A sudden hush fell over the room.
Alexis sank back down into the bed as Sonny’s arms reluctantly pulled themselves from their protective hold around her fragile body. She pressed the glimmering stone close against her skin, as if trying to keep its impression imbedded there forever. Her dark eyes were traveling far, far away, and Sonny stared down into them with his own nagging distraction. He yearned for some small sign that the memory reflected on her face was not one of hurt.
Tony knew what she was holding in her heart - it was the same as what she was holding in her hand. He thought of Ned’s expression as he stood beyond that door, stealing what little he could of her through the narrow, taunting gap. He had paid a price for his not-so-innocent intrusion. To see Corinthos with her, to see him touching her must have been so much salt in his open wounds. But Alexis…her wounds ran so deep and wide.
The lingering threat of her sinking into numbness was preying on Tony’s mind. To keep her feeling – feeling ANYTHING – was critical, and he was thankful for the vague longing he recognized in her eyes, the whisper of ache on her face that assured him she was holding on instead of shutting down. As he glanced at Sonny, who sat silently at her side, Tony moved away from the door and to the other side of the bed. He smiled at the peaceful look that had finally settled on her face, and he gently touched his hand to her arm.
“Feeling better now?”
A few moments later, Alexis heard his question. Her eyes darted up to his face then quickly down again, as a shy smile crossed her face. She nodded as she released the pressure of her hand, allowing the diamond to dangle lightly against her fingertips. She suddenly felt embarrassed, making such a fuss over something so trivial. It wasn’t like her to do so, but she wasn’t feeling so much like herself any more. She was afraid to speak, afraid of losing the intangible feelings running through her from the bittersweet remembrance of him - of them, before it all spun out of control.
She closed her eyes at the sound of Tony speaking her name in a way that said her part of their deal was due. Her mind closed tight against his voice, silently begging him to not take it all away - not just yet.
“He’s still here.” Tony’s resonant tone washed over her again, and she didn’t move.
Sonny frowned at Tony’s cryptic remark. “Who’s still here?” He knew damn well who.
Tony gave him a silencing look. “And I don’t think he’s going to be leaving any time soon. He said that he’ll wait for you.”
Alexis slowly blinked her eyes open, her fingers gathering up a fistful of the soft blue blanket. Her breathing began to quicken, and Sonny glared at Tony.
“What are trying to do here Tony...”
Tony cut him off. “He also asked that you remember what he said when he gave it to you. But my guess is that you’ve already done that.”
He turned his stern face to Sonny’s, which was flush with held-back anger. Alexis’s eyes moved furtively, back and forth, as if she were weighing a life or death choice. Maybe she was. Tony sat down on the edge of the bed, waiting for her response. She finally looked up at his with a pitifully lost expression.
“I’m just letting you know that he’s here, that’s all. You don’t have to see him. You know that. Okay?”
Alexis looked over to Sonny’s stony face, the back to Tony. She slowly shook her head.
“No. I don’t want to…I can’t…” She was suddenly gripped with a strong cramp that took her breath away.
“You had to do this to her now...” Sonny muttered bitterly, his eyes boring into Tony.
Tony laid his hand on her leg, searching her face with concern as her pain eased. “Alexis…”
“I’m okay.” She answered him quickly. It wasn’t his fault. She raised her eyes back to Tony, and he all but flinched at the grief that he saw there. “I’m glad you told me.”
She turned to Sonny, who sat rigid beside her, his jaw set. “I just…I don’t want him here. I can’t…”
The look of Sonny right then scared her, halting her words in her throat. She furrowed her brow, and allowed her head to drop from her shoulders. Her eyes caught sight of the stark white gauze encasing her arm, and a quiver overtook her voice.
“Please make him go way.”
Sonny snapped to attention, covering her hand with his. “Anything you say, Alexis. I won’t let him or anyone else bother you.”
She met his eyes, then nodded. Her breathing began to slow down as Sonny’s thumb gently brushed the center of her palm. Her face felt warm all over again…this second uprising of strange emotion was two too many. She lowered her head, eyes staying locked with Sonny’s for just a moment more before they drifted down as well. She tilted her head in Tony’s direction, again too embarrassed to look at him. Her fingers moved back up to her throat.
“I’m sorry Tony.” She whispered. “And thank you for this.”
Tony’s sympathetic face beamed down at her. “Alexis, please stop apologizing. And you’re welcome.”
She took a deep breath and sighed as she relaxed into the pillow beneath her. As she lowered her arm back down to her side, the feel of Tony’s hand touching down on her wrist sent a jolt through her body. He pretended not to notice - she would just apologize all over again. He reached up to examine the IV bags hanging above the bed, one of which was nearly empty.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you haven’t really eaten much in the last few days.”
