Johnny felt like a rat in a maze.
His head was bowed, eyes watching the gray marbled swirls bleed from one tile into the next on the floor beneath him. His legs were on automatic pilot, blindly carrying him down one medicinal corridor, then turning him into another. The beige walls, the blue scrubs, the white lab coats all moved past him in a blur – surreal and dizzying. The warmth he held within hands was slowly spreading up into his wrists, bringing him back into an awareness that he resisted. Johnny didn’t want to think. When he thought, he saw blood.
Blood…the image of red spread through his mind, mingling with the hallway blur, with the heat now moving into his arms. His feet abruptly stopped, the buzzing in his head overtaking him and threatening to bring him face to face with the marbled tiles. Johnny spun himself around, pressing his back into the wall. He closed his eyes and tried to steady both his body and his breath.
A cold sweat began to break. The last few days were beginning to slam into him. The last few hours had truly opened the floodgates. He raised his hand, careful to keep the cup of hot liquid upright as he wiped his damp forehead with the edge of his wrist. The ghost of gardenias still lingered on his fingers. The heat spreading through the paper cups seemed to renew the intoxicating scent that Johnny knew she loved.
But Sorel had taken that away from her. He’d managed to take the simple joy and beauty of a flower and pervert it into a source of pain and fear. To see her like that was almost more than Johnny could stand. To know that he put salt in her wounds, even in innocence…he’d had to walk away. His only consolation was that Sonny had pulled her back from that awful place. Sonny knew how to reach her, and Alexis, by the grace of God, reached back.
A familiar voice drifted into his ears…and then a second. He heard a name spoken – his eyes sprung open and his mind quickly cleared. His head turned toward the sound, toward the two figures huddled at the end of the hall. Johnny pushed himself up, away from the wall, his strength renewed. His feet now carried him with deliberate intent, his focus clear as he approached the men so deep in conversation. The man with his back to Johnny kept speaking, his voice angry and low. As the other man caught sight of Johnny coming near, the look on his face stopped the angry voice mid-sentence.
“Sorel?” Johnny’s eyes moved from one man to the other, his own expression hard and cold. “What about Sorel?”
Tony turned, clearly caught off guard by Johnny’s sudden and unexpected appearance.
“What? Is it Alexis?”
“Alexis is still sleeping. I went for coffee, and coming down the hall I hear the name Sorel.” Johnny turned to Taggert. “Did you get him?”
“Yeah. I got him.” Taggert grinned as he watched the change come over Johnny’s face. The tightness there and in his whole body visibly faded as the news registered.
“Amen.” He whispered. He glanced to Tony, who stood quiet - strangely so. It made Johnny nervous all over again.
“Dr. Jones, is something else wrong with Alexis? Did you find something more in those tests?”
“No! No, there’s nothing else.” Tony was quick to dismiss the notion, seeing the panic on Johnny’s tired face. He pulled the thin file in his hands close against his chest.
“Good.” Johnny regarded Tony’s rigid stance with curiosity, but dismissed it. The day had been long and the hour was late. In fact, it was a new day. He looked back to Taggert.
“Sonny said you’d be by. I’ll take you to him.” As Johnny turned, he caught sight of something through the window of the room just to his left. He faltered.
“Alright then, let’s get going.” Taggert tried to prod him on.
Johnny would not be moved. He stood still for one brief moment, then turned his head back to the window with slow precision. His heart pounded as he stepped closer, the still face of Sorel meeting his deliberate gaze. He lay handcuffed to a gurney, a uniformed policeman perched in a chair beside him. Johnny’s hands began to shake.
“You’d better give those to me.” Taggert took the cups of coffee from Johnny’s precarious grasp.
“Is he going to live?” Johnny’s voice was monotone.
Tony’s voice was almost apologetic. Johnny turned to him, his brow creased.
“You’re treating him?”
“You’re treating him…and then you touch HER?”
Tony knew he could never make him understand and he was hesitant to even try. How could he understand that Tony had no choice. He never did.
“Johnny, it wasn’t my call. Personal feelings have no place…”
“Save it!” Johnny turned away from Tony. His voice was low, his tone bitter. “I guess it’s really none of my business anyway.”
Taggert sighed. “Look, Johnny, he’s on his way out of here soon. I just wanted to check on Alexis before I moved him to the prison hospital. So what do you say you take me to her room now – before that coffee gets cold. I’m sure Sonny could use it while it’s still hot.”
