She knew the voice that called her name.
The tone and cadence filled her with a dread that took her breath away. She tried to move – her limbs were lead. The pounding in her chest, the pounding in her head sent her spinning, falling through the darkness that surrounded her. She tried so hard to speak, to cry out, to scream…her throat was closed.
A violent jolt shot through her body as a warm hand lit upon her skin. It forced the air from her lungs and movement back into her frozen body. A tingle ran down through her heavy arms and legs, an electrical current urging them move.
The touch was suddenly gone. There came again a voice, another voice that carried her name. The fear still blinded her, her eyes refusing to open to the image of the dark, featureless face held inside her mind. Through halting, rapid breaths, she forced her own voice into the abyss.
And then the hand was back. It landed firmly on her face, stinging her sore and angry skin. Her name came at her once more, a deep masculine force that flooded her brain. She jerked her head away, arms flying upward to push it all away.
Her voice found strength in the basic instincts running through her – the fight that she refused to concede.
“Wake up Alexis!”
Her arms were stopped and held mid-air, the struggle of her legs restricted by a tightness pulled over them.
“No…s…stop.” She began to falter. Her arms were suddenly released as her face was gripped in a firm but gentle lock.
“ALEXIS! Open your eyes!”
The voice…THIS voice…something crossed over in her. She held her breath, waiting to hear it again before she could trust.
“Honey, it’s okay. You’re safe. Open your eyes.”
Her arms still hung suspended in the air where the hands had let them go. As the recognition washed over her, her arms began to tremble as the weakness in them took over. She swallowed, lowering her hands until they touched down on the soft skin - the warm, comforting skin. She smelled the spice that floated faintly in the air…the familiar scent of him.
“Sonny?” Her eyes had yet to open.
The hands loosened from her face, soft fingers now brushing back the strands of dampened hair that clung to her cheeks. The gentle, rhythmic touch lulled her back to a safer place.
“Yes, it’s Sonny. I'm here.”
Alexis dropped her right arm down to her side, giving in to the tug of the IV tubes that were heavily taped to her skin. She rolled her head against the pillow, toward the sound of him.
“Can you open your eyes for me?”
Sonny watched her struggle, as if she was still unsure. He continued in a whisper.
“But when you do, please…see ME.”
As her left hand slid down the length of his bare arm, he felt a jolt of his own run through him. Her touch against him was such a different feel that that of his touch against her. Alexis halted when her fingers found his hand, still pressed to her cheek. Finally, her dark eyes blinked their way open. Sonny smiled down on her sleepy face, turning his hand inside of hers to lock them together. She bit down on her lip as she gazed up at him with a questioning look.
“Who else would I see?”
His soft smile grew to a full dimpled brilliance. Alexis suddenly felt self-conscious, diverting her eyes as she subtly pulled her head away from the feel of his hand against her face. She glanced back at him to see his expression had shifted.
“I’m sorry…am I hurting you?” He remembered when they’d found her, how afraid he was to touch her, to cause more pain by pushing for her pulse. But here and how, the need to pull her from her frightening dreams consumed him and her bruised flesh went out of his thoughts.
“No, you’re not hurting me.” She looked into his eyes in a long, studying stare, then nervously shifted her eyes away. A sudden chill went up her spine, coursing into Sonny’s hand right through her fingers.
“Are you cold?”
Alexis didn’t respond. She looked furtively around the room – at the IV tubes dripping liquid into her body, at the square metal heart monitor beeping out a now-steady pattern…at the white strips of gauze wrapped, wrist to elbow, around her arm. Sonny watched her face cross a myriad of paths as she tried to piece things together in her mind. Her flush had grown deeper as she’d struggled to wake, and still it remained. It lay behind a dampness that began to coax small waves from the wisps of soft hair framing her face. Taggert was right - she did look so child-like and small, lying weak and groggy under the blue blanket. The color made him nervous, but he quickly pushed the memory of her blood stained sky-colored scarf quickly from his mind.
Sonny pressed the back of his hand to her cheek once more, worried for the fever’s resurgence. She flinched at his tough, just barely and unconsciously. A moment later, she realized what she’d done when she saw the look on his face.
He smiled, leaning down closer to her.
“Don’t you ever be sorry for what you feel.”
“I don’t…I didn’t…I’m not afraid of you.” She looked like she wanted to cry, but Sonny knew that she wouldn’t.
“I know that, Alexis. I know you. Okay?”
She nodded weakly, her trembling lower lip catching again between her teeth. He could see her mind going, trying to format her thought. Alexis’s skill with word was her own anchor, and she was so clearly adrift. The more he saw her struggle, the more he wanted to hold onto her, to keep her grounded with him.
“Do you know why I feel…like this?” The descriptive words she sought escaped her.
Sonny’s mouth opened, but then closed right back up again. Her face was all confusion, and he suddenly feared that it might not be a simple matter of language…that there were certain things that happened that she truly didn’t…
Sonny's thoughts stopped when her eyes left his, as the door carefully opened. Tony poked his head into the room, smiling at the sight of Alexis looking back at him.
