The nightmare was finally over.
Kristina Davis had been put back in her mother's arms where she belonged, one year to the day after she was created in her mother's womb. And this time, nothing on earth was going to take her child away. Alexis had made certain of it. If Helena had taught her anything, it was that certain kinds of evil could only be beaten at their own level. It wasn't in her nature to be like Helena, but when her life was at stake she rose to the occasion. When her child was at stake, Alexis MORE than rose to the occasion. She was a Cassadine, and it was way past time that everyone else remembered it. It was time Alexis remembered it too. They all remembered now, and they weren't going to forget any time soon.
Alexis had unearthed every ounce of dirt that existed on every person involved in keeping her from her child, from judge, to DA, to every snake in the Quartermaine family viper pit. It had all been verified, documented, and duplicated, with copies secured across the globe from Odessa to Milan, London to Greece, Los Angeles to Manhattan. And then, Natasha Cassadine fired her well-aimed cannons at the walls that everyone had built between her and her child. The walls tumbled down with surprising ease, but with the expected amount of anguish. Not hers - theirs. She didn't care. Her pain had been too great to care about the hurt she might cause her tormentors. She owed them nothing - not even Ned. Especially Ned.
He promised to care for and protect her child, and he lied. He allowed a bad situation to get worse, and he did nothing to stop it or make it right. But why should he, when Kristina was the child of two people he hated? And Alexis was convinced that Ned hated her as much as he hated Sonny. Now, the feeling was mutual. And now Ned knew exactly how it felt to have his child used against him. It was her only regret. But Alexis had no regrets about what she'd lowered herself to do, nor would she hesitate to do it again. Blackmail, lies and threats...there was more where the first round of ammunition came from, and she'd left no room for doubt in anyone's mind that she'd fire it in a heartbeat. She would bury anyone she had to bury if she so much as perceived a threat to Kristina's custody again.
And fittingly enough, she had Ned's own mother to thank for having the largest closet full of skeletons for Alexis to potentially rattle. She also had Tracey to thank for arriving when she did, clearly in trouble and clearly unconcerned about causing any more. She'd brought a new, unsuspecting heir to the slaughter - a male heir, no less, around whom the vultures began to circle before the ink on Kristina's final custody papers was even dry. Edward's plots for the boy were already being hatched. She could see it in his eyes. And as she walked out that door for the very last time, her daughter safely in her arms, Alexis gave silent thanks to Dillon for making it easier for them all to forget a girl child - a bastard girl child, no less. Just like her mother.
But all that really mattered was that Kristina was hers - all hers, and only hers. And her heart was filled with love for her brave and beautiful baby. Her heart was filled with Cameron too. She had him to thank most of all for helping her get her child back. Alexis could recognize love more clearly now, and admit it to herself more freely. But she couldn't quite bring herself to say it, and feeling it still scared her. Two out of four wasn't bad for her, considering. But Alexis couldn't help thinking that Cameron deserved better odds. Better than her. She tried to push what happened the week before out of her mind, but it kept coming back. Thoughts of that kiss kept sneaking back to her, every time she looked at him. But he hadn't brought it up, and he hadn't done it again. And as Alexis turned around to check on Kristina, she tried not to let thoughts of it sneak back to her again. He deserved better anyway.
Cameron smiled to himself as slowed down for a yellow light ahead. Every five minutes he'd heard the sound of her seatbelt straining, scratching against the thick poplin of her trench coat as she turned around and craned her neck to make sure that all was well. It was sweet...and sad. And he wondered if Alexis would be afraid to let her child out of her sight ever again. The light changed to red, and the car came to a careful stop. Cameron's eyes turned to the profile of Alexis's beaming face as she gazed lovingly at the sleeping baby girl strapped snugly into the car seat behind them. Whoever said that motherhood made women glow was right. Alexis's face could light up the sky.
"You're going to get a kink in your neck if you don't stop that."
"I don't care. I don't want to take my eyes off her."
He shifted his gaze to the rearview mirror and reached up to give it a push toward the passenger seat.
"There. An anti-kink device."
Alexis lifted her chin from the back of the seat and looked at him. Cameron nodded at the mirror.
"Now you can keep your eyes ON her while also keeping yourself from a visit to the chiropractor."
Her eyes followed the direction of his, and Alexis saw her own reflection looking back at her. And she could also see the far edge of the baby seat and one tiny, pink-clad arm. She felt her cheeks begin to tingle with the heat of embarrassment.
"I'm being neurotic again, aren't I?"
"I didn't say that."
"You were thinking it."
He smiled at the sheepish expression on her flushing face. "So you can read my mind now?"
"When it comes to what you think about my behavior, yes I can." She gave the mirror a defiant push back in Cameron's direction. "When it comes to...other things, not so much."
Cameron's brow arched. "Other things?"