Alexis’s eyes followed his movements as she hesitantly answered. “N-no. I was afraid, at first…and then I just couldn’t. They tried to make me…you’re not going to try to…”
“No, not now.” He assured her. ”But soon, you should try. I’m going to get you started on glucose. Your latest tests show that your body isn’t dehydrated any more, so we can eighty-six the saline.”
“What tests? I don’t remember.”
“The nurse came in real early this morning. You slept right through it.”
Alexis looked at Sonny. “I did?”
He smiled. “Like a regular Sleeping Beauty. I would have said like a rock, but…”
Sonny suddenly stopped, the look on her face set him on edge. Her eyes hid very little from him at this point.
“Alexis? What’s wrong?”
She frowned, biting her lip and turning her head away from him. He saw the wheels turning, but she was silent as she stared intently at the IV needle taped firmly against her skin. Soon, they drifted across to her study her bandaged arm. When she finally spoke, her voice was low and dry.
“It’s…unsettling. To know that under certain…circumstances, someone could do anything they wanted to you and you wouldn’t even know what was happening. You couldn’t fight it, couldn’t stop it…couldn’t even run away from it. Such an utter lack of control.” She shuddered and swallowed, her eyes narrowing.
“God, it’s an awful feeling.”
The rawness of her expression sent Sonny’s heart racing. He wanted to wrench her from that cold concrete basement she’d returned to and keep her in the warmth and safety right there in that hospital room…with him. But deep down he knew that she needed to unburden herself, whether he wanted to hear it or not.
“I won’t let anything bad happen, Alexis. I’m not leaving you, not even while you sleep. I’ll be right here in this room, and Johnny is right outside that door there. Neither one of us is going to let anything bad happen to you. Sorel is behind bars, and you’re safe. I promise.”
As her eyes shifted toward the door, Sonny was unsure if she’d hear all that he’d said. Her face told him she was far from through, that memories still begged to be given breath and released from her mind. Alexis moved her right hand up to her left shoulder and, as she had done so often in that concrete room, began to graze her nails against her skin as she stared at the door. She looked as if she was waiting for it to open. Sonny turned to Tony in a panic. Alexis was scaring him…but Tony simply held up his hand in reply.
“I thought he was killing me...that first time he did it.” She whispered. “I made him angry. At first, he seemed amused…but then I provoked him. I couldn’t keep quiet. Such strange questions he asked me and I couldn’t move…the wall was so hard.”
She closed her eyes and tilted her head, trying to clear the haze. “His hands were on me…always, his hands, and he looked at me. It was so quick, and he was holding it in front of me…smiling. It was so hot, rolling over me like waves, exploding waves…”
Sonny’s fist was tightening as he watched the tremble of revisited fear running through her body. Her eyes slowly fluttered back open, a new glimmer of clarity emanating from them.
“I knew I shouldn’t talk back…but I just couldn’t let him win. I thought he was killing me and…that’s exactly what he wanted me to think.”
Alexis was drifting back to the familiar, to the beeping of the hear monitor, the rustle of Tony’s jacket…to the faint smell of spice that was Sonny. Her eyes wandered from the door and locked into Sonny’s, seeing her own pain reflected there. She didn’t want to see that in his eyes. She smiled at him, wanting to see that reflected back instead.
“April Fools. All he really wanted was to keep my big mouth shut.”
Sonny heart stopped - Alexis didn’t know.
A cold, creeping chill enveloped Sonny’s spine. She didn’t know what that Sorel had been pumping into her body…she’d never heard the word heroin. And there she was, smiling at him in the wake of her harrowing memories, all naked emotion tucked safely away behind the glib façade that had always protected her. How would she be protected from this? How in God’s name would he tell her the truth? Sonny’s face felt numb as he turned his head to Tony, the same daunting questions clearly coursing through his mind as well.
Alexis pushed the bangs from her eyes, the sudden silence in the room making her restless. She nervously glanced from one solemn, unshaven face to the other.
“Wow. I sure know how to liven up a room, don’t I?.”
Another spasm sent her curling up into herself. Sonny laid his hand on her hip as her eyes squeezed shut and she tried in vain to stifle a groan. Tony knew this woman would walk through fire to keep her precarious wall from crumbling down around her. But he couldn’t mend her body without her help…and it would mean a bit of crumbling. Sorel had tried and failed to break her will – now Tony’s gentle bending of it proved an equal challenge. He knew that she was trying, that she WANTED to trust and let go, but her body still held on to what her mind tried to ignore.