Johnny’s eyelid twitched, a sharp sense of betrayal flickering through him. He gave Tony a sideways glare before turning back to the window one more time, pressing his clenched fists into the glass. The sound it made lifted the policeman’s head up from the magazine that rested in his lap. He looked at Johnny, who stared intently at the man cuffed to the bed rails. Taggert gave a small nod of his head, a signal not to worry, then placed a palm on Johnny’s shoulder. As Johnny stiffened and pulled himself from the window, the officer returned to his reading.
“You understand that Sonny would be of no use to Alexis if he ended up in jail. I think it’s best if he doesn’t know Sorel is here.”
Johnny raised an eyebrow as he looked Taggert squarely in the face.
The steady beeping of the monitor had hypnotized him into a twilight state of being. Sonny leaned against her bed, his arm draped over her legs, his head resting just below the upward curve of her fingers. The Demerol had done its job on her shaken mind and body, but Sonny’s sense of her was heightened, attuned to any small sign that she might be slipping back into that dark place.
The warmth of her body lulled him, tempering the monitor’s cold, mechanical measure of her beating heart. Every now and then he felt her stir beneath the thin covers, then she'd quickly settle back into rest. The feel of her, safe within his watch and hold, fed his soul. She had vanished so quickly, so completely, and now he was afraid to let go. If he let go of her, if he broke contact, she might fall out of his reach for good.
The door opened quietly. Taggert stood at the end of the bed, silently taking in the sight of Alexis, peaceful in sleep…with Sonny laying at her side, his body a literal shield over her. Something inside him felt humbled - and grateful. He watched a moment more, then took a step back. His shoe squealed on the linoleum floor, and Taggert grimaced as Sonny’s head shot upright, eyes darting quickly to Alexis’s face.
“Sorry.” Taggert whispered. “That was me.”
Sonny turned a groggy face toward the door, rubbing at his eyes harshly. “Hey.”
“Here.” Taggert handed him the cup of coffee. He kept his voice low, watching Alexis carefully for any hint that she would wake. He thought her color looked much better, the flush of fever nearly gone.
“Johnny got this for you. Unless you want to go back to sleep.”
Sonny lifted his arm from her body, reaching for the cup in Taggert’s outstretched hand.
“No, I wasn’t sleeping. Thanks.”
Alexis shifted under the covers as her legs registered the sudden disappearance of Sonny’s warmth and weight against them. A small sound escaped from her throat as she turned her head on the pillow. Sonny moved up, leaning in to her. He gently pressed the back of his fingers against her cheek, now so much cooler to his touch. The antibiotics were also doing their job.
“Shh…” He whispered, soft as air.
She sighed, eyes still closed as she settled further down into the bed. Her fingers curled inward, then extended back out again, as if searching. Sonny laid his fingers into her open palm, watching her face with great care as a deeper sleep enveloped her. He smiled, content in her acceptance of what he needed so much to give her.
“I should go. I don’t want to disturb her.” Taggert’s voice was hushed.
“No, it’s okay. She’s pretty much out on medication. They want her to sleep.”
“She looks...” He cocked his head, smiling. “She kind of looks like a little kid, lying there tucked under the covers, all small and bare-faced.” It was a far cry from his long-held image of her as the courtroom killer who struck fear into the hearts of lesser attorneys - and Ms. Dara Jensen. Taggert left this last thought unspoken.
Sonny finally looked back at him, a vague sadness in his eyes. “She had a…God, I don’t even know what to call it. A nightmare? Delirium? A god-awful memory…”
Taggert frowned. “You mean, like what happened on the phone yesterday with Sorel?”
“Yeah, like that. I was terrified, Taggert...but not nearly as terrified as she was. And she came through it.” He gently brushed his thumb back and forth, caressing the delicate skin on the inside of her wrist. “My God – this woman has a strength in her that leaves me breathless. Look at her...”
Sonny stared at her sleeping face, amazed at how serene she appeared after being dragged through so many emotional minefields.
“Just look at her.” He repeated softly.
Taggert looked…at Sonny, all warm eyes and soft face as he gazed at Alexis. He wondered when, exactly, it had happened - when it was that Sonny Corinthos had fallen in love with his attorney.
“I can honestly say I’ve never had a more worthy – or enjoyable – adversary. Present company INCLUDED.”
Sonny smiled. “Ouch.”