Alexis suddenly felt self-conscious. The resonant timbre of his voice and the intense way that he looked in her eyes made her heart began to pound. It was the way he looked in them just before he...she swallowed, sat back in her seat and fixed her eyes straight ahead.
"Green light." She announced with a nervous smile.
The car didn't move. Alexis busied herself with readjusting her seatbelt. Cameron continued to watch her actively avoid him. It was fascinating to watch Alexis in active avoidance, big eyes darting hither and yon, energetic hands flying about in expression with intermittent detours to push at hair that wasn't in her face, rub at a nose that didn't itch, or twist at diamond rings that never left her finger as if they were an irritant. Cameron had grown to know her gestures and their meanings quite well. It was comforting. It made him smile. And now he needed to know how well she'd grown to know him. He released the brake, pressed down on the accelerator, and turned his focus back to the road. A few silent moments later, Cameron was pulling the car over to the side of the road. Alexis frowned.
"What are you doing?"
He brought the car to a stop under a big, shady tree and killed the ignition. Alexis turned to look at the baby, still sleeping peacefully with a soothing thumb in her mouth. Cameron released his seat belt and shifted, turning his whole body toward her. Her eyes widened at him in confusion.
"What are you doing?" She repeated, for lack of finding a better question to ask.
"It's been almost a week since I kissed you and you haven't said one word about it."
Her mouth opened in surprise. It was the same stunned look she had on her face that day, in the foyer of the Quartermaine home. Alexis ran her tongue across her lips and swallowed, eyes dropping down to her lap where restless fingers twisted a diamond ring. She was confused. He sounded hurt. And upset. And now she knew that Cameron had been thinking about that kiss too. But WHAT was he thinking about it? Her mouth went dry.
"You've acted as if it never even happened." He added. "As if you wanted to pretend it DIDN'T happen."
The ring froze. It was Cameron's turn to swallow. He didn't know what her silence meant - not this time. And he was suddenly wishing he'd left it alone. He'd kissed her, and she didn't bolt. But she didn't throw the ball back in his court either. She'd let it lie, and maybe he should have done the same. If only there hadn't been a few extra seconds of eye contact when she spoke to him. If only there hadn't been an extra flush in her cheeks when he looked at her. If only there hadn't been flimsy reasons found for them to linger in doorway whenever they parted company. Cameron's instincts told him that he should risk, one more time, and ask her what she felt. But it didn't mean he wasn't afraid to hear her answer.
"I know I was out of line, Alexis. It was a spontaneous impulse...and I'm sorry for being inappropriate with you."
The twisting of the ring resumed.
"Well, I, um...I started it. I mean I k-kissed you first, after all."
She rubbed at her nose.
"You had just given me the proof that Edward made illegal contributions to Scott, which cleared my first big hurdle toward getting my daughter back. I was so happy and you looked so happy FOR me, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of g-gratitude for everything you'd done for my daughter and me that I...I had an impulse to...express it."
She pushed at her hair.
"That's what it was for me when I kissed you - a spontaneous impulse."
He smiled softly, his heart aching with love. "You don't need to explain, Alexis. I know what it mean when you kissed me."
"Well then, you're one step ahead of me because I don't know what it meant when you kissed ME."
She looked back at him with her warm, dark eyes and Cameron felt their strong pull.
"You said it was an impulse, but it didn't f-feel that way. It felt deliberate. It felt like a clear choice you had made."
"You're right." He whispered roughly. "It was a clear choice. It was just made impulsively."
"And you haven't said a word about it either, you know. Why haven't you?"
"Are you sorry?" She interrupted. "I mean you apologized to me, so does that mean you're sorry you did it?"
"It means I'm sorry if you're sorry."
Alexis paused. "Oh."
"I asked you first."
"I already answered."
She bit her lip, feeling like an idiot as Cameron gazed at her with a devilish look in his eye. Actually, it was more like a twinkle. And she felt her heart begin to swell. She smiled, both dimples coming out to play as she slowly shook her head.
"No. I'm not sorry."
Cameron released a ragged sigh. "Well that's a load off my mind."
Alexis suddenly frowned.
"Or not." Cameron frowned too. "Is there a 'but'?"
Cameron's heart sank.
"Go ahead, I can take it. I'm a big boy - and a mental health professional."
Alexis's dimples returned as she tilted her head. "I don't understand why you would...how you could...why me?"
"Why not you?"
"How can you even ask me that?"
"How can YOU?"
"Cameron, I've lied to you, used you, fought you on nearly everything, made you an accessory after-the-fact to a laundry list of felonies that put both your career and your freedom at risk."
"What's your point?" He deadpanned.
She stared at him with confusion filling her eyes. Her guilt, shame, and disbelief that he could want her were not just visible, they were palpable. Cameron sighed and reached out to her, letting his fingers trail down the softness of her cheek. She blinked and shivered in response. He pulled back.
