"Johnny? Are you still there?"
"I’m here. What?"
Alexis stammered. "N-nothing. I just wasn’t sure. You’re so quiet." All she could hear was the sound of her own labored breathing and half-stifled groans.
"Do you want to be alone?"
"Y-yeah. Okay." She didn’t.
Johnny frowned at her strange response. He rose from his chair and moved away from the door, coming around the foot of the bed to better see her face. Alexis heard the rustling of his clothes as he moved and she opened her irritated eyes, still vaguely burning from the tears she’d allowed to fall for Stefan. She felt like hell, but at least she felt human…and she did still have her brother. Her eyes followed Johnny as he tilted his head sideways at her. He looked funny that way, and Alexis squinted at him.
"What are you doing?"
"I’m trying to figure out what you really want me to do. ‘Yeah, okay’ kind of sounds like you’re trying to put the ball in my court, you know? Like you’re trying to give me a way out when I don’t necessarily WANT out."
Alexis rolled the back of her head against the pillow, raising her eyes up to this sweet, gentle soul. Johnny straightened his spine, but continued to study her tired, tear-streaked face.
"You’re a lot alike you know. Now I’m wondering which came first – Sonny or Johnny? Who influences whom?"
Johnny felt his cheeks begin to blush and his suddenly shy eyes shifted to the floor. But then, he heard her sharp inhale and from the corner of his eye he saw the blanket pulling as Alexis clutched it into her stomach. He wanted to scream, to rail against her pain and drive it out of her - to exorcise the devil that was Sorel. Relief could be hers for the asking, but she would not ask. Her autonomy came with an unyielding price, and she insisted upon paying it. Johnny knew it would take something extreme to force her hand, yet it was not a thing for him to do. Sonny - she needed Sonny.
Johnny looked at his watch as Alexis looked at him. It had been over an hour since he’d paged him, but there had been no reply. The unthinkable began to worm its way into his mind. He’d known Sonny to isolate in the face of numbing rejection, but he wasn’t a stupid man. He had to understand how much she needed him. And it was not lost on Johnny how much he needed her too.
"Got a hot date?" Alexis teased as she worked to regulate her staccato breathing.
Johnny smiled. "Yep, right here. I got a date with an…"
He abruptly stopped, his eyes growing wide. Alexis smiled softly, knowing full well what his next word would have been. She opened her eyes and saw the stricken look on his face, a look she wanted to make disappear. She broadened her grin, flashing her dimples at him and giving him a sideways look.
"Good one! Thanks for making me smile. I needed that."
Johnny still held his breath, his brow furrowed.
"Come on Johnny, it’s just a word – angel. You can say it without me ending up on the floor."
"I wish you wouldn’t joke about such things." Johnny’s face was solemn, and it made Alexis frown.
"I joke, Johnny. It’s what I do. You should know that much about me by now." Alexis was suddenly hit. She groaned and swallowed hard, her legs sharply pulling up. "Oh God, I don’t want to be sick. Please don’t let me be sick."
"I can’t do this anymore…" Johnny reached over and pushed a button on the side of the bed. "I need a Dr. Jones or a nurse in here please."
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
"I don’t need anyone…"
"Yes, you do."
A voice came through the tiny speaker. "Yes? What does Miss Davis need?"
"Nothing. I’m fine." Alexis protested, but Johnny was firm.
"She’s feeling like she’s going to be sick. Can you do something for her please?"
"Someone will be right there."
Alexis was angry. "I don’t want any more drugs!"
"I know that. But there might be something else they can do to make you more comfortable if you’re determined to do this the hard way. I can’t tell you how much I hate this, Alexis. I mean, I know that it is your decision, but does that mean that I can’t do anything to keep you from suffering any more than you have to?"
Alexis’s eyes squeezed shut against a spasm, her chin trembling. "M-maybe I should be left alone right now."
"I’m not leaving you." Johnny moved around the bed and reached for the glass of water still sitting on the table. He poured a small amount into the handkerchief he pulled from his pocket, and then was quickly back at her side.
"Here, I’ll show what kind of what I meant." He pressed the cloth to her tense face and she jumped at the first feel of it. But then, as he moved it from place to place against her skin, she welcomed it, her whole body relaxing under the cool dampness. Soon, she languidly opened her eyes and stared up at him, mute.
