"What the HELL do you think you're doing?"
His son's angry outburst rang in Cameron's ears. It stunned him, and his back reflexively stiffened as Zander's dark eyes blazed. He didn't know where the unexpected torrent had come from. Everything had been so perfect a minute ago. Zander was smiling, content - and somewhat humbled, it seemed, by the innocent new life that he held in his arms. But in the blink of an eye something changed. The smile turned to a scowl, and his son's contented humility turned into attack. Cameron didn't understand what it meant or what he'd done to deserve it. At least, not at that particular moment in time. He took a deep breath, his chest visibly broadening as his lungs filled with air.
"What AM I doing, Alexander?" He repeated.
"Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about." Zander shot back.
Cameron felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. "Whatever it is you're trying to accuse me of..."
"Hasn't Alexis had enough grief? Hasn't she had enough of other people messing up her life?"
"Messing up her..." He squinted at his son in confusion. "Alexander, in case you haven't fully grasped what actually happened tonight, Alexis got her child back. For good. Her days of grief are over. Kristina is all she needed to make that happen."
Zander all but snorted with sarcasm. "Since when did the all-knowing Dr. Cameron Lewis become so simplistic?"
"Sometimes the truth IS simple. A parent who's lost a child is never whole - even if the loss ISN'T for good. Alexis is whole again, Zander." He smiled as he turned his eyes toward the hallway through which Alexis had disappeared. "You saw it for yourself. She's...radiant. She's happy. She's whole."
Zander's tight jaw loosened as he shifted his weight. The tone in his father's voice when he spoke of Alexis's joy was so warm. And the expression on his face was just as warm - and loving. Zander felt something inside of him soften, but he didn't let it stop him.
"You left out vulnerable."
"Alexis is vulnerable. She has been for a long time, and you can't take advantage of that. I won't let you."
The warm smile began to fade, and Cameron's brow furrowed as he turned back to look at his son.
"I would never take advanantage of her." His frown deepened as he crossed his arms across his chest. "What ARE you trying to accusing me of?"
"Having feelings for Alexis. Unprofessional feelings. I can see it plain as day! And I can also see that she's responding to it."
Cameron was silent. He didn't know how to react to the truth that had just been thrown in his face. Baldwin's insinuations about his personal feelings for Alexis were a laughably obvious and desperate attempt to ruin his credibility on the stand. But to hear them from his own son threw Cameron for a loop. And he now wondered if Baldwin's accusations were more than just a ploy - and if anyone else suspected the truth as well. Cameron had to tread carefully with Zander. The boy was smart and still as sensitive as ever. And he was fiercely protective toward Alexis. It made Cameron proud. And it made him want to share things that he just couldn't tell. Not yet. He released the tension in his arms and allowed them to slowly fall to his sides to present a less defensive visual as he tried to present a verbal defense.
"I know you care about her, Alexander. So do I. Very much."
"Oh come on!" Zander scoffed. "I'm not a blind! I know the difference between just caring about someone and...and what I see going on between you and Alexis."
Cameron swallowed, his mind racing in a futile effort to find words to switch Zander's train of thought to another track.
"I think the difference you're seeing is...empathy. I've had a deeper understanding of what Alexis has been going through in losing her child because I've been there. It's a common ground that allowed me to reach out to her on a more personal level than most therapists could, but it's also allowed her to reach back - and to have a certain level of reciprocal empathy for me as well."
Zander stared at his father.
"Okay, well, that was a great textbook explanation. You want to try a human one. One that doesn't assume I'm still a na´ve kid instead of a grown man who's had the same feelings and experiences as every other grown man?"
Cameron tried again to deflect. "Yes, I know you have. I understand that you're quite serious about Emily Quartermaine - against her family's strong and persistent objections. I hope that the situation with Kristina hasn't made things untenable for you two."
He shrugged. "They blame me for anything they can and they always have. It doesn't make any difference to Emily and me. And if Ned wants to fire me because my father helped Alexis get her daughter back, so be it. I'll find other work."
"Ned's an idiot. And frankly, I wish he would fire you. He's not to be trusted, just like the rest of his family, and I'd rather you not be any more involved with them than you have to be because of Emily."
Zander shifted his eyes as he swallowed, remembering with regret the things he'd done for Ned to ruin Sonny and Carly. Planting drugs, vandalizing the club...and he knew that if he'd been caught, Ned would have denied any part and let him fry alone. He knew Ned wasn't to be trusted, but at the time he hadn't care. He cared now. He cared a lot. He had Emily back, and the void in him had been filled. And he suddenly understood what his father meant about Alexis having Kristina back. He understood the issue of empathy too. But that didn't change the fact he knew what lay hidden beneath Cameron's intellectual rationale for the strong vibe between him and Alexis.
"Look, I know you're trying to change the subject to me and Emily, but it isn't going to work. All it's really doing is making me more sure than I'm right."
