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Scene 57

Thomas swallowed, staring at Taggert and trying not to blink against the lights.

Taggert stared back, raising his eyebrows. “Hello! Earth to Malloy!”

“No!” Thomas’ voice softened as he lied. “I wasn’t expecting someone else. I…I just wasn’t expecting you.”

Taggert nodded as he slowly ambled closer to the table, then stopped and stared some more. He was silent and it made Thomas nervous.

“Um…is there something wrong, detective?”

“Wrong? No, nothing’s wrong. At least, not from my standpoint.” Taggert lifted his foot from the ground and pushed at the legs of the chair in front of him, inching it away from the table. He continued to speak as his foot pushed, the floor giving short, sharp cries with the pressure of wood against concrete.

“I don’t suppose your former employer would agree with me though. Do you?”

Thomas held Taggert’s gaze, then allowed his eyes to shift toward the open door behind him. Taggert turned his attention to where Thomas’ eyes had moved, then reached back to push the door shut. He returned his focus to Thomas’ large, uneasy, blue-eyed stare.

“It’s just you and me, Malloy. Nobody else is watching or listening. Corinthos and I are the only ones who know what really happened. Not even Miss Davis was told what you did.”

What he did…she knew enough of what he did. The image of her damp face, flushed with fever and pain, came flooding back to him, and Thomas’ head released down from his shoulders.

“I promised you that nobody else would know how you double-crossed Sorel, and I keep my word.” Taggert glanced down at the ground with a small, knowing laugh. “Yep…I keep my word alright.”

Thomas didn’t flinch, keeping his head slightly bowed and his eyes studying the pattern in the grainy wood below them. “I believe you.” His voice was low and dry with shame.

Taggert took a deep breath and finally took a seat, leaning back his chair as he contemplated his next words. Thomas beat him to it, his head suddenly snapping up with a question burning in his squinting eyes.

“Is that why I didn’t get a certain visitor last night…or today? Because I betrayed Sorel?”

Taggert stretched his arms out with a barely stifled yawn and clasped his hands together behind his head.

“Visitor? I have no idea what you’re talking about Malloy.” He grinned. “And I thought you said you weren’t expecting anyone?”

Thomas leaned forward and stretched his own, long arms out, wrapping his fingers around either end of the table. He swallowed and looked Taggert straight in the eye.

“Why the games, detective? The story’s made the rounds in here - how Corinthos worked over Sorel.”

Taggert shook his head and sat back up straight. “I really wish I knew how these nasty rumors get started in here!”

“Are you saying I won’t be next, or are you trying to warn me that I will be?”

The detective sighed and set his folded hands on the table, mustering all the sincerity his voice could hold before looking Malloy straight in the eye. Their faces were no more than a foot away.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

With an edge of doubt fluttering in his gut, Thomas searched the dark eyes that bore into his. Taggert pursed his lips.

“Okay, maybe ‘friend’ is an inappropriate word in this case, but you get my drift.”

“I think I do.”

“Besides, Sonny Corinthos wasn’t here last night. He was with Miss Davis at the hospital…where he’s been since the minute she got there.”

“Except for the time that he was here the other day.” Thomas cocked his head.

“Was he here the other day?”

Thomas played along. “I might be mistaken. And I do understand how the prison grapevine can blown something all out of proportion.”

“Mmm.” Taggert nodded. “Sorel did manage to get himself a little messed up, but the fact of the matter is he tripped – fell face first into the bars of his cell. Clumsy of him, wouldn’t you say?” Taggert smiled at the thought of Sorel’s bruised, bandaged and swollen face. What a satisfying way for a civil servant to begin his day.

“I would say Mr. Sorel’s been clumsy in many ways.” Thomas offered.

“I was remarking on that very thing to Sorel just last night, when I found him all bloody on the floor. You don’t strike me as clumsy at all, Malloy. In fact, I’d say you’re rather agile.”

