Cameron smiled as he approached the nursery, enchanted by the vision perfectly framed within the doorframe.
Alexis was fast asleep in the duck-and-bunny painted rocking chair with Kristina fast asleep in her arms. He was glad. He'd been afraid the raised voices in the living room had made their way down the hall and kept Alexis hidden away. And Cameron was still afraid that something had been overhead that Alexis might misunderstand. Or understand perfectly. He quietly moved through the threshold and made his way toward her and halted at her side, never taking his eyes from the two angelic faces at rest just inches apart. Cameron crouched down and gently touched a fingertip to Kristina's cheek.
"You are a true beauty, little one." He whispered. "Just like you mother."
The telltale etching of dimples began to form in Alexis's cheeks. Cameron squinted as a bit of mischief formed in his brain. He leaned in close to her ear.
"On a rare GOOD day, that is."
A crease appeared between her brows.
"The doctor giveth, and the doctor taketh away." Alexis murmured.
Her eyes opened to Cameron's wicked grin, and she couldn't help grinning herself. Cameron tilted his head and stared down into the dark, languid eyes. The clean, sexy scent of her hair was drifting into his nose and making his hand yearn to touch. His hand did touch. His palm swept across the thick, soft strands, eliciting a flutter of lashes from Alexis.
"How long have you been awake?'
"I don't think I ever really fell asleep. I think I've just been lost in a haze of baby bliss. In the sound of her breathing, the feel of her warm, chubby little body in my arms, and in knowing that I could hold her and rock her all night long if I wanted and nobody could tell me I had to stop, give her back, and go away."
Cameron tilted his head and looked at her in earnest. "Nobody's ever going to tell you any of those things again."
A flicker of doubt sparked in her eyes. Cameron frowned.
"It's over, Alexis."
She managed a weak smile for show. "I know."
Alexis wanted to believe it, but she'd spent too much time engulfed in the fear that she'd never get her daughter back. Believing that they were truly safe was going to take some time. And there was still the fear that Sonny could somehow, some day, find out the truth. If he did, the hell she thought was over would start all over again. And this time, her daughter's very life would be at stake. Alexis wasn't sure if she could take any more fear- or fighting, Cassadine blood notwithstanding. She took her eyes away from Cameron's and gazed down at the top of her baby's head that rested above her heart.
"Is everything all right with Zander? Between the two of you, I mean."
She bit her lip and kept her gaze low while awaiting his answer. She hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but she'd heard her name carried on a raised voice and it worried her.
"I'm sorry if we disturbed you and the baby." Cameron finally murmured.
"You didn't disturb us. I just heard...I mean you seemed to be in need of some private time with your son, so I stayed in here and indulged in some private time of my own with my daughter."
"Alexander said to tell you goodnight. And he'll take a rain check on the diapering lesson."
Alexis grinned up at him as she slowly, lightly ran her fingertips up and down Kristina's back. "I'll take him up on that rain check. But I'm not going along with your attempt to change the subject."
"Was there a subject?"
She lifted her hand from the feel of the soft cotton snuggly and set it down upon the back of Cameron's wrist. Cameron stared down at the long, delicate fingers resting against his skin, and then let his eyes rise up to meet her steady gaze.
"My subject changing skills are really off tonight. I'm two for two."
"Everything was okay when I left the room. Zander seemed...happy. What happened?"
Cameron lightly shrugged his shoulders and gave her a soft smile. "You. You happened."
Her jaw dropped open as panic filled her face. "Oh God. Does he suspect that I'm not really sick?"
"No. Not at all." He assured her. "In fact, he absolutely thinks you ARE sick."
She released a heavy breath. "Good. I think." She frowned. "As good as it can be for someone close to you to think you've lost your mind."
Kristina began to squirm. And she made a tiny sound as she turned her face into he mother's sweater. Alexis cupped the back of the baby's head and stroked it with her thumb to calm her.
"Shhh, sweetie." She looked back at Cameron. "Then what do you mean, 'I happened'."
Kristina's little fist rubbed at her eye, eliciting an adoring smile from Cameron.
"Why don't you put her to bed - for real this time, and then I'll tell you."
She glanced over at the crib, giving it the once over. "I guess it would be a tad impractical for me to try climbing in there with her so we can snuggle all night."
"Seeing as how it would probably collapse, yes - I think it would be impractical."
"Collapse?" Alexis was indignant. "I only weigh one fifteen."
"It would also be neurotic. But you already knew I was thinking that, being a mind reader and all."
"The wisest ass of them all." Cameron's left brow arched. "And don't you forget it."
"Yeah, yeah." She muttered, leaning forward in the wiggly rocking chair.
