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Scene 5

It had crossed his mind to lie. To tell him she had some urgent business in New York.

Zander had a hot, impulsive streak that worried him. The fallout from his California road-trip had pretty much put the fear of God into Zander's love-sick little self, but if he thought for one minute that Sonny might throw him to the wolves...

"Hey!" Zander stood at the door, looking at Sonny with that goofy grin of his. Sonny stared back at him, silent.

Zander shifted nervously. "What?"

"First, don't you EVER open this door without knowing for 100%, proof-positive who it is on the other side, you understand?"

"Yeah, sure. But I knew that it was you because I heard your door slam and then your voice when you were talking to Johnny out in the hall."

"I don't care what you THINK you know! You ask...ALWAYS." Then Sonny repeated himself slowly, as if speaking to a child. "Do - you - understand?"

Zander nodded and looked down at his shoes, contrite. "Yes. Absolutely."

"Okay then." Sonny stepped inside and turned his back to Zander as he pushed the door shut, still unsure of how he'd proceed with this trusting kid. He gave in to his weariness for a brief moment, resting both palms against the door. It was not lost on Zander.

"What? Something's wrong. Is it Emily? Did something happen...

"Emily is fine." Sonny turned to face him, his expression strangely blank. "But we do have a situation. It involves you, and it involves Alexis."

"Uh, she's not home yet." Zander frowned and looked down at his watch. "Hey, shouldn't she have been back, like, over an hour ago?"

"Alexis isn't coming home. Not...not right now." Sonny had trouble forming the words to say what was true. Words had power, the kind of power that Sonny desperately needed to reclaim.

Zander's expression suddenly morphed from concern to impish glee. "Oh, I get it. She's with Mr. Ashton, right? Oh man, that is SO great, because she really misses him, you know? I mean I can hear her crying sometimes, late at night, when she doesn't know I'm up..."

"Sorel took her."

The blunt statement hit Zander like a quick hook to the jaw.

"What? But...why would he..." It was Zander's turn to struggle for words. "Oh God. He...Sonny, you don't think he'd...that he'd...Sonny?" His voice was plaintive, begging for reassurance.

Sonny closed his eyes and took a deep breath before responding. He didn't want to scare Zander any more than he had too, but maybe it wasn't possible to be scared ENOUGH when it came to Sorel. A stupid, angry, desperate Sorel.

"Sorel doesn't want Alexis, he wants you. But he couldn't GET you, so he took what - or WHO - he could." Sonny took a step toward Zander. "Now, the first thing that you have to understand is that there will not be a trade."

"But Sonny," Zander began to protest.

"There will NOT be a trade! We will bring Alexis home, but not that way."

Zander shook his head. "I won't let her die because of me! I already stood by and watched one innocent person get killed without doing a damn thing, and now there's all this damage being done to the people who've helped me." Zander's eyes glared. He was going off, just as Sonny had feared.

"She didn't sign up for this."

"Zander, you must listen to me." Sonny held his voice calm and steady, hoping it would rub off.

"I've changed, Sonny, you know? I want to be the kind of person that you and Alexis and Emily deserve to believe in. I will do what's right." He shook his head, surprising himself with his own sincerity of purpose.

"In spite of all the terrible things I've done in the past, even a no-account degenerate like me has to draw the line somewhere, you know?"

Sonny's head snapped up. "Funny you should use that expression."

Zander's brow furrowed. "Why? What do you mean?"

Sonny took another step toward him and placed a steady hand on each of Zander's shoulders, the physical contact grounding them both. In Zander's dark, tense eyes he couldn't help but see his own fear looking back at him.

"I will get her back, Zander, but it won't be by sacrificing you." Then, using a tactic Alexis held near and dear, "Because Alexis would beat me about the head with my own $500 copper frying pan if I even THOUGHT about it. And you KNOW that she would."

In spite of himself, Zander smiled at the image Sonny just put in his head. Sonny was relieved. Zander would be okay.

"Sonny," Zander's voice was soft. "I appreciate what you're trying to do here, but if you honestly think that he would...I won't let her be dealt a hand that was meant for me."

With that, the truth hit Sonny like lightning.

"My God," he thought, "It's the same for him too."

Sonny's mother, Lily, Carly, Emily, Alexis...the vulnerability of women. This boy and this man, their soft underbellies were one and the same...women. Women were sacred.

Women were the line.

"Just do as I say." Sonny's was wrenched with emotion, his voice cracking against his will.

"This is going to be be hard, and it could be ugly." His voice was all but gone, holding out for just one last demand...

"But you MUST do as I say."