He looked from her tired face to the cylinder of Demerol he’d set down on the table beside her. This couldn’t go on much longer. She’d have to be told about the heroin - told soon - and she needed all the comfort and healing she could get before the bomb was dropped.
“Tony?” Alexis had suddenly turned around and was looking up at him with lids at half-mast. "I know we had an agreement. Let it never be said that I went back on a deal.”
Tony smiled, wondering if she sensed his anxiety or had simply had enough of the turmoil inside her. “I’m glad that you know I’m one of the good guys…in spite of how that little thing in the pit of your stomach sometimes tries to tell you otherwise.”
Alexis let her lids drop all the way down. She smiled back, so grateful that he understood. “I DO know it. But truthfully, I do have a slight problem with your ‘no questions’ clause. Why?”
“THAT would be a question.” Tony teased. Her expression was unwavering. She wanted an answer.
“Well, don’t you tell your clients to let you handle all the technical details so that you can go about doing your job as best you can? Then, you tell the client what they need to know, when they need to know it?”
“But…telling a lawyer not to ask questions is like telling a doctor to write legibly.”
“A fine argument, in theory, but I happen to have excellent penmanship.”
“And I’ve been known to glean an answer or two without the benefit of a specific enquiry.”
“I don’t doubt that.”
“Anybody wanna debate the merits of Sumatra versus Kona?”
Alexis laughed as she looked up at the serious expression on Sonny’s.
“You professional types are such elitists.” He flashed his dimples at her as he brushed his fingertip across the tip of her nose.
Tony used the window of levity to get it over with quickly, while she was so present. He lifted the syringe from the table and placed his hand on her leg.
“Alexis, can you roll over just a bit more onto your side. I think your poor arm is getting too much of the brunt here. I'm running out of room.”
Alexis was silent as she shifted, casting her eyes back up to Sonny.
“Sonny, be a gentleman would you?” Tony admonished him.
Sonny smiled and closed his eyes as Tony pushed back a small piece of her gown, mindful to keep all of her covered but for a small flash of her hip. He didn’t want her to feel any more vulnerable than she already did. Alexis tried not to think about it, instead watching a sly grin creep across Sonny’s face.
“I know what you’re thinking. Shut up.”
Sonny’s grin deepened. “No.”
Alexis frowned. “You’re mean.”
The sudden dampness of the alcohol swipe was a shock that made her jump. Sonny felt it, his eyes flying open to her.
The sharp sting that followed halted her breath in her lungs and she pulled her arms in tight to her chest. Sonny’s fingers brushed her bangs from her face.
She obeyed with a frown as Tony pulled the needle from her skin, rubbing lightly at the tiny red mark it left. ''You're too bossy, you know that?''
“There. All done.” His fingers lightly traced up the opening in her gown, checking the healing of the bruises on her back. “Are these giving you much trouble?”
“No. They’re okay.” She was feeling too exposed and wanted him to leave it alone.
Sonny was suddenly shifting his weight on the bed, leaning over body. “How bad are they?”
Alexis rolled over suddenly, hiding her back from his view. “Sonny, don’t! It’s bad enough that you’ve already…had to see…”
Her voice trailed off. She hadn’t meant to snap like that, but all the focus on her was beginning to overwhelm. Sonny froze. It hadn’t occurred to him that she would still feel shy with him…embarrassed, even, by the marks on her body. It was the first boundary that Alexis had set for him, and he knew, deep down, that is must be a good sign…for her, at least. As he waited and watched for her to give in to the Demerol, he prayed she wouldn’t start to pull away from him altogether.
“She doesn’t have any broken ribs, right?”
“No. She’d have felt decided pain there if so.”
“Believe me, if a rib was broken, she’d have felt it.”
Alexis sighed as her muscles began to relax. She gazed up at them with a frown. “You’re talking about me like I’m not here again. Stop it.”
Her words were slow and pronounced, and Sonny smiled down at her sleepy, feisty little self. He took her hand in his and pressed it to his stubbly cheek. “Sorry.”
“And you DO need to shave.”
“Noted. Now you just close your eyes and rest.”
Alexis turned her head to the side, releasing a deep breath. Tony nodded toward the door, and Sonny carefully slipped off the bed to meet him there. They kept their voices hushed.
“Her fever is almost under control. As soon as it is, we need to tell her.”
“Why? Why so soon?”
“Sonny, I can’t keep her on Demerol much longer. The withdrawal symptoms are a lot stronger than what the doses I can safely give her will mask. And she’s not stupid. She already feels that something’s very wrong, she’s just too afraid to press the issue right now. Given her weakened condition, she’s only got one viable option for detoxing and it needs to be taken soon.”