Cameron slid his arm behind her back and took her elbow to help ease her way up from the chair and to her feet with the precious bundle cradled firmly in her arms. And he watched as Alexis carefully laid Kristina into her crib and tucked her under the pink and white alphabet blanket with the newly returned lambie pie at her side. The baby slipped a thumb into her little rosebud mouth and settled right into sleep with her beaming mother hovering overhead.
"Sweet dreams, sweet angel." Alexis whispered, gently stroking her daughter's soft, round cheek. "And if I didn't say it before, welcome home."
Cameron stepped up close behind Alexis, gazing with pure adoration at her full-dimpled, smiling face. He set his palm down on her back, between her shoulder blades, desirous of contact with her in this sweet, quiet moment. She turned her head to glance at him over her shoulder.
"Don't worry. I'm not going to climb in with her."
He grinned as she stood up straight, and let his hand slide down her the middle of her spine until it came to rest at the small of her back, where the primal male hunger within him was fed and nourished by the feminine curve beneath his touch. Alexis pressed back into that touch as her hands gripped the smooth edge of the wooden crib. The primal female hunger within her was fed and nourished by the warm, firm, masculine force against her back. A faint blush began to paint her cheeks as Cameron stared at her profile, his eyes silently begging hers to meet them.
She felt his eyes holding a steady stare on her face, and she knew what they asked. But her eyes were too shy to comply, afraid of revealing the feelings that the meeting of his hand and her body had aroused I her. So they stayed downcast, her gaze hovering safely between her left shoulder and his chest that was just inches away. Alexis could smell the scent of him - a rugged, masculine scent of spice, leather and tobacco, though he didn't smoke. It was comforting to her senses and it drew her to him even more.
Cameron's heart pounded. He didn't know why. He'd touched her before, in this same way and on this same part of her body. It was an innocent way and place to touch her, but there was sudden erotic charge running through him that he wondered if Alexis felt too. Was her heart beating quickly too? She wouldn't - or couldn't look at him. Or maybe it wasn't all that innocent after all. Another few inches south and his hand would be venturing it had no right to be without an invitation. Did she think he was expecting one? Was she afraid he'd venture south without one?
Alexis shifted her focus to Kristina's healthy, pink little face. She wondered if the silence in the room was as deafening for Cameron as it was for her. Her mouth had suddenly gone dry, waiting for someone to speak. Waiting for HIM to speak. The last wisecrack had been hers. It was Cameron's turn and he wasn't taking it. Her skin grew hotter beneath her skirt...her sweater...his palm. She was getting somewhat anxious, and she didn't know why. He'd touched her before, in this same way and in this same place before - before he kissed her. Before she'd kissed him back. And before they'd begun to speak of what it meant. It was different now, and she desperately wanted that to be okay.
Cameron felt Alexis moving. His hand barely broke contact from her as she turned to face him, and when her eyes found his face, he let his palm lower right back down to side of her hip.
"Could you please, um, hand me the baby monitor on the table there?"
He kept his contact steady as he wordlessly turned and reached for the monitor. Alexis took it from him and switched it on. A green light appeared. She handed it back to him and he replaced it on the changing table behind him.
"Where's the mate?"
"The other monitor."
"Oh. It's in m-my bedroom. But it's not turned on, so...I'll need to do that."
She clutched the phone-like device against her chest and tried not to fixate on the new place his touch awakened on her body.
"So I guess I'd better go do that."
"I guess you'd better."
His eyes twinkled at her, as if he could read her mind. She bit her lip and quickly turned her gaze toward the door before taking a small step back. Cameron reluctantly let his hand fall away from her as she pulled away, but he could still feel the heat and womanly slope of her body imprinted upon his skin. His hand wanted more. So did his eyes...and his mouth. So did his heart. He ached for her. Alexis paused within the doorway and cast a mischievous grin his way while he stood silent and unmoving by the side of Kristina's crib.
"If it won't hold my weight, it certainly won't hold yours." She teased.
Cameron puffed up his chest. "You're the neurotic one in this equation, remember?"
Her grin slowly faded. "Yeah. I remember."
She turned away and disappeared into the hall. Cameron followed her into her bedroom just next door to the nursery, a frown of concern taking over his face.
She shook her head as she headed for the monitor sitting atop her dresser, with Cameron hot on her heels. "Nothing."
Alexis picked up the monitor and switched it on. "We do each have our role to play in this 'equation'. You're the wise, dedicated, authoritative doctor and I'm the neurotic, maternally obsessive control-freak psycho killer who's considered a danger to her own child. And I think we both play our roles quite well. I mean everyone in town has bought into them."
She closed her eyes and slowly set the monitor back down on the dresser. What she'd just said wasn't completely true. There was one person in town who didn't buy in, and not because it was bad for his career in public office. She roughly pushed Sonny from her mind.
