Part Twenty-eight

Another yawn passed from her lips. Parting couldn't be delayed for a moment longer. Sonny kissed Hope's forehead and wished her a good night. She offered the same sentiment before ascending the staircase.

Sonny stood near the front door and watched until she turned the corner, disappearing from his sight. Mumbled voices carried down to him. Dara. He waited and then she was there.

"Are you staying until she falls asleep?" Dara asked as she reached the bottom step.

Every night, Dara asked the same question. Every night, his response was the same.

"If you don't mind." His gaze leveled on hers. He never knew what he was watching for exactly. A hint of recognition? A spark from the past?

Sure, it wasn't smart to tempt fate. But after so many years apart and pretending that there was never anything between them, the strain got to him. He wanted a reminder. He wanted to know that she felt the pull, too. And tonight, he got what he wanted. The rapid fall of her chest as she inhaled a deep breath and the sweep of her pink tongue against her full bottom lip. It was just the reaction he'd been longing for and dreading.

Of course, the longing outweighed the dread.

"It's up to you," she replied as usual.

"Then, I'll stay." He stood still, waiting for Dara to sit. She chose the sofa and he joined her. Her eyes widened in surprise. Or was it excitement?

He was a damn fool to play this game. It was like dancing in the dark with the devil. But what did they say about fools? They ventured where angels feared to tread. And everybody knew that Sonny Corinthos could never be classified as an angel.

"Do you need help making arrangements with the move?" he asked.

Dara shook her head. "Everything is done. We're just waiting for the day to arrive."

"You were always efficient," he murmured.

She looked away from him. Her fingers dug into the sofa cushions, but she made no move to rise. "Someone has to be."

"I wish you and Hope would stay," he said, "but you have to do what you have to do. Taggert giving you grief?"

"I'd rather not discuss that with you."

He cocked his head to the side. His voice dropped lower. "There was a time when no topic was off limits between us."

She jerked and slid to the edge of the cushion. "That was a long time ago. Hope is our middle ground. Everything else is out of bounds."

"Everything?"

She shifted on the sofa, moving to face him. "You know it has to be that way. What will you share with me? Your illegal dealings? Make me compromise my principles? I don't think so. We can share Hope. We can't share anything else."

"Can't?" he asked, enjoying the display of emotions that flashed in her eyes.

When they were last together, they had been kids. Discovering their sensuality together and finding the little things that pleased the other. He wondered if she'd changed. Were her inner thighs still sensitive to the flick of a tongue? Did she still squeal when her nipples were stimulated?

Dangerous ground, Corinthos, an inner voice warned.

Sonny's pants became too snug. He attempted to shift without drawing too much attention to the area. Her eyes darted to his crotch despite his best efforts. This time, she bolted from the sofa.

"That," she stated firmly, pointing to the bulge in his pants, "is not gonna happen."

He smiled and closed his hand over his throbbing manhood. "It wouldn't be because you didn't want it. What are you afraid of, Dara? Have you set a date with Taggert or not?"

"I told you--"

"I know," he said with exaggeration, "the topic is off limits." Slowly, he stood and went to her. She backed up. He and the fireplace boxed her in. He rested his hands on the mantle on either side of her. "I'm a man who doesn't believe in limitations."

"Your marriage vows mean nothing to you?" she countered, seemingly unaware of how her pulse beat rapidly at her throat.

"Of course not," he grated, "but are you trying to deny what never died? What's still there?"

Her eyes flashed. Sonny noted passion mixed with anger. Maybe he pushed too far. Hell, he didn't know what he was doing, but he knew it was too late to back off now.

"You'd leave Carly and your son for Hope and me?" she asked, quietly but with fire. "You would have to choose. I don't share and I know Carly doesn't either. You couldn't have your cake and eat it, too."

# # #

The following morning, a lot was on Hope's mind. Her parents didn't know, but she saw them together. On the sofa and at the fireplace. They stood still together for awhile. Neither moved for a long time. She felt weird for watching, but she couldn’t stop herself. She had to know what would happen next.

Then her mother whispered something. Her father responded with a kiss. Hope's breath caught in her throat. Would it happen? Would her parents get back together? As the kiss deepened and continued, Hope's expectations soared. She envisioned them all together: Daddy, Mama, Mikey and her. One family together under one roof...

A loud slap crackled the air. Hope blinked. Her dreams vanished just as her mother landed one right on her father's cheek. Her dad stood his ground. With his back to Hope, it was hard for her to make out what he said. Then, he walked out. Hope almost called out to her mother, but thought better of it. She went upstairs and crawled into bed.

At breakfast, Dara acted as if nothing bizarre had happened. Hope had no choice but to play along. As they were cleaning up the breakfast dishes, Mike arrived and Hope left to spend the day with her grandfather.

"There are a lot more interesting places to hang out than the Recovery Room," Mike said with a slight frown. "We can do something else."

"This is cool," Hope said, responding to the gentleness she saw in his eyes. "I like it. I wanted to see where you work."

