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Scene 96

Alexis felt like she'd eaten a cow - and in a way, she had.

Sonny caught her stifling more than one yawn in the back seat of the car as they drove home from the park. He got it into his head that she probably needed more protein and iron in her diet than was in what he'd been feeding her. It concerned him that she was still tiring so easily, and sleeping quite a lot too. He didn't know that a long, dream-free, good night's sleep was eluding her. He didn't know that Luke dropped by and brought with him the ghosts of her family's past and her own desperate wrongs. And Sonny certainly didn't know that thoughts of him were preoccupying her, refusing to let go of her mind and allow it to clear enough for her to peacefully drift. But Alexis stayed quiet, and Sonny announced that steaks would be grilled for dinner. Real food for real people, he said, quoting a TV commercial from years ago. He cooked them as well as he cooked everything else, and Alexis decided that being spoiled was not such a bad thing at all.

"Sonny?"

"Alexis?"

"Guess what?"

"What?"

She turned around and pulled the edge of her sweater up above her waistband. "Notice anything missing?"

Sonny smiled and wiped his hands on the dishtowel. "The safety pin."

"Mission accomplished." She gave him a small smile over her shoulder. "You've finally fattened me back up."

"Yay for me." He gave her center belt loop a playful tug.

Alexis dropped the thin red knit back down and smoothed it over her hips as she turned to face him. "Yay for ME - the lucky woman with a houseboy who cooks."

Sonny reached past her and grabbed two bottles from the counter. He pushed them into her hands with an authoritarian glance down his nose.

"And vitamins to take."

"Correction - a BOSSY houseboy who cooks."

"Yay for me."

Sonny grinned wide as he returned to the last of the pots and the continuous stream of water running from the faucet. Alexis shook her head and moved to the pantry for a bottle of water.

"You know, I completely understand your reluctance to let me help with the actual preparation of breakfast, lunch or dinner. I applaud the good sense of it, in fact. But aside from one minor aquatic projectile incident that can be completely ascribed to a temporary strength deficit and compromised manual dexterity, I really don't think I'd do all that much damage if you'd let me help clean up."

Sonny stared as she swallowed her pills, fascinated by the wheels he'd seen turning in her head as she spoke. He wondered what else she might have been, if not a lawyer. Maybe the world's only non-corruptible politician? Alexis was suddenly staring back, gazing at him with a wounded puppy dog expression in her chocolate eyes.

"I'm not THAT domestically challenged. Am I?"

He scratched at his head. "A minor aquatic projectile incident?"

"It's only water." Alexis mumbled. "Big baby."

"Baby? You're calling me a baby?"

"Uh huh."

His eyebrows arched. Sonny slowly nodded his head as his hand methodically wrapped around the faucet sprayer.

"Take it back."

"Uh-uh."

She shook her head as she casually took another swallow of water. Sonny's tongue swept back and forth across his lower lip as he contemplated her. He suddenly yanked the sprayer from its socket and tilted it up toward Alexis's face.

"Take it baaack..." His voice lilted.

Alexis eyed the black and chrome nozzle held low in Sonny's hand and pointed in her direction. She slowly crossed her arms over her chest and lifted her gaze back to his face, trying not to smile at the boyish twinkle in his eyes.

"No." She answered simply, biting the inside of her cheek.

Sonny grinned at the pink face and wide eyes that told him Alexis was laughing inside. It filled him with joy to see such life dancing in her face, her eyes...those big, warm eyes he dove into with abandon every time he saw her. God, he loved her eyes. And God, he loved to tease her. But a little voice was whispering in his ear - Luke Spencer's voice - and it turned into a devil on his shoulder.

"Alexis is a woman who needs to get her dander up every now and then, which is something I seriously doubt she's going to get from you."

Sonny sharply cocked his head, a sly grin spreading across his face. "Aleeeexis..."

She narrowed her eyes. "Double dog."

Sonny dared. Alexis jumped as a short, cold burst of water found her face.

"Ha!" He chortled.

"Oh...you...oh..." She sputtered, squeezing her eyes shut to the streams rolling down her forehead. "You...okay..."

Sonny laughed. "You double dogged me, Alexis. You had to know that one day I'd finally bark."

