The hollow sound of her own breathing reverberated in her head as she pushed her way out of the haze. She knew she was awakening, but her eyes refused to open on command. The room was spinning from behind closed lids and she felt as if she might fall. Alexis rolled her head to one side as her breathing quickened. She felt something soft and warm on her face, lightly brushing across her skin. She turned toward the feel of it, struggling to pry her unwilling eyes open.
“Come on Alexis, wake up.” Sonny’s voice washed over her. “Open your eyes.”
With much effort, she finally did. Sonny’s face was unsteady as it hovered above her, and she quickly closed her eyes again.
“What’s the matter?”
“No, honey, I’m not. You’re just groggy, that’s all.”
She shifted her stiff upper body and sighed. “I’m dizzy.”
Sonny remembered the vertigo that Tony had mentioned - an effect of the Demerol. He wondered if she’d been given a stronger dose this last time. Her panic had manifested so powerfully that Sonny couldn’t bring her down. And Ashton, on top of it all, being a whole other shock for her to absorb. To blindside her like that was such cruelty, and he was glad to have seen Ashton suffer in kind for what he’d incited.
Sonny pressed his palm carefully to her forehead, avoiding the un-bandaged scrape over her right eyebrow. She felt normal now, all feel of fever vanished. He should be glad of that, but it meant that she’d soon be told the truth.
“I think your fever’s gone.”
Alexis groaned as she squirmed, rolling her head away from him with her eyes still shut tight. “I’m falling.” She whispered, her left shoulder hunching up toward her ear.
“That’ll go away. You’re still trying to wake up. No need to rush.”
He watched with concern as her chest began to rise and fall as a faster pace, the diamond at her neck glittering like a never-ending sparkler on the fourth of July. He was getting a bad feeling. Sonny quickly moved away from her and went to the door. He stuck his head outside and told Johnny to get Dr. Jones, then resumed his post at her bedside. Alexis’s face was filled with anxiety as her eyes fluttered back open, her body pulling and squirming. Sonny took her face in his palms, forcing her to look at him.
“Alexis, Johnny’s getting Tony and he’ll take care of whatever’s wrong, okay? Just try to relax and breath slow.”
He could feel her trembling beneath his touch, and then he heard her voice catch in her throat as she locked her eyes with his.
Sonny’s heart skipped a beat and his eyes grew wide in horror at what he suddenly remembered. He pulled his hands from her face and quickly slid them down her arms to the edge of the covers that lay over them, hiding the ties that had been wrapped around her wrists. He moved the covers to the side and took her hand and lifted it up. He tore the Velcro strips apart, their unmistakable sound singing through the air. Alexis’s face began to register the vague recognition of what Sonny was doing…and of what had been done to her while she slept. She felt the gentle touch of him on her right hand and her eyes drifted toward the feel of it. The second harsh sound hit her ears and she froze, staring at Sonny’s hand holding onto hers as the thin strips fell away from her irritated wrist.
Alexis didn’t move, she didn’t speak…she simply, silently stared at the edge of Velcro peeking up from the side of the bed. Sonny followed her eyes and the sound of her growing staccato breathing filled him with guilt. How could he apologize for this? For any of it? He was torn in two by the life that drained from her beautiful eyes, the sudden shock of stillness enveloping her body. He hung his head and slipped his hand away from hers.
“I’m sorry, Alexis. I told him ‘no’, but…”
“You let him?”
“Just while you were asleep. To protect you.”
He laid his hand to her shoulder and she recoiled from his tough, her body jerking backward.
She crossed her wrists, reddened from their struggle against the restraints, and pulled them up into her chest while her fingers intertwined. She locked her arms to her body and curved her hands against her neck as she gave way to more violent kind of shaking. Sonny felt sick to his stomach. He didn’t know how he could have forgotten to release her the second she stirred. But her arms had been hidden and his focus was so trained on her face that he’d lost sight of all else. He tried to make things right, leaning down closer to her and whispering her name.
“Alexis, I’m sorry.” Her empty eyes stared at nothing, and he gently set his hand down upon her leg.
She stiffened and again pulled away. Her blank expression was like a mask.
