A/N: How can you tell that the story you're writing centers on a very unpopular pairing? 20+ chapters in, and not a single review. While I can understand that viewers didn't like Alex, as a Days fan in the early eighties, Roman and Marlena were my first soap OTP. I was completely captivated by their portrayers' unmatched chemistry, along with their offscreen friendship – which is why I will always root for Wayne and Dee's characters to be together, no matter who he's playing. Hence, the inspiration for this particular work of fiction.


~ Chapter 21 ~

For a moment, Alex forgot how to breathe. His heart leapt to his throat, beating wildly, until two pieces of information registered in his brain – the hand on his wrist was a gentle one, and the voice he had heard was female. Focusing on the shadowy figure beside him, he detected the sound of barely contained mirth.

Marlena's insides were quaking as she fought to suppress her laughter. Even in the dim light, she could tell that she had truly managed to take him by surprise.

"Gotcha!" she whispered again, unable to resist the urge to tease him.

"We'll see about that!"

Before she realized what was happening, she was no longer standing on solid ground. Having tossed Marlena lightly on to her bed, Alex began to tickle her mercilessly. She struggled to stay silent, fearful that John would overhear, but it was a losing battle. Burying her face in Alex's robe, she successfully muffled her giggles, only to have them erupt again as he found another sensitive spot.

"Enough! I surrender!"

"I surrender, most wise and wonderful man," he corrected, pinning her arms down so that she couldn't inflict the same torture on him.

"I surrender, most wise, wonderful and handsome man," she countered.

Her voice was husky and low, all traces of playfulness gone. As he stared down at the woman beneath him, his breath caught. With her flushed face and her long, blonde tresses fanned out in all directions, he was reminded of the many times previously when they'd been in this identical position. He remembered, all too well, where it had always led. Despite knowing that he shouldn't start something that he couldn't finish, he was unable to resist. He bent down to kiss her. She wrapped her arms around him and responded to his passion with her own. As the heat between them flared, Alex reluctantly called a halt.

"We can't…"

Confusion was written all over her lovely features.

"Why? I don't understand."

He forced himself to sit up, and tenderly pulled her with him.

"It's not that I don't want to. You must know that."

She caressed his cheek with her hand, and he leaned into its softness.

"Of course, I know that." She paused, searching for answers to her own question. "It must have something to do with the amnesia, right? You don't think we should make love until I remember all of my past. Is that it?"

"Not only beautiful, but smart, too," he praised her. "Yes, that's exactly right. It might trigger a flood of memories, and I'm afraid that they would be too intense for you to deal with all at once."

Sensing that she was about to protest, he cut her off before she could say a word.

"I do have some knowledge in this area," he quipped. "Slow is definitely better. Please believe me. If I could be certain that no harm would come to you…"

His voice trailed off. There was no need to say more. They sat in silence, processing their mutual disappointment, and longing for the day when restraint was no longer necessary. Once he caught her gaze again, he noticed that the mischievous twinkle had returned.

"Did I really startle you?"

"Yes, you did," he admitted, without an ounce of shame. "I guess my little stumble on the terrace really was as loud as it sounded."

"You actually surprised me. You've never been that noisy before, so it gave me some advance warning."

His brow furrowed in puzzlement.

"What do you mean, before?"

Had all his efforts at secrecy and stealth been for naught? Surely, she hadn't been aware of his presence all this time.

"You've been coming to see me every morning, for weeks now."

Alex was so stunned, Marlena could've knocked him over with a feather.

"You knew?! But… how?"

"I woke up early one day, with the sense that I was being watched. When I opened my eyes just the tiniest fraction, there you were."

He was astonished at her disclosure.

"You were so calm. You didn't scream, or freak out."

"I've never been scared of you. Why would I scream?"

"Well, a strange man in your bedroom, in the dim light of dawn, you half asleep… It just astounds me that you didn't react more fearfully."

"I was startled, at first, but I stayed quiet to see what you would do, and you just sat in that chair and stared at me. You didn't give me any reason to fear you."

"And I never will," he pledged.

"As the days went on, I began to look forward to your visits. I enjoyed watching you without you knowing it."

"You constantly amaze me. Here I was, trying so hard not to disturb you, and you were awake the whole time! You could have told me."

"What, and spoiled my fun?!" She winked at him, before assuming a more serious tone. "I'd come to depend on starting my days with you. I worried that, if I spoke up, you might stop coming."

"I couldn't do that, any more than I could stop breathing. I lived for those moments, being able to see you first thing every morning. My little ritual gave me the strength to face whatever the day might throw at me."

Like dealing with your ever-present husband.

As if she'd read his mind, Marlena suddenly gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth.

"Oh my gosh! John! What if comes to check on me, and he hears us?"

"Not to worry. He's gone."

"He went out this late? Why?"

"He drove Kate home."

"Oh… I'd forgotten she was here. That makes sense, that he would want to get her home safely."

He observed her carefully for any hint of jealousy, but found none. He was reminded of the way she had fooled him earlier that evening, and decided to call her on it.

"Does it bother you that John is with Kate right now?"

"No, not at all."

"Then explain that little display you put on downstairs, while the two of them were cheek to cheek?"

"What display?" Her face was the picture of innocence, but her eyes danced.

"The one that made me think I was about to lose you again," he answered, his voice hoarse.

She drew him to her and kissed him softly, in an effort to reassure him that he had nothing to fear, before explaining her actions.

"It wasn't very mature of me, I know, but it was payback."

His eyes widened in surprise.

"For what?"

"You don't remember? A few days ago? Cozying up to Kate Roberts right under my nose?"

"Oh. That." His tone was sheepish as he recalled hoping to deliberately arouse her feelings for him by doing exactly what she was accusing him of. "I'm sorry. I thought that, if I could make you jealous, you'd start to remember what we had together. I didn't mean…"

She silenced him with yet another kiss, which quickly deepened. He broke away from her grudgingly.

"I should be getting back to my room."

He rose to go. Her hand reached out to stop him.

"Please, stay."

He struggled to resist her plea. It was too soon! The admonition echoed over and over in his head, but it was no match for the yearning in her eyes. He watched, mesmerized, as she pulled the covers aside, lay down, and patted the space beside her.

"When I was having trouble falling asleep earlier, all I could think of was how wonderful it would be to have you here, with your arms around me."

Although he knew the risk they were taking, he was beyond caring. The sight of the woman he loved, inviting him to share her bed for the first time in ages, broke down all his remaining barriers. Without a word, he slid in alongside her. She snuggled up to him, their bodies fitting perfectly together, as they always had. As they were about to drift off to sleep, he whispered two words that made her heart sing.

"Welcome home."