Thomas shrugged, taking Taggert literally. “For my size - yeah, I guess.”

Taggert grinned and gave a small laugh. “What I mean is, last night, Sorel knew exactly what hit him. But last week? Not a clue.”

Thomas’s face registered his understanding, but his expression quickly grew hard as he muttered. “Last week should have been enough to make last night unnecessary. Last week, that sick piece of…” He stopped himself before he cursed.

“Last week, Sorel should have died.”

Taggert tilted his head up, meeting Malloy’s narrowed, steely eyes. “Don’t sweat it Malloy. The state will finish the job…and that’s just one less charge stacked up against you.”

“One more wouldn’t have mattered.”

Taggert took a long moment, watching Malloy for some signs of…he didn’t exactly know what he was looking for, but he knew he hadn’t seen it yet.

“Aren’t you at all curious about why I’m here?”

Thomas glanced at the bars leading to the hallway, a cautious habit he’d picked up. Sorel still had friends inside and the walls had ears.

“I figure you’ll tell me when you want me to know.”

Taggert laughed lightly. “You’re a very strange man Malloy, you know that? Your sweet old grandma clearly raised you to have a certain respect for authority, and you hesitate to use a four-letter word…yet you somehow manage to fall in with the likes of Joseph Sorel. I must say, I’m quite curious. In the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, “Wha’ happen’?”

Thomas’s face paled, his blue eyes going vacant.

“Yeah, you were checked out - WELL checked out. Did you think Corinthos was going to trust you with Miss Davis’ life without knowing exactly who he was dealing with? And for the record, I was working with him to find her from the start.”

Taggert stared at Thomas’ stricken face, his mouth hanging open in surprise. “It’s lucky for her that your record came up clean and we took you at your word…and it’s lucky for you that you didn’t let us down.”

Thomas’s words came slowly and with much effort. “But…Miss Davis doesn’t know it. I wish she did…” He frowned and his gaze drifted toward nothing.

“My grandmother raised me right. But things happened. It was my fault, and mine alone. I have no excuses...just regrets.” He smiled at his own foolishness as he looked up at Taggert with a tremble settling in his jaw.

“But who cares about my regrets, right? That and a dime still won’t give that woman peace.” He hung his head. “I just want it all over…for both of us.”

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Sonny cocked his head and watched, enraptured, as Alexis sighed and stretched sleepily.

His smile grew, enjoying the vision of her strengthening body as it moved with ease and without pain. She turned onto her side and curled up, her arms crossing against her chest like a child in prayer. He wanted to lift the hair from her eyes, but he held back. If it bothered her, she would push it away herself. Sonny had to start letting go and he knew it. She would want to take care of herself as much as she could, and he would have to stand back with open arms, just in case she should stumble. He didn’t want her to stumble into his arms…he wanted her to walk.

Alexis suddenly groaned as she stretched her legs out along the length of the bed and pushed the backs of her hands against her eyes. Sonny leaned forward and clasped his folded hands against his mouth to keep himself quiet. He wanted to laugh at the way she scrunched her face as she fumbled toward awakening from such a long and deep sleep. As she pulled a fistful of the white sheet up to her face and buried herself into it, Sonny lost control. He laughed quietly and reached out to run his hand through her hair and connect her to the new day.

“Good morning, sleepyhead.”

Alexis groaned again and released the sheets in her grasp, only to wrap her arms around the pillow and hug it tightly against her head.

Sonny’s laugh grew hearty, and his hand slipped down to the back of her head. “Alexis, do you want to sleep some more?”

“Mm-mm.” She lightly shook her head, but neither eye was willing to open.

“I think maybe you do.” Sonny teased, his fingers drawing lazy circles in the delicate hollow at the base of her skull. He enjoyed the tranquil effect it was having on her – he didn’t want Alexis to force herself awake if her body wasn’t ready. “It’s okay. Go back to sleep.”