A dry whisper carried the pain of her violated trust straight to his heart. He was failing her, hurting her over and over again when all his desperate soul sought to show her was his love. He didn’t know how to do that very well at all. The ache inside him became hot water in his eyes, her vacant face beginning to blur in front of him.
“You were hurting yourself.”
He barely managed to force the words from his mouth as he furiously blinked back his tears. “If it was wrong to let him do that to you, I’m sorry. But I…”
“If you let him do it again…I don’t want to see you any more. Ever.” Her voice was hushed, but the message it carried was like a blood-curdling scream to Sonny’s ears.
“I’m just trying to do what’s best for you. Alexis?”
Her eyes narrowed slightly, but still stared without emotion. “Go away.”
Sonny’s face wore a stunned expression, as if he’d suddenly been slapped. He didn’t believe she meant it. He pushed at his stinging eyes with the heels of his hands and took a deep breath. Again, his voice was soft above her.
“Alexis, talk to me.”
“Go away!” The resonance in her command was full and strong, the force of her exertion renewing the tremble inside her.
“What’s going on?” Tony stood at the foot of the bed, his entrance unnoticed. Sonny turned to him in surprise, but Alexis didn’t move, the numbness having taken hold of her, leaving her rigid.
“Alexis can speak...for herself.” Her voice faltered.
Sonny and Tony exchanged a look before Sonny’s eyes darted down to the loose strips of Velcro. Tony nodded in understanding, then moved to the side of the bed in order to face her. Her eyes were steady on the wall, the richness he’d always seen living inside of them was now depleted. This was what he’d been afraid of – that it would all crash down on her without a moment’s notice. Any possible thing, person, word or act of medical attention could be a potential trigger to Alexis shutting down.
“Okay, go ahead. You’re angry? Tell me.”
She refused to acknowledge his presence at all. As Tony looked down on her small, quivering body, the imbalance of power she must be feeling suddenly struck him. He pulled the chair around and sat down beside her, their faces now at an even level. Sonny sat still and quiet on the opposite edge of the bed, ignoring her prior request that he leave.
“Alright, I’ll go first. You were hurting yourself. It wasn’t intentional – it was in your sleep, while you were having some really bad dreams. But I couldn’t let it keep happening. Alexis, do you understand?”
He waited for a response that was not about to come. Tony knew he had to snap her out of this, and soon. She was not about to let him come near her with another hypodermic without putting up one hell of a fight, and he had run out of time and options. If he couldn’t get through to her now, he’d have to call Kevin and take this ugly thing that had happened to her to a new and unwanted level. Tony made his decision. He abruptly grabbed hold of her wrist, pulling her arm firmly away from its safe place against her body.
“NO! Let me go!” She sprang back to life, struggling and twisting to free herself.
“Alexis, STOP it!” Tony barked his order at her with his face was set hard. He meant business.
“Tony…” Sonny was shocked at this sudden display of force from him.
“Shut up Sonny!” Tony quickly returned his intense gaze to her flushed face. “I mean it Alexis, stop it! I’m not going to hurt you.”
Her arm shook within his grip, her chin quivering in her powerless anger. Her eyes locked with Tony’s all their vacancy now replaced with a myriad of emotions flashing up at him.
“Let me go.” Alexis meant business too.
“Not yet.” Tony’s face softened but his authoritarian demeanor held, knowing he needed to keep her full focus. His hand reached down to a small bandage on the inside of her arm, and in one swift movement he’d yanked it away. Alexis winced at the fleeting sting of the adhesive pulling from her skin.
“This is what you did in the middle of the night.”
He raised he arm up slightly, so it was held up in front of her face. Her eyes held to his for a long while, then tentatively lowered to the angry tear in her skin. Tony watched her face carefully, and a questioning look soon appeared. His fingers moved over a few inches and he suddenly ripped a second bandage away, revealing another, fresh wound.
“And this was just a few hours ago. Do have any memory of it at all?”
His voice was gentle now, as he saw the question in her eyes morphing into fear. He maintained his grip on her wrist until he was sure that it was all sinking in. He felt the tension in her muscles slowly release within his hold and he finally lowered her yielding arm down to the bed. The moment he let go, Alexis pulled it right back up to lock it against her chest again. Tony glanced at Sonny, who’d been uncharacteristically silent except for the one brief protest. His lost, defeated eyes gave Tony a bit of a scare. Sonny couldn’t pull an emotional disappearing act on her now, not when she’d need his strength the most. The sound of Alexis’s voice catching in her throat drew both men’s attention.