“Are you still talking about me?” Her voice was growing weaker, but her mind was hesitant to release amidst the distraction of their voices floating around her.
“I’ll talk to you later.” Tony went back to the bed. “Alexis, I’m leaving you in peace now. Well, as much peace as you can possibly have with this guy still hanging over you.”
Alexis smiled slyly. “And just when I was getting used to the attention of not one, but TWO guys ‘hanging over me’.”
Tony laughed. “Well, I see the medication’s kicking in. Alexis, I’ll see you later.”
As Tony passed by Sonny, he whispered. “My office, one hour.”
Sonny moved back to the bed and sat back down beside her. Her fingers were once again
holding onto the diamond around her neck. He decided to take advantage of the effect that the drug was having on her tongue.
“Why don’t you want to see Ned? You miss him.”
“Why don’t you want to see him?”
She took a moment, then opened her eyes with some effort, looking up at him with a sadness that he felt guilty for inciting.
“I don’t want him to see me. Not like this…I can’t. He kept warning me and I wouldn’t listen.”
“What…that you’d get hurt because of me?”
“Mm-hmm. But I’d do it again.” She mumbled, curling her legs up as she rolled over, away from him. “Zander’s still alive.”
Sonny was speechless. She’d risk herself again…and yet she felt shame. How could that be? He felt a chill, but didn’t know if it was him or the air. He reached for the edge of the covers, still pushed down to her hips. As he raised them up, he saw a flash of the pale skin between the ties of her cotton gown. He knew he was invading, but he couldn’t stop his fingers from moving back down and lifting the material further away from her body even more. The round circles of red and purple on either side of her spine raged up at his prying eyes and he winced, gently releasing the cotton from his hands.
He brought the covers up to her chest, and Alexis pulled her bandaged arm out from under them. She scrunched the sheet up in her hand, pulling a fistful up under her chin like a sleeping child would do. The angry colors on her back were like a cloud in his mind, a translucent veil over the image of her serene face. He craved contact, needing to feel her safe and sound beneath his touch in the aftermath of all the stilted visions she’d put in his head. He made a mental note to call Taggert. Thomas Malloy had some blanks to fill.
Sonny moved to the other side of the bed and pulled a chair up close. His fingers touched down on her forehead, slipping through the layers of bangs and back into her hair. She stirred lightly, her surrender to the pull of the drug not yet complete. Again and again Sonny’s hand traveled the same rhythmic path across her forehead and across her scalp, and soon a contented sigh escaped from her.
Her voice was light as air, yet it carried a timbre that that made him dizzy. His hand froze, the pads of his fingertips held still against her head. She sighed again and he resumed his soothing of her as the buzzing in his head became a swarm. Something was coming back to him…the long ago fracture of the skull beneath his hand. Should he? He looked at her innocent face, all tension melted away. Then Sonny leaned down close and sought to reach in, reach back…
“When Tony took some x-rays, he said it looked like something may have been broken before. Alexis, did you break something…a long time ago?”
She nestled further down under the covers. “My arm.”
Sonny was stunned. “Your arm? Was that all?”
Alexis sighed, growing more tired. “Some ribs got cracked.”
Sonny’s jaw locked, as his heart began to pound. He had no idea what he was unearthing or if it should even be exposed to light. Her head turned slightly, and he realized he’d stopped with his fingers still tangled in her hair. He took a deep breath before he resumed his gentle, lulling touch.
“Honey, did you hurt your head too?”
He closed his eyes. He’d been right. He had seen inside her dark terrors, known exactly where she was, and could pull her back because he'd been there himself and knew that way out. But Sonny knew that he carried his demons around him like a shield. There’d been nothing about the woman he'd known to even suggest such a truth for her…but when Sonny opened his eyes to her again, a very small boy was indeed looking down at just as small a girl.
“I fell. Downstairs.” Alexis whispered.
“You fell?” He pulled his hand from her hair and cupped it to her face. “Alexis, how did you fall?”
She raised her hand to cover his as it pressed against her cheek. “I don’t know.” She was fading fast, her words slurring together.
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t remember.”
“How do you know that you fell? That nobody…” Sonny reconsidered his question.
“How do you know?”
“He told me.”
Sonny’s voice was more firm, his tone more insistent. He knew she wanted to sleep, but he need one more answer before he could let her go.
“Who told you, honey? Who told you that you fell down the stairs?”
Her hand slipped away from his and fell to rest on the pillow beneath her head as the last of her consciousness was spent.