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Scene 102

Johnny was getting restless.

His eyes kept shifting from one closed door to another as he finally gave up any and all pretense of looking natural in his unnatural surroundings. All he could focus on was the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach that was keeping his Starbucks company. Something was going on, and Alexis didn't want him to know about. She didn't want Sonny to know either. And while Johnny respected her right to privacy, he couldn't help but feel dejected. It wasn't that he expected her to confide in him - he wasn't even sure how comfortable he'd be if she did. Maintaining the bounds of his professional place with Alexis had become increasingly difficult, and the depth of his concern for her threatened to make him overstep. What she went through hit so close to home that Johnny couldn't help but take it personally.

Before heroin, he liked Alexis. Before heroin, he loved Jessie. But after heroin, Johnny felt tied to both of them in a way that defied words. He only knew that bearing witness to their painful battles, but being unable to take up arms and fight the battles for them, made Jessie and Alexis a part of him. It made him take their suffering personally. With Jessie, it was a normal, right and expected way for him to feel. With Alexis, he wasn't so sure. He was her friend, but first and foremost he was her guard - on Sonny's payroll. Playing both roles, in proper order, could be challenging. But Sonny was different. Sonny's place in her life was different. He took her suffering personally too, but the kind of bond that he and Alexis had formed made it a normal, right and proper way for him to feel.

From the minute they'd found her, near to death in that dank concrete room, Sonny let his emotional guard down without a second thought. He had to, so Alexis could do the same. And Alexis did, thought at first she'd really had no choice. She was too weak, scared and sick when she was found to resist anyone's efforsts to help her. She had no choice but to surrender herself into the care of Sonny and whoever else came forth to give it. But after she was rescued, Alexis chose to keep her guard down with Sonny, trusting him with the safe keeping of her mind and body like she trusted no one else. Johnny quickly learned that much about Alexis while keeping close watch outside her hospital room as Sonny kept close comfort inside it. She hadn't wanted anyone by her side but Sonny. And he embraced that want with abandon.

Johnny knew his boss well, and he'd seen him be as tough, hard and impenetrable as they come. He'd never seen Sonny to be as gentle, sensitive and attentive with anyone as he was with Alexis during her awful days at GH. And though he hadn't known Alexis well at all, Johnny had seen her in professional action enough to know she wasn't one to easily let herself need or be tended the way she'd let herself need and be tended to by Sonny. Amidst all the bad of the last two weeks, there had also been this particular good. And Johnny knew that bearing witness as they reached out to each other to begin their lover's dance, and being able to give them gentle nudges along with way, made Sonny and Alexis a part of him. It made him take their dance personally.

And now, it made him ache to think that the protective walls Sonny and Alexis had torn down could be starting to build back up. It made him ache to know that whatever secret thing Alexis was doing at the PCPD, she was too afraid or insecure to share it with the man who loved her unconditionally and without bounds. But then, Sonny was still too afraid or insecure to tell her a secret thing of his own - that he loved her unconditionally and without bounds. Maybe it was time for Johnny's nudges to stop being so gentle. Maybe it was time for his feelings of friendship to overstep his professional bounds. And maybe it was time for him to wander into the squad room to see what he could see…or hear. Johnny turned his head and squinted at the closed door of the interrogation room. It's where Taggart had gone after leaving Alexis, and where a detective who Johnny knew by sight, but not by name, had deposited a large, sandy-haired, handcuffed prisoner with piercingly bright blue eyes.

The empty coffee cup collapsed in Johnny's fist as he sidled up to the squad room entrance and casually make his way toward Taggart's desk. As he neared, he could catch the light scent of gardenia in the air. Alexis's black coat lay folded on the chair in front of him, her cashmere scarf swirled around the collar like a last pink river. His eyes shifted from the scarf to the back of the familiar detective's head that was bowed over a nearby desk. The dark haired man was scribbling on a form, but his focus kept turning to the window of the interrogation room. Johnny sighed and dropped his crumpled cup into the wastebasket at his feet and followed the detective's eyes to the open blinds. His gaze settled on the sandy colored head and orange-draped shoulders of the man who sat still in his chair, his back turned to the prying eyes of the squad room. Johnny wondered who the large, docile prisoner was to garner such interest. Wondering about a stranger took his mind off wondering - and worrying - about Alexis. At least, he told himself it did.

It didn't.

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Inside the interrogation room, Thomas cleared his throat and coughed. "Lieutenant, could I have some water please? My mouth is awful dry."

Alexis released the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. Her mouth was dry too. And water sounded like a good idea. But her legs wouldn't move when she told them to. She looked at the small table in the corner, where the pitcher of water and set of glasses taunted her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Taggart move. She turned her head and watched as he moved to the pitcher in the opposite corner of the room, to her right. As he poured, Alexis shifted her attention to Thomas, whose bright, wide eyes watched with gratitude as Taggart handed him a paper cup.

"Thank you."

Her tongue ran across her lower lip, seeking and finding the salty wet of her own tears in the corner of her mouth once more. It strengthened her. Alexis rose up from her chair and made a short, shaky path to the water, poured half a glass, and quenched her dry thirst.