His rhythmic touch was hypnotic and she fought the slight buzzing it created in her brain. She felt herself sinking further into the pillow, her arms releasing their tension around it. She didn’t want to sleep any more, she wanted to open her eyes…but Sonny’s fingertips were sending her back.

“No.” Her voice was soft and sleep-filled, and Sonny didn’t relent. She suddenly slid her hand to his, covering it and stopping his caress. “Stop, Sonny, or I’ll never wake up.”

He kept his hand still beneath hers, waiting for her to move. She held still for a long moment, then squirmed and took her hand away. As she did, Sonny pulled back from her and leaned his elbows on his thighs. Alexis struggled and finally opened one eye to Sonny’s beaming face.

“Hi.” He murmured softly.

She grinned and turned her head toward him, both eyes now half open. “Hi yourself.” She turned her head toward the muted sunlight reaching toward her from the window. “What time is it?”

“Why, you going somewhere?”

She sighed as she allowed her heavy lids to drop once again. “Ha, ha.”

Sonny flashed a dimpled smile and checked his watch. “A little after nine. You pulled an all-nighter.”

She stretched once more and stifled a yawn. “How long?”

“About eleven hours.”

Her head turned back and she looked at him in hazy disbelief. “That’s impossible. I never sleep more than six. Seven, tops.”

“Well, you must have needed eleven.”

She shifted and gave out a short groan. Sonny saw a sudden tension cross her face.

“Alexis?”

“I’m okay. I’m just…a little achy. See what happens when I sleep for eleven hours?”

“Charlie said you’d feel this way for a couple of days maybe. Tomorrow, it should be gone.”

“Right.” Alexis swallowed, trying to clear her throat of its croaky sound. “I forgot.” She began to absently scratch at her right arm, and Sonny stared at her with his dimples on fire.

“What?” She frowned.

“What…what?” He was all innocence.

“What’s so funny?”

“I’m not laughing.”

“You’re smiling - and staring. Am I flashing you or something?” She glanced down, searching and tugging at the neck of her gown.

Sonny laughed and shook his head. “No flashing, darn my luck. But you should be noticing something…and I think it will make you smile too.”

Alexis shifted and turned fully onto her back. “Well, I notice that my back is feeling a little better. I think.” Her voice was still rough.

“Good!”

She worked to push herself upright and press the button to raise the bed as well. As the bed lifted, Sonny saw her glance at the pitcher and he reached to pour her a glass.

“Thanks.” She took a few swallows. “I sounded like Kermit.”

Sonny cocked his head. “I was thinking Lauren Bacall.”

“I like that a lot better.” Alexis smiled and drank a little more, studying Sonny’s sly expression. “I also notice that I’m kind of hungry.”

“Very good!” Sonny pushed the nurse’s button and summoned breakfast. “One inedible breakfast, coming up.”

She grinned. “And I notice that you didn’t sleep in your own bad last night, like I told you to.”

“I did…” Sonny’s defensive tone gave way to the knowing look on her face. “For a while.”

“I woke up earlier and you were right here, with a pillow under you and your arm…” As she rested her hand down onto the place where Sonny’s head had lain, the tiny bandage on her arm caught her attention. She stared at it for a moment, the looked up at Sonny with alarm.

“I…I didn’t…”

“No! No, honey, the nurse took it out last night, just like Tony promised.”

Her head slowly turned to the now-empty place beside the bed, where the IV stand had been. When she looked back at Sonny, there was a sheepish gleam in her eyes.

“I don’t remember.”

“It didn’t hurt, so you didn’t wake up. You just squirmed a little bit and then you just turned over.”

Alexis finally allowed herself a wide smile, but not without biting her lip. “So…now that my anchor’s been pulled, when are you taking me home?”

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“Tony!”

Tony turned to see Ned bounding toward him, and expectant smile across his face and a canvas satchel hanging over his shoulder.

“Gee Ned, I wonder what’s put such an energetic spring in your step?” He couldn’t help but tease, knowing that Alexis had finally agreed to talk to him the day before. Apparently all had gone well.

