He Chose Life

Chapter Four

The aroma of perking coffee and searing sausages woke him seconds before his bladder bellowed its need for emptying. Tony opened his eyes, but didn't immediately remember where he was until he caught a faint whiff of Alex's perfume on the pillow beside his head. Their chaste encounter the night before was not a dream as he believed it had been which meant his near death experience was also not a dream. Nothing brought the latter truth to mind more thoroughly than the excruciating pain and stiffness wrenching his body as he tried to leave the bed to make his way to the toilet.

Sheer will and the undeniable call of nature carried him the distance from the bed to the toilet. He relieved himself and stood in front of the sink to wash his hands. Staring into the mirror, he ran his fingers gingerly over his face. He hadn't shaved since the morning of Alex's mother's funeral. It had only been twenty four hours, but his beard looked as if the lapsed time was more the duration of a work week. Not that he could shave now, even if he had the energy to do so. It would be several days before the side of his face healed enough to take the stroke of a razor across it. He hoped Alex wouldn't mind the scruffier version of himself she would be stuck with until then.

He washed his hands and splashed water over his face, running his wet fingers through his hair. Leaning in toward the mirror, Tony took a good look at the damage to his eyes and his cheek. A caricature of himself was the first thought that came to mind. He couldn't believe Alex was even the least bit attracted to him last night looking the way he did. Love is truly blind, isn't it?

He removed the hand towel from where it hung and carefully dried his face and hands. Hanging the towel back up, he notice the cut above his middle knuckle on his right hand was bleeding. The torn skin had reopened when he dried his hands on the hand towel. He removed a long length of toilet tissue from the roll, wrapped it around his hand several times and went in search of toothpaste or mouth wash, anything to take the sleep taste away. After that he would hunt for a plaster. He found a bottle of mouthwash under the sink and gargled. He forgot about needing a plaster and went to find the shirt Alex so deftly took off him before they fell asleep. It was on the floor at the foot of the bed when he finally found it. He was struggling to bend over to pick it up when he heard Alex enter the room.

"Good morning, sleepy head, I thought I heard you moving about." She picked the shirt up off the floor and tossed it into the clothes hamper. "Let me have another look at your injuries before we get you dressed." She made a slow circle around him, examining the integrity of her handiwork from the night before. The Steri strips seemed to be holding and doing their job. None of the other injuries showed signs of infection. "Everything looks fine, but your side doesn't look as good as I had hoped it would this morning. Are you still able to breathe properly? There's nothing keeping you from being able to take deep breaths is there?"

"No, Alex. I'm fine. I would tell you if I weren't."

"Good." She kissed him and began guiding him back toward the bed.

"Alex, I still can't…not that I don't want to…I just can't."

She helped him back between the bed covers and slipped off her shoes. "I know. It's alright. I just want to spend some quiet time with you before our day has to begin." She climbed under the covers as well and motioned for him to come closer.

"What about breakfast?"

"It will keep for the time being. I, however, will not unless you kiss me again, the way you did last night."

"And how was that exactly?" he asked. Though he knew exactly what kiss she meant. The intensity of her reaction at the time of the kiss surprised him.

"Let me see if I can refresh your memory." She pulled him to her and began kissing his mouth deeply and tenderly, just as he had done to hers.

He responded with the same want he displayed the night before. Stopping himself this time before things went too far. "Sorry, Alex. I want to, but I don't want to disappoint." he rolled onto his back.

"Tony, I understand. And I'm not trying to force you. I'm sorry if it feels as if I am." She moved to her side and began tracing shapes in the hair of his chest with her finger. "It's just that I find you incredibly sexy, Dr. Hill. And since we're together now, I can't help wanting to be with you that way. "

"Yet another word never uttered in the same breath as my name. Sexy." Being around her was an incredible boost to his ego. She had a way of building him up when others were only interested in tearing him down. At times he felt like a puppy, following her about for want of another stroke of the head and an utterance of kindness. Alex didn't purposefully make him feel like that puppy; he made himself feel that way by allowing his insecurities to get the better of him.

She smiled at him and asked, "Tony, have you done much dating?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because of the things you say and the way you behave. You show no self confidence for a man of your age when it comes to women. You seem to have no inkling that you could have any woman you wanted if you only asked.

"You should have been the therapist and not me. I didn't realize you could read me so thoroughly." She did have a way of seeing through him when others couldn't. "No, I haven't done any dating since finishing my doctorate degree."

"None at all?"

"Dating and I have never really seen eye to eye. You've experienced firsthand what I'm like when I'm not on a date. A date would be me, just smelling better and looking nicer than I would on a non-date.

"Why did you stop?"

"I suppose it was because the women I was interested in pursuing a long term relationship with, were only interested in sex with me, not a life with me. Apparently I'm a good lay, but good for nothing beyond that."

Alex brushed his hair back with her hand. "It's not true, you know."

"What, the good lay or the good for nothing."

"The good for nothing. I don't see you that way."

"I know you don't." He brought his tissue bandaged hand to his stomach.

Alex grabbed it and began unrolling the paper. "What have you done?"

"It's nothing, really. My hand started bleeding after I washed it, that's all."

"So you wrapped it in this."

"It was only meant to be temporary until I could find a plaster. You're the one who took me back to bed before I could find one."

"Let me get the plaster for you." Alex left the bed and went into the bathroom.

A sort of muffled ring from somewhere in the room, caught Tony's attention. After a few rings he recognized it as the sound of his mobile, which was still in the breast pocket of his suit jacket. He grudgingly left the bed to answer it.

When Alex stepped back into the room she found him standing by the chair where she had thrown his clothing.

"Yes, I understand. I'll be there within the hour." Tony hung up and returned the mobile to the pocket he found it in. "That was Paula. It appears Michael filed a slander suit against me from prison, just before he escaped. She said she needs to formally take down my statement and then I'll need to meet with the magistrate administering his case."

"But you're not well enough yet to be out like that."

"The sooner I go to see Paula to take care of this, the sooner I can come back here to rest for the next few days." He lifted the torn dress shirt from the pile of clothing. "I think we're going to have to go by my flat so I can change into something more presentable."

"Yes, of course, I'll get you a shirt."

"Alex. Things are going to be fine. You and me and this situation with the magistrate, we'll settle in to our lives and the case against me will run its course. You'll see."

"I know it will, luv, I know it will."