She wiped the edge of her face with her sleeve. "Yes, well...that was very mature of you!"

"It's only a little water." He sprayed her again. "Big baby."

"HEY!" She jumped back, hand flying up to cover her face as Sonny laughed. "Okay. Alright. If THAT'S how you want to play!"

Alexis made a quick lunge for him, and Sonny instinctively ducked, pulling his arm into his body. He expected her to swat him, as was her way. He didn't expect her to turn her bottle of water, at least two thirds full, upside-down and empty it over his head. She caught him by surprise, and it took him a moment of thought to put up a half-hearted fuss as Alexis giggled. His arm rose up as he blinked against the droplets clinging to his lids and lashes.

"You're killing my cashmere!"

"You started it!"

Sonny's hand caught her wrist. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't allow it. He held her arm up by the side of his face as the downward-tilted plastic bottle continued to drip on his shoulder.

"Too late." Alexis announced proudly, giving the bottle a small shake. "It's already empty.

He squinted at the last large drops about to fall from the plastic rim. Alexis pushed the wet hair back from her face with a smug little smile. Sonny glanced back at her face, gave a smug grin of his own, and turned his focus to the hand he still held on the sprayer.

"See, that's what's so nice about these things." He tilted it upward, aiming it toward her once more. "The water pipes are NEVER empty, so the potential for...aquatic projectile incidents is endless. Heh, heh, heh..."

His dimples blazed, and Alexis wiped at a droplet tickling her nose. Her eyes grew big as she tried to stare him down. It didn't last long. She couldn't keep her gaze from drifting down to the black nozzle in Sonny's hand. It was doing some serious staring of its own. Her lip unconsciously slipped between her teeth, and Sonny turned to warm jelly inside. His eyes lovingly drank in her face - her sweet, beautiful, nearly naked, newly flushing face as it shone with wetness under the overhead lights. His hold on her wrist relaxed. He wanted to let go - to let his fingers move to the wet lock of hair hugging the curve of her cheek.

But the unexpected feel of her hand covering his distracted him. Alexis was pushing it down, moving the threat of another short shower away from her direction. Sonny allowed her to guide his hand and slide the sprayer back into its holder. She smiled. He smiled back. She tried to pull his hand from the nozzle, but he firmed his grip instead. Sonny quickly raised and lowered one eyebrow. She frowned and glanced down at their piggy backed hands. A low chuckle sounded from his throat, and Alexis looked back into his eyes with an expression that challenged, acquiesced, and defied all at once. Finally, her left dimple emerged within her cheek. She sighed lightly, giving one last look at the hand she held clamped upon his, held clamped upon the means to an endless supply of water.

"You win." She mumbled begrudgingly.

"What was that? Did you say something?"

"You're mean."

"You're dripping."

"So are you."

"I still win. Don't I?"

"Yes." Another mumble.

"WHAT do I win?"

Alexis frowned. "You've already gotten to boss me around for the last four days. What more do you want?"

His mind reeled. Her. He wanted her. "Uh...another four days?"

"Forget about it."

"One?"

"Sonny!"

"Okay. The rest of your life. And that's my final offer." He gave her a wink.

Alexis tilted her head, right dimple joining the left. "Along with your tendency to break things, you really do need to work on your control issues."

"Said the pot to the kettle."

"I'm not the one trying to do the bossing."

"Not right now, no. But when you're in attorney mode, look out."

"Lucky for you."

"Touche."

"So, kettle." She sighed once more. "Are you ever going to let go?"

Sonny's eyes questioned. She turned her head and gave a pointed look to the empty water bottle held aloft at the side of his head...and the hand he still had wrapped around her wrist. He didn't answer, waiting until she turned her eyes back to him.

"Are YOU?" He countered, fingers wiggling between her wet palm and the sprayer.

"Sure."

She dropped the empty bottle. It hit the ground at their feet with a hollow 'thunk', bouncing twice before it rolled across the floor. Alexis smiled. Sonny stared.

"Wiseacre."

Her eyes softened, tone lowering to a murmur. "Wanna make something out of it?"

Sonny felt a familiar low ache in response to her - her sleepy voice, her sleepy eyes, the flirtatious words coming out of her mouth. A vivid memory washed over him. Alexis, sitting in his penthouse with a bottle of water in her hand. She wore a sweater in a beautiful shade of red. He was courting her in a professional sense, but the way she affected him personally was difficult to ignore.