“It would take a hell of a lot more than the likes of Sorel to kick Alexis Davis out of the game.”
Taggert’s words left Sonny unsettled. She wasn’t battling JUST Sorel - not any more. He cleared his throat.
“Speaking of Sorel…”
“We got him. Both Malloy AND Sorel are in custody.”
Sonny’s response strangely curt and dispassionate. “Good.”
“This one IS going to stick, Sonny. There are no two ways about it. Even if Zander’s testimony today doesn’t seal the Wilson murder rap, Sorel WILL fry for what he did to Alexis.”
Sonny was silent. Taggert watched his face, unable to get a read on his expression. He didn’t know what reaction he expected, but this wasn’t it. Sonny finally spoke.
“I almost forgot about it – Zander testifying.” He glanced down at his watch. “It’s Friday.”
Taggert inhaled sharply. “Oh God – Sonny, you DID let Ashton and Zander know we got her?”
“Of course I let them know, what do you think Taggert.”
Taggert turned around, peering out the doorway. “Then…why are you in here with Alexis and Ashton is nowhere in sight?”
“He’s here, somewhere - I think. Probably in Monica’s office.”
“I repeat: why are you in here with Alexis and Ashton is…”
“She didn’t want him.”
Taggert was stunned. “Come again?”
“She didn’t want to see him. She didn’t want Ashton, or her brother, or anyone else. She’s scared…and she's confused.” Sonny took a deep breath and shook his head.
“I know, but..”
“She called out for Malloy.”
“When you brought her in?”
“When she was coming out of that…nightmare. She knew it was me here with her. But then Tony tried to give her something and she panicked. I think getting another needle stuck into her just took her back to that basement. And then she thought I was Malloy.”
Taggert tread carefully. “Sonny, I don’t suppose it’s all that unusual for her to make that connection. You’re taking care of her now, as he took care of her then.”
“Care?” Sonny abruptly rose from the chair, his voice rising.
Sonny turned back to Alexis, his fear of waking her halting his anger. Alexis was still. He turned back to Taggert, his face displaying all the rage his voice now held back.
“He helped Sorel torture her, and then he took CARE of her? What the hell are you saying Taggert? That the guy deserves a medal for not allowing Sorel to do any worse than he did?”
“I think Malloy saved her life. Sorel went off the deep end with her – big time. We both know that and Malloy knew it too. The problem was he just didn’t figure it out until things had reached a very dangerous point for both him and Alexis. But if Malloy hadn’t been there to temper Sorel and to tend to her…I think we’d be planning her funeral right now instead of watching her sleep.”
“Maybe Malloy just got all soft-hearted when he realized he was going to get caught." Sonny's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Maybe he just figured it was in his own best interest to jump to the other side of the fence in time to save his own ass.”
“That possibility crossed my mind as well – so I made him think that we got to her too late, that we found her dead. I wanted to see for sure what was up with him.” Taggert shook his head at the memory of Thomas’s stricken expression, the way the news registered in his body.
“Sonny, the guy looked like he’d been hit in the gut with a wrecking ball, and it wasn’t anything to do with getting caught. In fact, he seemed relieved to have been caught. And the way things escalated with her and Sorel made him sick - sick enough to slam Sorel's head into metal and leave him for dead."
Sonny's interest was partially won. He narrowed his eyes at Taggert. "Left him FOR dead - not actually dead."
Taggert sighed. "Look, I don't know how Malloy ever got hooked up with Sorel to begin with, but he didn’t belong there. He is for real, and he did save her life.”
Sonny stayed silent, refusing to cut Thomas Malloy any slack for his part in her pain. He turned away from Taggert and sat back down beside Alexis, needing contact with her body as his hand moved back into hers. Taggert knew it was just too soon for Sonny to relent - to accept that he was not her only savior.
“Well, I’ve got to get to the station, make sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed on all the paperwork. Gotta make sure it all goes by the book. I’ll be back later. Hopefully she’ll be strong enough to talk to me.”
Sonny didn’t move.
“And Sonny, get some sleep too. You look like hell.”
Taggert left quietly, closing the door behind him. Sonny stared down at his hand resting lightly in her palm, at her soft fingers curving around his. His eyes began to travel up along her bandaged arm, across the swollen purple fingerprints trailing her throat, and resting on the place where a strong and heavy fist had met her cheek. Forgiveness knew no place within him.
She had called out for Malloy.