"Is that enough?" Taggert asked.

Thomas nodded. "Thank you."

"You said that already." Taggart took the empty paper cup and tossed it into the trash can in front of the mirror, tossing a quick nod Alexis's way as he did. "Please…thank you. Your grandmother would be proud of your good manners, Malloy."

The look on Thomas's face made Alexis freeze where she stood. He looked as if he might cry. As looked as if he'd been hit, and it hurt all the more because it hadn't been expected. She knew how it felt. She knew how HE felt. Her legs slowly carried her back to her chair, her eyes never leaving Thomas's stunned, pained face…and she suddenly remembered the scent of peppermint and the tingling taste of it as it slipped into her mouth.

"It's just a peppermint drop. I swear that's all it is. My grandmother used to give them to me when I was sick as a kid."

Thomas's jaw shifted tightly. He was fighting a public display of the emotions that the mention of his grandmother stirred in him. He had perfected the assumption of an expressionless face while working for Sorel, yet there he was with his heart fighting to jump to his sleeve. And looking at Taggart's own blank expression that gave nothing away, Thomas wondered if the lieutenant had touched a raw nerve on purpose. He couldn't blame him for wanting to stick it to Thomas - to punish him for even more for what he'd done to an innocent woman that Taggart cared about. Or maybe his job made it all but impossible for him to NOT touch a raw nerve, if he happened to see one. Sensitivity couldn't be much of an asset to someone who saw all he saw of the evils that men do.

"My g…" Thomas's voice broke. He cleared his throat again. "My grandmother would die of shame if she wasn't already gone. And it would put her in her grave with more pain in her soul than the cancer ever put in her body. She didn't raise me to be a well-mannered monster, lieutenant. She didn't raise me to do what I did. That was all on me.

And she certainly deserves a better honoring of her memory than what I've given her. I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring her up again. Okay?"

Taggart stared at Malloy for a long, silent while. Alexis felt a strange new trail of tears slip from one eye as she stared with him.

"I apologize. No disrespect to her memory was intended. The subject is closed." Taggart bowed his head and shifted his stare down to the table, where his fingertips grazed up and down the edge. "But let's get back to the subject of Ms. Davis…and Sorel's decision to start shooting her up."

Thomas's shoulders visibly tensed.

"He hit her, you held her…and then?"

"Sorel was mad. I think he was genuinely mad that he'd been reduced to doing what he did. Like I said, getting that rough with a woman wasn't his style at all. He came up behind her and warned her not to make him hit her again, and I knew he meant it. Then he started to walk away. I was relieved. I thought he was gonna leave her alone for a few more hours to think, since he'd proven he wasn't above getting violent. But I was wrong. Instead of leaving the room, he went and stood next to the cot and told me to bring her to him. I knew that meant he was gonna start with the drugs, and I was gonna have to keep her under control while he did it. But she must have thought it meant he was finally gonna…you know, do what he made her think when he was touching her before."

Alexis blinked rapidly. Sorel's dark, lustful face filled her mind's eye, swimming in a wet, salty pool that wouldn't be blinked away.

"She freaked. I barely started to move and she screamed, started fighting. It startled me, and for a second I didn't know what to do. I mean, I'm pretty strong and I didn't want to hurt her, you know? But Sorel got even more pissed off - this time, at me. Sorel barked at me, and I just shoved her toward him. I guess I shoved her too hard, because she tripped and fell against the wall. She hit her head." He lifted his chained hands and touched a thumb to his forehead. "Here. I swear I didn't mean to do it."

"You told me that." Alexis whispered as she finally felt and fed the desire to wipe the dampness from her cheeks. "I remember."

"She didn't fight anymore, after she hit her head. She looked…stunned, and I thought maybe she was gonna pass out. I held her up against the wall to keep her upright, but then I started hoping she WOULD pass out, 'cause then maybe Sorel would leave her alone. But she didn't. She just stared at that cot with a glassy look in her eyes, like she was waiting for whatever was gonna happen to her to just happen already. I couldn't look at her anymore. The whole thing was getting to be more intense than I expected, and it was making me queasy."

"But you helped Sorel drug her anyway."

Thomas sat up straight with a renewed energy. "I swear I didn't know what the drugs would do to her. Sorel said it would it would make her high, and then make her sleep. I had no reason to not believe him. I mean, I thought he just wanted to keep her under control, you now? And I didn't know heroin could made people hurt like that. I thought it just made them feel good."

Alexis felt her throat suddenly go dry. She swallowed and shifted in her chair as Thomas's last words repeated in her head.

"I thought it just made them feel good…"

Her ears began to hear a deeper voice replacing Thomas's gentle, raspy tone. And the words echoing in her mind began to change.

"I don't want to hurt you. I just want to make you feel good."

A pair of leering dark eyes flashed in front of her, and a familiar sharp pain revisited the back of her head. "Owe…damn it! Not again."

Alexis pushed her palm hard against her skull and tried to focus on the frightening dark eyes and the face they belonged to. It had to be Sorel. It had to be his distorted image and voice plaguing her nights, and now her days, in lightening-quick flashes of traumatic remembrance that she hadn't yet resolved. But there was something more familiar, more deeply rooted about the eyes that taunted her…and something younger about the timbre of the voice. The inability to make the images crystallize was frustrating and exhausting. The more she tried to make them clear, the muddier they grew.

