The door gently closed and Sonny was alone with her again, as his anxious heart had yearned to be in the hours he was away.
He turned his eyes to look at her over his shoulder, his head leading the way for his body to slowly turn and move toward her beckoning form on the couch. As he came closer, his eye was caught by the telephone cradled loosely in her hand. He smiled, reminded of the night before when she'd drifted off while talking, and he'd snuck back into her room to hang up the phone. He wondered if she'd maybe done it again, and someone was again left dangling on the other end of the line. And he wondered who that someone might be - Stefan, Nikolas...Ned? Sonny bent over her to check for a little red light.
Alexis suddenly took in a quick, deep breath and released it with a raspy exhale. The sound of it roused her, and she stirred slightly. Sonny pulled himself back up and away, watching as she rolled onto her back. As she did, the phone slipped from her tenuous grasp and made a dull thud as it landed on the seat cushion, just beside her ear. Her brow creased. Alexis turned her head and before her lids could lift, Sonny had taken the telephone away. She smiled and rubbed at her eyes as Sonny sat down upon the coffee table and smiled back.
"Hey spud." He whispered, tilting his head in the same direction of hers.
"What time is it?" She whispered back.
"Did you get the shipment thing straightened out?"
"It's handled. And since it was getting late and I didn't want to make you have to wait while I made lunch, I picked up some pizza."
She took a deep breath. "Ah. So that's what that is. I was about to complain about your change of cologne."
Sonny smiled and rubbed at his chin. He'd never change the scent Alexis knew as his.
"Have you been sleeping long? Are you hungry?"
"Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. And not really, no."
"Go on back to sleep, if you want. Lunch will keep."
"No, I'm awake."
Alexis shifted again, moving more onto her side as she gazed up at him with a studious face. Sonny suddenly felt self-conscious.
"It's always you." She murmured softly.
"Always me?" He liked the sound of that.
Her lids closed and she sighed contentedly. "Every time I wake up, it's you I see. Every time I open my eyes, it's always you."
Alexis opened her eyes again and looked up at him in a way that both thrilled him, and set him on edge. He ran his tongue across his lips. Was it want he saw in her expression...or was it hesitance? He couldn't tell. Did she need some space, or did she like having him near? She lay there so still, her big, dark eyes ponderous as they quietly drank in his. She seemed to be searching for an answer within them. His mouth went inexplicably dry. And Sonny then remembered what Johnny had said - that Alexis was letting him be close for a reason, and would tell him straight out if she wanted room. He was right. Sonny smiled and reached for her, lifting a thin lock of her hair from the edge of her face and letting it fall back behind her ear. Her right dimple made a cameo appearance.
"Your faithful houseboy is always happily at your service." His arid voice finally managed to break through.
Her brow furrowed. "I'm serious when I tell you you're spoiling me."
"I'm serious when I tell you I love...spoiling you. So don't ask me to stop, okay?"
"I'm not...I'm just not so sure it..."
She stammered, then halted altogether as her teeth clamped down on the edge of her lip. Sonny leaned forward and cupped his chin in his hands as his elbow dug into the tops of his thighs.
"Alexis, is there something bothering you that you're afraid to tell me about?"
He'd just given her an opening to tell him about Luke. Sonny was sure she would tell him about Luke's visit sooner or later, even though she hadn't wanted him to intervene at the time. He wanted her to tell him sooner. But he knew Alexis, and Alexis knew him. If she kept it from him for a while, it likely meant she wanted to save Sonny from himself. Or rather, save both Luke AND Sonny from himself. He knew she'd been unsettled by his confession of a violent visit to Sorel in his jail cell. And she'd been terrified that there would be consequences for him to pay. She didn't know that Taggert had looked the other way, or that Sonny wouldn't do anything that would take him away from her, no matter how strong his rage or for whom.
"Alexis? You're not so sure...what?"