"What is it that concerns you, exactly?"
"What concerns me is Alexis. I mean you're her shrink, for crying out loud. Is there any more sacred a trust than between a patient and their shrink?"
"And you think I'm breaking it?"
"I think you want to. Not deliberately, but...if you try to be more to her than you have an ethical right to be, you will be breaking it. And you're only going to hurt her."
Cameron's gut began to twist. His son's words would be true if the doctor/patient relationship he spoke of wasn't a carefully maintained lie. And he found it ironic that Zander's fear was for the sanctity of Alexis's trust when Cameron had risked everything to order to hold it sacred. He hated allowing his son to think less of him than he already did, but it couldn't be helped. And he hoped that one day, his necessary lie to protect Alexis would make Zander proud. If anyone would understand, it would be Zander. He'd risked everything too - broken all kinds of laws and told all kinds of lies to do what was right for the woman he loved. And Cameron was proud to follow in his renegade son's footsteps.
"I have no intention of hurting Alexis."
"You don't have to intend to hurt her in order to do it. I've already watched Alexis get hurt - twice. And I'm ashamed to admit it, but both times I made it worse for her. I don't want to watch it again, and I sure as hell don't want me or anyone in my family being responsible for making it worse again."
"How? How did you make it worse?"
Zander shifted his eyes to the hallway, and then let his gaze drop to the ground.
"Ned broke up with Alexis because she was defending me. They'd been together for years, and then I came along and kidnapped Emily, who then asked Alexis to defend me. She not only said yes, she took me into her home when my only other option was to stay in lock-up until my trial was over." He sighed heavily and ran a hand through his unruly hair. "Ned went ballistic, acting like Alexis was representing me just to stab him and his family in the back when she was just being a really good and generous person who thought my crummy life was worth saving. He was a total jerk to her a lot of the time, but she loved him and she wanted him. I ruined that for her."
"No you didn't. Ned did, by not appreciating her for the good and generous person that she is."
He slowly looked up into his father's pensive eyes.
"Alexis deserves to be appreciated."
"Loved." Zander challenged with an even stare. "Alexis deserves to be loved."
"Yes, she does." Cameron absently scratched at the edge of his beard, where it met the smoothness of his cheek. "You said twice. There was something else that hurt her and you felt somehow a party to it. Were you referring to her sister's death, or something that happened before that?"
Zander abruptly turned away. His reaction to the question scared Cameron, and he almost left it alone. But a door had been opened and he needed to look inside. He needed to know how Alexis had been hurt so he couldn't make it worse.
"Zander, whatever culpability you feel regarding this other...happenstance, I'm sure it's as unwarranted as the guilt you feel over her breakup with Ned. But it's obviously a great source of pain for you, so..."
Zander spun back around in anger. "What the hell do you know about it?"
Cameron blinked. He hesitated a moment, then cast a quick backward glance over his shoulder. It felt as if Alexis might be listening. He was being paranoid, in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle by a psychobabble term. Cameron turned his eyes back to his son.
"I don't know anything about it." He answered quietly, his resonant voice kept deliberately low and calm. "That's why I'm asking you to tell me."
"Doesn't Alexis talk to you about all this stuff in your sessions with her?"
Cameron thought fast. "N-no. That's not the kind of work we're doing. We've been working on reconciling the trauma of her sister's murder and the failure of the justice system to do right by her."
"Yeah, that's some kick in the teeth to devote your life to something that turns around and fails you when you need it most."
"Her sense of betrayal is more than justified. In more ways than once."
Zander released a quick laugh. "Ain't THAT the truth."
Cameron frowned as he ran his tongue across his lips. Zander's comment felt loaded with sarcasm.
"So, I'm assuming this other thing that hurt her was after Ned, but before her sister's death. I'm not asking you to break Alexis's confidence, Zander. But if it's NOT held in confidence and you think that it's hurting her still, if I knew what it was I could help her with it." He decided to make a small concession to the truth. "Or at least, avoid making it worse."
Zander's eyes rose up to meet Cameron's, and they held an impossible sadness.
"She just believed in someone who everyone warned her about. Kind of like how everyone warned her about me. They were right about me at first, but then I changed and they weren't right anymore. They were right about...this other person all along. He only pretended to change to get what he wanted from her, me and I'm sure a whole lot of other people. Alexis didn't see it until it was too late. But neither did I, so..." He hesitated, and then continued. "She really, really cared about him and all he did was take from her, you know? She let him. She let him use her professionally, emotionally, and...I think she may have even loved him. But something happened - an accident. His ex-wife saw something she shouldn't have seen and she...she came to me, all jealous and angry. Things went badly between us and after she left, there was an accident. Everyone thought she was dead. I blamed Alexis and S...said some awful things to her."
The remembrance of the vitriol he'd unleashed on Alexis made Zander's stomach turn queasy, just as it had at the time. He'd been so angry and in such pain that he couldn't it and it spilled out on the one person in his life that still loved him unconditionally. He had to turn away in shame, unable to let his father look at him as he continued to confess his own betrayal of Alexis.