The abrupt pain was gone. Alexis blinked her eyes open and sighed wearily. Maybe she needed to stop trying. Maybe Sonny was right. Forcing herself awake every few hours to keep the confusing, haunting images at bay might only be making them worse. She knew she needed a serious night's sleep, regardless of whether the nightmares came to steal it away. She was feeling the effects of the last few restless nights - and she had to admit that the daylight visitations had only gotten worse. Sonny was right. She should let her mind experience what it would, so it could ultimately let it go. And she should also tell him the truth about her nights since he'd gone back home. A sudden movement through the window caught Alexis's attention.

"Yeah, yeah." Taggart pushed himself away from the wall and folded his arms as he began to cross to the other side of the room, the eyes of Thomas Malloy following along with him. "I got the picture about your ignorance of the dangers of heroin and how you didn't mean to bloody up her head and you tried to keep her calm and under control so Sorel wouldn't keep using that pretty little face of hers as a punching bag."

Alexis winced.

So did Thomas.

So did Taggart, once his own words registered in his ears. Listening to Thomas's detailed tale of what Alexis went through - the things that Taggart and Sonny didn't dare imagine while pacing the penthouse floor - made him angry. It made him forget, for one brief moment, that Alexis was listening too, unseen, and feeling God only knew what. He hoped it was anger rather than pain. Anger would help her heal. Pain would keep her locked, like a prisoner. He would be more mindful of his words in the heat of his anger. But he hoped that calling her pretty at least made the 'punching bag' reference less jarring for her to hear. Or maybe, coming from him, it was a jarring thing to hear in and of itself. Once this was finally over and they found themselves facing off in court, she'd no doubt find a way to use his uncensored compliment to throw him off and use it to her advantage. Taggart shook his head as the corners of his mouth turned up against his will. He knew she'd be disappointed if she didn't use it against him. And he was looking forward to the day he faced-off with her in court once again.

"I'm sorry, lieutenant." Thomas offered. "I was just trying to be specific, like you said."

"Yeah, I know." Taggart stared down at the floor. "Don't mind me."

"It's gotta be hard, having to hear such awful stuff. Especially with Miss Davis being a friend of yours."

Taggart's head snapped up, eyes locking on Thomas's earnest face. Malloy had no idea what kind of awful stuff Taggart had really heard.

"You have no idea." The sound of his thoughts riding on his own voice took him aback. He rubbed at the side of his head. "Why heroin, Malloy? Why did Sorel use heroin, of all things?"

"It was just another game. More of putting Corinthos in his place. Corinthos wouldn't have anything to do with drugs. Wouldn't move them, store them, do business with people whose money came from dealing them - nothing. To Sorel, Corinthos was being all holier than thou, you know? It pissed him off. He thought it would be a poetic kind of payback to take this woman who was so close to Corinthos, and shoot her up with an illicit drug that Corinthos considered himself above touching."

"Because she and Corinthos had become the same person in his mind."

Thomas nodded. "It was like Miss Davis was a gun that Sorel was pointing at Corinthos's head. And every time he shot her up, he was shooting Corinthos too."

"So that's when Sorel started wanting her dead?"

Thomas frowned. "N-no. No. I honestly don't know if he ever did want that. Every now and then, I'd see him recognizing the fact that an innocent woman was suffering. I'm sure I saw it bothering him a little, every now and then. He let me give her aspirin."

"Yeah. You said."

"But then something would suddenly take that little flash of human being away from him and all I'd see in his eyes was anger. Like the second time he made her talk to Corinthos, after the first time he used the heroin on her. She was trying to talk reason with Sorel, but he felt like she was trying to pull something over on him. Like she was using a real educated way of talking to trick him. There's a word for it."

"Pandering? Patronizing?"

"Yeah, patronizing. He thought she was patronizing him and being disrespectful of his intelligence…like what Corinthos always did. She didn't mean to. She was just trying to make Sorel see the best way out for everybody, you know? Make him look at his own situation in a practical way. And then Corinthos gets on the phone and tries to do pretty much the same thing. Sorel wanted to hurt both Miss Davis and Corinthos at that point. I think she knew his buttons had been pushed too hard, 'cause when Sorel sent me out of the room for something, she tried to run. I heard a crashing of metal and him shouting real loud. I went back there as quick as I could, and Sorel was standing, holding her against him with one arm locked around her neck. His face was all red, and he was hissing at her, making her say out loud that he was the one in control."

Thomas swallowed and slowly shook his head as he conjured up an image in his mind that he'd spent two weeks trying to forget.

"When she saw me standing in the doorway, she looked at me with such panic on her face. Like maybe she thought I was gonna start beating on her too for trying to get away. I hated that she might think that. And I was afraid it would make her start freaking out again and Sorel would really lose it with her."

"And what would you have done if he had?" Taggart challenged.