Alexis rubbed at her eyes and pushed herself up to a sitting position. She carefully gave her back a small stretch as she continued to gaze at him with a gentle smile. Sonny smiled back, though his brow tensed. She looked weary, sitting up straight and looking at him head on as she was. And her eyes were tinged in pink. Was it from rubbing at them, or had she been crying in private again? Luke Spencer had better watch his back. The man would be getting a visit of his own very soon. Sonny reached out and cupped her face in his palm, trying to move her to release whatever it was that struggled to be expressed. Alexis leaned into his hand for a long moment, then tilted her head away.
"I'm not so sure that being spoiled is productive for me right now. You make it so easy to let you do it, but as someone recently pointed out, being a delicate flower isn't in my nature."
That's a lie. You are delicate...and beautiful and strong.
Sonny frowned. "How would you know?"
Alexis blinked at him. And then, she stammered. "I...well, I...what do you mean?"
As are the gardenias that you love, so are you...
"You've never had the opportunity to discover if it's in your nature, have you? Or maybe at one point you DID discover it, but it scared you because it made you feel vulnerable, and vulnerable is a bad thing for a Cassadine to be. And now, you've gotten too good at pretending that it isn't a part of you at all."
Her smoky eyes stared, then abruptly broke their lock with his. They darted away, to nowhere specific and Alexis laughed a small, nervous laugh. Sonny's fingertips danced along the top of her knee.
"I hate to break it to you, Alexis, but you've been busted."
Her heart skipped a beat. Found out...her mind snapped to Luke and the dirty little secret they shared and he threatened to reveal. No - he hadn't told. Her guilty conscience had been roused that day, right along with everything else that refused to stay passively dormant. Alexis slowly turned her eyes back to Sonny's face with her teeth grazing her lip. Sonny's eyes were twinkling at her, and she felt his fingers slide out along her knee until his palms were resting flush upon it. She suddenly yearned for the comforting feel of that palm resting flush against her cheek once more instead. She cleared her throat and tugged at the edge of her sweater.
"Okay, I'll bite. What's the charge?"
"Perpetrating a public fraud. Carrying a concealed delicate nature."
"Look who's pressing charges against whom?" She teased softly.
"Whoa - careful of my masculine pride, okay?" Sonny gave her leg a squeeze as he winked. "Besides, we're talking about you. Only you."
"I think it's best if some things stay concealed...for a while."
Sonny frowned, shifting against the hard table beneath him. Alexis glanced at the empty space beside her.
"There's room here."
He shook his head. "No. I can see you better from here. And I want to see your eyes straight on when I ask you to tell me what's up, and why you're suddenly reluctant to be real with me."
Alexis physically pulled back, defensive. "I didn't say that."
He felt her leg stiffen, and Sonny took his hand away. "Something feels different since this morning. You feel different. Why?"
Please tell me about Luke. Please trust me to stay sane. And please, please don't start hiding from me...
"I'm a little nap-groggy. That's all."
"That's not what I feel."
Alexis bit her lip through a nervous smile and shake of her head. Sonny bowed his head and stared at the floor between his shoes.
"Every day I feel closer to you, and every day I know you're letting yourself feel closer to me too. It's not easy for either of us to allow closeness with someone else, but it's become easy for me with you. I'm not scared at all with you. Are you starting to get scared with me? It's okay to tell me, if you are."
Alexis shifted her eyes from the phone to the shiny, wavy black hair framing his down-turned face and fought the urge to touch it. She swallowed hard as her fingers dug into the sofa cushion. She WAS scared - of more bad dreams and secret memories, of confronting Sorel, and of seeing Thomas's blue eyes again. And she was scared of the whirlwind of feelings about the two men who wrecked havoc with her heart. Ned...Sonny...old feelings, deeply rooted, were tangling with the new - which were taking root just as deeply. Her desires were shifting, her loyalties at odds. And through everything, there ran a thread of guilt.
Sonny heard a small sound, locked deep within her throat, trying to make an escape. He slowly lifted his eyes back up to hers and found them staring at the telephone that lay on the table beside him. Her chin was quivering, and her hand had found its way to her arm where fingers lightly scratched. He moved his own hand up from her leg to cover hers upon her arm. The conflicted expression on her face made him ache. He leaned in further toward her.
