held in his own.
“Sonny?” She whispered, her throat fairly parched. “Something IS wrong.” She touched a finger to the underside of his chin, asking without asking for him to look at her. “Tell me the truth…because I’ll hear it in your voice if you don’t.”
Sonny’s heart leapt. Alexis smiled shyly as his serious expression morphed into one of joyous surprise.
“You remember that?” He murmured, fixing her with an incredulous gaze.
She nodded. “I told you that not everything I remember is bad. I must say you kind of threw me with it, though.”
“I asked if he’d hurt you. You didn’t answer.”
“I know. Sorel took the phone away.”
She slowly shook her head. “I couldn’t because you told me you’d know it if I lied. I believed you.”
Sonny was confused. His mind thought back. “That was the second day.”
“The second day, the second phone call.” Sonny’s eyes swept over her cheek and across her brow. “He’d done that already.”
It wasn’t a question – he knew.
“And he’d already started with the heroin?”
He saw the flash of shock on her face at his blunt use of the word. He hated it, but it was necessary. It would be used in front of her and to her, and used often. Alexis needed to become accustomed to it, to hear it and use it until its power to hurt her was gone. She finally managed to stammer out an answer.
“Damn it, Alexis.” His voice was soft and filled with pain. “You should have told me.”
Alexis hung her head, her shame rising up again. “I didn’t know what he was really doing, Sonny.”
“I know.” Sonny quickly reached for her, his hand slipping through her hair while contrition rode in his voice. “I’m sorry, I know.”
“I didn’t want you to give in to his demands and hand over Zander.”
“I know.” Guild clouded over him. “I’m not angry at you, Alexis. Never at you.”
If only he had known.
There was a reason he hadn’t known – at least, not until it was too late. The timing of Sorel’s moves had been methodical and specific. Sonny wasn’t supposed to know what retribution his enemy sought to bring down on him through the wrecking of Alexis. There would have been no fun in it for Sorel – no private gloating over the unseen sword coming down on Sonny’s head. That syringe was a check mate. Game over - Sorel won. Sonny should have known. He should have anticipated Sorel’s sick, vengeful mind and acted before any of it began. But if Sonny HAD known…his own life, Taggert’s, and even Zander’s would have been up for grabs to get her back untouched.
Alexis stared down at her lap, and Sonny moved his hand to her face, gently turning it toward his. “I have to tell you this. I know how much you wanted to protect Zander from Sorel, but if I had known from the start what than bastard was planning to do to you...what you wanted would have been irrelevant.”
“It was MY decision, Sonny.”
“And I respect that.”
“But you still would have disregarded it?”
“Yes. I would have done everything I could to keep Zander from getting hurt, but…”
She stared at him, her jaw shifting under his palm. “Great.” She lowered her head away from his touch, and tried to pull her hand from his, but Sonny tightened his hold. “I’m tired.”
“I want to go bed.”
“In a minute.”
“You should go too.” Her voice was void of emotion.
“Come on, Alexis. Don’t be like that.”
Her eyes narrowed and flashed with a hint of anger. “What do you expect me to say? Do you expect me to be happy to hear this - and from you, of all people?”
“I don’t have any expectations, Alexis. I’m just telling you the truth. And what do you mean to me, ‘of all people’?”
She stared at him in silence, unable to put her meaning into words. “You… know what I mean.”
Sonny did know. He knew he was the one person she could fully trust to trust her – her instincts, her judgment, her own personal “code”. But while he gave her his trust in infinite measure, that wasn’t what his confession was about. What he meant was that her life took precedence. What he meant was that she was loved.
But in true Alexis form, he deflected. “And what made you think that Zander would have wanted you to risk your life for him?”
“What made you think that I did?”
Her quickly thrown reply was unexpected, and it stunned him into silence.
“Nobody asked me if I wanted you risking your life for me, you just did it.”
Sonny swallowed. “That…that was different.”
“Tell that to the sutures in your heart and the scars on your chest.”
He stared into her dark, fiery eyes, remembering the saving grace of them that day. As the pain seared through him, the hot bullets in his body fought to claim his life. But Alexis fought harder. Her frightened eyes and commanding voice, her soft, strong hands holding onto his face all demanded that he live. He’d been terrified, and so was she. But they were both brave and strong that day, and Alexis won Sonny’s battle against Sorel’s bullets, just as she’d won her own against his drugs. Sonny watched as her eyes finally left his, her focus coming to rest below the round neckline of his sweater, where she knew the scalpel’s blade had laid him open.