Ned laughed, his good mood overflowing. “I guess you heard?”

“I heard. But as pleased as I am for YOU, I really do wish that Alexis had taken it a little easier so soon after the detox. It puts more stress on the body than people realize. I think the sedation aspect of it makes the procedure seem less invasive than it really is.”

Ned was alarmed, and suddenly guilty about the emotional intensity that had unexpectedly surfaced between them. “Is she okay? She was fine when I left.”

“Yeah, she’s okay. She was just overwhelmed, I think, and I wish I had put a restriction on her visitors. Being in the kind of pain that withdrawal causes, it can be tempting for a patient to revel in normalcy when the pain suddenly disappears. And you know her – she pushes in the best of circumstances.”

“I think she had to.” Ned mused. Though he hadn’t anticipated the depths to which she would go with him, she seemed to need to release what weighed upon her, and for Alexis to allow it was such a revelation.

“As her doctor, you may not think it was good for her, but as her…well, I think that it was.” Ned’s voice cracked as he met Tony’s sympathetic eyes. “She told me how she felt and what she needed. And I listened…I heard her, Tony.”

He felt his eyes begin to well and he laughed to himself, closing his lids against the emotion he wanted so much to contain.

“And she knew that I heard her. She let me hold her, and it was wonderful.”

His eyes closed, Ned couldn’t see the vague misgiving in Tony’s face as the man remembered his early morning sight of Sonny asleep at her side, his arm resting possessively across her as Alexis lay sleepy, smiling, and asking Tony to not wake him. There was an ever-deepening bond between those two – the woman Ned loved and the man who loved her in supposed secret. Secret…how could Ned not see it? How could Alexis not feel it? And how could a man with Sonny’s life even contemplate it?

“Tony?”

Ned’s commanding tone snapped him back. “Sorry – what?”

“I don’t suppose she’s changed her mind and agreed to let you keep her one more day?”

Tony involuntarily snorted. “Yeah, right!”

“She’s stubborn.”

“Old news, Ned. Very old news.”

Ned cleared his throat. “Well, if she’s determined to bust out of here, I at least want to make sure she’s got everything she needs at home – that she’s properly looked after. So, what I was wondering is if there’s anything special I should do or get for her, be it medical or…”

“Ned – have you and Alexis discussed this?”

“No. That’s why I’m asking you.”

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“It’s going to be a big day for you Malloy, what with your arraignment this afternoon.” Taggert tilted himself back in his chair, balancing precariously on the back two legs.

Thomas nodded. “At least it’ll be quick and easy.”

“I hear you’re pleading guilty - across the board?”

“You seem surprised.”

“A little.'' His voice was tinged with sarcasm. ''You sure you want to do that?”

“I am guilty and it’s how I’ll plead. I have no intention of walking into that courtroom and making denials. Miss Davis deserves at least that much from me.”

Taggert abruptly leaned forward, forcing the front legs of his chair back down to the floor with a crash. “Did you know that Sorel’s taking the low road? He’s going to force her into court and put her through it all over again.”

Thomas’s face grew red with rage and his hands balled into tight fists. “That son of a…” He closed his eyes and turned away from Taggert as he whispered under his breath. “Son of a bitch.”

Taggert scowled, his sensibilities thoroughly challenged by this man. “You know that she’s an attorney - an excellent attorney. Sharp, quick and fierce.”

“Yeah, she’s smart alright! She sure put Sorel through his paces.” Thomas smiled in admiration, remembering the barbs she tossed in Sorel’s face, even when she knew he’d make her pay. But his smile waned as he caught Taggert’s strange expression as it lay fixed on him. Thomas didn’t want him to misunderstand.

“I never knew a woman so…educated, you know? And what did you call her? Oh yeah – quick.”

