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Scene 81

His breath froze as his eyes took her in.

Sonny stood in the threshold of the bedroom door for what seemed like an eternity, and he could have stayed there longer. Alexis lay across the bed, on her stomach, held in the embrace of a fluffy cloud of white cotton, and with a graceful river of pink by her side. She looked like a snow angel, clad in jeans…and on first glance, nothing else. He almost instinctively turned away from the illusion of her naked back, but his dark, greedy eyes refused to surrender their vision of her. But as his focus sharpened, Sonny noticed the faint dance of light up and down her body with the rhythmic rise and fall of her back.

Silk – she was sheathed in an almost flesh-colored silk. He smiled, imagining the rainbow of camisoles keeping her signature silk pajamas company in the mysterious and tempting closet to his left. A man could learn some wonderful secrets about a woman from what lay within the sacred chamber of her clothing. He suddenly took a step forward, crossing through the threshold, where he’d almost taken root, and turned his eyes to the closet door. It was the heart of her self-expression, where every morning she chose how to let the world see the Alexis she wanted them to know.

The Alexis Sonny had always known chose well-cut gabardine and wool suits, soft cashmere sweaters, draping silk blouses, and Italian high-heeled shoes. It was the visage of her professional persona, and the one he’d known the longest and the best. But Sonny’s personal knowledge of her had steadily grown throughout the months of his crisis with Zander and Sorel, and her crisis with Ned. And he smiled, remembering her abject embarrassment at Ashton’s unexpected description of her favorite sleepwear in mixed company, as if a closely held secret had just been divulged. Having Sonny know that she wore silk pajamas to bed made Alexis blush.

And to see her so clothed these last two nights, all embarrassment gone as she stood before him barefoot and bare-faced, made Sonny blush. It may have seemed like an outwardly ordinary thing to anyone else’s eyes, but to him, it was profound. It was a precious new level of intimacy that he didn’t take lightly. It made him feel even closer to her – and he’d felt closer still when he lay in bed beside her, his arm entwined with hers, held tight against her chest, with the heat of her body reaching out to warm him through that crimson silk. If there were any more outwardly ordinary things to learn about Alexis from what lay behind her closet door, it could very well send him over the edge of self control.

Sonny took a deep breath and swallowed as he moved a few steps closer and returned his eyes to the bed, trailing his gaze up the long, slender, twin lengths of denim. His focus settled on the taupe silk, and he now saw that it was edged in a width of creamy lace that ran across her back beneath her shoulder blades. The thin fabric clung to her body, the hue still blending deceptively with her bare skin. And as he moved even closer still, Sonny saw the faint purplish marks creeping out from hiding beneath the innocent lace.

He hadn’t seen them since that day in the hospital, when she’d been too groggy to know that he’d stolen glances at her back, against her will. And there they still were. The brushstrokes of Thomas Malloy’s fists still painted her back like a beautiful work of art that had been maliciously defaced. The vision before his eyes was indeed a work of art – one that held more simple beauty and grace than any master could create with a palette and brush.

“The Woman I Love at Rest, Immodestly Clothed.”

He crossed through the ray of light bleeding into the room from the open bathroom door. Sonny stopped and reached inside to extinguish it, leaving only the glow of the sun sifting in through the lace curtains and spreading across the foot of the bed. He trod softly on the thick carpet until he stood beside the nightstand, and his fingers automatically reaching down to touch the head of the furry little black and white beast that sat watching over her. Sonny grinned at it, feeling rather silly in his attachment to a stuffed toy. But it was so much more than that to him...and to her.

He let his eyes lower, and his hand followed down to brush against the cashmere fringe, as Alexis had done countless times that morning. Her loose fist held one end of the cashmere tucked under her chin, and his gaze drifted upward to her face, half buried in the corner of her pillow. And the sides of her hair were still pulled back in a barrette, but random strands of hair had escaped the tortoise shell grasp to frame her cheek.

Her cheek - where the fading marbled bruise lay unexpectedly bare beneath his eyes. The wondrous cover stick was gone. Alexis had cleaned all traces of make-up from her skin, and Sonny was glad that she no longer needed to hide from herself. Her face, her arms…all war wounds lay out in the open. She made herself look at them, so their power over her would go away. He smiled, proud of her determination to not let Sorel win. But his smile faded as he noticed a shadow on the pillow, just beside her brow. A mutation of white – an inch wide spot that made Sonny’s head tilt and his finger tip touch down upon the cotton pillowcase.