"Are you flirting with me?"

Her question had made him laugh in surprise. It was unexpected, as was the bold and flirty manner she showed him in return. She'd always been so tense before - way too serious and stubbornly fighting her slow slippage into the role of Sonny's council. But that day, he challenged her, questioned her, and learned that there were sides to Alexis Davis - then the newly married Mrs. Jacks - that he never would have guessed. She intrigued him. And yes, he'd absolutely been flirting with her. But was Alexis now flirting with him?

Sonny lowered her hand down from its hovering place, loosening his grip on her wrist but not releasing it. Her eyes never left his as she lifted her palm from the back of Sonny's hand. He kept clutching the sprayer anyway, afraid of where his desires would otherwise let his hand stray, settle and claim. Alexis swallowed against the lump returning to her throat. Sonny's olive skin gleamed with a veil of dampness, as did his black, wavy hair. A few tiny droplets were clinging to his lashes, while others were still making their way down his face. She wanted to reach out and touch one particular dewdrop making its lazy way down. And so she did. Sonny's lids drifted shut as her touch registered on his skin, her fingertip beginning a slow descent in the cool wet wake.

"You're all wet." She whispered.

He smiled softly, eye opening. "So are you."

Alexis felt a warm palm unexpectedly cup her cheek. Her finger halted its movement along his face. Her eyes shifted to his as his thumb began to gently graze back and forth against her cheekbone. She blinked, shivered, and leaned into his touch as her own hand continued on its path down the evaporating path that ended at his jaw.

"You're shivering. Are you getting a chill?"

"No."

"You should go put on something dry."

"I'm fine."

Sonny eyed the dark spots on her red top. "Maybe you are. But I think I really did ruin your sweater."

"I think I really ruined yours too."

"Sorry."

"Me too."

"I liked this sweater on you. I mean, it's a great color. You look nice in red."

"You mentioned that to me." Alexis bit her lip as her eyes darted from his dark stare to his rosy mouth. "It's a good thing for me that I wear the color well. With all your blarney, my cheeks are turning one shade of red or another quite a bit lately."

"You and Johnny." He winked.

"Yeah."

Another small tremor ran through her as the warmth of Sonny's hand sank deeper into her skin. He frowned, thumb halting as his gaze shifted to her cheek.

"Oh...I'm sorry. I'm an idiot."

"What? Why?"

"I'm hurting you, aren't I?"

Alexis was taken aback. "Why would you say that?"

"You covered it so well."

Her heart thumped. "C-covered what well?"

"The bruise on your cheek. I've been touching it. I almost forgot it was there, but I can see it now."

His hand slipped away from her face and back into her hair, leaving her skin naked to a bracing shock of cool air. Another tremble hit her, and her eyes lowered.

"I...didn't expect to be needing waterproof concealer. But you're not hurting me, Sonny."

"I wish I could take it all away." He murmured with a low, raspy voice as his face moved closer to hers, his warm exhale floating across her cool, damp skin. "Take all the hurt away..."

His soft lips found the high curve of her cheek, grazed it gently, then settled into her skin like a flame seeking the moth. Her eyes closed, chin lifting upward as her hand blindly sought and found him. Sonny's mouth broke contact as her fingers slid over the sleek damp hair above his ear. The blood pulsed in her head. Her breath quickened. Sonny sighed lightly as his lips brushed their way downward. Another soft, searing kiss was pressed below the apple of her cheek, and Alexis firmed her hand against his head. Her fingers threaded through the waves as she slowly turned her face toward the scent of spice. Her eyes were still closed as their noses touched once, then again, before Sonny's mouth lowered to her.

Alexis was awash in senses - the sound of running water still streaming from the faucet, the scent of cloves swirling in her head...and the feel of a tender mouth melting into hers. She moved into him, wanting to open herself up and give to him all that was welling up inside her soul and all that she was afraid to tell him in words. Her head suddenly spun, and she pulled her hand away from his hair, letting it come to rest against the wet cashmere clinging to his shoulders. She heard her name whispered in the air, and Alexis swallowed...and realized that Sonny's mouth was no longer pressed to hers.