“Mmm.” Taggert didn’t quite know what to make of this man with such earnest eyes, resolved to pay a fair and proper price for his sins. But he wondered if Malloy understood what that the pleas he would make that day could cost him. Such a lack of interest in self-preservation was unheard of in Taggert’s experience, but that ‘First time for everything’ expression was clearly making the rounds that day.

“In my professional opinion, an attorney such as Miss Davis would consider an attorney such as yours to be a lazy shyster.”

Thomas frowned. He didn’t know the word. “I’m sorry, I don’t…”

“Re-think that ‘guilty on all counts’ thing your attorney is allowing you to plead. It’s the easy road for him and the end of the road for you. Do you get what I’m telling you, Malloy?”

Thomas nodded and leaned back in his chair, his hands moving back down to his lap and folding there. “Yeah, I get it. I also get that an innocent woman is going to have to live with my actions for the rest of her life. Why shouldn’t I have to live with them too?”

“The only reason that woman is alive right now is because you wouldn’t let her die. Own that much for yourself…or don’t. It’s your choice.”

Thomas bit down on his lip, wishing he could take some comfort in what he did right, but aching too much from all he did wrong…and the fact that he acted so late.

“It’s a big day for Miss Davis too. She’s being released from the hospital.”

Malloy’s eyes shot to Taggert’s.

“Yep. She’s finally going home.”

Taggert watched the subtle change in Malloy’s expression and his bearing, as if a weight had been released. Though he tried to hold it back, a grin began to spread across his face and his legs shifted nervously beneath the table. As Thomas took it in, he slowly closed his eyes and slumped back in his chair as one hand rose to rub at his still-stinging eyes.

“One promise kept…” He whispered under his breath.

“What was that?”

Thomas shook his head vaguely. “I…I promised her couple of things. Her going home makes good on one of them, and I expect she made the other one good herself already.”

“What was that?”

“Something she asked me to tell her boyfriend – Ned - when she was thought maybe she wouldn’t ever see him again. But I promised her that she would.” He smiled. “I guess that does kind of mean I kept both for her…in a way.”

Taggert was starting to feel his insides growl. He’d only filled it with coffee, not food - and truth be told, Malloy almost too much to take on an empty stomach.

“So, does her going home mean that the doctors were able to…is she okay with the drugs that Sorel gave her?” Thomas was unable to form the loaded word that would so easily roll off Taggert’s tongue.

“You mean, the heroin?” Thomas visibly winced and Taggert sat up, leaning his chin into his cupped hands as his elbows propped themselves on the table.

“A question, Malloy: did you know it was heroin in that syringe the first time Sorel shot her up…and all the other times after that?”

Thomas’ face drained of all color once more. “Yes, I knew. But I didn’t know anything about drugs. They always scared me. But Sorel told me how to expect her to react to it, and how to tell if something was wrong.”

“He didn’t want her to die on him too quick? Not before getting what he wanted from Corinthos?”

“I didn’t know how bad the drug could hurt her, and I didn’t know how far Sorel intended to go…not at first. But it seemed like the more he talked trash about Corinthos, the more he messed with her. The only thing I did know was that Sorel hated Corinthos with a fury, and he wanted him to suffer.”

“By hurting Alexis.”

Thomas looked up at Taggert’s somber face with a start. It was the first time he’d called her by given name, and Thomas sensed that the detective had more than just a passing interest in this particular case…and this particular victim. He’d not only covered an assault, but he’d done it on behalf of a man who consistently eluded the long arm of the law…with the help of one Alexis Davis.

“Yes. Sorel though…he thought that Corinthos…”

“Yeah.” Taggert stopped him. “I know what he thought.”

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Tony was in a truly awkward position, but his only real concern was for Alexis. He didn’t want to see her pushed or pulled…or torn. As he took in Ned’s solemn, love-sick little face, he chose his words with care.

“Ned, I’ll let Alexis know about anything she needs to do to take proper care of herself. But I think the most special thing that you can do for her is exactly what you did for her yesterday – listen. Let her tell you what she needs, don’t you try to tell her.”