He found dampness. Sonny frowned and lowered himself to crouch beside the bed, looking closely at her face. He saw the apples of her cheeks were a deep shade of pink, as was the tip of her nose – and across that flushed nose, the light spray of freckles stood out to greet him. He rested his chin upon the edge of the bed and stared at those closed lids, knowing that Alexis had shed some private tears, and it was too late for Sonny to dry them. It had been a rough morning for her, but at least it was done. He sighed and gently lifted a lock of hair from its curve around her neck, lowering it back behind her shoulder as he whispered softly.

“No more, Alexis. No more hospitals. And no more Luke.”

He’d thought long and hard about what to do, if anything, about his nosy ex-partner. Tony’s words of warning were buffered by his impression that Luke meant her no harm, but Alexis could be harmed too easily with nothing but the best of intent. And Sonny finally thought better of his initial impulse to pay Luke a warning visit. As Johnny wisely pointed out, it would only let him know that there were bones buried and waiting to be dug up. And Luke was all too eager to dig in other people’s back yards, no matter how much of a mess he left behind him or who got covered in dirt. It was best to let it lie and hope he’d find some other tempting source of distraction. But if Luke persisted in sniffing around Alexis and brought more ills down on her head, God help him.

Sonny pulled his angry thoughts away from Luke and his loving gaze from her closed eyes. He let it drift down to the arm she held tucked tight against her side, then travel across the bare expanse of her shoulders, back and garment of silk and lace. He rose halfway to standing as his eyes swept up and around, following the line of her right arm that lay upon the pillow in a curve around the back of her head. The fresh, tiny new dot on the inside of her arm peered up at him, demanding his attention. It was encircled in a telltale pink shadow – the lingering mark of a band-aid’s irritating adhesive. One last blood test, over and done with – one last small hurt of great impact. Sonny stared down at the pinpoint mark and it pulled at him like a magnet. He found himself leaning his palms gently into the mattress and lowering himself over the stillness of her body. And his mouth hovered over the pale skin that had been invaded for the last time, as if testing the waters before touching down in a gentle kiss upon the hurt…to make it better.

His breath was warm upon her arm in the seconds before his mouth touched down. Alexis could feel it. Her face was turned away from him, and Sonny couldn’t see her eyelids flutter. Her fingers moved in response, but Sonny couldn’t see them either. His eyes were closed as his mouth claimed the softness of her, and Alexis smiled as his soft lips brushed her skin. Her eyes slowly blinked open to the sight of Sonny’s arm, leaning into the bed next to her, and the shiny silver belt buckle set against dark trousers. And now, as Sonny lifted his face, he saw her fingers curling in toward her palm. He heard her breathing change as she squirmed and finally turned her head against the pillow to look at him. He smiled at her and she closed her eyes once more, the single right dimple greeting him.

“Hey.” He whispered, still bent over her body.

She pulled her twice-kissed arm into her body and rubbed the edge of her hand against her eye. “Hey.”

“I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”

“It’s okay. It’s one of the more pleasant awakenings I’ve had lately.” She ran her tongue across her lower lip and glanced down at her arm before peering back up at him. “Were you kissing my owie, or was that a vivid dream?”

Sonny felt a quick, hot flush take over his face and he released a short burst of nervous laughter as he stood straight up, avoiding her direct view. “Well, you know, owie’s are supposed to be kissed. It’s tradition.” He rubbed at his cheeks as he moved around to the other side of the bed. “Would you have me flout tradition?”

“Perish the thought, Tevye.” She saw Sonny squint down at her in confusion. “Never mind. The only other person to follow that particular tradition with me was Stefan, and I think I was about seven years old the last time he did.”

“Nobody’s ever too old to have a hurt kissed and made better.” Sonny murmured, remembering the many times his own mother’s lips had tended to a hurt placed on his body by Deke. But she would never allow him to do it for her.