"Alexis?"

The whispered name came again. She blinked and ran her tongue across her lips as she moved her palm against the firm curve of Sonny's shoulder. Fingers were suddenly pushing at her damp bangs, and she opened her eyes fully. Alexis looked up to see Sonny staring at her with a worried look. She blinked again.

"I don't like all this shivering you're doing."

"Well...the water was a...a little cold." She took a step back and let her palm slid down to his chest.

"You're flushed too."

Alexis smiled and shrugged, avoiding eye contact with him. Sonny looked down at her hand resting against his chest, over his heart, as if unconsciously laying claim to what she knew she already owned. He wanted her to look at him. She'd drifted, and was clearly embarrassed by it. He hoped it was nothing he'd done or said, but no matter what, he wanted her to look at him - and not be embarrassed. Sonny took hold of her hand and reluctantly pulled it away from his body, clasping it between both his palms. It worked. Alexis slowly let her eyes wander up to meet his. He smiled. She smiled too.

"The distance you just had in your eyes makes me wonder where you went."

She studied the crease of concern in his brow and tightened the curve of her fingers around his palm. Her gaze drifted to his mouth - the place where the distance in her eyes had taken her.

"Nowhere. I've been right here. With you."

As she whispered, Alexis unconsciously stared at his mouth. Sonny watched her stare, and it made his hunger for her stir. A drop of water escaped from a thin lock of her hair, demanding his attention as it fell against her cheek. He had a momentary twinge of regret for dousing her like he did - at least, for doing it with cold water instead of warm. She kept shivering...but she also kept laughing.

"I think you'd better go change out of those wet clothes. Dry off your hair too. I don't want you to catch cold on my account. Tony Jones would have my head."

"If I DID catch cold, what makes you think I'd tell him? I'm never setting foot in a doctor's office again. If I caught PNEUMONIA I wouldn't set foot in a doctor's office again."

"Yes you would."

"Mm-mm." She shook her head decisively.

Sonny smiled and brushed away the thin wet trickle the dissolving drop left on her face. "Go. Get dry and comfy."

"You too." Alexis nodded at his dark spotted, cashmere covered shoulders. "And I really am sorry I ruined your sweater."

"It's easily replaced."

"It was nice, though. Soft. And...it looked nice on you. No offense, but you wear too much dark. I mean I know you have this dark, somber image you like to uphold, and the dark colors do look good on you, but I...well, I kind of like you lightened up."

"I'll keep that in mind, next time I buy clothes."

Sonny gave her hand a gentle squeeze. Alexis squeezed back, then slowly released the tension in her fingers. He followed her lead and let her go.

"S-so...I guess I'll see you in the morning?"

She tilted her head and smiled at him as she rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. It was adorable.

"Are you ready for bed so soon, even after a late nap?"

Alexis was ready. But she hadn't really napped. There was no need for Sonny to know it.

"No, not just yet. Maybe in an hour or so."

"Then is it okay if I come back for a little bit, after we both dry off?"

"Oh. Sure. Yeah, okay."

"I have a little surprise for you. But I want you to get your rest, so if you're sleepy, it can wait."

"I'm not sleepy."

He studied her expression. She seemed a little too eager to convince him of her sincerity, which was something Alexis tended to do when she didn't want to be argued with or fussed over. He played along.

"If you say so. I won't stay long anyway."

"That's okay. I mean, you can stay...until you want to...go."

Alexis shifted her weight nervously to one foot. She suddenly felt incoherent under the radiance of Sonny's smile beaming at her. And she couldn't get the lingering feel of his imaginary kiss of her mind. It threw her, how easily and completely she'd fallen under the spell of a fantasy. It threw her that she'd allowed herself to even entertain it to begin with. And what threw her most of all was that it felt so real.

"I'll be back soon." He tapped the end of her nose.

"O-okay." She stammered, as her private contemplation was broken.

Sonny took a few small steps back, then turned with a smile and disappeared from the kitchen. Alexis stood for a long moment, staring after him into the empty space now before her. Her hand found her cheek, fingertips landing gently on the same place where Sonny's mouth had touched down. And she wondered, where had Sonny's mouth on her skin ended and what her mind conjured begun? Or had he even kissed her at all, even in pure innocence and only on her cheek? It all just felt so real...