"Stopped him. Which probably would have meant killing him. If I'd just hurt him enough to get her out of there safely, he'd have tracked me down and killed me for sure no matter where I ran. I never thought taking a life was something I could do, but now I know I could. I'd sooner take the life of someone like Sorel than let them take someone else's. And I'd rather let the law punish me for killing him than let him kill me. But thank God I didn't have to make the choice. Miss Davis didn't freak this time. She understood the game Sorel was playing and she played it, instead of giving him any more trouble. In fact, she got real…what's the word? Docile. She got real docile. She felt like one of those rag dolls when Sorel pushed her into my arms and pulled another hit out of his pocket. She knew it was coming, but she just stood there real still and quiet while I held her…and he stuck her again."

Thomas suddenly dropped his head and rubbed at his temples as he relived the unexpected feel of dampness bleeding through his shirt.

"I think that's when she really started to surrender to Sorel. To give up control in here, I mean." He tapped at his temple. "It's when she started to cry."

Alexis bit down hard on her lip and absently scratched at her arm. The fresh smell of Thomas's clean shirt was all Alexis had tried to focus on as she waited for the inevitable sting of the needle to hit her skin her. She'd never forget that smell as long as she lived. Or the feel of that sting. It made her nails scratch even harder, and it made her body squirm in her seat to so vividly remember the hopelessness that engulfed her at that moment, and the hot explosion in her body after the sting had come and gone. She'd been too frightened and exhausted to fight any tears that wanted to fall, but she had no memory of crying. Sorel must have known he'd won once he saw it. He must have known she'd surrendered to him not just in her body, but in her head as well - just like Thomas said.

Taggart stared at Malloy with an amalgam of curiosity and disbelief. How had he stood it? This big, uneducated, lemming of Sorel's had enough savvy in his head and tender compassion in his heart to protect and save Alexis right under Sorel's nose, yet he maintained the nerves of steel it took to bear the abuse of her as long as he did. It made Taggart angry that Malloy took so damn long. And it still made him angry that Alexis would sacrifice herself for the likes of Zander Smith, a young Sonny Corinthos in training. But he knew her reasons were more comlicated than anyone but Alexis would truly comprehend. And he supposed it was possible that what she'd done for that kid would put him on a road as far from Corinthos's life as possible. It was a sure bet that if Malloy ever walked the streets a free man again, no jail cell would ever see his face. It was another sure bet that Alexis Davis hadn't given up a damn thing to Joseph Sorel, no matter how many tears she may have shed.

"You were wrong, Malloy. I know Ms. Davis, and she doesn't do surrender."

Alexis smiled weakly. "Thanks for that Taggart. But you're the one who's wrong."

Thomas looked up at Taggart with sorrowful eyes. "With all due respect, you weren't there, Lieutenant. You didn't see what I saw - what the drugs and the fever she got started doing to her head. And you don't know how Sorel…how he…"

"How he what, decided to deliberately overdose her when a trade for Smith was already arranged?"

"No." He shook his head. "No. The truth is, I don't believe he did deliberately overdose her. I think that much was an accident."

Thomas took in a deep breath and suddenly pulled his chained wrists up to rest them against the table with a clank. Alexis jumped at sharp sound of metal hitting wood. She was used to that sound. It was a professional hazard. But now, it unsettled her to hear it. She'd been staring at Thomas's face with such rapt attention as he spoke, laying down more pieces to the incomplete puzzle of her awful three days, that a pin hitting the floor would have made startled her. And as she continued to stare, Thomas's large, pale hands lifted to rub at the corners of his ocean blue eyes. The metal chain glinted under the overhead lights, and Alexis felt her own hands begin to tingle. Thomas's hands returned back to the table, and the ocean blue eyes gazed up at Taggart with an unmistakable weariness living inside of them as he prepared to continue.

"But Sorel did deliberately push her and taunt her when she started getting all messed-up in her head. She was having these hallucination things, like nightmares where she didn't know where she was or who we were of what was going. And once Sorel saw what was happening to her, he got like a hungry shark smelling blood. He knew he could use it to make Corinthos twist, if he wanted to. Really twist - deal or no deal."

Alexis rubbed her damp, tingly palms up and down the soft wool skirting her thighs. Her temples throbbed, but she ignored it. Her throat was a desert, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from Thomas long enough to refill her empty glass.

"He got Corinthos on the phone to finalize the trade, and Corinthos started making demands."

Taggart frowned, trying to think of any demands he's heard Sonny make. All he could remember was…"

"He didn't want anything unreasonable. He just wanted to make sure Miss Davis was okay. But Sorel took it as Corinthos trying to take control, and it put him in a feeding frenzy."

Taggart tensed as a cold creep ran up his spine.

"Okay, Malloy. It's getting late and I think you've told me enough to…"

"No, lieutenant. This might be important, so the DA can charge Sorel with as bad as he did. 'cause he may not have tried to overdose her, but when he had Corinthos on the phone he sure didn't care if what he did to Miss Davis sent her over the edge or not."

Taggart eyeballed the telephone, which sat silent. Alexis was still watching and listening, of her own free will. It wasn't his place to call her shots, no matter how bad he wanted to slap duct tape over Malloy's mouth. Sonny was going to twist all over again, once he found out how Alexis had spent her afternoon. And to his chagrin, Taggart wasn't at all sure how he felt about that.