“Tony said something like that, about how nobody is too old to get nervous in a doctor’s office.” She sighed and turned her face toward him as he sat down beside her. “Poor Tony. He kept looking at me as if I was a bomb he was trying to diffuse and could explode in his face at any time.”

Sonny smiled at her vivid depiction of the doctor’s hang-down, worried expression that he’d seen so many times himself. “He was just being careful with you.”

“I know. He’s a very caring man. I’m grateful that in spite of how difficult a patient I was at times, he stuck with me.” She gave him a quick wink. “Pun intended.”

He tilted his head and his dimples came out of hiding. “Good one.” Sonny ran a light finger down the edge of her arm. “This was it, you know. No more. No more hospitals, no more doctors, no more needles. And no more being touched…by people you don’t want touching you.”

Alexis frowned as she looked back down at her bare, track-marked skin. She didn’t understand how Sonny could touch such ugliness – a not so little ugliness – as freely as he did, or how he could look at it so openly. Or how he could lay his mouth upon it as if it was a thing of beauty, rather than the brand she saw herself. But Sonny never made her feel ugly – or branded. He never looked at her wounds - at HER - with anything but pure acceptance. And there was always something more that she saw in his eyes...something pure...something so much more than what the simple word ‘friend’ implied. Alexis tilted her head and looked up into those deep, charcoal eyes and there it was – acceptance, and…love. What she saw in him, what she felt from him, was a kind of love.

Having close friends of either sex had been a new experience for her since coming to Port Charles. Before answering Stefan’s call, her looks and legal acumen simply precluded the making of anything but casual acquaintances and business relationships. To the male attorneys in her Manhattan firm, she’d been the object of unwanted sexual advances and a threat to their professional egos. To the women, she was object of jealousy in both regards. Ned was her first true male friend, and Jax was her second. Sonny was her third. But while the love she shared with Ned grew to something deeply intimate, the kind of love shared with Jax stayed otherwise special, growing even closer while living together and feigning marital bliss.

But her closeness with Sonny was different. It wasn’t just because they’d faced a life-or death crisis together - she’d been there with Jax as well. Perhaps it was because he’d saved her life. Perhaps because she knew he’d do it again. Or perhaps because Jax had abruptly left, and his contact with her was nil. She worried about him, and she missed him. And deep down, Alexis felt abandoned...again. She understood what he needed to do, but to wonder if he’d simply forgotten about her hurt more than she wanted to admit. If Sonny had been the one to leave, Alexis knew she wouldn’t be wondering. Sonny wouldn’t let her feel forgotten or abandoned, and she believed that with everything in her.

The room suddenly seemed deafeningly quiet, and Alexis noticed her throat had gone arid. She swallowed and refocused. Sonny was looking down at her, and she held his gaze in a long, wordless exchange. The feel of his fingers resting upon her arm began to spread a warm tingle up through her shoulder and down through the center of her body. Alexis bit her lip and pulled her eyes from his. She scrunched her shoulder up to her ear as the tingle heated within her face. Sonny simply smiled at the gesture he knew so well. Alexis was feeling content, and also somewhat shy. She smiled too, and it quickly grew to a gentle laugh as she closed her eyes and turned her face into the pillow.

Alexis sighed and began to stretch, releasing her hold on the scarf that still lay tangled in her hand. Her arms reached up around the pillow, while her long legs stretched out along the comforter. Sonny took advantage of his eyes having free reign, and he let them roam along the smooth curve of her neck, the hills of her naked shoulders and the valley of her spine. He was sure he knew exactly what they would feel like if he dared reach down to caress her with his palms, rather than his gaze. More forbidden fruit – a tactile temptation. Alexis would feel like heaven.

She suddenly curled up on her side, and Sonny was met with the unexpected vision of the gentle slope of her breasts, still carefully guarded by lace-trimmed silk. He turned his gaze away, biting down on his lip as a wave of desire washed over him. And his desire was made all the more strong by her innocence – the complete lack of self-consciousness Alexis displayed in lying so delicately clothed before his eyes. She had no idea how beautiful she was, war wounds and all, or what she could stir inside of a man without even trying. She never tried, and that was the most compelling thing about her. Sonny wanted to tell her. But if he did, her self-consciousness would take over. He wanted her to stay as free as she was.