Alexis shivered. The air hitting her damp hair and clothes was indeed giving her a chill, and she made her way toward the stairs to go change into something warm and dry before Sonny came back - with a surprise. She smiled, reluctant to even try imagining what he was up to now. With this man so deeply entrenched in her life, surprises where becoming the norm. But not all of them came from Sonny. The biggest and most profound surprise of all was ABOUT Sonny...and it had come from inside herself.

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

His hands being otherwise preoccupied, Sonny stood back from her door and let Johnny do the knocking for him. Alexis answered quickly. Her ponytail was gone, hair now falling upon her shoulders in a tumble. And as expected, she'd changed into her silk pajamas - the pale gold pair she'd worn her first night home. Sonny had only changed his sweater.

"I feel under dressed." She teased.

He smiled, casting an appreciative eye up and down the sparkling, silky vision of her. "Not at all."

Alexis felt her tummy flutter all over again as Sonny made his not-so-subtle perusal. She tugged on the hem of her pajama top.

"Um...are you going out?"

"No. Just here."

"Oh."

"I just quickly threw on a clean sweater and attended to that surprise I mentioned."

His dimples grew, and Alexis suddenly realized that he was purposefully holding both hands behind his back.

"You wouldn't happen to be holding some kind of squirt bottle back there, would you?"

"That would be redundant."

She pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. "The witness is instructed to please answer the question."

"What, you don't trust me? Close your eyes."

She tilted her head to glance at Johnny over Sonny's shoulder. "Johnny, would he happen to be holding some kind of squirt bottle back there?"

"No. So close your eyes."

"I see that bossiness is contagious."

"Please?" Johnny added.

Alexis smiled. "Such nice manners! And since you asked so politely..." She closed her eyes.

A hint of a very familiar smell soon met her nose.

"Okay. You can open them - please."

She did.

"Surprise!" Sonny drawled, one hand holding up the bottom of a wooden bowl.

"Popcorn!" Alexis smiled.

"Not just ANY popcorn. This is the real deal."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that there were no microwaves involved in the popping of it. This is authentic, old-fashioned, the real deal. It came in a jar and was popped in a skillet, on the stove, with pure vegetable oil as God intended it to be." He shook his head. "I don't know how you eat that other stuff, I really don't."

"Why? What's wrong with it?"

Sonny turned to give Johnny a look. "What's wrong with it, she asks."

Johnny shrugged. "She just doesn't know any better. Yet."

"True."

"Hey!" She tapped Sonny on the shoulder. "I'm right here, guys."

Sonny turned back to Alexis with a knowing look. "You'll see what's wrong with it after you've had it made the authentic way. Oh - and I brought company."

His other hand produced the penguin from behind his back.

"Aww." Alexis laughed and she took it up, cuddling it against her neck. "My turn?"

"Your turn."

"Come on in."

She took a step back and gave Johnny a parting smile as Sonny closed the door. He followed her to the sofa, and the bowl of popcorn was set down between them.

"Is it hard to make the "authentic" way?" Alexis crossed her legs and settled the penguin into the silk cradle of her lap.

"Not at all. It just takes attention and a little finesse, so you don't burn it."

"You seem to have finesse in all sorts of areas. And you never cease to surprise me with the things that you know. The things you know how to do."

He grinned and cast his eyes downward. He felt strangely shy under the bestowing of her unpretentious praise. Her words meant so much to him, even if they were inspired by nothing more than his humble offering of one of her simple pleasures. Being able to at all impress such an impressive woman as Alexis made him proud. He reached into the bowl and picked up a fluffy white puff.

"Yeah, well. Back at ya." He lifted the kernel up to her mouth. "Pardon my fingers, but I'm...breathless with anticipation over how it rates." He winked.

"Breathless, huh? Very funny." She laughed lightly.

"Thank you."

Alexis opened her mouth and let him feed her. Her expression quickly changed to one of curiosity.

"Wow."

Sonny flashed a pair of extremely large dimples. "Told ya!"

"You did." She reached into the bowl and took up a small handful. "How did you do that? I mean, why is it so different?"

"You mean, why doesn't it taste like a cooked paper bag?"