“Does it ever hurt?”
“My heart, or the scar?”
The second the words left his mouth, Sonny wanted them back. Alexis returned her gaze to his face and gave him a knowing look. He was sure that this was it – that Alexis had finally seen his truth. But he was halfway relieved at the though that his secret might be revealed, if fate would make it so.
“Interesting response.” She murmured. The ache and need she saw in his dark eyes took her mind to Sonny’s loss – to the family he missed and wanted with him. “It won’t be too much longer. I’m sure Carly and Michael want to come back home just as much as you want them back.”
Sonny blinked. His jaw released in surprise at how far off the mark her mind had gone. His frustration mounted and his conscience tore at him, but it was not the right time to tell her that his family was no longer his. She would only worry for him, and he didn't want that.
“I have a scar too. On the back of my head.”
“I…I didn’t know that.” His bearings were hard to find.
Alexis smiled and laughed lightly. “How would you?”
His hands had roamed freely and wantonly across her scalp and through her hair, time and time again. Sonny should have known, and he was shocked that he didn’t.
“Is it from that fall you took, as a child?”
“Yeah. But I wasn’t exactly a child. I was twelve.”
Thirteen, Sonny silently corrected.
She looked at him curiously. “When did I tell you about that, anyway?”
“In the hospital. I’m not surprised you don’t remember. You were pretty groggy.”
He would not confess how he’d taken quick and full advantage of the Demerol’s effect, and coaxed what he could from her vulnerable mind. The invasion left him with a shadow of guilt, but it was all he could do to uncover the childhood things that haunted her. Her suspicious, tight-lipped brother would only give him crumbs, as if Sonny would use the information against her. The notion of Stefan Cassadine and Alexis Davis being borne of the same father was still, and always would be, a kicker.
“Oh.” She raked her fingers through her hair, unconsciously searching for the scar. “I’d almost forgotten I had it. It’s not as if I have to look at it every day.” She faltered, slipping her hand from her head. Her eyes left his face and drifted downward again. “It’s hardly the kind of war wound that you have there.”
Alexis had never seen his scar. And before she knew what she was doing, her hand reached for him, her fingertips grazing the soft wool. Sonny’s heart raced, crying out for her to be bold, to come closer. But her touch was hesitant, as if she was afraid of causing him pain. He didn’t want her to be afraid, and he did want her to touch. His hand rose up to cover hers and press her palm firmly to his chest.
“It doesn’t hurt.” He murmured.
She felt the pounding beat of his heart through the thin wool. It was strong, fast and healthy against her hand. Alexis lifted her eyes to his and found them smiling back at her, so deep, dark and…something else. They were as open to her as she’d ever seen them be. They were speaking to her, and she wanted to listen. The blood began to throb in her temples, keeping pace with the throbbing in Sonny’s chest. She blinked slowly, thoughtfully, and as she swallowed her fingers began to move against him…searching.
Sonny released the pressure of his hand against hers while she traveled the plane of his solid muscle…and there it was. The raised line of skin that was his scar met her firm touch through the softness of his sweater. Her fingertips drew across it, back and forth as her brow furrowed in study. Her eyes followed her hand’s fluid motions, and she wondered how it felt for him to see it every day...and how it would feel to the touch of her unobstructed hand.
“It feels like it should hurt. I’m glad it doesn’t.”
No, it didn’t hurt. But her touch was burning into him through the thin weave of his sweater, and he wondered how it would feel without the barrier covering his skin. The unwanted thought made him shiver, and Alexis felt the slight flexing of his muscle in response. She bit her lip and took her hand away. A strange wave of self-consciousness came over her and she sighed it away, tilting her head as her cheeks grew a shade of pink to rival the hue of her cotton turtleneck. Her layers of bangs flirted with her lashes, and her lids were lowered to half-mast. Sonny smiled. She looked like a sleepy little girl...in a woman’s body.
He ran his tongue lightly across his lips and took a deep breath. And then his voice was a hushed whisper as he smiled.
“You may NOW go to bed.”