Alexis turned her head and grimaced as her body followed, twisting as she tried to see at the clock on the nightstand. “What time is it? I can’t make it out.”

“About two.” Sonny answered through a dry throat.

The full view of her upturned face and widened eyes showed a residual pink tinge to the whites surrounding dark irises. He remembered the night he’d returned to her, after bashing Sorel’s face against the bars of his cell in a blinding release of rage. He’d dirtied his hands with the blood of a monster, and Sonny needed to be clean before seeing her, before touching her again. He’d scrubbed his whole body clean from head to toe in a hot, steaming shower, and released the tears of grief, relief, and unspent anger that had been pent up inside of him since the day she’d disappeared. He was too distracted to notice his own bloodshot eyes, but Johnny did. And he gave Sonny eye drops to destroy the evidence he knew Alexis would notice too. This time, it was her turn to be distracted, and Sonny’s turn to noticed.

“Sonny?”

“Hmm?”

She laid her arm to rest across her stomach and squinted up at him. “I said, I hope you ate lunch without me, because it’s late and you must be hungry.”

He shook his head. “Nope. Lunch is in the oven and will be ready in about twenty minutes. You looked pretty wiped out when we left the hospital, so I figured you’d need to rest a little longer than a half hour. I timed lunch to allow some extra naptime for my favorite little spud.”

Alexis laughed and it made him smile.

“Besides, you may nap without me, but I don’t eat without you.”

She patted the empty place beside her. “If you’d care to join me, there’s plenty of room. Feel free to nap away for the next twenty minutes. And as comfortable as the leather seats in the back seat of your car may be, my bed is more so. But don’t bother asking Johnny for confirmation on MY claim of comfort either, because my bed is another place he’s never been.”

She giggled mischievously as Sonny shook his head with a groan. “Oh boy. I don’t think there’s a shade of red on the charts for the color that poor man’s face would be right now if he’d heard that come out of your mouth.”

“I think the color of YOUR face is enough of a chart-topper.”

Her laugh grew, and Sonny scratched at his face. “Yeah, yeah.”

He kicked his shoes off and he lay on his side, propping himself up on an elbow to look at her. Alexis mirrored him.

“Besides, I don’t need confirmation. I know that it’s comfortable.” He lay his palm down on the expanse of white between them, giving it a firm push.

Alexis looked at him curiously. “How?”

Oops. Corinthos fumbles and struggles to keep the ball in the air while avoiding her eyes.

“Well, I…you know, ANY bed is bound to be more comfortable than the back seat of a car. Even MY car. Except maybe a hospital bed, which you already know.” His eyes lit upon the thin silk strap running over her shoulder and down to the beginning curve of cleavage. It was the wrong alternative to looking in her eyes. His gaze snapped back up to her face and Alexis frowned.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I was…just thinking that you must be cold. Are you cold? I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be so…so...you know. Here, let me…” He reached over her and felt for the cashmere that lay behind her back. When he found it, he pulled it up, draping it across her naked shoulder as Alexis gave him a perplexed look.

“Sonny, I’m not cold.” She tried to take hold of his hand that fussed with the scarf. “The heat is on.”

Sonny stopped fussing and looked at her. Yes, the heat was definitely on.

“Still, you could catch a draft and you heard what Tony said. You need to be careful when you’re just out of the hospital.”

“Tony said nothing about the danger of drafts.” She pushed the cashmere down onto the comforter in front of her. She sighed and studied the flushing of Sonny’s face and the wide eyes that darted back and forth from her face to the spray of pink fringe lying upon white. Her voice softened as she started to interpret what was really going on.

“Are you more concerned for my health, or my modesty?”

He laughed nervously at her unexpected candor, but Alexis pulled the scarf up against her cleavage. She swallowed and stared hard at his down-turned face.

“Sonny, am I embarrassing you?”

“No!” His laughter quickly stopped and Sonny looked at her. The serious expression on her face moved his fingertips to her jaw. “No, Alexis, you’re not embarrassing me.”

“You ARE embarrassed. Good grief, Sonny. I’m no less clothed now that I would be in some of my evening-wear. Besides, the whole world has seen me in as little as this – including you. How come you’re suddenly all shy about it when last year you totally teased me about it?”

