Dreams and Realities

Carly came out of sleep slowly, reluctantly, still half floating in the warm
memories of last night. She's lying curled up next to Sonny, one arm holding
her close, her head resting on his chest. His loving the night before had
been sweet and soft and tender. And she knew why. Seeing AJ had brought back
all of the hurt and grief from when they had lost their son. That entire
evening he had been quiet. Too quiet. She could feel the intensity he turned
inward on himself, even as she chattered about everything and
anything…anything to pull him out of his thoughts. But nothing had worked.
Not even Michael, climbing into his Uncle Sonny's lap after dinner and his
bath, could get no more than a brief smile from him. Seeing this, Carly
carried her son upstairs. She played with him for a time before he fell
asleep, then slowly came back downstairs, praying that Sonny had not left and
gone out into the dark alone again.

No, and she breathed a silent sigh of relief as she saw him seated on the
couch before the fire. In their bed, Carly snuggled down into his embrace
even closer as she remembered the dark look in his eyes. As cold as Sonny
might seem to others, last night, she'd seen the pain that lived behind his
gaze. He'd gotten very very good at hiding it over the years, but she was one
of the few people that could see past the wall he'd put up against the world.
Seeing AJ had ripped off the scab on the wounds that he carried around for
his whole life. And last night, the pain was there again, as fresh as the day
she awakened in the hospital bed to find him standing over her, to hear his
choked voice as he had had to tell her that their baby was dead.

Hesitantly, afraid that he would pull away, would shut himself down and shut
her out, she rested her head against his shoulder, reaching out to where his
hand rested in his lap. He didn't move, except to clasp her hand tight in

Carly remembered the flood of relief that had washed over her as his fingers
had entwined themselves with hers. Now as the growing morning light began to
creep into the room, Carly shifted herself gently, so that she faced Sonny,
her face close to his. Their night together had erased the cares of the world
from his face. She loved to see him like this, at peace. And her heart ached
at the thought that this was only a brief respite from the world that waited
for them both outside their bedroom door. But for right here, right now, this
was their world and Carly was content to lay here beside her husband and
watch him as he slept.

A lock of his hair had tumbled down over his brow and Carly couldn't resist
smoothing it back from his face. As her fingers caressed the smooth planes of
his face, Sonny's eyes opened sleepily, quickly focusing on her.

"Good morning." He murmured, his mouth curving in a smile that sent the
dimples flashing briefly across his face.

"Good morning, yourself." Carly said. She smiled back as the sound of his
voice sent a shiver of pleasure through her. "Did you sleep well?"

"I slept very well." Sonny answered. One hand came up to capture hers and he
pressed it to his lips. His eyes went serious for a moment. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me. You - needed me. And I was there for you. That's what
married people do."

Sonny pulled her closer. "I don't know if I ever told you this, so I'll say
it now. Without you, I wouldn't have made it. After our baby died, I think I
would have gone crazy, done some crazy things. Things that maybe I couldn't
have undone. It was only the thought of you and Michael that kept me sane."

The phone rang.

Sonny groaned out loud and waited for the fireworks. Surprisingly, there were
none. He was tempted to let it ring but Carly gave him a little shove.

"It's all right, Sonny. Answer the phone."

    Sonny looked at her unbelievingly, then reached for the receiver. "Hold
on." He said into it. He put his hand over the mouthpiece and looked back up
at his wife.

 "It's okay…I understand…I really do." She slid out of bed; reaching for her
robe, she slipped it on and walked around to his side of the bed, heading
towards the door. "I told Leticia last night that we would be sleeping in
today, so she's probably already left to take him over to Bobbie's. He and
Lucas are making pancakes. But how about I go downstairs and make us some
coffee while you take care of that." She gestured towards the phone.

"I love you." Sonny mouthed silently at her as he brought the phone back to
his ear.

"I know." She whispered back just before she walked out the door. Carly was
smiling to herself as she went downstairs and busied herself making coffee.
Just as she came out of the kitchen with two mugs, a faint shrilling from her
cell inside her purse beckoned. She sat the mugs down and answered it.

Her face paled as she recognized the voice. "What are you thinking, calling
me at home?…Well you guessed wrong, because he hasn't left yet…I'll meet
with you later." Her eyes flicked upstairs while here ears strained for any
sound. She thought she heard the bedroom door open and started talking even
faster. "No, I don't know when I'll call, I'll call when I get a chance."
Carly shoved her phone back into her bag, but in her suddenly jittery state,
she knocked it over. Everything, phone, makeup and accessories, clattered to
the floor just as she heard Sonny's footsteps on the stairs. She kneeled down
and frantically tried to shovel everything back into her bag.

The Council has requested another meeting. The news had Sonny deep in thought
as he comes down the stairs, until he sees Carly. He pushed that matter from
his mind. He'd deal with it later.