He came to her side and laid his hand gently on her wrist. Alexis closed her eyes and turned her head toward him. She swallowed and raised her lids again.
“So…how are you doing this morning?’
She frowned as she took a deep breath, then sighed. “Can’t you start with something simple, like asking me to quote a legal statute?”
Sonny smiled. Tony chuckled out loud as he moved to check her IV. “It's good to see you back, counselor.”
She frowned at him. “Back?”
Tony turned her head to scan her temperature. She shivered at his touch. “Are you still feeling hot?”
“You’re still a bit flushed. But...you’re down to 100 degrees from 104, which is VERY good.” Tony looked to Sonny. “How was the rest of her night? Any problems?”
Alexis felt a vague unease. “Problems?”
“She just woke up a few minute before you came in. She was having a little trouble shaking a dream, so I think that’s why her face is all warm and damp.” Sonny looked down at her. “Do you remember Alexis?”
“Yeah. I remember trying to wake up…but nothing else.” Her face turned to Tony. “Why do I still feel so strange? Is it because of the fever, because it was so high?”
Tony frowned, afraid to look at Sonny for fear she’s see his hesitation. “Partly. Can you describe the feeling? Take your time.”
She closed her eyes and tried to think, but her brain was still foggy. “Anxious? And like I’m forgetting how to breathe. It makes me heart race.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“I feel like I’m going to fall.”
Tony though a moment. “Vertigo, maybe?”
“Yeah. That’s it.” Alexis slid down a little further under the covers, shifting her body. The slight ache she’d felt in her bandaged arm was growing stronger, and it moved her eyes back up to the gauze.
Sonny saw another look of confusion cross her face, but he kept silent. Whatever he’d thought about Tony Jones personally, his tenderness with Alexis, his care in handling the splintered fragments for her left no question in his mind that Johnny had been right.
Tony saw her fight a shiver again. “Alexis, are you in pain?”
She stared at her arm, silent, as her mind tried to grab hold of something elusive. It was just outside her reach.
“Is anything hurting?” Tony repeated.
She didn’t want to answer him. She needed to think. She needed her mind to be clear, and if she answered him with the truth he’d take that away again. Tony watched her eyes darting back and forth, trying to read her analytical mind.
“I think a part of the problem might be the need for a simple medication adjustment.”
Her eyes roamed up the tube connected to her arm. "Is this.."
"Saline and antibiotics."
“Then...what what else have you been giving me? Medication for what?”
“Alexis, I think it’s best if you leave your treatment up to me…”
“No.” She knew what he meant. “I don’t want it. I can’t think.”
Tony sat on the edge of the bed. “I understand, Alexis. But you don’t need to think right now. You need to rest, and you need to heal. After what you’ve been through…”
“I DO need to think.” She tried to keep the pain of a spasm from showing on her face. The two men exchanged a look, and it made her angry.
“Don’t do that like I’m not even here!” Alexis pulled her hand away from Sonny and pulled it in tight to her chest. She saw another curious wave of hurt wash briefly over his face.
“Alexis, please…” Sonny didn’t know how to finish his thought without making her feel even more patronized or admonished.
“Please don’t try so hard to be brave. Let yourself be taken care of for once, instead of how you always take care of everyone else. And listen to what Dr. Jones says you need, because I know for a fact you’d toss him out on his ear if he ever came into a court of law and questioned how you’re trying a case.”
Alexis regarded Sonny a moment, then lowered her eyes. She hadn’t meant to snap like that, but neither of them did understand. She closed her eyes, wishing she could run and hide from all their encroaching eyes and voices and hands.
“Alexis, if this is about me and the fact that we did once have a professional relationship, please tell me.” Tony watched her eyes open slowly. He could see that the thought hadn’t occurred to her, but he played on.
"If you’re not comfortable having me act as your doctor, it’s okay. I’d understand if our attorney/client history or the nature of the charges against me made you feel…”
“I trusted you with my life - and you SAVED my life – so I’m very grateful that I can be here for you now. But I couldn’t blame you for having a trust issue with me...so please be honest, Alexis. If you don’t want me taking care of you, don’t hesitate to say so. I don’t want you to feel compromised in any way because it happened to be me in the ER when you were brought in.”
Alexis squinted at him, knowing full well what he was doing. That puppy dog look on his face was one she’d seen before and he used it well.
“Using emotional blackmail on a helpless patient? Shame on you.”
Tony leaned forward, a crooked grin on his face. “Does that mean you’re going to let me keep you?”
“Unless you’d rather just send me home and be done with me altogether?” Alexis felt her legs growing restless under the covers. Her breathing began to quicken.
“Nice try. No dice.” Tony laid his hand on her leg. “What’s going on here?”
“I need to move. I feel…stuck.” She closed her eyes, whispering. “Trapped. Like a mouse in a cage.”
Her words set Sonny on edge.