"I said really, really awful things and I couldn't make myself stop. I saw her flinch with each hateful word I said, as if I was slapping her in the face over and over until she looked like she wanted to die, and I still couldn't stop. I took it out on her because I really blamed myself and I just couldn't deal with it. And she just stood there and let me shred her. I don't know how she ever forgave me."
"She knew you grieving. She let you release it when you needed to."
He shook his head and turned to his father with wet, red eyes filled with pain and regret.
"She let me release it because she blamed HER self. She thought she deserved to be shredded. And like I said, I just made it worse." He started to laugh as he wiped at his eye with the edge of his hand. "Oh, man. Everyone blamed them selves for that damned accident. What a joke on us!"
Cameron tilted his head in silent questioning.
"The woman survived the accident. She mysteriously wandered back into town, like, a month later saying she didn't remember a thing about it. Her ex-husband took her back. And after that, his true colors came out - and stayed out."
"Then both you and Alexis were well out of it."
Zander suddenly got a far away look in his eye. "Oh God. I just realized what day it is. The day it happened. It was exactly a year ago."
Cameron stopped breathing. He started counting backwards. Exactly a year ago, little Kristina Davis was conceived. And if Zander kept talking, Cameron could inadvertently learn who her father really was. He didn't want that. If he was to know the truth, it should be because Alexis wanted him to know.
"I repeat - you're well out of it. You and Alexis have both moved on and put it behind you."
"So many things have happened from just that one thing - like dominos falling all over the place. But yeah, we're trying to move on. And you're supposed to be helping her do it."
"I am helping her."
"You can't do that by getting emotionally involved with her and letting her do the same with you."
"You don't understand, Zander. I knew Alexis months before this Alkazar mess ever happened, and it wasn't as a patient. In fact, we were working together to help one of her clients."
"Luke Spencer, I know."
"Did you know that I was the one who found Alexis alone in the snow, in premature labor?"
"She told me."
"And I spent a lot of time with her in the NICU when Kristina was fighting so hard to survive - as a friend, not as a shrink. So you can see that our relationship is much more complicated than that of just a doctor and patient."
"Yeah, I'd say falling for her is a definite complication."
Cameron sighed as his eyes slowly closed. Zander wasn't going to let it slide. And the more Cameron tried to spin it another way, the more tightly knit Zander's certainty seemed to be. He began to think that a kernel of truth was better to give than a fervent stream of denials.
The plaintively spoken single word had grown almost foreign to his ears. It opened his eyes instinctively, but it took a moment later for his heart to know the word was meant for him.
"Just be honest enough to admit that I'm right - that you HAVE fallen for Alexis. Can you at least do that much?"
He felt his face flushing under the partial cover of his beard as he swallowed, ran his tongue across his dry lips, and looked his son straight in the eye.
"Yes, I can. You're right."
Zander stared at his father for a moment or two before slowly giving a nod of his head.
"But you still don't understand the complexities at play, so please don't pass judgment because it's not that cut and dry."
"Look, I don't blame you for feeling what you feel for Alexis. I mean she's a beautiful, amazing woman. But she's still your patient and everyone knows it. If you let yourself act on what you feel, you're bound to hurt her in some way or another, and you're going to lose your license on top of it."
"I don't care about my license! I only care about her!" He furtively glanced over his shoulder. "And I won't hurt her."
"You will if you let her love you. Unless...you love her back. I mean REALLY love her."
Cameron cleared his throat and replied with a rough whisper. "Then I repeat - I won't hurt Alexis."
Zander stared into his father's eyes for a long while, seeing so many things within them that he didn't remember ever seeing before. The gruff, superiority and impatience he'd always seen had been replaced with young, hopeful shyness. It made him feel compassion for the man who'd always made Zander feel worthless. The tables seemed to have turned somewhat, with father seeking son's understanding - and even approval. Zander didn't quite know how to deal with it, but he did know that Cameron had told him the truth of his intent toward Alexis. And without specifically saying the word, he told him the truth of his feelings. He loved Alexis. But Zander did too.
"You'll have to answer to me if you do. I mean it."
"I know you do." Cameron acknowledged. "I'm proud of you, Alexander. Alexis is very lucky to have you looking out for her."
"Well, I guess she's been pretty lucky to have you too. You didn't bail when it got rough. You stood by her, and you fought hard for her and...well, I guess I'm kind of proud of you for that too."
"I never thought I'd hear you say something like that to me."
The room fell quiet. The emotions felt and expressed were enveloping both father and son, and they were taking them all in. It had been a lifetime since they'd found common ground. It had been a lifetime since they'd found understanding. Now they'd found both, and neither quite knew what to do or say next. But that was okay. The silence between them wasn't empty - it was full. And a bridge had begun to be built.