 "Whoa whoa whoa….everything all right down here?" Sonny grinned as he
crossed the room. He knelt down next to her as Carly tried to scoop
everything back into her pocketbook. "I thought I heard you talking to
yourself…or were you on the phone?"

"Phone? No. You're right, I was just talking to myself. Thinking out loud
about all the stuff I had to do today at the office." Carly panicked and
before she could think about it, the lie had come out of her mouth. If he
thought she'd been on the phone, then he'd want to know to who and what
about, and if he knew it was Roy, Sonny would absolutely freak.
Instinctively, she changed the subject. "But while I was waiting for you to
come downstairs, I think your coffee cooled off. Why don't I just pop your
cup in the microwave and heat it back up for you."

Her distraction worked as Sonny made a face. "Reheat espresso in the
microwave? I don't think so. I'd rather brew a fresh pot." He shook his head.
"One of these days, I'm going to have to give you a lesson in coffee brewing
and why you never want to reheat it in a …" he made a face and shuddered.
"…microwave."  He scooped up her cup and his. "I'll be right back."

Carly smiled, relaxing. "Take your time. I'm going to run and take a quick
shower." She brushed her lips against his before she disappeared up the

Sonny smiled at her as she left the room but it faded as soon as she was out
of sight. Sonny sat the coffee cups down and crossed to the staircase
landing. He waited until he heard the shower running, then walked back over
to the desk. After a last glance upstairs, Sonny reached into his wife's bag
and pulled out the cell phone. Sonny frowned down at it. He didn't like going
behind Carly's back. But coming down the stairs, he had definitely heard her
in conversation with someone else. And she'd lied to him about it. Sonny
pressed a button and a list of calls made flashed on the display. There was
only one for this morning, proving he wasn't imagining what he'd thought he'd
heard. She was so transparent. Stuff at the office? Sure it was; her and one
of her famous plans. He shook his head with amused exasperation. He'd check
it out, just to be on the safe side. He knew his wife. Sometimes Carly just
needed protection from herself.


Alexis took her glasses off and rubbed at the bridge of her nose. It wasn't
quite lunchtime yet, but she'd felt like the morning had dragged out. She
looked around and was surprised to see Eliana at a table on the other side of
the room with a man. They really hadn't spoken much since that last
disastrous meeting at Sonny's penthouse. She'd come to regret a lot of things
about that night, most of all her impetuous reaction to the realization that
Sonny had lied to hurt. She'd been filled with such irrational hurt, she'd
lashed out at her friends.

As Alexis watched, the man signed a final paper and standing up, shook
Eliana's hand and left the table. Eliana busied herself putting the papers
away in her briefcase. As her head came up, she noticed Alexis. Her
expression wavered between a smile and confusion. Alexis made a decision. She
left her own table and crossed the room to Eliana.

There was an awkward moment, then impulsively, Eliana stood and the two women

"How are you doing, meanwhile?" Alexis asked her.

    Eliana ducked her head a little, a soft smile spreading across her face
involuntarily. "I'm good; I'm really good. I'm in a good place, better than
where I've been in awhile."

Alexis looked at her inquisitively. Eliana looked happy. "Well, are you going
to tell me what...or should I ask, who, put that smile on your face?"

    Eliana smiled that little smile again. "Jason."

"Jason? As in you and Jason?" Alexis was surprised, to say the least. "That
was something I didn't see coming."

"Neither did I, but, it's here. And I'm happier than I've been in a long

"That's good." Alexis said. "Really good for the two of you. I'm happy for
you both."

Alexis hesitated. "Before we say anything else, though, I want to apologize
about that night at Sonny's..."

Eliana brushed it away. "You were upset. With some good reason. You thought
Sonny had betrayed you."

"But what I said to you wasn't right, either." Alexis admitted. "I owe you an

"You're not the only one." Both women turned in their seats in surprise to
see Ned standing there. "I owe you an apology too, Eliana. Whatever reasons
that I was angry about that night at Alexis', and I'm not saying that I was
wrong about that, but I was insensitive to you and what you'd gone through.
For that, I apologize."

Eliana smiled up at him. "Thank you, Ned. I appreciate it, I really do."

Ned smiled at her, then turned to Alexis. "When you have time, I'd like to
talk to you, if I may?"

Alexis' heart gave a little leap inside her as he smiled hopefully at her.
"I'd like that very much, Ned."

"Sounds like now is as good as a time as any." Eliana said, glancing at her
watch, she slid from her chair. "I've got to get over to Deception." She
smiled and motioned to her seat. "Sit. Talk. 'Bye" With one last grin at the
two of them, Eliana left the restaurant.

Ned motioned a waiter over and ordered some coffee for the two of them. Then
he took the vacated seat and smiled into her eyes. "Hi."

"Hi." Alexis answered. Her eyes remained on his. Ned didn't seem angry…more
like hopeful. Her own gaze reflected the same.