"Honey, every part of yourself that you open up to me is sacred."
Alexis closed her eyes and smiled.
"I treasure them, and I promise to keep them safe for you. Do you trust that I will?"
"You know I do." She whispered.
"And you don't ever need to protect me from anything that's on your mind or in your heart. Not ever, Alexis. I want you - the real you, now and always."
Sonny's heart pounded inside his chest. He had just told Alexis he wanted her. Would she intuit just how literally he meant it? He held his breath as her eyelids fluttered back open and she gave him a half smile.
"We've done this before, Sonny. A couple of times, I think. And at the end of the day, we both know that we'll say and do - or rather, NOT say and do, whatever our instincts tell us is right."
He released his breath. His belief and hope that she'd tell him about Luke was fading, as was his belief that what he confessed to her that morning hadn't really compromised her trust in him.
"Alexis, were you really okay with what I told you earlier today?"
"About what I did, when you were at GH."
She looked confused. "You mean the horrendous crime of peeking at the bruises on my back?"
"I don't take what I did lightly. I broke your trust because you weren't able to prevent me. You were totally vulnerable, and I took advantage of it."
"Vulnerable. There's that word again. Why is it such a heavy part of your vernacular all of a sudden? And why are you still making an issue out of what you did when I told you I wasn't angry? You looked at my bruises, so what? No harm done. It's no big deal. And please don't use the term 'vulnerable' about me again today. It's really not something I need to internalize right now." Alexis squirmed in her seat and cast her eyes over her shoulder. "And the pizza must be getting cold, so why don't you go eat before it turns to cardboard."
Sonny's ache intensified. He had pushed at her too hard, and now she was pushing him away. "I didn't mean to make you feel that I doubted your strength."
"You didn't. Your belief in my strength makes me believe in it more myself. But you are making me feel like you're trying to find...I don't know, find more reasons to keep taking care of me? But what I need is that there be fewer reasons."
He felt found out. He did want to take care of her, in every way. But he knew that he couldn't - he knew Alexis wouldn't let him.
"I want to take care of the small part of you that still needs it. That's all. And I wanted to be sure that knowing what I did hadn't made you reluctant to be...that-word-you-don't-want-me-to-use-about-you-again. With me, I mean. If I made something wrong between us, I need to make it right."
"Things ARE right. Between us. But I'm thinking so many things and I'm feeling so many things...and it's all mine to think and feel. There are things that I just won't be able to share with you, Sonny. Some things, I'll want to tell you right away, and some things I'll need to process on my own before telling you. And there are other things that I'll always need to keep private."
"And I respect that. It's the same for me. Especially with that private part."
"Don't I know it." She half teased.
"Yeah, you do. Just tell me this. Whatever's simmering up here right now..." He tapped the side of her head, then just below her collarbone. "Or here, is it anything I can fix?"
"Do you have any idea what a reactionary you are?"
"Is that a compliment, or an insult? See - you're doing it to ME now." Sonny grinned.
Alexis grinned back. "It's an observation. You operate on the assumption that there is something that can or should be done about any give situation that displeases you. But that's not always a correct assumption to make."
"If there's a problem, I take care of it. It's what I do."
She scrunched her face and covered her ears. "Lalalala...I'm not supposed to HEAR about you 'taking care of problems'!"
"Alexis." He laughed and tried to pull her hands away from her ears.
She shook her head and closed her eyes. "Lalalala..."
"Will you STOP?"
Alexis smiled and allowed him to wrest her hands away. He pulled them down between their knees, and she turned her palms to clasp his hands in hers.
"You stop, Sonny. Stop thinking that something always has to be done in response to whatever. Sometimes you just need to experience a thing and..."
"Are you making fun?"
He squeezed her hands and focused deeply into her eyes. "No."
She felt a flush of guilt. She knew he wasn't teasing, but her defenses had been overtaxed that day. Alexis leaned forward and whispered softly.