Thomas hesitated, but finally took Taggart's silence as permission to go on. "Corinthos wanted to talk to her, but she was too out of it to understand when Sorel tried to get her to talk. She wouldn't. Corinthos got pissed. He thought Sorel was jerking him around and he started yelling, demanding that he hear Miss Davis's voice before he agreed to anything."

Taggart set his hands on his hips and took a deliberately wide step to the side, partially blocking Alexis's view. The abrupt move jolted her. Alexis's eyes shot up to the back of Taggart's head and the throb in her temples intensified. What was he doing? She couldn't see. Or was there something he didn't want her to see? The adrenaline rushed like a speeding train through her veins - a train that might crash. It pushed her up from her chair and into the corner of the window. Her palms pressed against the cool glass as she stood on her tiptoes to catch a glimpse of Thomas's face over Taggart's shoulder.

"I really do think I have all I need from you Malloy." Taggart intoned in a carefully measured voice as he stared with intent at the flushed, large-eyes face across the table.

"Corinthos got what he wanted too. Sorel let him hear her all right. He made him listen while he shot her up."

Taggart's eyes slowly closed. On the other side of the mirror, Alexis's knees buckled as a sharp intake of air hit her lungs. Sorel made Sonny listen. Oh God…oh God…oh God…

"But first, he provoked her into near hysteria. Sorel loved making Corinthos hear her crying out, all scared and confused. The fever had gotten a hold of her pretty bad by then, and she was hurting. The heroin was only making it worse. I mean, as much as she begged to be left alone, she needed that hit."

The ground suddenly disappeared beneath her, and Alexis's palms skidded down the glass as she tried to keep her balance, leaving a damp handprint trail in their wake. The dull, muffled thump lifted Taggart's head, but Alexis didn't notice. She was shaking, from head to toe, Sonny's face filling her mind. He'd never told her what Sorel had done - making him listen to her. That meant it was too horrible for him to even speak of, even after having seen her altered states for himself. But she knew that whatever images the mind could conjure were often far worse than they really were. How much worse did anything have to get for Sonny as far as she was concerned, either real or imagined? It made her ache to think of it.

Thomas shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut. "She was so out of it though, she didn't really understand what was happening to her. It wasn't the first time she'd gotten disoriented like that, but was definitely the worst. I don't know why, but she responded when I talked to her. She calmed down some. And after the hit took effect and she started to nod off, Sorel left her alone. The show for Corinthos was over and Sorel had won. Corinthos was totally freaked and willing to do anything to get her back. The deal was set, and what happened to Miss Davis after that was irrelevant to Sorel."

Alexis let her forehead come to rest against the window and slowly turned her back to the scene on the other side. But she listened to Thomas's disembodied voice washing over her, as soft and resonant as the first time she heard it.

"But he did let me stay with her and take care of her for a while. I was afraid I'd let him push her too far, and I needed to make sure she was really okay before I left her alone for the last time. Until Corinthos came to get her, I mean. And she was okay. Her head got clear again. She even spoke to me."

"What did she say?"

"I…I had promised her that she'd be home soon. I don't think she believed me. She told me not to promise, because promises got broken." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I really wanted her to believe me."

Alexis wrapped her arms around herself and rolled her head back against the smooth glass as she murmured to herself. "I don't know if I didn't."

Thomas cleared his throat and shifted. The legs of his chair squealed lightly against they moved against the floor.

"I'm sorry I couldn't tell you what would get Sorel the death penalty. But if Miss Davis really does want the truth, please tell her that Sorel didn't set out to kill her. There were times that he was too fixed on making Corinthos suffer to care whether she died, but it wasn't something he intended to happen. That's the truth."

The trill of the telephone nearly sent both Taggart and Thomas jumping out of their skin. Taggart pounced on it like a cat on a canary.

"Taggart."

"That's enough."

The feminine whisper on the other end of the line instinctively turned Taggart's head toward the mirror.

"I should hope so. How is the witness holding up?"

"I'd say about the same as the perpetrator and the cop."

"Astute observation. Go home. You need a ride?"

"No. Thank you."

"No problem."

He slipped the phone back into the cradle with a sigh of relief. Alexis sounded all right. He hoped it wasn't just a façade. As for himself, he was looking forward to tossing back a few beers at Jake's to obliterate the last hour of his life, and letting loose with a well-aimed pool cue. Sorel's face would be a joy to imagine on the round white ball.

"I don't know how Corinthos held himself back from killing Sorel, once he got his hands on him al alone in that cell." Thomas wondered out loud.

Taggart shrugged. "He wouldn't do Ms. Davis any good all locked up on a murder charge. Lucky for Sorel a cool head prevailed for once in Corinthos's sorry life."

Alexis smiled as she set the empty water glass down beside the pitcher on her way to the door.

"Lucky for me too. The way Corinthos looked at me, he wanted to kill me too. But he didn't lay a hand on me."

Alexis halted. Her brow creased as she turned her head.