"See?" Johnny leaned down closer to her, smiling, knowing his efforts were having the desire effect. "No drugs, but you feel better, right?"
Johnny’s blue eyes met her stare, but it wasn’t Johnny’s face that Alexis’s mind was seeing. It was another comforting face graced with eyes like the sky…gazing down on her, watching over her, taking care of her. She closed he heavy lids and smelled peppermint in the air. A soft voice filled her head…Thomas’s voice.
"You’ll be home soon. I promise..."
Alexis smiled and settled under Johnny’s cool, soothing travels across her face, and her voice grew soft as well.
Ned’s restless foot tapped a steady beat against the small paper bag sitting on the floor beside his chair.
The sound was crisp and hollow – a deliberate distraction for his overloaded mind. He glanced down the hall, half expecting Tony, Sonny, or even than damn bodyguard to sneak up behind him, grab him by the collar and run him up the nearest flagpole for what he had done. Ned was well aware of how pathetic he must seem, but he didn’t care. He had neither pride nor shame when it came to her. He loved her, and love was without reason or sanity. He’d been scared out of his wits and it rendered him desperate. His fear had claimed him, and he had allowed it.
Ned sighed and shook his head. His fear was nothing. The sight of Alexis in abject terror was now burned into his mind’s eyes like a brand. It would never, ever leave him. He chewed nervously on the inside of his cheek as he failed to push the image out of his head – that of her small, quivering body as she screamed and fought imaginary demons, the large purple marks on her face and neck…and the bruised trail of needle marks along the pale underside of her arm. If Ned hadn’t been in Tony’s office that morning, if he’d kept his nose clean, he would never have put it together. That Sorel would drug her never crossed his mind. And even now, all proofs before him, it still seemed impossible. Heroin. Why?
Corinthos knew why. Corinthos WAS why. This was all his doing, all his fault. And yet Corinthos had held Alexis up in his arms as if she were a trophy. Sedated and helpless, he’d made a display of her to claim a kind of victory. Only Sonny was allowed to comfort her, to care for her, to touch her...Alexis wanted only Sonny by her side, and he wanted to rub Ned’s face in it. But Ned knew that her trauma would pass, her rational mind would reclaim her, and Sonny would see Alexis’s back as she ultimately turned away from him for good.
Sonny had nothing of Alexis that truly mattered. Only Ned knew that look of want in her eyes - that look of need that was only for him. Only Ned knew the look and feel of her when the world disappeared and it was only them…their hearts in thunderous rhythm, their bodies entwined - hot, hungry, electric and melting into each other with a passion that could come close to death. Ned closed his lids and smiled, dizzy with renewed ache. All he allowed his mind to hold was the thought of her lying beside him, her beautiful dark gazing up at him and filled with everything his own eyes fed back to her. And the diamond he gave her was, as always, dangling over her heart.
"I wondered if you were planning to return to the scene of the crime."
Ned was jolted out of his reverie. He opened his eyes to the hem of Tony’s white coat.
"I’d like you to tell me why I shouldn’t ban you from this floor – from this HOSPITAL, in fact – until Alexis has been released?"
Ned swallowed, his eyes traveling the upward path to Tony’s gruff expression. He rose from his chair and looked into the steely eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but all than out was a small, incomprehensible sound. Tony stared at him, his hand in his coat pocket and anxiously tapping away at his leg. He shook his head in disappointment.
"It was so little for her to ask of you. Just a little bit of space, a little time for her to process all that she’s been through before having to deal with the flood of emotions pouring down on her from everyone else in her life. That’s all she wanted, all she needed from you."
Ned hung his head, the beautiful thoughts quickly vanquished. "I understand now."
"I know…but you didn’t just pull ‘heroin’ out of a hat. You have some explaining to do, my friend. Be in my office in fifteen minutes, and it had better be good!" Tony turned away – Ned’s voice stopped him.
"Tony, please! Just…tell me that I didn’t hurt her."
Tony turned back to see Ned’s pitiful eyes begging him to say ‘no’.
"Beyond the initial shock of recognition, which was quite enough trauma in and of itself…no, you didn’t irreparably hurt her."
Ned took in a deep breath and released it harshly, nodding his head in gratitude. He began to speak, but Tony stopped him.