"Sorry. I didn't mean it."
"There isn't always a way to fix what goes wrong, no matter how much money or power you have." Her gaze drifted to their entwined hands. "And not every action requires an equal and opposite reaction...so to speak."
Her last words and the expression on her face as her eyes stared down at his hands made Sonny feel unclean. It made him remember Sorel's dirty blood staining them, and his fevered cleansing of his hands - his whole body, before returning to the hospital and touching Alexis again. He wondered if she ever looked at his hands now and thought about the violence they had done. Or if she ever looked into his eyes and saw the edge of angry darkness that could inspire that violence again. For her to know he was capable of it was bad enough, but to look at him and have it run through her mind was a horrible notion.
Alexis slowly shifted her eyes back to the telephone by Sonny's side. She wanted to tell him about the plans she'd made with Taggert, but there was a deeply dropped anchor inside of her that held her tongue in place. Sonny may understand the need that drove her to her decision, but he hated Thomas Malloy. And if she told him right then, she knew she'd see pain and guilt in his eyes every time he looked at her until the time she walked out the door the next day. Alexis didn't want to see those things in Sonny's eyes anymore. Especially not when they were looking at her. She only wanted to see the other things - the things that pulled at her heart.
Sonny dropped his gaze down to the object of her contemplation. "Expecting a call?"
Her head snapped up. "No. Why?"
"You were staring at it. Do you want to make a call? I'd be happy to hand it to you, if you're too lazy to reach for it yourself." He grinned as his hand played with the telephone.
"No, I don't want to make a call either. And if I am getting at all lazy, it's all your fault. Calling me spud. Once again, people do tend to internalize certain labels."
"Good thing I'm not susceptible to that internalizing thing, or all the times you've called me an amoral crook would have really done a number on my psyche."
Alexis opened her mouth in surprise, then closed it quickly. Her face began to flush. "I haven't said that in a long time."
"I only really meant it about half the times that I said it."
"Oh?" Sonny's eyebrow rose.
She squinted. "So, are you one of those people who LIKES their pizza to be like cold cardboard?"
He shot her a wide, toothy grin. "I knew you always liked me."
"I did not."
"You were smug, arrogant, cocky, sexist...
"You liked me."
"Shut up!" She swatted him, fighting the smile that wanted to break out. Fighting it made her cheeks ache. "And you know damn well I gave that hundred dollar retainer back to you."
"You got no proof. But you DO have a mind like an elephant."
"And you'd better be careful about the context in which you compare me to a pachyderm, buddy."
"Noted. You do like pizza, don't you?"
Sonny gave a quick shake of his head at the sound of the same response that question elicited from Johnny. He would have to cut down on his stupid questions.
"I just hope you don't like anchovies or pineapple on it, or you're tough out of luck."
She stared at him blankly. "For future reference, those are two words that should never be used in the same sentence. Especially not to someone who isn't really hungry to begin with."
"But you'll at least eat a little, right? You ate well at breakfast, but that was a while ago, and you need to take your vitamins with..."
"With food, I know." Alexis interrupted with a patient tone. "And I will."
"You don't have to eat the pizza if you don't want it."
"I must say I'm surprised that you not only allowed take-out to be brought into this home, but you brought it in yourself." She reached for his forehead. "Are you feeling alright?"
He allowed her to humor herself with a palm pressed to his face. He willed it stay there a while. "I just thought you deserved a little junk food indulgence after all the healthy things I've been making you eat."
"Have you heard any complaints?" Her hand fell away and Alexis settled back into the cushion with a smile.
"Not about my cooking? No." He sighed. "Just about my bossing. So what sounds good? You name it, I'll make it."
"Pizza is good. But I really don't have much of an appetite, so please don't expect too much from me, okay?"
"Okay. Be right back."