"The way he…"

She let go of the door handle and moved back toward the window. Sonny has seen Thomas? When? Why? And why hadn't he told her that either? Her heart skipped a beat.

"Sonny, what did you do?"

"You ever see someone's eyes so filled with rage that they almost look like they're gonna cry if they don't tear something apart?"

"Yeah. About two weeks ago."

Thomas tilted his head. "Sorel was right on the money. Hurting Miss Davis got Corinthos right where he lives. I was kind of expecting that Ned guy she almost married to come let me have it too."

Alexis was taken aback by the innocent comment. Ned's anger was all channeled toward Sonny, instead of toward the men who'd actually hurt her. She found it odd that one's rage could be so blatantly misdirected, but it wasn't out of character for Ned. His rager at Sonny was a constant, and it was old - much older and much more constant than his love for her. But she couldn't help but wonder if confronting Sorel or Thomas had even occurred to him as an instinctive thing to do. She couldn't help but wonder if he'd even thought of slaying a dragon.

"He does know she's okay, right?"

"He knows."

"Good. I guess she kept that promise herself then."

"Excuse me?"

Thomas shook his head. "Nothing. I'll tell you one thing, that Stavros guy had better not even THINK about coming near Miss Davis or Corinthos will tear HIM apart for sure."

Alexis blinked.

Taggart did a double take. "W-what did you say?"

"I think that's the name she said. Miss Davis, I mean. Stavros…that's foreign, right?"

"Uh…yeah." Taggart answered numbly.

"I never heard of him before, but I figured he must be someone else on Corinthos's bad side - an enemy from one of his overseas businesses dealings. Whoever he is, Miss Davis was scared to death of him."

The ringing in Alexis's ears deafened her. But through the piercing pitch, she heard a familiar voice was shouting out her name. It was Stavros's voice. Not Stavros as a boy, but as a man. And he was shouting for her in an urgent, thunderous tone that quickened her breathing to a dizzying pace.

"When Sorel was riding her so bad while Corinthos was listening, she was all confused, thinking Sorel was this Stavros guy and that he was coming after her to hurt her."

A flood of heat was overtaking her. Her mouth was a desert. Alexis pushed at her bangs with a trembling hand and found her forehead already damp with a cold sweat. She grabbed the empty water glass and moved on shaky legs to the pitcher in the corner. Water splashed everywhere as she tried to pour. She didn't care, as long as it made it into her glass. Alexis closed her eyes as the cool, clean wetness filled her mouth and traveled down her throat. The feeling that she might faint began to fade, and she was grateful. She smiled as she pressed the empty glass to her face. It was cold and damp against her skin. It felt nice. And as Alexis rolled the smooth cylinder back along her cheek, she was filled with the desire to submerge her body in the same cleansing coolness that she'd just taken into it. She yearned for the safe, serene, calming feel of water washing over her and cleansing everything away.

"Lieutenant?"

Thomas's voice moved her heavy lids to lift, and Alexis turned her head to the bright, sparkling eyes as blue as her childhood sea - her safe, serene, calming refuge. Her hand slowly dropped away from her face and she watched as Thomas looked up to Taggart with an intensely curious expression.

"Do you know who Stavros is?"

"Was. Who he was." Taggart corrected quietly as he glanced toward the mirror. He was grateful that Alexis has already left before Malloy decided to drop this last little bomb of information.

"Oh." Thomas understood. "He's dead and he still scares her? He must have been a piece of work."

The blue of Thomas's eyes suddenly exploded into an array of colors. Alexis squeezed her lids shut as her hand dropped the glass onto the table with a solid crack.

Crack…

"Owe!"

Alexis cried out as her head took a hit - the sharpest pain yet to assail her from out of the blue. It doubled her over as she grabbed the sides of her skull, fingers gripping like a vice. And again, her name carried on Stavros's loud, insistent voice reverberated in her ears. It scared her. And it scared her even more to know her mind could play such vivid games with her, with such ease and so often. As with Sorel's games, she had no control. No control…like a mouse in a cage she'd made for herself. A sudden ringing made her jump. Her eyes darted to the window, where Taggart was moving toward the telephone. She squinted and rubbed at her temple. The pain in her head was gone. Alexis wanted to be gone too. She slowly straightened her spine and pulled herself back up to her full height, turned her eyes away from the window, and left the room behind.

Johnny smiled as Alexis finally appeared in the hallway. But as soon as she rounded the corner and entered the squad room, the oddly vacant expression on her face took his smile away. Her head was slightly bowed, eyes focused on the floor ahead of her. She didn't even notice Johnny as she passed him by. And her movements were almost mechanical as walked to Taggart's desk, reached down for her coat, and neatly folded it over the crook of her arm. Johnny took a step forward as she turned back around and began to retrace her steps, again with her gaze fixed on the path ahead. As Alexis neared him, he took another small step. Alexis came to an abrupt halt, lifted her head and looked Johnny square in the face. Her cheeks were flushed, eyes large and expectant. He smiled.

"Hey."

"Hey." She parroted, running her tongue across her lower lip and giving him a quick show of dimples. "S-sorry I took so long."

"Your time is my time."