"Mm hmm." She mumbled as she ate.

He stuck his hand in the bowl. "There IS no cooked paper bag."

"Right." She smiled at her own silly question as she tucked her hair behind her ears. "Thank you. This was a very nice surprise."

"You deserved it. After all, you were such a good sport about getting sprayed."

Alexis pelted him on the forehead with a fat piece of popcorn. "I STILL can't believe you did that! I'm going to have to be more careful about my dares from now on."

"At least the double dogs." He pelted her back. "Those are serious business."

She bit her lip as a warm flush crept into her cheeks. Sonny's smile was so full of careless joy that it made her heart all but sing. She loved to see him like this, simply happy, and without the weight of so many things on his shoulders - without the weight of worrying about her. And Alexis loved that he was growing bolder in his playful ways, unafraid to treat her as he would have a few weeks before.

"Yeah. They're definitely serious business." She let her eyes settle into his, and both their smiles softened. "But it did feel good to..."

Her voice trailed as Sonny's tongue quickly darted between his lips...and then it was gone.

"I mean, you really did take off those kid gloves for, and..."

Her own mouth began to feel dry and she fought the urge to mirror what Sonny had just unconsciously done. She laughed nervously.

"And getting blasted with cold water made me feel more normal than I ever would have expected it to."

Her voice was barely registering as Sonny sat transfixed, his eyes watching as her gaze flitted between his eyes and his mouth, hovering more upon the latter. She was staring again - or trying not to. She'd caught herself doing it, and it made her blush with shyness. It made Alexis stammer, searching for words that normally came in a freefall of ease. His breaths quickened. The blood in his temples throbbed. It wasn't his imagination. It wasn't wishful thinking, or projection or coincidence. And Sonny wasn't traveling on a one-way street. He affected her too - and Alexis was aware. Maybe not completely, but enough to blush, and stammer...and stare at Sonny's mouth. His stomach fluttered. What was he to do now? And more importantly, what would Alexis want him to do?

Her fingers played with the rim of the wooden bowl. Alexis forced her eyes down, away from his face as she chewed on her lip. Her face felt warm, and she was sure it was red. She couldn't keep herself from stealing glances at Sonny's full, soft lips, so she stared at the mound of popcorn instead. Clearing her throat, she grabbed a few more kernels and tossed them into her mouth.

"But just so there's no misunderstanding, what I just said doesn't give you carte blanche to go around dousing me with water whenever the mood strikes you." She mumbled with her mouth full and eyes still downcast.

"Noted."

Alexis swallowed and finally allowed herself to look at him. "Even though being a good sport about it gets me authentic popcorn. Which has very likely spoiled me for the microwave kind. And I think I should be mad at you for that now."

Sonny tossed a kernel at her with a grin. It bounced off her chin and landed on the penguin's head. "Sonny's my name, spoiling's my game."

She rolled her eyes as she retrieved the wayward popcorn and tossed it back. A sudden yawn snuck up on her, and she quickly covered her mouth.

"Sorry. It's not the company."

"I know. Time for bed."

"Um...yeah. More of the real world awaits me tomorrow."

She absently scratched at her arm, running her nails along the silk. Sonny knew she'd be going to L&B, but she hadn't told him about her plan to see Thomas. And she was just too tired to bring it up right then. She'd tell him in the morning.

"Are you nervous about seeing Nikolas for the first time since what happened?" Sonny deliberately avoided any mention of Ashton's name, though he knew Alexis would be seeing him as much as her nephew. He tried not to dwell.

"No, not really. I know I look pretty normal now, with some effort. But I am concerned about bridging this gap between him and Stefan. It has to be handled in just the right way. They're both so proud and stubborn. And Nikolas is hurt and angry. I was too, so I understand. But as with me, the love is still there. That's what I need to help Nikolas acknowledge - at least to himself. If he can admit to the love in his heart for Stefan, that's a huge leap and the first step toward being happy again."

Sonny nodded as her words sank in deep. It felt as if she was talking about him. He'd admitted to the love in his heart for Alexis, and it did make him happy. But admitting it to himself - and to Johnny - only took him halfway to the kind of happiness he wanted. He knew he had to admit it to her as well. At least, he had to start trying. Alexis made a small sound as her hand rose up to cover another yawn. Sonny smiled as she rubbed at her eyes in that tired little girl way that made him want to pick her up, carry her off and tuck her safely into bed. But he knew that if he tried, the tired grown woman would soundly protest.