Alexis suddenly opened her eyes with a jerk of her body. She looked at Sonny with a strange expression. “Why did I say that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you dreamed something.”
He knew damn well were it came from – Sorel. He’d heard him use that phrase before, or one strikingly similar, when threatening Zander before.
Alexis frowned. “No. Not a dream.” Her closed fist was pressed to her chest, and now she slowly released it. Her fingers spread out and up, toward her throat, touching the sore, swollen bruises that they found there. “I remember…”
Sonny hung his head. He couldn’t stand to see her remembrance…but he had to. He raised his eyes back to her, but was now hesitant to touch her, as the ache inside was telling him to do. He kept his hand at her side. If she wanted him, she would find him.
“They’re very small bruises, Alexis. They’ll fade quickly.” Tony could see the trepidation in her eyes.
Alexis pressed her palm down against her skin, fingers sliding down, searching across her neck. The trepidation morphed into panic...into grief...into longing. Her chin began to quiver and she looked up at Sonny with helpless eyes.
“It’s gone. I thought…I thought I had it.”
“What? What’s gone?”
“My necklace. That day…I know I had it.” Her voice was breaking, as was her heart. “Why would he take it?”
Sonny remembered that necklace, but hadn't even noticed it was gone. He had stared, transfixed, at the sparkling stone resting at the base of her throat. As he sat beside her in the ambulance, the diamond gave off a continuous dance of lights as her chest rose and fell in a perfect, steady rhythm.
“She did have it on – when I brought her into the ER. A thin gold chain with a round diamond.”
“I assume it would have been placed in the hospital safe, as are all patients’ valuables. It's standard policy.”
“I need it back.” Her voice was pleading, as her legs rustled the covers even more.
“It’s a lot safer if it stays…”
“NO! Tony, please. I want it back.” She barely stifled another groan, the ache in her arm becoming a throb.
Sonny glared at Tony's quoting hospital policy over something so trivial, when it was clearly making her so anxious. “Don’t worry Alexis, you’ll get your necklace right now. Right, Dr. Jones?”
Tony glared right back at Sonny, but he wasn’t going to play fair with this new bargaining chip in his hand. He believed she'd be more co-operative if having her the necklace made her feel more secure.
“Okay. I’ll get it. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on a little catch. If I bring it, you allow me do what I feel is best for you without arguement. Is it a deal?”
He smiled and laid a hand back on her trembling leg. Alexis turned her head to him, her eyes suddenly vacant.
"You’re holding my necklace hostage? Sorel would call that most poetic.”
Tony’s stomach dropped to the floor. The enormity of her words took his breath from him, and he looked at Sonny with a ghostly face. Sonny couldn’t look back or he'd have killed him on the spot.
“God, Alexis…” He had to make this right. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you or uspet you. I didn’t think.” He closed his eyes and turned away from her. “I guess my teasing skills could use a little honing.”
“That’s okay.” Alexis whispered, her face softening as she studied at his stricken visage. “Mine are honed enough for the both of us.” The corners of her mouth slowly turned upward. As Tony forced his eyes back to hers, he saw her dimples faintly greeting him.
Sonny smiled. “Gotcha.”
Tony squinted at her as he cocked his head with a smile. Alexis bit her lip again, and accepted Tony’s hand as it pressed down on hers. He felt the slight shaking there and knew he should get the Demerol soon, before the withdrawal symptoms got out of hand her.
“Like I said before, it’s GOOD to see you back.” He rose and took a step back. “I’ll go see about that necklace.”
As Tony closed the door behind him, Alexis turned on her side and curled her legs up. Her dimples had disappeared. Sony reached for the glass of water on the table beside her bed.
“How bad is it?”
“You can’t fool me, you know. My ‘Alexis’ skills are honed.” He grinned a self-satisfied grin.
She looked at him sideways, gingerly pulling her IV-taped arm against her chest. “That’s only because I talk too much and you’re too polite to tell me shut up and go home.”
He handed her the glass, a small straw poking out from the water. “Here, have some water. You need to keep hydrated.”
She shook her head. “No. But look at you – you’re picking up medical terms.” Her face turned solemn as she turned it up to him. “Do you think I got out of it gracefully?”
“That was an awful thing I said to Tony. About Sorel…like I was comparing them. I didn’t mean it like that. I didn't mean to hurt him.”
“He’s not hurt, Alexis.”
“Did I get out of it okay? He did smile.”
Her concern for Tony spoke volumes. She tried so hard to keep her pain to herself, to not let it spill out to anyone else. Her heart was still open, still strong, and Sonny couldn’t help but wonder how much room was left…
His fingers moved to brush her hair back, stroking softly to ease the distress she refused to own up to. “Alexis?”
“You didn’t answer my question before. Is that because you can’t, or because you won’t?”
He didn't remember. “What question was that?”
She turned her face upward. Her velvet eyes melded with his, sending a flood of warmth through his center as they stared at each other in silence. Finally, the question he’d deliberately forgotten came back to him on a whisper.
“Why do I feel like this?”