“Was I…on the floor?” Her eyes were cast down to the ground, a glimmer of recognition shining in them.
She closed her eyes and frowned. “It was…dark. I couldn’t breath.”
“You were having a nightmare…like a panic attack in your sleep.”
Sonny suddenly turned his head to Tony, wondering if he should mention that she’d had them while awake as well. He stayed silent.
“There were voices…” Alexis swallowed hard, her eyes blinking back open. She frowned. “Ned?”
Tony hesitated, then answered. “Yes. He was here.”
Her eyes darted back and forth across the floor as a fog began to lift, leaving her with a murky vision of Ned’s tear-streaked face looking down at her in horror. “No…”
She squeezed her lids shut at the memory and allowed her body to give in to a back-arching spasm that hit without warning. Sonny couldn’t take it any more. He would do anything for her, and so he confessed.
“Alexis, it’s okay. Ned loves you.” He laid his hand softly against the growing dampness of her face, but she jerked her head away.
Sonny pulled his hand back. His touch was now a source of distress for her and it shredded him. Tony waited for her pain to subside, then pushed a button on the side of the bed to raise her head up higher. He wanted her to feel as little like an invalid as possible…and he knew that she did. Her eyes opened at the movement and the buzzing sound, her face all suspicion as she shifted her restless legs.
“I think your fever is over and out, but I want to check for sure.” He placed one hand on the top of her head and leaned down to scan her temperature.
“No.” She tried to pull away, but Tony was firm in touch and tone.
“Don’t fight me, please.”
His voice was so weary…Alexis held still and closed her eyes, counting the seconds until he finally took his hands away from her.
“Thank you.” Tony smiled. “Good. Back to normal.”
“Then I can go home.” Alexis returned to staring at the wall beyond Tony’s head.
“Alexis, your fever may be gone but you can’t leave the hospital just yet.”
“I want you to call my brother. He’ll take me home.” Her voice was flat once more.
“You’re still very weak, and there’s something else going on with you that we need…”
“I want to go home. Stefan will take me home.” She was growing agitated. Tony wasn’t listening to her.
“No, Stefan won’t.”
“You can’t keep me here!”
Tony hesitated. “Yes, I can.” He ignored Sonny’s face, now demanding his attention.
“I don’t want to go that way…but you’re causing injury to yourself, Alexis. You know the law, and you know that I CAN keep you here. Please don’t make me do that.”
His last words chimed in her head – “Don’t make me do that”. Those were Sorel’s words just a few days and yet a lifetime ago. She had made him violent, made him hit her. Alexis closed her eyes, revisiting the sharp pain that had shot through her face, the cracking sound of his fist meeting her cheekbone…the fresh laundry smell of Thomas’s shirt as he locked her face against his solid chest.
“Don’t make me do that again…” The memory of Sorel’s whisper in her ear made her skin crawl. It was her fault – this had to be her fault somehow. What had she done? Alexis began to shake, her fingers moving up to touch the large bruise Sorel had left on her face.
“I’m not crazy.” She whispered.
Sonny flinched. He’d told himself the same thing so many times, but often knew he was lying. For her, it would always be the truth.
“Alexis, I know you’re not crazy. You’ve been sick, you haven’t eaten, you’re weak and exhausted. And your body is also reacting to something else that I need to talk to you about – why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling.”
Sonny turned away, and for the first time since Tony had entered the room, he saw Alexis look at him.
“Asked…and UN-answered.” Alexis watched Sonny’s eyes close. He’d lied to her before, and now she knew it.
Tony pulled his chair closer to the bed and she turned her face back to him. “I’m going to get truth?”
“Yes. Alexis, in all the times that Sorel drugged you, he never told you what it was?”
“I asked. I said it didn’t matter. He said it was out of my control.” She tilted her head, furrowing her brow. “I really should have that tattooed on my forehead – ‘It’s out of my control’.” The solemn look on Tony’s face sent her into a panic, her mind racing at the possibilities. “Oh God…was I right the first time? Was he killing me?”