"My office. I need to go take care of Alexis right now." His hand still tapped at something within his pocket.
"Is she okay?"
"No, she’s not. I need to go see if I can change that, or if I’ll get tossed out on my ear."
Ned opened his mouth – again, Tony stopped him. "Don’t ask."
Ned reached down and picked up the paper bag, handing it to Tony. "Would you give her this, and tell her that I’m sorry?"
Tony eyed the bag with suspicion. "Ned, I don’t exactly trust you right now, and I’m not willing to risk losing Alexis’s trust any further myself…"
"Please, Tony. It’s something that might make her feel better. I swear. It helps her sleep, sometimes, if she’s stressed or upset."
Ned held it up higher, waiting for Tony to relent. Tony peered down into the bag, then frowned.
"What is it?"
Ned smiled. "The world."
Alexis looked at him with trepidation, but held her ground. "Don't look at me like that. I didn’t say no."
"I just want to make sure."
"You don’t trust."
Alexis hesitated. "Who, you?"
Johnny shrugged. "Whoever."
"You’re not a doctor Johnny. You don’t know what it is for sure."
"But you are an attorney. Suspicion is a way of life for you, and that’s not always such a good thing. Sometimes a smoke is just a smoke, you know what I mean?"
Alexis’s face assumed a petulant expression. She shifted and turned under the covers, curling up with her back to Johnny.
"I think I created a monster. You used to be so nice and quiet."
Johnny saw Alexis turn her head back, ever so slightly. She bit her lip as she caught him grinning at her, which made him smile even more. A small rapping at the door took Johnny’s grin away and moved him to the door as it began to open. Tony poked his head inside before Johnny reached him.
"Should I tie a white napkin to a stick and wave it around before I enter?"
Alexis visibly tensed. It sent another jolt throughout her body and she pulled at the rumpled blanked. Tony’s presence still sparked a sense of threat deep inside her, although she didn’t want it to. She was afraid to speak to him, not knowing what to say or how to explain herself. Johnny stepped in.
"Alexis has been having a hard time and she’s feeling pretty sick. A nurse wanted to give her something, but she was afraid."
"I think I’d like to talk to Tony alone…okay?"
Johnny hesitated, then nodded his head. "I’ll be outside."
"Thank you. Really, Johnny - thank you." The smile on her face warmed him from all the way across the room.
"Sure." Johnny smiled shyly, then closed the door behind him.
Tony looked at her, looking at him, each tentative and at a loss. Finally, Alexis buried her face into the pillow, muffling her voice.
"Do I need to tie a napkin to a stick?"
Tony smiled and moved to the side of the bed. He placed the paper bag down on he floor and pulled the chair up to wait for her to open her eyes, which she sheepishly did.
"It’s only Compazine, Alexis. It’s not a narcotic, just something commonly given for nausea. If you don’t trust me, I can show you the label. It should help with the queasiness, but you’ll need it about every four hours until the worst of the withdrawal is over. And that won’t be for another twenty-four hours or so. "
"Well that was blunt."
"As is your preference."
Alexis shivered, her head dropping heavily from her shoulders. "Touché. So tell me, how much are you hating whoever made up the schedule that put you in the ER yesterday?"
"Alexis…I’m hating everything about this, but I certainly don’t hate you. I was and still am very glad to be the one treating you…but I wish you’d allow me to treat you to the fullest extent that I can. Tell me the truth - are you sure you wouldn’t rather have another doctor?"
Alexis shook her head.
"I can’t force you to trust me and I can’t force you to do the rapid detox. But I’ll be here for you no matter what you chose to do…and no matter how angry or grumpy you may get."
"This…trust thing. It’s not just you…or Sonny…I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust anything I see or hear or think, even. I mostly trust what I feel. I feel pain and I trust that it’s real. I know that I’m alive and that I’m not dreaming because I feel so much." Alexis shook her head. "I’m sure that must sound insane to you, because it certainly sounds insane to me."
Tony watched her hand begin to scratch at her arm. "Not at all. It makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is taking it to the extreme. Just think about it, okay?"
Alexis didn’t respond but to close her eyes.
"So, how about that Compazine? I forgot to tell you the best part – I can just shoot it right into the IV tube here. No need to stick you again every four hours."