He reached for the coat draped over her arm. He thought he saw her recoil, almost imperceptibly, from his advance. It stunned him, and he pulled his hand back.

"The sun's almost down, so it's pretty cold. You're going to need that, I think."

Alexis pushed at her bangs. She didn't need it. Her body still felt warm - uncomfortably so. But she handed Johnny the heavy wool coat and let him help her slip it on.

"Ready to go?"

She nodded, eyes returning to the floor. "Let's get out of here."

They hadn't gotten three feet when an urgent voice called out behind them.

"Ms. Davis?"

Inside the interrogation room, Thomas's ears perked up. He turned his eyes to the window behind him. Outside in the squad room, Alexis and Johnny turned their heads to Officer Capelli, who stood by Taggart's desk with a pale pink scarf held out in one hand. Alexis took in a quick breath, her hand flying up to her bare throat.

"I think you dropped this."

She sighed heavily and bit down on her lip as she quickly moved toward Capelli with her arm outstretched. The feel of her fingers wrapping around the gentle softness put a warm smile on her face, and Alexis looked up at Capelli with gratitude.

Thomas's heart skipped a beat. It was her. He was sure it was her. He turned to Taggart, still engrossed in conversation on the phone with his back to Thomas. He turned back to the window and the apparition standing just beyond the glass.

"Thank you." She murmured, holding the cashmere against her throat.

Johnny watched from behind as the tension visibly released from her shoulders. Alexis felt better now. He felt better too. But Thomas's tension was mounting, his heart thundering away in his chest as he stared, slack-jawed at the unexpected sight of the beautiful, smiling, un-bruised face of Alexis Davis. And just as unexpectedly, Alexis Davis was staring back at him.

She was frozen in place, stunned to find Thomas gazing right at her through the open window blinds. Her fingers tightened around the scarf as her eyes locked with his, the bright sapphires commanding her focus yet again. She'd seen so much within those eyes every time she'd looked up into them through her groggy, drug-induced haze. She'd seen everything she felt herself reflected - confusion, sadness, fear, pain, regret…and there was also kindness, afraid to show itself. It did show itself, and it had given her an anchor when she wanted to let herself sink. But now, as she looked into Thomas Malloy's eyes, all Alexis saw was fear. He'd saved her life, and he was afraid of her. It wasn't right. And it wasn't something she wanted.

"Thank you." She mouthed silently.

Thomas blinked. It took a moment for her gesture to register, and when it did his body jerked in response. She continued to stare at him through the same big, soulful brown eyes that had stared up at him with hope, anticipation and wariness after every time Sorel invaded her body with heroin. He had helped Sorel hurt her. Accepting his apology was one thing, but how could she thank him? It wasn't right. And it wasn't something he deserved. Thomas slowly shook his head, mouthing "No" as he instinctively began to rise. Her gaze followed him upward, eyes widening and beginning to reflect an edge of fear as he stood at his full height. She started to back away.

"Alexis?"

Alexis nearly jumped out of her skin.

"What's wrong?"

She spun around to find Johnny standing behind her with a serious furrow in his brow.

"N-nothing."

His frown deepened. The flush in her cheeks had all but disappeared, leaving her ashen. His eyes shot past her head to seek out the object of her rapt attention. They found the equally pale face of the bulky, orange-clad prisoner Johnny has wondered about before. The man was looking back at him with an expression he could only name as guilt, and Johnny squinted as the man set one handcuffed palm down on the table and lowered himself into a chair. He looked like he might be sick.

"Who is that guy?"

Alexis opened her mouth, but said nothing. Her mouth closed again and she lightly shook her head as her eyes danced between Johnny's face and the fingers she'd buried in cashmere. Johnny's instincts began to kick in. And he didn't like where they were leading him. He glanced back through the window at the big, blue-eyes prisoner, whose head was now dropped as if in shame. If his instincts were right and this man was who Johnny thought he might be, Alexis shouldn't be anywhere near him. He glared at the bowed, sandy-colored head and stepped up beside Alexis. The movement lifted Thomas's eyes in time for him to see the angry, reddened face of a man he didn't know still staring at him as he slipped a protective arm around Miss Davis's back. He couldn't help but wonder if that was Ned.

"Come one." Johnny commanded gently, his palm firming against her waist. "I'm taking you home."

Alexis didn't say a word, but let him lead her away on legs she couldn't feel. It had all been a little more than she bargained for. It had all been a little too much. She knew she was letting herself be a coward, but she didn't care. She wanted to leave the PCPD and everything in it behind - to shed it, like a skin. She wanted to go home, to the safety of her cocoon. And she wanted Sonny.

------------------------------------------------------

Sonny hung up the phone with an eager smile on his face and a flutter in his heart.

Johnny had just returned Alexis home, and his own car would be pulling into the Harborview Towers within ten minutes time. Within fifteen minutes time, he'd see Alexis's sweet face and feel her sweet body in his arms. And he'd kiss her sweet mouth with more want than he'd dared kiss it before. He'd missed her like fury and wanted her to know it. His foot unconsciously pushed down on the gas pedal. In five minutes time, he was pulling into the Harborview Towers.