"And that's good. That's what we...what I wanted."
"And the lie is a heavier burden than you thought it would be - and more difficult to bear?"
"Said the wise doctor to the neurotic patient."
"Said Cameron to Alexis."
She turned and looked up at him without hesitation - and with a light mist of rain covering her big brown eyes.
"Why? Why is it so heavy, and why is it so difficult to bear? I'm used to people thinking of me and treating me as inferior, damaged goods. I spent my whole childhood being thought of and treated that way and I've spent my whole adulthood trying to prove myself worthy of respect and esteem. It's just...stunning how quickly a whole adulthood's worth of effort can be decimated. And it's equally stunning how easily I fell back into my childhood role of pariah as if I never left it. Did I ever leave it, or was I just pretending and what I think is a lie is really the truth?"
"You left it, Alexis. But it's familiar, so it was easy to go back to it again when you had to."
"I did have to. I hate it more even now than I hated it as a child, but I have no choice. I have to live with it. And I can do that as long as my little girl is with me and I know that she's safe."
Cameron took a step toward her, wanting to close the gap between them. "Do you realize this is the most deeply honest and revealing that you've ever been with me?"
She swallowed and shifted her nervous eyes to the floor. "I'm not talking to you as a patient."
"I know that. And I'm not listening to you as a doctor. That role is for the benefit of outsiders."
"If that's true, then I need you to not use your psychobabble terms with me when outsiders aren't around to reap the benefit of hearing them. I don't reap a benefit in hearing them, Cameron. They just make me feel more like inferior, damaged goods."
The earnest expression on her face and clear pain in her eyes moved him closer to her. And it moved his heart to take her in even more.
"I'm...sorry. I suppose the barb trading can cross an unintentional line, at times."
"I know. I've done it to you too."
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Neither did I."
"And just to be clear, except for the brief time that I thought you really were sick, I've never listened to you while playing the role of your shrink. With you, I've just a man who wanted to be your friend, who grew to care about you deeply and...more. And who obviously hasn't figured out how to tactfully, politically correctly or effectively make that known to you. Until now."
"I never wanted to talk to you while playing patient. I suppose that had something to do with why I fought you so much."
He gave her a wry smile. It all made sense now. She was a proud woman, but filled with lifelong fears and mistrust that left her ferociously guarded. She needed to be beckoned, not wrested. Alexis wanted to open herself up to him willingly, but Cameron made demands. Maybe he hadn't been listening to her as well as he'd thought...if at all. But he'd never wanted to be her doctor any more than she wanted to be his patient. The unwanted roles distracted from what he DID want. And they also confused him. He and Alexis got trapped on the way to being something else, and they had no choice but to live with the pretense until Kristina was home for good. Kristina was home now, and that something else he could have had with Alexis was back within his grasp.
"I'm glad you finally channeled your fighting instinct into something more productive than me. Like playing as dirty as was necessary to get your daughter back."
"Oh, I can play as dirty as the best of them in Port Charles. It's just not my preference...unlike a LOT of people I know. It doesn't faze Edward, or Scott, or even Ned anymore, to play dirty to get what they want. It sickens me to even have to pretend to be that unconscionable and unfeeling toward other human beings."
"Good." He took another step. "I now pronounce you emotionally healthy."
"Tell me something, in your professional opinion. Since everyone in town knows every sordid thing about me, how damaging will it be to Kristina the first time one of her playmates comes up to her after overhearing her parents talking about me, and announces to my daughter that her mommy is a crazy killer?"
"Alexis, you're getting way ahead of yourself!"
She laughed. "Of course I am! Because I'm neurotic."
Cameron saw the tremble rising up through her body, and he knew that the laughter would soon give way to a torrent of release. He wanted to gather her within the safety net of his arms before it did. He took the one last step that would bring him close enough to envelop her.
"And a good and generous person, who's also a beautiful and amazing woman."
Her body jerked as her eyes welled. She pulled her arms up to her chest, holding them there like a protective shield as she tried to get control.
"My son said so. And aside from my crummy parenting skills, it's the one thing upon which we can both wholeheartedly agree."
His arms rose and began to slip around her. Alexis abandoned control and fell into his arms as her small body was wracked with waves of release. She felt safe in abandoning - in letting the overwhelming mix of emotions free themselves in a waterfall down her cheeks. And Cameron held her with the surety of a friend, the tenderness of a lover, and the strength of a mountainside cradling a delicate new snow. Alexis felt his chin come to rest upon the top of her head and heard his soft voice whispering, over and over, through the choking of her sobs.
"It's all right...it's all right."
And it was.