"A selling point if I ever heard one." Alexis tried to follow his movement to the other side of the bed, her head only turning so far. "You were pretty confident of yourself, huh?"
Tony smiled. "I was pretty confident of you, actually. I trust you to do the right thing for yourself, in time."
Alexis struggled to turn herself over to face him again. She watched him as he injected the Compazine into the IV. "Stefan was here."
"Really. That was sneaky of you. You knew the context in which I asked for him."
Tony’s smile faded. "Yes. I took a chance."
Alexis looked up at him intently. "I’m glad you did."
"It was okay for you?"
"Yeah, it was okay. I didn’t tell him though, about the…heroin. God, I can’t even say the word."
"You don’t have to say it."
"I told him I was having a bad drug reaction." Alexis laughed lightly. "How’s that for an understatement? And I don’t think he bought it for a second. Oddly enough, he didn’t press it. He’s probably going to be up to something, so could you please keep your ear to the ground?"
Another spasm hit her and she doubled over. "Ow…when does that stuff kick in?"
"It won’t – not for the cramps. This is just to keep you from feeling sick to your stomach."
"Oh. Okay, got it."
Tony touched his fingertips to her forehead and she flinched, as had become her habit.
"I think the fever’s still under control. I’m going to have a few more tests done, just to be sure, and I want to check the scrapes on your arm – maybe get rid of all that gauze."
Alexis was drained all over again, her body sinking further into the bed. "Okay…"
"Alexis? Ned is here again."
Alexis didn’t respond.
"He wanted me to tell you how sorry he is for what happened this morning. He didn’t mean to hurt you or scare you."
"I think I’m probably the one who scared him. After what he saw, I’m surprised he didn’t run screaming from the hospital, never to return. I’m remembering more, you know. You’ve been trying to protect me, but I’m remembering." She groaned in the wake of another, stronger cramp.
"You need to know that Ned found out about the heroin. I don’t know HOW he found out, but I will get that information, believe me."
"So that’s what I saw in his face. I’ve never such horror in Ned’s eyes before." Alexis’s own eyes quickly had gone far away. "I guess I’d better tell Stefan too, because pretty soon the whole town is probably going to know."
Tony heard her breathing grow more rapid and he knew she was fighting the feelings that were beginning to rise up. Her hand wandered toward the stone that rested against her throat.
"Nobody else has to know unless you want them to. Ned won’t discuss this with anyone - you know that. And Sonny and Johnny would rather die than give up any information about you."
He glanced at the paper bag on the floor on the other side of the bed. As he watched her roll the pendant between her fingers, he decided to take a chance. "Ned also wanted me to give you something. He said it was ‘the world’?"
Alexis slowly raised her eyes to Tony’s face. It took a long while, but a small smile finally appeared as she was taken back to the sound of rain and the feel of Ned’s strong arms wrapped around her while they drifted off to sleep.
"Would you like to keep it, or should I take it away?"
"I’d like to hear the rain."
"Where the hell have you been?"
Johnny charged up to him and Sonny stopped in his tracks. Johnny’s wild eyes and sharp outburst took him aback.
"You paged me, I’m here! You said it wasn’t a 911, so why don’t you take a breath, get a hold of yourself and tell me what’s going on?"
Sonny had nowhere near recovered from Malloy’s guided tour into the depths of her experience with Sorel, and he was still too stunned to properly respond to Johnny, let alone Alexis. He dreaded facing her with what he now held within him, but he would have to act as if. He had always been good at that, and knew that she’s been good at it too. Survival. But his reflexes now felt sluggish – one step behind where they should be, as if he was living in slow motion. He wondered if it was at all like that for her as well…or if it was worse.
Sonny could hear Johnny’s voice, but the words were a blur as he dropped his head and rubbed at his temples. Johnny’s voice suddenly disappeared. Sonny’s head popped back up.
"I’m sorry boss. I meant no disrespect. I got a little scared is all. I started to think that maybe, God forbid, you weren’t going to…"
Sonny raised his hand to silence him. "Johnny, calm down."
Johnny took a deep breath and rolled his head from side to side, stretching his neck. "I’m calm."
"Good. Now, Alexis is okay, yeah?"
Johnny didn’t know how to properly answer that question. "Yeah, I guess." He shifted his weight.
"Cassadine was here."