"You're looking well." Ned said.

"So are you."

"But I'm not." Ned said. "I miss you too much."

Alexis's breath caught in her throat. "You do?"

The waiter arrived with their coffee and the two of them remained silent as
he poured. Once they were alone again, Ned began to speak. "I do miss you.
More than I ever thought I would. Even though you can be the most
exasperating woman I have ever met…" and despite his words, his smile
widened…  "Not to mention stubborn, obstinate…"

Alexis tried to repress a grin and failed. "Be careful, your compliments are
going to my head, Ashton."

"And the sight of you, as always, is going straight to my heart." Ned
answered. His voice dropped to a more serious tone. "I mean it, Alexis. I
miss you. There's nothing more I can say that would add to that. Except I
love you. You know that I do."

"You know I feel the same, Ned…but…" her voice failed as he put one hand
over hers where it rested on the table.

"No buts. You were right. If I claim to love you, then I need to accept all
of you. Because that is all of who you are. Your loyalty, whether I agree
with you over where it's placed or not, is one of the things I love about
Ned took her hand in both of his. He leaned towards her, his voice soft and
honest. "I could make all sorts of promises to try and win you back. But it
will be my actions that will convince you, not my words. You have my heart. I
gave it to you long ago. And I'm still learning what that means. To accept
you in my heart is to accept all of you. Whether I approve of your choices or
not. But I have to respect them. Admittedly it's going to be hard - I won't
lie and say that I'm not going to worry about you. I won't lie and tell you
that I'm never going to speak my mind where I feel I have to. So I won't
promise you anything…" Ned lifted his coffee cup towards her in a hopeful
toast. "….other than I promise to try to do exactly that. To accept all of

Alexis touched her cup to his. "Pursuant to the clauses named in this offer,
I can accept those terms…and you."

"Ah, Councilor, I love it when you go all lawyer on me."

 "Amicus curiae, ex aequo et bono, rebus sic statibus." Who knew that Latin
legal terms could be so…stimulating?

"Semper Fi." Ned said.

"Semper Fi?"

"All the Latin I could come up with at such short notice. Always faithful."
Ned's eyebrows lifted mischievously. "Works for me."

"Me too."

The flash of a familiar face caught Alexis' attention from the corner of her
eye. She turned her head to see Sonny entering the room with a number of
associates. They looked to be legitimate businessmen and unconsciously,
Alexis breathed a sigh of relief.  She turned back to face Ned, a little
apprehensive at his reaction.

For once, Ned's expression said he wasn't considering a major explosion. "Do
you need to speak to him? He asked, nodding with his head towards Sonny.

It's been a day for surprises and apologies, Alexis thought. And she really
hadn't apologized to Sonny. That day on the dock they had forgiven each
other, but still. She hadn't said "I'm sorry". Not to his face.

"Go ahead, Alexis. I told you, I'll do my best to respect your choices. And
he's one of them. So go on." He laughed at what must be a stunned expression
on her face. "I've got a couple of L&B phone calls that I need to make; so
I'll be back in a few minutes." He bent down and brushed his lips against her
cheek before leaving. "Will you be here when I get back?" The look in his
eyes made the question more than it was.

    "I'll be right here." The look in her eyes answered all the questions
left unspoken between them. Ned nodded and smiled at her before he left the

    Alexis exhaled slowly. Then standing up, she headed in Sonny's direction.
He saw her coming and excused himself from his associates, meeting her

    "Did you need me for something, Alexis?" he asked.

    She motioned towards the bar. "If you have a quick minute."

    "For you, always." Sonny smiled. He put out an arm, motioning her to
precede him to the bar. They settled themselves.

"I was going to call you about Zander's college situation. That was a very
generous endowment you've given him."

"I want the kid to have a real choice in what direction his life is going to
take." Sonny replied.

"Whether he works for you or not." Alexis said.

Sonny shrugged. "It was different for me. I didn't have a choice. It doesn't
have to be the same for him. And if he does come to work for me, like I said
that day on the docks, muscle I can get a dime a dozen. But brains, that's a
whole other ballgame. I always have a use for brains. Like yours."

"Speaking of that day on the docks, something you said to Zander that
afternoon on the docks stayed with me. About having to trust friends
sometimes, even though you don't know why they are doing what they do."
Alexis said. "I think I got that now. I was your friend and maybe I should
have trusted you more."

"That goes both ways, Alexis." Sonny said. "Maybe I should have trusted you

"But you knew that I couldn't know what you'd done, or I'd be obligated to
inform the court. And that was about your protecting me. That's what friends

"So, am I still your friend?" Alexis flashed him a hesitant smile. Sonny
hadn't realized how much he'd been waiting for that.

"You're still my friend. My very good friend. And I'm yours." The two of them
smiled at one another with genuine gladness.