"I'm going to go put this in some Tupperware. It'll still be good tomorrow." He picked up the popcorn bowl and rose from the couch.

"I have Tupperware?" Alexis turned her head to watch him as he left the room.

"You do now."

"I have Tupperware." Alexis mused. "I feel so authentically American."

Sonny returned and ran a hand over her hair. She tilted her head back to look up at him.

"You can't get much more American than Tupperware." Alexis yawned.

"Go to bed."

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Sahib." Alexis picked up the penguin and pushed herself off the couch. "Thank you again for the popcorn."

"You're welcome."

"And for the return of the furry beast. Unless you'd like to be kept company tonight." She offered up the animal with a teasing look.

Sonny cocked his head. The only company he wanted was her. "He's all yours."

Alexis hugged it to her chest and shifted her weight. "And thank you for taking me to the park...and not getting weird about that particular bench. Aquatic incident notwithstanding, it was a wonderful date."

"I thought so too." He murmured. "So you, um, have everything you need for the night?"

She nodded, wide eyed. "I'm fine."

"Good."

"You?"

He laughed, gaze drifting to the movement of her fingers against the black and white creature in her hands. "Yeah."

She smiled. "You know, if you're worried about that masculine pride thing, don't be. All you have to do is say the word, and if you want it, the penguin is yours."

"What I want is to wish you a proper good night." He moved closer and slipped his arms around her, palms gliding over smooth, cool silk covering soft warm flesh.

"I repeat - all you have to do is say the word." Alexis wrapped her arms around his solid torso, turning her face to rest a cheek on his wooly shoulder. "Good night, Sonny." She intoned softly, relaxing herself into his hold.

He sighed into her hair. He couldn't even speak. God, she felt amazing. She was all tender touches, gentle slopes, and warmth...everywhere, warmth, as her womanliness took over his senses. And it suddenly filled him with a rush of adrenaline. His every instinct was telling him it was right - that now was the time to start letting Alexis know how he really felt. But the heat of her skin meeting his palm gave him pause. There she was, in his embrace, with nothing but a thin veil of silk covering her otherwise naked body. And he was fully dressed. The imbalance of it struck him. She was in a place of total trust and vulnerability with him, being so clothed and allowing such intimate contact. Her vulnerable self was precious to him, and he didn't want to compromise it.

On the other hand, he could be over-thinking, just like the lawyer he loved tended to do. Usually did. Always did. Sonny smiled as his hands slid forward, following around the curve of her back. He felt her spine straighten slightly in response to his wandering touch, and his hands and breath both locked in place. Alexis turned her face and set her chin down on his shoulder, where her cheek had lain.

"I know what you're thinking." She whispered. "And the answer is no."

Sonny felt the blood begin to drain from his face.

"You aren't hurting my back. And just so you'll know, you're much more gentle than you give yourself credit for."

He released his breath in relief. "Well, uh, good. And thank you." His hands brushed down the silk to settle just below her waist. "But what makes you think that THAT'S what I was thinking?"

"I know you."

"Busted."

She smiled. "Uh huh. Always."

Sonny took a deep breath, inhaling her hair's sweet scent and not wanting to move from that spot for another week or so. He didn't want to let her go, but he felt Alexis moving within his hold. Her arms were releasing - lowering from his back and pulling away from his body. And then, they had parted, and Sonny found his arms empty of all but memory and air. Her eyes studied him as he stood silent. He looked tired. She didn't see the wave consuming him. Alexis held the penguin up by its stubby black wings and danced it in the air.

"Last chance to take him with you." She sang. "Or forever hold your penguin peace."

Last chance...

Her champagne silk bathed body sparkled between bare feet and tousled hair. Sonny saw both a sexy as hell woman standing before him, and also a playful child. Everything he felt for her and wanted to be for her welled up inside - friend, confident, defender, protector, consoler, lover, dragon slayer...and it was turning him inside out. He swallowed and took a step backward.

"He's all yours. Until tomorrow, of course."