“I did not.”

“Did too.”

“Did not!”

Alexis sighed and narrowed her eyes as she gazed intently into his face, lowering her voice to a seductive whisper. “You have the face of an angel - Eddie’s Angel.” Her tone deepened as her eyes went wide again. “Insert blazing dimples here.”

“Oh.” Sonny grew pink.

“Yeah, ‘oh’.”

“Sorry.”

He grinned sheepishly. Sonny wasn’t sorry at all. And his memory of that particular teasing was vivid - in spite of his initial protest to the contrary. It was the first time he’d seen Alexis taken aback to the point of momentary muteness. And it wasn’t just the sexy photograph that made him first feel a masculine stirring – though it was quite an enticing image. It was the fire in her large, vulnerable eyes, the quick flush in her mortified cheeks, and the chink in her professional armor that sparked Sonny’s desire for flesh-and-blood woman. That momentary melting of her defenses gave him a new and compelling glimpse into the private part of her that Alexis covered up within seconds of Sonny exposing it. He made the decision right then and there to make it his business to watch for a chance to expose it again.

“I suppose I should have a little more decorum around you.” Alexis glanced down at the sheath of silk and lace draping across the slope of her breasts, and she felt a sudden rush of blood through her temples. It wasn’t appropriate for her to be so attired in front of Sonny’s eyes - in her bedroom, on her bed, as if they were…

“There’s nothing wrong…”

“No, Sonny.” She interrupted as she pulled the cashmere further up against her exposed skin. “You're right. I’ve gotten too comfortable in your presence, and I should think more about how you…”

“Alexis, please stop. I didn’t mean to imply that you’re…oh boy. You are NOT embarrassing me. And I came into YOUR bedroom, uninvited, while you slept. Maybe it’s me who’s gotten too comfortable and should have more decorum.”

She lowered her head, but kept her hesitant eyes on his face. “But I like that you’re this comfortable with me.”

There was an edge of fear in her expression, as if she was afraid that he would pull away from her.

“I like that you feel that way with me too. And I don’t want it to stop just because I made a clumsy attempt at being chivalrous. I know that you must have felt kind of exposed all over again at the hospital today, and I just didn’t want you to feel that way with me.”

Alexis stared at him. Exposed? Only Luke had made her feel exposed. How could Sonny know?

“What do you mean by that?”

Her defensive tone surprised him. “Well, you know, you had to put yourself in someone else’s hands and give up your control. As sensitive as Tony was to that, it must have made you feel…”

“Exposed.”

“Yeah. Why? What did you think I meant?”

She vaguely shook her head. “I don’t know. That’s why I asked.”

Her eyes avoided his, and Sonny knew she was hiding something from him – something that most likely put the redness into her eyes. He let her be.

“Asked and answered, as my attorney likes to say.” A single dimple etched into her cheek, but it quickly melted away again. “And just for the record, councellor, you have my full support – my blessing, even – to be as scantily clad in front of me as your little heart desires.”

Sonny ducked before Alexis had even moved a muscle to swat him. And swat him she did.

“Shut up!”

“I’m just making sure you know where I stand on the issue of your little silky things.”

“Sonny!” Another swat flew his way, accompanied by a poorly stifled laugh.

“Alexis!”

She sighed heavily and shook her head. “Now I want to put on a snow suit.”

“You’d still take my breath away.”

Sonny froze as her eyes stared down at the comforter, and he watched in silence as they slowly rose up to his. He’d really said it – the thought came out of his mouth instead of staying in his head. Alexis was flushing as she met his gaze. She ran her tongue across her lower lip before nipping at it briefly with her teeth and squinting at him.

“There you go again, giving me blarney.”

“I give you truth, Alexis.” His hand reached out to brush her bangs back from the corner of her eye. He then held it up high in the air. “And nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

He winked, and Alexis gave him a reproaching look.

“You know that it’s kind of my job to make sure you’re never compelled to say those words for real and with your hand on a Bible.”

Sonny laughed and Alexis smiled, laying her head back down on the pillow. Her eyes suddenly turned toward the doorway.

“Has it been twenty minutes?”

“Almost, but not quite.”

“What is that you’re cooking?”

“Comfort food. I thought you deserved it.”