“I will.”

“I know how much being with her yesterday must have meant to you…”

“No, Tony, you don’t.” Ned slowly shook his head. “You couldn’t possibly.”

Tony shrugged a shoulder. “Maybe not. But I DO know that just because Alexis is leaving the hospital, that doesn’t mean that this is all over for her. I don’t want her bravado – or apparent emotional accessibility, as the case may be - to fool you into thinking that it is.”

“I know it’s not over, Tony! That’s why I want to do what I can to help her, and that’s why I’m asking you how to do it.”

“I just told you, Ned – listen to her! And I don’t mean just her words either.”

Ned’s face visibly fell. “You sound like Corinthos.”

Tony swallowed and glanced down the hall. As much as he hated to admit it, he thought that Ned could learn a thing or two from Sonny about how to read Alexis. Love and an easy understanding didn’t necessarily go hand in hand.

“Alexis is doing everything in her power to act as if she’s okay, and she’ll fight any attempt to treat her otherwise. She needs to feel that she’s the one in control again.”

Ned’s mouth went dry as he remembered the haunted look in her eye as she confessed to him. “She’s felt trapped - first Sorel, and then here. That’s what she told me. I didn’t know what to say to make it better.”

“It’s not up to you to make it better. You can’t make it better, Ned. Alexis needs to find a way to do that for herself.”

Tony set a reassuring hand down on Ned’s shoulder and smiled. “I know how it feels to want to shower someone with your love. What you don’t want to do is drown them. Try to remember that this is about Alexis, not Ned AND Alexis.”

Ned sighed and nodded, pulling his lips between his teeth. He was embarrassed that Tony seemed to see into the thoughts he tried so hard to push deep down inside.

“Got it.”

Tony slapped his shoulder and hugged Alexis’ chart to his chest. “I’m going to go check in on her now. Why don’t you get yourself some coffee and I’ll let you know when you can see her.”

Ned smiled. “Sounds good.”

Tony began to turn away, then stopped himself. “You know, all you really need to do is love her. Don’t complicate what should be a simple thing.”

Ned grinned a crooked grin. “But that’s just it, Tony – Alexis IS complicated, and the love between the two of us is far from simple.”

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Sonny laughed and ran his hand lightly up and down her blanked-covered shin. “It’s still early, you know? Would you let Tony at least punch his time clock first?”

“I’m impatient.”

“I know that. But don’t you worry – you are absolutely, positively out of here today! I’m not going to let them hold you hostage…” Sonny turned ashen, staring at her in abject fear as his ill-chosen words rang in his ears.

Alexis smiled and covered his hand with hers. “Been there, done that…not doing it again.”

Sonny slowly smiled back, but the tingle up his spine still traveled. God, but she was strong. “How about I go find the good doctor and light a fire under him? I promised you I’d bring you home, and it’s about bloody time I made good on it.”

“Home? Who said anything about letting her go home?”

Alexis’ head snapped to the doorway, where Tony stood with a serious face. “That is SO not funny.” She deadpanned.

“My routine does need a little work.”

“It needs to be retired.”

“Now that’s not very nice.”

“I’m not nice – not when I’ve slept too long and still feel groggy and achy. It wrecks havoc on my sensibilities to sleep for more than six or seven hours, and it clearly makes me grumpy and, if you will, not very nice. It’s just not normal, you see, and I don’t do well with this anarchy of sleeping ELEVEN hours, which is really an insane thing for anyone not still in a crib to do. Are you following me here?”

Tony stared at her wordlessly, then turned to Sonny. “So I take it she slept well.”

“Like a log.” Sonny replied.

“Too long.” Alexis answered over him.

“And I hear she’s hungry this morning?”

“So she says.”

“A little…” Alexis gave Sonny a look.

“That’s what I like to hear.”

“And don’t worry about Alexis not eating once she gets home, because I intend to fatten her up in no time.”

“What am I, a turkey?”