"Until tomorrow then."

"Sleep well, Alexis." His voice was barely audible.

She tilted her head, giving him and expression of concern. "You too."

Sonny nodded and felt himself turning away from her, opening the door, and slipping through it with the door pulled shut behind him. It was if his body was on autopilot. He didn't consciously tell it to move, but now it had stopped and Sonny stood in front of the PH2 door with his hand still wrapped around the knob. Johnny's eyes were on him, but he didn't notice. He stared past him, into space, and it made Johnny uneasy as hell. He checked his watch.

"So boss, that's it for the night then?"

Sonny's head abruptly turned to the sound of Johnny's voice. "No."

He turned the knob and pushed the door open. Alexis was halfway to the stairs. She jumped slightly, startled by his sudden reappearance.

"Oh...hello again. I take it you changed your mind?"

Sonny stared. She took a hesitant step toward him.

"Y-you came back for the penguin?"

He pushed the door shut. "I came back for you."

Alexis opened her mouth, but made not a sound. She closed it again, and her lip found its way between her teeth. Sonny ached. He slowly moved toward her.

"I didn't wish you a proper good night at all." He gently cupped his palms against the sides of her neck and slipped his fingers back into her hair.

"It should have been the kind that's usual and customary at the end of a wonderful date." His mouth began its bold descent. "Aquatic incidents notwithstanding..."

His last words were murmured against her lips as they were claimed by his in a moment of firm, but tender contact. It was not unlike the chaste kiss of the night before, placed on lips scratched by a five 'o clock shadow. Alexis expected no more. But Sonny pulled away, briefly, to gaze down at her mouth. His face was flushed, and she could hear the ragged breaths struggling for release from his throat. A deep instinct rose up in her. She swallowed, and her lips parted. Sonny took up the subtle invitation, and his second touching down came more firmly, bringing an insistence as his lips parted and laid a sweet claim to her lower lip.

Alexis took in a quick, shallow breath as a small, resonant moan echoed in Sonny's. His hands held steady against the base of her skull, fingers threading in her hair. But Alexis still felt as if she would fall. Her eyes had closed, and she couldn't seem to force them open. She was light headed, and her legs were disappearing beneath her. Her hands hovered in the air, but made no hold on to anything. What was wrong with her? It was happening again, and so soon. And it was even more real than it was before. Oh God. She was in serious trouble. But she couldn't help it - she gave herself over to it and began to kiss back. She let one hand lower to his shoulder and rose up on her tiptoes to push softly against Sonny's mouth, meeting what he gave.

He sighed as he sucked her lip between his teeth, then grazed it as it was releasing. The tip of his tongue gave it a quick flick before his mouth pressed fully against her delicate flesh once more. Her breath hitched and she tightened her grasp on his shoulder. Sonny's fingers slipped down along the sides of her throat, continuing to travel down the neckline of her silk collar. His chin began to tilt upward, lifting his face until his mouth had left hers completely. A tickling touch found her forehead. Finally, her lids were willed to lift and Alexis was staring right into Sonny's dark eyes. She blinked. The touch moved, and her gaze darted to the left. Sonny's finger was drawing a line along the edge of her face, curving down around the bottom of her jaw, and sliding beneath her chin. He held it there, as if to insist that she keep on looking at him. He smiled. She smiled back. And then, he kissed her again. Alexis dropped the penguin to the floor.

She squinted at him as he pulled away. "I...Sonny?"

"Alexis?"

Her eyes shifted to the hand she had planted on his shoulder, down to the stuffed creature at her feet, then back to Sonny's expectant face. She licked her lips...and tasted a hint of salt and spice. The room began to spin.

"That was real..." She whispered.

Sonny's heart skipped a beat. Had he blown it? "Real...what?"

"J-just...just...real."

"Yeah. It was real. Are you okay with that?"

Alexis stared into his round eyes and bit down hard on the inside of her cheek. She felt the pain just as vividly as she'd felt everything else. He was telling her the truth. It WAS real - very real.

"I'm...still here, aren't I?"

"It's your apartment."

She smiled softly. "Sonny."

His expression grew solemn. "Are you? Say yes. Please?"

And there was nothing left for Alexis to do but tell the truth back.

"Yes."