“No! No, he wasn’t killing you. But he wasn’t simply sedating you either.”
Alexis stared at him, her heart pounding. Her head suddenly felt heavy and she struggled to keep it up. “W-what did he do?” Her fingers closed upon the diamond at her throat, holding onto it for dear life.
Tony chose his words meticulously. “Nothing that can’t be dealt with. Alexis, you were being given an opiate. And since it happened on a regular basis, even though it was just a few days, your body got used to it’s presence.”
He paused, allowing her to process the succinct, non-threatening version of the truth that he’d given her. Her face was unmoving, and Tony continued.
“Since the drug is no longer in your system, your body is reacting to the lack of it. The infection on your arm and subsequent fever did account for much of the discomfort you’ve been experiencing, but what’s going on now is…”
“Withdrawal?” Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him. Tony had known she’d quickly cut past the sugar-coating.
“Heroin. Sorel was injecting you with heroin.” Sonny’s voice was without expression, but his large, dark eyes were close to overflowing as he looked at the confusion on her innocent face.
The words made no sense…Alexis couldn’t make it gel. Why would Sorel do that? All he wanted was Zander. Something inside her told her not to trust what she was hearing. She didn’t quite trust anything anymore, but she looked to Sonny for reassurance that she could. But Sonny looked away from her, unable to take the things he saw in her eyes.
“I asked you if you knew what was happening to me…”
Tony stepped in. “I wouldn’t allow him to tell you anything. You needed to heal. It wasn’t necessary for you to have this to deal with too, not yet.”
“But Tony can fix it. So, you don’t have to worry about it at all. He can take care of it so you won’t hurt anymore.” Sonny cleared his throat.
Alexis shifted her gaze to Tony. She had no words for him, but waited for him to give his to her.
“There’s a procedure called rapid detox.”
Alexis closed her eyes and bit down on her lip at the frightening sound of that last word.
“The regular withdrawal process is extremely unpleasant and it can last for up to two weeks. But this particular procedure condenses it down to four or five hours. The way it works is that the patient is sedated, then certain medications are flushed through the body to take the withdrawal to an extreme pace. But since you’re asleep, you don’t feel a thing. When you wake up, it’s over.”
Alexis swallowed again, then slowly opened her eyes. She looked at Sonny, who stared down at the bedcovers, then turned her face to Tony. She was drowning is all this and she needed to breath.
“No. I don’t want to sleep any more, I don’t want any more drugs, and I don’t want anything else happening to me when I’m unconscious...” She faltered, a sudden thought crossing her mind. Alexis began to shake all over again.
“What have you been giving me?”
“To keep the pain and cramping down and to help you relax so you could sleep and your body could mend. It’s in the same drug family as…”
“H-heroin.” She said the word for the first time that she ever remembered having cause to say it.
“Yes. So it there was no danger of a bad interaction with what was already in your body. It was necessary, Alexis.”
She tilted her head toward Sonny, a wry smile crossing her face. “And you knew about that too.”
He hesitated before meeting her distant gaze. “I let Tony do what he thought was best. Yes, I knew about that too.”
“Everything has been my call, Alexis, and everything was done in your best interest. I’m sorry you feel deceived…that wasn’t how I wanted it to be.”
“I want…to be alone right now.”
“Sure. That’s fine.” Tony pulled some papers from his coat pocket. But you need to read this fact sheet about the rapid detox…”
“Now. I want you both to leave now.”
“It’s best if we can do this tonight, to spare you any further discomfort.”
“I said no. And I meant it.” Alexis’s voice and demeanor were strangely calm and dispassionate. “Please, leave me alone.”
“Leave her alone Tony.”
Alexis moved her eyes tentatively toward Sonny’s face, waiting for him to meet them. When he did, he locked them to hers.
“Alexis, you really shouldn’t be alone…”
“I’m a big girl Sonny.” There was a twinge of sarcasm in her voice, as she didn't feel so big at all.
A new wave of shaking swept through her and she wrapped her arms tightly around herself for comfort. Her chin began to quiver, and she could no longer look at the pain in his eyes and still keep herself whole. She lowered her head and turned away from him, her voice soft as air.