“See that you do.” Tony’s eyes stayed on Sonny.

“Hey! I’m right here!”

The two men turned to an un-amused Alexis, then resumed their busy ignoring of her.

“In fact, I already promised Zander that I’d teach her how to cook something that actually has a nutritional value.” Sonny chuckled. “Even a kid understands that popcorn is not a suitable dietary staple.”

A stuffed penguin flew at Sonny from the direction of the bed. He didn’t flinch.

“On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t feed her at all because she seems to be somewhat violent, now that she’s getting her strength back.”

“I hate you, you know that?”

“She loves me.”

Alexis pouted and looked around in frustration. “I have nothing else to throw. Oh – yes I do.”

She grabbed her pillow and hurled it at him, clocking Sonny right in the face. “Score!”

“Whoa…” Sonny spun around at looked at her with wide eyes, stunned by her precise aim and strength of force. In a reflexive move, he raised the pillow up in the air and held it, as if he was about to throw it back.

Alexis squinted at him. “I double-dog dare you.”

Sonny lifted one eyebrow. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

He raised the pillow a bit higher and took a single step toward her. “Double-dog?”

“Double-dog.” Her eyes followed his movements intently as his dark eyes watched her watch him.

“Dare?”

“Dare…” She whispered, fighting her desire to laugh at the somewhat maniacal look Sonny’s face had taken on.

“Me?” He edged right up to the bed, looming over her with the pillow stretched as far above his head as he could hold it.

Alexis’ eyes couldn’t help but widen as she stared up at him. “Yeah, you.”

She bit her lip and finally gave way to the repressed giggle she’d been holding inside. Sonny felt an overwhelming rush of bliss at the life sparkling in her eyes and the sound of her easy laughter…and the shy, dimpled smile that could pull the floor right out from under his feet.

“Is there a statute of limitations on dares, because I’m thinking that your clock has run out and you lose, buddy.”

Alexis grinned like the devil, but Sonny startled her by quickly slipping one strong arm behind her shoulders and firmly, but gently, pulling her forward. He released the pillow from his hand and let it drop behind her, then took her by the shoulders and eased her back into it. Sonny’s face loomed above her, gazing down at her lowered eyes and cheeks still flushed from laughter. He moved one hand from her shoulder to her chin, tilting it upward to make her meet his eyes.

“And I’M thinking that to lose is all a matter of perspective.”

Tony silently watched from where he stood, transfixed and all but invisible in the shadow of what could best be called a mating dance…or maybe even foreplay of the most innocently rendered kind. He was as fascinated as he was uneasy, feeling so much the voyeur. And he also needed to tell Alexis that the man who loved her first was waiting outside. Short on originality, Tony cleared his throat.

“Um…excuse me, you two, but if the pillow fight it over…”

“Fight? What fight?” Sonny pulled his hand from her face.

“Yeah, it’s only a fight if BOTH parties participate.”

“You make it very hard for me to be a gentleman sometimes.”

“There are many different ways that I could interpret that remark.”

“Well, why don’t you contemplate four or five of them? That ought to keep you too busy to chatter for a while. Keep you nice and quiet.”

“Uh-oh.” Tony shook his head.

“You want quiet? I can give you quiet…like the next time Taggert drags your behind off to the station for questioning about whatever.”

Sonny laughed and Alexis smiled sweetly.

“I’m glad you think it’s so amusing, but you might want to save some of your mirth for the first time you get a good look at yourself in an orange jumpsuit. Now THAT will be something worth laughing at.”

Sonny turned sharply and tilted his head at her. “Is that what they taught you at Harvard, how to end a sentence with a preposition?”

Alexis opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Her cheeks grew pink and Sonny winked at her.

“Did I tell you that I hate you?”

His dimples blazed and Sonny turned his head to Tony. “She LOVES me!”

She furrowed her brow and reached for the pillow behind her back. Sonny quickly grabbed her wrist and stopped her.