She gave him a quizzical look.

“You know, those foods from childhood that make you feel good. Food that makes you feel secure…happy…comfortable.”

“Oh…right.” She frowned. “That doesn’t smell like popcorn to me.”

“Pop…” Sonny shook his head as Alexis widened her eyes in innocence. “Very funny. It’s macaroni and cheese - a purely American comfort food, I know, but I don’t know how to make anything Greek.”

“Not that anything Greek would be of particular comfort to me. Except maybe my brother, of course.”

Sonny smiled. That kind of Greek comfort, he’d already taken care of. “I also made a salad, in case you don’t like macaroni and cheese.”

“I don’t think I’ve had it since college. Is it your own favorite comfort food?”

“One of them, yeah.”

“Then I’m sure I’ll like it. What’s your MOST favorite?”

“Spaghetti.”

“Did…did your mother used to make it for you?”

He paused. “Yeah.”

“That must be a nice memory to have.”

“Yeah. She made macaroni and cheese too.” Sonny wished he could give her such a mother memory to hold onto. But all he could do was share his own with her, and make a new memory of comfort for her himself.

“It smells good.”

“I’m glad.” He watched her rub at her eyes, and then shift her gaze back to him with a relaxed smile. “Are you feeling better? I mean, when we came home you seemed…Johnny was concerned about you.”

“I’m fine.”

Sonny tapped the end of her nose with his fingertip. “Did you know that your nose gets a little red sometimes, when you’re…upset. So do your eyes.”

She unconsciously rubbed at her eyes again. “I’m fine, Sonny. And please don’t start going on about Luke again.”

“I wasn’t going to.”

Alexis cleared her throat and began to fidget with the edge of the pillowcase. Sonny studied her, noting the squint in her eyes as she followed the movement of her fingers traveling up, down and around the white cotton corner. She had no idea how much she was quietly telling him. He finally moved his hand to cover hers and stop the nervous display.

“I’m not going to pry, Alexis. I just…promised Johnny that I would make sure you were well rested and feeling more yourself.”

“Ah.” Alexis propped herself back up on her elbow and her eyes found his face. “Did you know that when YOU get upset, your chin kind of sticks out a little bit?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She slipped her hand out from beneath his palm and reached out to touch the top of his cheek, just below the curve of his thick lower lashes. “And you get a light shadow under your eyes, right here.”

Sonny smiled and closed his eyes.

“You can tell Johnny that I am well rested and very much myself.”

“I will.”

“And to whoever else it may concern, a little bit of a red nose isn’t always cause for worry.”

“Noted.” Sonny’s eyes opened and Alexis let her hand fall from his face. He caught it before it fell too far away. “Not so fast, buddy.” He pressed her palm to his cheek. “Aren’t you going to make a crack about my needing a shave? Surely I’m sporting SOME kind of beard by this time of day.”

Alexis laughed. “Oh brother! What, are you afraid that all your culinary efforts are having an adverse effect on some of your more masculine characteristics?”

“Maybe.”

Not at all. But it was the only excuse he could think of to cover his need for her touch to last a little longer.

“Don’t worry – your masculine characteristics are safely intact.”

He laughed and reluctantly released her hand. But Alexis didn’t take it away. Instead, she began to brush her thumb back and forth against his slightly scratchy skin. Her face softened to a rather curious expression as she studied not Sonny’s eyes or face, but the motions of her own hand, as if trying to answer a silent question in her mind. And then, he noticed the pulse in her throat quicken as her hand finally slid down his face in tandem with her eyes rising to meet his. Her eyebrows arched and she tucked a wayward lock of hair behind her ears.

“And you do, in fact, need a shave.”

Her voice was light as air and it sent a shiver through him that intensified the heat her touch had left on his cheek. Sonny licked his bottom lip before grazing it with his teeth.

"And YOU, my little spud, need lunch.” He glanced at the door and inhaled the intensifying smell of comfort food that was making its way through the whole of PH2. “That is, if I haven’t burned it by now.”

“Burned it?” Alexis pushed herself upright and crossed her arms. “What are you trying to do, buddy, horn in on MY territory?”

Sonny grinned, and told her the truth...and nothing but the truth.

“Oh yeah.”