Sonny rose and ran an easy hand over the top of her head as he headed for the kitchen. The soft movement of her hair made her scalp tingle, and the tingle turned to a warmth that spread downward through her face and neck. Alexis scrunched her shoulders and languidly blinked her eyes with the feel of it. The small, connective gesture had become his habit when leaving her alone in the room, like an unconscious way of letting her know that he'd be back. It was reassuring, though it wasn't needed for her to know he'd return. She blinked once more, allowing her heavy lids to stay lowered as her head tilted back, releasing its weight onto the top of the cushion. Alexis was still tired, inside and out, and a twenty-minute nap wasn't quite doing the trick. If she'd woken up alone, she would have gone right back to sleep. But she'd woken up to Sonny, and she wanted to stay awake for him.
He knew she didn't hear him as he came quietly back into the room behind her, plates in one hand and silverware in the other. Sonny stopped midway toward the couch, noting the stillness of her head. Had she drifted off that quickly? It worried him sometimes, her need for so much sleep. Tony said that it was normal - that it was good. The more she slept, the better she healed. But for Alexis to so easily give in to her body's demand for rest was against her nature...or maybe not. Maybe she'd just never had occasion to allow her Type A personality the luxury of discovering if it was in her nature or not.
The sudden ring of the telephone startled him, and Sonny took a reflexive step back. Alexis was startled too, her eyes quickly blinking open and her head straightening back up. The phone rang again, and she answered it.
"Alexis Davis. Hi! How are you?" She laughed lightly. "But I like asking first these days. I'm alright. Yeah, I took the last one this morning."
Sonny continued toward the sofa, and Alexis turned.
"Something wrong?" He set his handfuls down on the coffee table.
She shook her head. "That was Sonny, being nosy." She laughed again and glanced mischievously up at Sonny. "Tony wants to know if I'm not thoroughly sick of having you in my hair. I suppose I should be..."
Sonny smiled and returned his hand to the top of her head as he leaned down close to the phone, close to her face, and finished her sentence. "But she isn't. She likes having me in her hair."
His eyes shifted to hers and found them cast down toward his mouth. He stared at the curve of her lashes, watching her eyes as they gazed at him. His lips unconsciously parted, the tip of his tongue darting across his lower lip. Alexis blinked rapidly and raised her eyes to his. A quick flush sprang up in her cheeks at having been caught. His stomach fluttered in response to the color of her shyness, and his heart pounded from the dark depth of her eyes. Sonny knew what thoughts and feelings ran through him when his eyes lay fixed on Alexis's mouth. And he was sure, this time completely sure, that it was the same for her. His hand began a slow travel down her hair...
"I - I'm sorry. W-what did you say, Tony?" Her head turned away from him as Alexis tried to refocus on the voice on the other end of the line.
Sonny closed his eyes and briefly leaned his forehead against her before straightening his spine. His hand continued to the ends of her hair and lingered at her shoulder as he shifted his weight. His body was responding to her in more ways than one, and it disturbed him that his control over it was waning. In private, the way his body responded to his thoughts of her wasn't so troublesome. While in her company, he HAD to have control. He wanted her that way, and desperately. But he wanted her in other ways even more - ways that were more about his heart than his body.
It was a strange way to feel, and it was new to Sonny. The physical want had usually come first for him, and the love came to follow. With Alexis, there was always an attraction. But there was also always the implicit understanding that her role in his life would be something else - a professional associate, who happened to be a sexy as hell woman. He would push aside the latter. And for once in his life, Sonny Corinthos became friends with a woman without allowing himself to view her as an object of sexual desire...until Eddie's Angel took flight. He would never tell Alexis, but the first time he saw that picture while standing in the middle of a throng of reporters with his mortified attorney at his side, the man in him couldn't deny certain things any longer. From friendship...to lust...to love. The holy trinity had led him to the best thing he'd ever had in his life. Amen to proper order.
"So, that's it then? You're done with me?" Alexis smiled to herself, then furtively glanced up at Sonny. "N-no, not yet. Listen, thanks for letting me know so quickly. Okay. I know - I will. And...thanks again, for everything. You too. Bye."
Alexis clicked off the phone and cradled it in her lap.
His ornery body had returned to its normal state, and Sonny comfortably sat on the arm of the sofa. "Was that about your blood tests?"