“I don’t think so...buddy”

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Taggert’s eyes shifted back and forth across the table, and Thomas hesitated to continue. Given what happened in Sorel’s cell, given what Thomas had seen himself of the raging fire in Corinthos’ eyes, he couldn’t help but think Sorel was right. Taggert’s jaw was rhythmically tensing and a trace of anger was vibrant in his dark eyes, but the depth of the battles this ordeal had sparked in him stayed hidden. He’d been sickened, challenged, softened and hardened all at once, and now he questioned everything - his own ideals and motives, and those of the others in his sphere. It gnawed at him…the need to believe in something decent.

“Detective Taggert?”

“Yeah.” His voice was weary.

“About the heroin – please tell me that it didn’t do any permanent damage to her.”

Taggert sighed and cleared his throat. “You tell me something first, Malloy - what did it? What made you turn? What line did Sorel cross that finally turned the light on and helped you find your soul?”

“I didn’t find my soul – she did.”

Taggert listened carefully.

“Sorel had left me to alone with her, after he gave her a hit. He’d been so cruel and she didn’t understand it – she didn’t know why. After he’d gone, I tried to make her feel better, but I didn’t think I was doing a very good job. I could hardly look at her. But she looked at me – she looked into my eyes and she saw my soul…she told me so. It scared the hell out of me. The next time I saw Sorel, I looked into his eyes and I saw nothing. That scared me more. I knew there were no lines for that man, and I had to stop him.”

He’d been so cruel to her… Taggert’s head was swimming with the sound of Sorel, growling at Alexis and pushing her deeper into whatever dark and painful place her drugged and fevered mind had gone. He and Sonny had no idea how else he may have been hurting her – and all they could do was listen. But then, there was the sound of Malloy, gentle and soothing as he tried to calm and comfort her in the wake of Sorel’s terror.

“The doctors were able to take care of the heroin.” He wanted to give the man some peace, but something inside of Taggert remained hard. He couldn’t keep himself from dishing out the rest.

“But it wasn’t easy on her. She suffered – a lot. And I probably don’t have to tell you that permanent damage isn’t always something the eye can see.” The stark pain in Malloy’s dampening eyes set Taggert to clearing his throat once more.

“But Alexis is strong…and she’s loved.” He rubbed at his face with both palms, weary before his day had hardly begun.

“Look Malloy, I suggest you have another talk with your attorney. There are special circumstances at work here that could at least shorten your time, if properly presented to the judge. The court records can be sealed and Sorel would never have to find out you betrayed him. I don’t see where there’s any point in you to throwing yourself completely under the bus.”

As Taggert rose to leave, the chair legs squealed one last sharp tune against the floor. Thomas’ head jerked upright and he looked at Taggert with a conflicted expression.

“You know her, don’t you? Personally, I mean.”

“Yeah, I know her.”

Thomas swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry again from what he was about to ask. “With my pleading guilty, Miss Davis won’t have to testify against me. She won’t ever have to see me again, which is how it should be. But it also means I can’t see her…I won’t get to tell her that I’m sorry, and that I’d give anything to be able to take back what I did to her. Would you tell her - if you don’t think it would upset her or anything?”

Taggert slipped his hands back into his pockets, thoughtfully contemplating Malloy’s request before responding. “I’ll be seeing her later today. If I think it’s right, I’ll give her the message. And I’ll tell her about the other thing too – how you didn’t let Corinthos and me down. I think she should know.”

Thomas abruptly stood up, his chair flying back from the force of it. His head spun around, startled. “Sorry. Look, never mind. Don’t say anything…just let her be. She shouldn’t have to even think about me ever again.”

Taggert moved to the door and pushed a button to bring the guard to fetch Malloy and take him back to his cell, where he would remain untouched. As he opened the visitor door, he gave Malloy one last perusal up and down before going to call Sonny.

“Where the hell did Sorel find you Malloy, a freakin’ Sunday school? You are one sorry excuse for a gangster!”