Johnny was rubbing at the back of his neck as the elevator door opened and Sonny stepped off. He'd weighed his decision carefully, and was content with his choice. Whatever he'd seen, heard or speculated at the PCPD, he would keep it to himself. Alexis would tell what she wanted to tell, if and when she wanted to. And Johnny believed that she would. But the minute he saw Sonny's face, there came a twinge of guilt. He hoped Alexis would tell sooner rather than later.

"Hey boss."

"Hey Johnny. Everything okay?"

"Sure."

"You were gone a long time."

"Yeah. She stayed a L&B longer than she expected."

Sonny visibly tensed.

"Ashton didn't show up for like and hour after we got there, so Alexis got some quality time with her nephew. That made her happy."

"Good." Sonny smiled lightly, the thought of Ashton lingering in his mind. "How was she after seeing Dara Jenson?"

Johnny shifted. "Okay. She's tired though. She was pretty quiet on the way home."

Sonny frowned and shook his head. "She tried to do too much in one day. I knew it was going to be too much."

Johnny's left eyebrow arched. "Try telling her that."

Sonny laughed and smoothed the sides of his hair back with his palms. He began to move toward Alexis's door.

"Sonny?"

Sonny halted.

"Don't take it personal if she's still kind of quiet, okay? She really is tired. She mentioned to me about wanting to get to bed early, but she may not want to it to mention it to you and make you feel like you need to leave. You know how she is."

"Yeah, I know."

But Sonny studied Johnny's eyes for what his mouth wasn't saying. As much as he respected how Johnny kept Alexis's trust, sometimes it made him nuts. But Johnny's face was usually telling enough to let him know what he needed to know. Now, it was telling him that Alexis's day had been as rough as it had been long. And she might need to be held by him as much as he needed to hold her.

"Thanks Johnny."

Sonny turned and rapped lightly on the door. "Alexis?"

"Johnny?"

"Uh…no."

There was a pause.

"Francis?"

Sonny grinned. Alexis wanted to play.

"Wrong again."

"Who goes there?"

"Uh…Mr. Smarty Bossy Pants."

Johnny shook his head with a light chuckle. A moment later, the door opened wide. Alexis leaned against the edge and tilted her head as one dimple teased Sonny's eyes.

"That was completely out of order."

"It made you open up."

Sonny flashed his dimpled in grand fashion. Alexis sighed.

"That you did." She murmured with a languid smile.

Sonny stepped forward and Alexis let go of the door as he reached for it and gently pushed it shut without taking his eyes off of her. She was still dressed in her real world clothes of a white silk blouse and fitted black skirt, though the high-heeled shoes had been discarded. And her hair was still pulled back in a twist, though it had loosened, and several errant strands had escaped their pins to gently fall along the edge of her face. Alexis pushed at her bangs in response to his appreciative perusal, and as she moved her head Sonny noticed the fading bruise showing itself on cheek. Her carefully applied makeup had been carelessly rubbed away. And though she looked beautiful to his eyes, Alexis did look in need of some rest. But there was something else about her right then that gave him pause.

She was…subdued. It was a word Johnny once used to describe her, after she'd had a particularly bracing morning. And it was how she struck Sonny now, as she quietly stood just a few feet away from him, those deep chocolate eyes pulling at him like magnets while the dimples played hide-and-seek in her cheeks. She seemed both needful and hesitant - as if she wanted him closer, but was afraid to take the first step herself. Just that morning, Alexis had kissed him with bold self-assurance. Now, she gazed at him with renewed shyness, with one corner of her full lower lip caught seductively between her teeth. He couldn't stand being so far away from her anymore, and having his hands so empty. He took a step forward.

"You were gone too long."

Alexis took a slow, deep breath and released her captive lip as she exhaled.

"You were on my mind too."

"I missed you."

She went to him, all hesitation gone as she moved right into the circle of his waiting, open arms. Sonny smiled as he turned his face into her neck, losing himself in the silky feel and intoxicating scent of her skin. Alexis melted into the warmth and strength of his body, breathing in the sensual spice of him as her hands slid up the plane of his well-muscled back. Her eyes drifted closed and was embarrassed to hear herself giggle at the feel of Sonny's nose nuzzling her just below her ear.

"What?" Sonny murmured.

"You tickle."

"Sorry." He began to pull away.

"No. Not yet." She whispered, holding him tighter. "You feel good."

Sonny felt his face begin to flush. "Now who's full of blarney?"

"Sonny…"

"But keep talking like that and I may never let you go. Because you feel good too."

Alexis's hands slipped down to his lower back, fingers interlocking and resting there as she leaned her cheek upon his shoulder. If only for those few short moments that she was safe in Sonny's embrace, she could almost pretend that Sorel's dark, angry face and Stavros's thunderous voice weren't swimming in her head. Or Thomas's blue eyes. She shivered lightly as Sonny's fingertips grazed their way up and down her silk-cloaked back, and purred a sigh of contentment. The sound of it made Sonny's heart swell with love for this sweet, soft, gentle woman so happily wrapped in his arms. And he knew, right then and there, that Alexis loved him too. He knew in the deepest part of his soul that she was his.

And he knew that a beautiful new life was about to begin.