"Everything is fine."
He beamed. "Hot diggity dog."
"But I'm to keep taking the vitamins until the bottles are empty."
"What was the 'No, not yet' about?"
"Uh...he just wanted to know if I was back up to my normal weight. And he wants me to tell him if I'm not by the end of the week."
It wasn't really a lie. Tony HAD said those things, but her answer was to a completely different question - whether she'd spoken to Charlie again, as she'd told him she wanted to do. Alexis was feeling more and more like she should, but she was taking things one day and one demon at a time.
"You'll be back up to your normal weight soon if I have anything to say about it."
"Yes, I got that. Putting Hagen Das in my freezer and bringing me pizza pretty much sums up your intentions."
"Not all of them." The words fell out.
Alexis smiled. "Right. I forgot about your spud-making quest."
"Speaking of the pizza - it's been heating back up and I'm going to go get it out of the oven."
She watched him leave, then glanced down at the phone still held within both hands. Alexis had a renewed urge to tell Sonny that she was going to the PCPD the next day, but she wasn't sure how to tell him - or how much to say. And she certainly couldn't tell him anything about Thomas before he was about to eat. She shook her head and set the phone back on the coffee table, beside a setting of silverware. One eyebrow rose up.
"Sonny? You're not actually going to use a knife and fork with pizza, are you?"
A moment of silence.
"I thought you might want to." Came the distant reply.
Sonny returned, balancing two vitamin bottles atop two stacked pizza boxes. A full glass of water sloshed gently in one hand.
"Would you rather sit at the table?"
Alexis pulled her legs up and crossed them. She didn't want to move from that couch. Sonny set the glass onto the table, then handed her the bottles.
"Then here it is. And here you go."
"You would have made a good drill sergeant." She observed as she retrieved one tablet from each container and downed them with water. "Happy?"
"Blissfully so." He grinned wide. "Plain, pepperoni, or mushroom?"
"Don't I do enough of that already?"
She slowly shook her head. "No. Not any more.'
Sonny met her wistful expression with curiosity, his hand still holding the edge of the pizza box. Alexis smiled and bowed her head.
"Not as much."
Her eyes rose back up to his, though her head stayed lowered. Sonny inhaled deeply. He could surprise her alright, and with something quite a bit more momentous than topping X, Y or Z.
"I guess I'm going to have to work a little harder at keeping you on your toes."
A slice of mushroom pizza was set on a plate and handed to Alexis.
"Thank you. And my toes are just fine as they are."
Sonny reached over and grabbed her foot.
"Just making sure."
Alexis narrowed her eyes at him.
"I'm not going to tickle!" He defended against the silent accusation.
She sighed and looked down at the strong fingers wrapped around her arch.
"Would I do something so distracting as to tickle you when you're about to eat? It is what I want you to do, after all."
"Oh, I get it! You'll let go of my foot if I promise to eat?"
"If you promise to eat, I'll let go of it...for now. But I reserve the right to grab hold of it again later tonight, like I did last night. Remember?"
Alexis nodded haltingly. How could she forget? A muscle in her foot tensed beneath his warm palm, and Sonny firmed his touch in response.
"That was okay, wasn't it? I mean, I didn't hurt you or...tickle?"
Her tongue made a quick trip between her lips. No, he didn't hurt her. Far from it. Though he did tickle somewhat, as his firm, yet gentle hands massaged first one foot, and then the other as they sat in front of the fire. The currents it sent through her body made her feel as if she was floating on a warm, mild tide. It had made her aware of things still living inside of her that she hadn't thought of in weeks. And in the back of her mind, Alexis recognized that the feeling was vaguely akin to Sorel's drugs - to the heroin. The not completely unpleasant heroin.
"Alexis? It was okay, right?"
She swallowed and nodded. Sonny smiled.
"Good. Then is it a deal? Should I let go?"
His thumb moved slightly against the rising slope of her arch. Alexis picked up her slice of pizza and whispered through the growing warmth in her face.