Sonny’s eyes quickly focused. "Did he lie his way into that room?"
"No, she wanted to see him."
Sonny felt himself sink a little inside. He knew that he shouldn’t have left her alone. That brother of hers wanted nothing more than to control his entire gene pool, no matter what the cost. He remembered Cassadine’s proposition – information on Alexis’s history that could possibly help her now in exchange for Sonny granting access to her. Stefan didn’t give a damn about what she really needed, so long as his ego believed it to be him.
"Is he still in there?"
"No. It was a couple of hours ago."
"How was she after he left?" Sonny was ready to hunt the man down like a dog if he’d hurt her in any way.
"She was exhausted. It was kind of emotional for her. I could hear her…"
Johnny felt his loyalties being torn. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop…or to hear her crying. But Alexis was on tender-hooks and the withdrawal was wringing her out. It had to stop – she couldn’t take much more and it wasn’t even halfway over yet.
"She told him about Sorel grabbing her and all, but not about the drugs. Just so you’ll know."
"Good. It’s good that she didn’t."
"Dr. Jones was just in there checking on her a few minutes ago, but then she wanted to be alone. I think she’s okay with Dr. Jones now. She let him give her something to help her not feel so sick, which I think is pretty good sign that she might be…pliable."
He swallowed hard, looking Sonny deep in the eyes.
"Sonny…you’ve got to talk her into the detox. I mean it. I’m scared out of my mind about what I know is ahead for her. I’ve seen someone I care about go through this before and I’m telling you that she’s going to break. Her body isn’t going to be able to take it…"
He turned away, unable to finish his thought. Sonny placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder, but didn’t say a word. He knew. Johnny stared at her door as he found his voice again.
"It’s got to be you. You can make her do this. I tried to talk to her but she’s stubborn – well, you know."
"You talked with Alexis?"
"Yeah. After you and Dr. Jones left earlier. She didn’t really want to be alone, so I stayed with her and…well, we talked."
Sonny smiled. "Ah. The one person she wasn’t mad at."
"She’s not mad Sonny, she’s afraid. And she hates it. That’s why it has to be you. You hate being afraid as much as she does."
Sonny stared at Johnny. His sudden rush of insight was unexpected, but what he said was true.
"She’s been wanting you to come back. She’s missed you."
"She said that?"
"Not in words, but I know." Johnny remembered the hope in her voice when she heard her brother’s voice and called out for Sonny. He now looked at his boss’s anxious face and smiled. There was a surety about him that Sonny had always relied upon, but there was a strangely different level of confidence about him. Sonny smiled back and tilted his head, wondering what, exactly, Johnny and Alexis had talked about while he was gone. He wouldn’t ask.
"I’m grateful to you for being here for her when I couldn’t be. So, I guess this means that Alexis doesn’t make you nervous any more?" Johnny blushed at Sonny’s pointed teasing.
"We kind of understand each other."
Sonny nodded. "Good."
Johnny gently opened the door for him. "Go to her. Help her do the right thing, okay?"
Sonny smiled and stepped inside. As the door closed behind him, his smile quickly faded. Alexis had her back to the door and her body was curled up small and tight. He could see her shaking from the doorway, could hear her struggle to breathe at a normal pace. Johnny was right – she couldn’t go on like this much longer without breaking. Sonny would get her consent if it was the last thing he did.
As he took another step inside, Alexis’s head turned slightly toward the door.
"Johnny?" Her eyes were closed and she was too drained to fully turn herself around.
"No, Alexis. It’s me."
He heard her breath catch in her throat, but she didn’t respond to him. A strange, faint noise was swirling within the room, and Sonny scanned for the source of it. He could find nothing. Alexis clenched the blanket in her fist, tugging at it as she writhed under the covers. Sonny’s stomach began to tighten, believing that Johnny’s wishful thinking had gotten the better of his sleep-deprived sensibilities.
"I know you didn’t ask me to come back, but I wanted to make sure you were okay."
Still, Alexis didn’t speak.
"I’ll leave you alone."
"N-no! Don’t go. Please, Sonny...don't leave me."
Sonny’s heart flew. Johnny was right. He sighed heavily, a wave of relief washing over him as he smiled down on her.
"I won’t. I won't leave you again, Alexis. Count on it."