"You'll get no argument from me that you're a handful. Aw hell, why mince words? You're a big, huge, pain in the ass and trouble with a capitol T."
"THAT'S my point." She murmured.
"So what can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment. It most likely stems from childhood issues with my..."
"Please don't make fun of me."
He bowed his head, feeling quite the oaf. Alexis was unlike any other woman he'd ever met, and he felt so clumsy trying to relate to her and speak to her as a man with feelings for a woman. She may not have a much of a facility for handling her feelings, but her facility with words put him to shame. She always seemed to know what to say and how to say it, like the professional orator that she was. Not so for him. Cameron let his downcast eyes drift over to where her slim, graceful hands rested atop her thighs. He reached for them and found them cool and smooth to the touch. He took them up and held them between his larger, warmer palms as his eyes rose up to her anxious face.
"I'm not making fun of you, Alexis. I'm just not as good at expressing myself as I wish I were." He emitted a small bit of nervous laughter. "That's probably why I chose a profession where other people pay me to express themselves while I just listen and nod."
He tightened his hold on her hands and brought his eyes back up to hers. "You've gotten under my skin, Alexis. And I like having you there. I like the way you make me feel - about you, my son, my self, my l-life."
The tremble in her chin put a catch into his throat, but he took a deep breath and pressed on.
"You've asked me, several times, why I helped you out of your little...jam. Why I risked everything for you. Now you know. I didn't want to lose you to prison, to a mental hospital, or to a life lived in hiding underground as arranged by Luke Spencer. I didn't want to lose you at all."
Alexis stammered as she turned to look at her baby girl. "I th-thought it was because you f-felt some sort of quid pro quo was owed. Because I k-kept Zander from a death penalty conviction."
"Good. That's what I wanted you to think." He winked. "Fooled ya."
She bit her lip as hot tears stung her eyes. "Yeah. Fooled me."
"I guess that makes us even."
Alexis opened her mouth to protest, but Cameron beat her to it.
"Would it be all right with you if maybe, sometime, I kissed you again?"
"W...uh, yeah. Okay."
She suddenly felt cool air enveloping her hands as Cameron's palms released them from their warm embrace. She expected him to turn around, take the wheel again, and continue their drive home. Instead, Cameron's fingers were sliding into her hair and tenderly holding her head as his eyes locked into hers. And Alexis held his deep, lingering gaze, letting the warmth in his eyes sink into her and spread throughout her being. It had been so long since a man had touched her or looked at her in a way that awakened a heightened awareness of her body. It had been exactly a year. A twinge of fear suddenly struck her. She didn't want to be afraid. Alexis swallowed and ran her tongue lightly across her lower lip. Cameron's eyes dropped toward her quick motion, and Alexis saw the corners of his mouth upturn, just so, as he stared down at her lips. He seemed hesitant, and she wondered if he was thinking of changing his mind. She didn't want him to change his mind.
Cameron moved his hands within his hair, enjoying the silkiness of it as it caressed his skin. There suddenly came the soft, unexpected touch of her fingertips grazing his cheekbones. It felt like encouragement - like she was making sure he understood he had permission to cross the boundary again. He crossed it, allowing his lips to barely part as his mouth lowered down to hers. It was as tender as the first kiss he'd given her, but he pushed into her with just a little more intent, held her head with just a little more strength, and lingered, taking in the feel of her lips against his just a little longer. And as he began to pull back and break their melded mouths apart, Alexis made a small sound and moved with him. He pushed back into her again, his lips parting further to allow the tip of his tongue to gently tease her lips into parting as well. She responded, and tentatively met his bold new touch with her own.
A kittenish squeal startled them. Cameron and Alexis abruptly broke apart, their eyes blinking open and staring at each other in a mutually languid haze. The squeal came again, followed by a gurgle. Alexis shyly dropped her gaze from his and turned it to her daughter, who was smiling happily with two little fingers stuffed into her mouth. Alexis smiled back, and the baby kicked her legs into the air. Cameron watched Alexis watch her child, reveling in the radiant joy reflected in her beautiful face. It was a perfect moment. It had been a perfect kiss. Kristina seemed to approve. He hoped her Kristina's mother agreed.
"She's waited long enough for me to bring her home. I think she's trying to tell me she's anxious to get there." Alexis murmured.
"That, or she's trying to ask what my intentions are toward her mother."
Alexis turned to him with a pair of dimples etching into her cheeks. Cameron smiled and reached between their seats to take hold of Kristina's tiny, kicking foot.
"All good, little one. They're all good."
The baby gurgled and wiggled her captive toes. Alexis laughed.
"Ah - see there?" Cameron arched an eyebrow. "She believes me."
"Like mother, like daughter."
The way Alexis looked at him made his heart leap.
"Lucky daughter." He whispered.
Alexis rubbed at her nose. He smiled wide.
"Let's get her home. You've both waited long enough."