"It's not glamorous," Mike said with a shrug. "My burgers can't be beat and the customers seem to like it."

"Even with that weird guy cooking them?"

"Who? Chris?" Mike laughed. "Chris Ramsey never envisioned himself as a short order cook."

"Then why is he doing it?" she asked, not really interested in the grouchy cook but enjoying the conversation with her grandfather.

"He was a doctor over at GH. A few years back, he did something he shouldn't have and lost his license to practice medicine. He left town and he came back. No one would give him a chance, but I offered him a job. He took it."

Hope frowned. "Why did you give him a chance? If he lost his medical license, he must have done something pretty bad."

Mike's expression sobered, but his eyes remained kind. "Everyone deserves a second chance."

# # #

"You're wasting your time," Jason grumbled as Matt wheeled into his hospital room. "I ran through all the exercises. Still nothing."

Matt frowned and greeted Jason's surliness with the same. "So you're a doctor now."

"I studied medicine," Jason said. "I still remember it. I know the drill, doctor. It's not happening."

"It's too soon to know anything for sure," Matt said, pulling back the sheet to examine Jason's bare legs and feet. He pulled an instrument from his pocket and pressed it against something Jason couldn't feel.

"See."

Matt shrugged and continued with his examination. Jason's irritation grew.

"GET OUT!"

"Scream, shout, yell," Matt said, unfazed. "And fight. Never give up."

"That's your prescription. It worked well for you."

Matt shook his head. "No, it didn't work for me, but it could work for you. I was shot almost ten years ago. Medicine has progressed a thousand per cent since then. You have a better chance of walking out of this bed than I ever had of walking out of mine."

"Right."

Matt fixed Jason with a hard stare. "You're a real asshole. Use it to work for you, not against you."

Jason turned his head, not wanting to listen.

"Keesha isn't your enemy. Let her see you."

Tears clouded Jason's vision. He didn't want her to see him like this. Not helpless. Not an invalid. His strength was important to him. It's how he defined himself. How could she love a man who wasn't strong?

"She wants to help you and she can," Matt continued. "You shouldn't be alone now. Not when you don't have to be."

"I don't want her pity."

"I can't speak for her, but I don't think that's what she's offering."

Jason blinked. Still staring at the wall, he said, "Is she here?"

"No, but when she comes, I'll tell her you want to see her."

"Right," Jason muttered, not sure he made the right decision.

"You're welcome," Matt quipped before rolling from the room.

# # #

Sonny spent the night on the couch. Carly didn't force him out of bed. He did it willingly. Sleeping beside his wife after putting the moves on another woman—who just so happened to be his first everything—wasn't something he could do. Carly gave him hell. It's what connected them in the first place. But she didn't deserve to live in hell. Not because of him.

He had driven her to seek therapy. He forcibly kissed Dara.

She kissed you back, a voice reminded him.

Yeah, but she didn't initiate it. She had a life. He had a life. Other than Hope, their lives couldn't and didn't intersect. The choice was made when he signed up with Joe Scully all those years ago. The clock couldn't be turned back now. For them, it was too late. He fucked up back then. He wouldn't repeat his past mistakes.

After spending a torturous night on the sofa, he stumbled upstairs and glanced in on Mikey. The little boy was fast asleep. Sonny paused to kiss his son's cheek before heading down the hall to the bedroom he shared with his wife. As he hoped, Carly was asleep. He brushed wayward strands of blonde hair from her face. Tears stained her cheeks. Because of him.

He moved quickly to bathe and shave. When he returned to the bedroom, she was stirring. He sat beside her on the edge of the bed.

"Where did you sleep?" she asked, looking at him with distrust.

"Downstairs. You okay?"

She rolled on her side, giving him her back. "What do you think?"

"I think we have two choices. To get better or to get worse. We can do either of them together or apart."

"Is this your way of kicking me out?" she asked.

"No. I'm asking you if you wanna start over or give up."

She snorted. "You're leaving the choice up to me?"

"I don't stutter, Carly," he said. "What do you want?"

"You already know what I want," she said in a hoarse voice. She pulled herself into a sitting position. "I want a family. A real family. A husband I can depend on and won't betray me. Not someone who half-asses it and thinks he's done something. But you already knew that. What do you want?"

"A family," he said. "Peace and security."

"Dara?" she asked. "You were there longer than usual last night. I thought maybe..."

"And you stayed the night anyway?" he asked.

She shrugged. "Where else would I go? I want to make this work. Gail says I'm afraid... My fears are my worst enemies. Right now, my biggest fear is that you still want Dara. You've never told me about her, but you have a child and now they're both across the hall. You visit them every night, and... I have a right to know if you love her. If you'd rather be with her instead of me."

Sonny never got a chance to answer her. Police Commissioner Alejándro Garcia followed by a team of uniformed police officers entered the bedroom. Garcia had a warrant for Sonny's arrest and promptly made good on it.

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